For, Friday, Nov. 13, 2020


EDITOR’S NOTE: As I re-read this ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column I wrote some 37 years ago it felt almost quaint. Gee, movies used to cost as much as $25 million or $50 million to make and the biggest stars commanded $5 million per picture? Here’s the 21st century version: For next year’s James Bond movie, ‘No Time to Die,’ the budget was $250 million, with $25 million going to Daniel Craig, according to entertainment trade-paper sources. Yikes! Under the headline, ‘Studio budgets soar, but loners are frugal,’ this one was published in the Deseret News on Nov. 27, 1983.


While Hollywood budgets continue to soar, as reported here last week, independent budgets continue to be frugal.


John Sayles, who is known for making high-quality films (“Return of the Secaucus Seven,” “Baby, It’s You”) for low amounts, has yet another film nearing completion that cost next-to-nothing, in Hollywood terms.


A science-fiction film about a black, mute extraterrestrial whose space craft crashes on Ellis Island, New York, Sayles’ latest project is titled “The Brother From Another Planet,” and cost a mere $350,000 — all of which came out of Sayles’ own pocket.




     Clint Eastwood, left, and Dustin Hoffman, circa 1983.


Though obviously more ambitious than his most recent film, “Lianna,” “The Brother From Another Planet” has cost about the same amount to produce. Sayles also plans to distribute the film himself.


There’s a message here, since most people who have seen Sayles’ work — myself included — feel he is able to do more with character development and storyline using unknown actors than the majority of Hollywood mega-budget productions do with name-stars. There seems to be little excuse for budgets that just inflate a film to death.


That’s especially true where star salaries are concerned.


With the big guys, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, etc., demanding and getting $5 million per picture, it’s no wonder movies cost such ridiculous amounts to make.




When Blake Edwards begins shooting his remake of Laurel & Hardy’s short film “The Music Box” in January, he’ll have a $10 million budget before any production costs are even figured in. The film’s two stars, Burt Reynolds and Richard Pryor both get $5 million salaries.


Why in the world do these guys continue to demand such outrageous fees? I mean, how much can one person buy?


Anyway, it’s hard to feel sorry for Hollywood productions that go way over budget, winding up in the $20 million to $50 million range, when filmmakers like Sayles just keep proving it’s not necessary to spend multiple millions to make good movies.


The only conclusion I can draw is that it does take multiple millions to make bad movies.


EDITOR’S ENDNOTE: For the record, ‘The Brother from Another Planet’ was released independently by Sayles in 1984 and earned more than $3.5 million. A pittance by today’s box-office standards, of course, but huge in relation to the budget. Also, the Blake Edwards film morphed into ‘A Fine Mess,’ and after Reynolds and Pryor retreated Edwards cast a pair of TV stars in the leads, Ted Danson (‘Cheers’) and Howie Mandel (‘St. Elsewhere’). It’s box-office take was just over $6 million, and since a Hollywood movie needs to earn twice to 2-1/2 times its budget … well you do the math. The column’s conclusions still stand.