Will Hunting: when Harvey Weinstein no longer wanted to pay Robin Williams – CinéSéries

While a month earlier it was one of the winners of the 70th Academy Awards and still bringing in a lot of money at the box office, “Will Hunting” leaves North American theaters at the end of April 1998. A decision that was widely surprised, the result of a financial maneuver bordering on the malevolence of Harvey Weinstein.

Will Hunting cut off in its tracks

On Friday, December 5, 1997, Will Hunting begins with a limited release in North American theaters. The success is immediate and the distribution widens rapidly. From January 9, 1998, Will Hunting is on the schedule for 1787 cinemas. A number that will peak at 2,203 the week of February 27. On a budget of 10 million dollars, the film of Gus van Sant will earn ten times more at the American box office, and another 87 million abroad, for a total box office of $225 million of recipes.

An impressive score for an independent film, but which could have been even more so if its American distribution had not abruptly stopped the last weekend of April 1998.

Will Hunting ©Miramax

Why Will Huntingproduced and distributed by the Weinstein brothers’ company Miramax, was pulled from theaters so early, despite being, a month earlier, one of the stars of the 70th Academy Awards ? Indeed, this evening of March 23, 1998, Will Hunting arrived at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles with nine Oscar nominations, and left with Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Ben Affleck and Matt Damonand that of Best Supporting Actor for Robin Williams.

A performance that assured him a priori still good days in cinemas, and therefore even more box office receipts. But, for a rather petty reason, Harvey Weinstein decided otherwise…

Will Hunting was penalized for greed”

This is Kevin Smithdirector of cult films like Clerks, Model Employees, Dogma and Jay and Bob strike backfriend of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and also a long-time “in-house” director of Miramax, who revealed in his book published in 2021 Kevin Smith’s Secret Stash the reason for this decision, which he thus explained to the Daily Beast :

I remember when ‘Will Hunting’ was pulled from theaters and it felt weird because we were like, ‘Wait, there’s all the Oscar buzz, why pull it when it’s making money? ?”. They (Miramax executives, editor’s note) withdrew the film because leaving it in theaters meant more money for Robin Williams, whereas by the time it began its exploitation on video, the sharing was not as favorable for Robin. He was penalized for greed.

Harvey Weinstein didn’t want success to benefit Robin Williams too much

As co-producer of Will HuntingKevin Smith had privileged access to certain details, including those relating to Robin Williams’ compensation. At the time, he was one of Hollywood’s most popular actors, surfing on the successes of Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji, and therefore has high salary expectations. Too high for the budget Will Hunting. The actor therefore benefits from a back end dealthat is to say of a percentage of box office profits. This percentage is scalable: the more the film is successful and collects revenue, the more this percentage grows.

Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) - Will Hunting
Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) – Will Hunting ©BAC Films

And according to Kevin Smith, who passed the 100 million dollars box office in the United States, the split between Robin Williams and Miramax was approaching 50/50 on every additional dollar earned. Whereas concerning the exploitation of the film on video, theThe sharing was much less fair with a smaller share for Williams… Thus, rather than go after the potential box office receipts, which he should have largely shared, Harvey Weinstein preferred to accelerate the end of the exploitation by halls to limit Robin Williams’ winnings. And find yourself as quickly as possible to take the largest part of the profits of the exploitation in video… A gesture of which we will all agree to underline the inelegance.

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Will Hunting: when Harvey Weinstein no longer wanted to pay Robin Williams – CinéSéries