That's suppossedly the question behind this Variety article, although the issues seem a bit muddled. As you know, Tom Cruise and Paramount worked out a new deal last week to ensure that Mission: Impossible 3 will make its planned July 18 start date. Most outlets were reporting that this deal involved Cruise (who will star in and produce the sequel) either reducing or eliminating his claim to points on the first-dollar gross. This article insists that although insiders privy to the deal deny that Cruise even took such a cut, studios have reached a kind of breaking point when it comes to megastar sweetheart deals.

Stars and star directors insist that they deserve the guaranteed paydays, on the grounds that each project takes a year to do and, if it flops, could have serious ramifications for their careers. But the flop-factor is exactly what has studios worried. Cinderella Man is an example of a film that would have to make a huge profit in order to recoup production and marketing costs after satisfying the backend deals for each of its three major players (Russell Crowe, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer). By the looks of things, it's not going to. A possible solution to all of this is to set up packages that pair young, respected directors who don't yet have the clout to demand points (Sofia Coppola is their example) with big-ish stars that do; then, even if, say Matt Damon wants to get in on the backend, the film should theoretically make enough to pay him off and recoup a modest budget.