There was plenty of controversy and no shortage of backlash when it was first announced that Warner Bros. were sending the entire lineup of 2021 movies to HBO Max the same day they hit theaters, with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar admitting in the aftermath that he’d perhaps moved a touch too soon.
Dune director Denis Villenueve blasted the call, and it’s one of the major reasons why Christopher Nolan left the studio after 20 years to take Oppenheimer to Universal, with a can of financial worms well and truly opened in the process. A-list talents with WB projects in place including Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington weren’t informed of the decision ahead of time, leaving the money men scrambling to come up with suitable compensation packages.
Washington ended up earning more from The Little Things than the crime thriller made at the box office, while Smith is reported to be pocketing somewhere in the $40 million range for upcoming biopic King Richard. As per The Hollywood Reporter, the star hasn’t forgotten about the rest of the supporting cast, who also stood to lose out when the awards season contender’s commercial prospects were severely hampered.
According to sources close to the production, Smith personally wrote checks out of his own pocket to co-stars Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal, Aunjanue Ellis and more to compensate them for their own loss of earnings after King Richard was awarded a hybrid debut, which is a classy touch from the A-list megastar.