It’s a common assumption that after the first movie makes it big, celebrities will get major pay bumps for the sequels. This would explain why so many actors are willing to sign on to make the tenth movie in a series. However, celebrity pay is often more complicated than that. When it comes to The Matrix, there are a lot of questions about what the studio paid Keanu Reeves for the sequels, and what they’re paying the celebrity for The Matrix 4.
The first film released in 1999 with a budget of $63 million. Of that, Keanu Reeves was paid $10 million upfront to play Neo. The sequels cost around $150 million a piece to make, and while an official budget for the upcoming film has yet to be released, experts are guessing The Matrix 4 is in the $160-$200 million budget range. So how much of that goes to Reeves? It’s been revealed that the actor is getting paid between $12 to $14 million for The Matrix 4. This comes after him making the original trilogy, and all of the John Wick films and other box office successes since the original deal he had with Warner Bros for the 1999 release. So why hasn’t the actor seen a bigger pay bump?
The first thing to note about the upfront pay Keanu Reeves is receiving for The Matrix 4, is that while Daniel Craig will earn $100 million for the Knives Out sequels on Netflix, and Dwayne Johnson is seeing a $50 million payday this year, most of the highest-paid celebrities earn paychecks between $10 million and $25 million upfront. $12 to $14 million is still quite high, even if it isn’t much more than his offer for the first movie in the franchise. Tom Cruise is earning $13 million upfront for Top Gun: Maverick, and he’s Tom Cruise. There’s a lot of star power behind that name.
The next thing to note is that while the $12 million to $14 million is what Keanu Reeves will be paid upfront for The Matrix 4, it isn’t all he’s being paid. He will also earn back-end gross, which means that he earns a percentage based on box office success for the Warner Bros movie. This is part of why celebrities care so much about their reputations in Hollywood and “star power”. Some celebrities build a reputation with an audience that will bring in loyal fans to a movie they may not have seen otherwise. That drives up the box office sales, which gives them more negotiating power for that upfront payment and more money in back-end payments after the film’s release.
While we don’t know all the finer points of the deal Keanu Reeves has for his back-end payments for The Matrix 4, he has been paid approximately $200 million for his work in the franchise so far. It doesn’t seem like he’s going to be hurting for money any time soon. That said, there are still a lot of questions about how streaming will affect his pay at the end of the upcoming movie, which will see a hybrid release on HBO Max and in theaters. Many celebrities are negotiating streaming back-end buyouts.
The $12 to $14 million that Keanu Reeves is being paid for The Matrix 4 is a sum that does not yet include a streaming back-end buyout, at least not one that has been made public. Eventually, it will be interesting to know how these backend buyouts work out, particularly for The Matrix. In the end, how will his 1999 pay compare to what he earns for the 2021 release? That bit of movie math has yet to be revealed, but will definitely be something experts will be watching as we see how streaming changes celerity pay moving forward.