There are not enough communists in Hollywood.
Do I have your attention? Well, I didn't really mean it. This is not a political column.
What I really mean is that there are not enough socialists in Hollywood.
Seriously, I don't care about the politics of Hollywood, but I do care about the economics of Hollywood.
I think it's time to spread the wealth.
How much money do these people need?
It might just be my particular perspective, as an underpaid print journalist, but it seems that some people in Hollywood are making too much money in this economy.
That's right; we may live in a capitalistic society, but that doesn't mean that the privileged class in Hollywood should make so much more than teachers, doctors or a bartender who can mix a perfect martini.
OK, you're probably wondering what got me all worked up? It was an article in Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood issue — the one with the cover photo by Annie Leibowitz of the nine whitest young actresses in the business. Apparently, there are no promising Hispanic, Asian or black actresses.
Anyway, I digress from my socialism argument.
In "Hollywood's Top 40," writer Peter Newcomb has compiled a list of the 40 biggest money-makers during 2009.
Heading the list is director Michael Bay, who reportedly made $125 million last year, due in large part to his involvement in the film "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." The movie grossed more than $800 million worldwide, and Bay had a significant piece of that substantial pie.
That $125 million wasn't his upfront salary. Like so many big stars, directors and producers these days, he received "back-end profit participation," which means that he got paid a percentage of the profits. The downside would come into play if the movie was a flop, but the success of the first "Transformers" almost guaranteed a huge payday for the sequel. The director took in $75 million for directing and producing the film, $28 million for his share of the DVD revenue and $12.5 million for the merchandising profits.
Director Steven Spielberg was second on the list (he made $50 million just from an annual royalty and consulting deal he signed with Universal theme parks in 1987), and "Harry Potter's" Daniel Radcliffe was the highest-ranking actor on the list ($41 million).
Interestingly, "Avatar" director James Cameron was only 4th ($50 million), but that was calculated when his movie had made a mere $830 million. Its worldwide gross has now exceeded $2.2 billion, so we can assume that he has made at least $150 million, with much more to come.
You're probably thinking that these people deserve to be compensated for their talent and hard work. I don't disagree. But once you've made your first $20 million in any given year, how much money do you really need?
And I believe that many of these people would agree with me — at least in principle.
I've been interviewing movie people for more than two decades, and I can assure you that not a single person on the Vanity Fair list would call themselves a businessman. Trust me; they all call themselves "artists," and I would like to know what happened to the idea of a "starving artist?" Or the concept of "suffering for their art?" Or "I'm not in this for the money."
People who say they're not in it for the money are already rich.
Perhaps this would be a good time for a disclaimer. When I espouse my "spread the wealth" philosophy, I am not suggesting that Bay or Spielberg give me some of their money. I didn't go into journalism for the money, and I really mean it.
I would like these wealthy Hollywood types to do more good with their money. I'm sure that many of them are very generous with their favorite charities, but I am more concerned with the less fortunate members of their own profession.
It is estimated that, at any given time, more than 90 percent of people in the film industry are unemployed. That's considerably higher than the national average.
Why couldn't a general fund be created with the excess money earned by the superstars? This fund could be divided up among the less fortunate, but deserving actors, directors, producers, set designers, makeup artists and the like (but no agents).
Before you throw a telethon for Brad Pitt, understand that I do not expect our biggest celebrities to feel the pain of a modest lifestyle.
We like to see their Botoxed faces on the red carpet. We chuckle when their luxury cars are pushed down a canyon wall. And we know they need gated mansions for security reasons (although five homes in exotic locations are a bit excessive).
I'm not begrudging them the comforts of stardom. After all, I'm not a communist.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.