Christopher Nolan put a bet on himself when it came to Oscar frontrunner 'Oppenheimer' and walked away with a $72m payday, says report

  • Christopher Nolan made $72 million from "Oppenheimer,"  says Forbes.

  • Universal agreed to give him 15% of the film's box office revenue, VOD sales, and streaming rights.

  • It's a rare deal seen in Hollywood, and places Nolan in a group of elite filmmakers.

If Christopher Nolan doesn't take home an Oscar for best director at Sunday's Academy Awards, the "Oppenheimer" filmmaker will still be left with a $72 million consolation prize.

It's been reported that the British-American auteur landed the biggest payday of his career to date thanks to the rare, lucrative deal he struck with Universal, who fought off stiff competition from other studios to win the rights to the biopic about 'the father' of the atomic bomb.

According to Forbes, Universal agreed to give Nolan 15% of the blockbuster's first-dollar gross, meaning he received a share of its box-office revenue even before the studio turned a profit.

As the outlet noted, to keep the movie under its $100 million budget and maximize what he earned on the back end, Nolan slashed his directing, writing, and producing fees (although the figure for his upfront fees was not given).

In short, Nolan bet on himself — and it paid off.

Christopher Nolan in a dark jacket
Christopher NolanNathan Congleton/NBC/Getty

"Oppenheimer," which leads this year's Oscars nominations with 13 nods, including best picture and best actor for lead star Cillian Murphy, has taken just shy of $1 billion at the box office - theaters take roughly 50% cut.

Nolan's estimated $72 million pre-tax payday has come from his share of the box office profits as well as the home video sales and streaming deals that have been made so far and is likely to rise as the movie gets resold to streamers and licensed for years to come.

Forbes posits that Nolan made closer to $85 million but has subtracted the amount he would be required to pay his agents and lawyers.

The outlet also claims that the director originally asked for 20% of the film's first-dollar gross in his new deal with Universal, but this number was negotiated down. However, the remaining five percent may still have reached the Nolan household, as Forbes speculates that it went to his wife and longtime producing partner, Emma Thomas.

Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer walking around Los Alamos
Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer walking around Los Alamos in "Oppenheimer."Universal

Representatives for Nolan and Universal did not respond to a request for comment sent by Business Insider outside regular working hours.

Few in Hollywood can command such lucrative first-dollar gross arrangements, although it has previously happened in a Nolan pic.

Per Variety, Warner Bros. hesitated to put up the cash for the director's twisty, esoteric 2011 film "Inception." Leonardo DiCaprio chose to forego his then-typical $20 million paycheck for a minimum salary and an unspecified cut of the first-dollar gross. He ended up making over twice his salary at $50 million.

Per Forbes, directors who have previously wrangled first-dollar gross arrangements include Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron, placing Nolan in an elite group. His predicted Oscars glory at the weekend will cement his position as one of the most bankable filmmakers working today.

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