Winston Groom, the writer who created Forrest Gump, has asked Paramount Pictures a wide-eyed question worthy of his character: "How can your $661-million-grossing film version of my novel be a money loser?" Paramount says it has indeed lost money: Groom may not have his share of the profits because there are no profits to share.
The studio's claim that making the picture cost $50 million is believable. Its claim that distributing the picture cost $62 million more is considerably less so. But honesty and "creativity" in accounting aside, how great was Groom's contribution? Actor Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis each will earn $30 million to $40 million for their contributions to the film, Groom only $350,000. But is this split really unfair? Hanks and Zemeckis could have adapted another novel and had a comparable success, could they not? At the end of the day, has Groom not been paid about what he deserves?
If you think so, rent a copy of "Ishtar" from your local video outlet--if you can find a copy. Starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, directed by Elaine May, how could it possibly fail? But fail it did. And who can forget "Heaven's Gate"? With bankable actors and a genius director, that particular sure thing lost $44 million and brought down United Artists with it. All it lacked was a story.