The Salkind clause: how an unscrupulous producer changed contractual negotiations forever

Posted On
Posted By admin

These days, a director shooting two movies back-to-back is fairly standard practice, with a cast and crew fully aware when they sign on the dotted line that they’re making more than one feature. That hasn’t always been the case, though, with one unscrupulous producer changing industry contracts forever.

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean sequels Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, the Wachowskis’ The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, both volumes of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, and great swathes of James Cameron’s Avatar sequels were all shot concurrently, which was always the plan from the beginning.

However, as much as he was a pioneer in his own way, Alexander Salkind tried to pull a fast one on his team, only to end up being colloquially linked to contractual small print until the end of time. One of the first major independent film producers in America, the Polish-born Frenchman operated outside of the studio system and was among the first to utilise international festivals as a networking opportunity to secure overseas investment for his upcoming slate of projects.

Salkind was the sole producer on Richard Lester’s 1973 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, a star-studded affair that boasted Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Christopher Lee, Michael York, Faye Dunaway, Charlton Heston, and Richard Chamberlain among its ensemble. On the surface there was nothing out of the ordinary about it, and not only because Alexandre Dumas’ novel was already a well-worn source of cinematic inspiration.

The original plan was for The Three Musketeers to be a three-hour epic, but when it was decided it would never be able to make its release date on time, Salkind made the call to split it in two. Using additional footage captured during principal photography, he conjured The Four Musketeers out of thin air, and it hit cinemas six months after its predecessor.

Understandably, many cast and crew members were furious that their work was being used as the basis for two features when they’d only signed on and been paid for one. As a result, the Screen Actors Guild instigated a ruling – known industry-wide as ‘the Salkind clause’ – which obligates producers to state upfront how many films they’re planning to make, and if it’s more than one, the talent needs to be paid for all of them, even when the call is made midway or after production has wrapped.

In an interview with American Cinema Papers a decade after The Three Musketeers, Salkind was entirely dismissive of inadvertently causing a sweeping alteration to how an entire multi-billion dollar industry conducted its negotiations. “None of us lose any sleep over it. If you’re in the business of big-money productions, everyone likes to make a little stir now and then with lawyers,” he said. “It’s part of their career, part finding the rules of the game, and part genuine misunder­standings.”

Paying actors and other professionals for a single film and then making two without telling them or reimbursing them is pretty underhanded stuff. Still, ever since the advent of ‘the Salkind clause’, even thinking about it opens the door for litigation.

[embedded content]

Related Topics

Related Post