By now, it’s too late for our male readers: Your wife or girlfriend has already seen Those Billboards — the ones blaring the tagline, “From the Director of PRETTY WOMAN comes a day in the life of love,” with the Pretty Woman herself, Julia Roberts, nestled in the right atrium of a giant heart — and you have been quietly but firmly informed that “Oh-yes-you-will” be sitting through Valentine’s Day. Vulture would like to give you an out by providing the news that Roberts is only in this giant ensemble piece for roughly six minutes. Surely that will stop the inexorable race to Moviefone, right? But who are we kidding: We — and Hollywood — know that such reality checks will not be nearly enough to keep rom-com-philes away.
New Line Cinema paid Roberts $3 million up front against 3 percent of the gross for what is little more than an extended cameo. That comes out to an astonishing $8,333 per second of screen time, or roughly $500,000 a minute. Verbally, it’s a minimum of $11,952 per spoken word. Yet even that may turn out to be a bargain, considering the Pretty Woman imprimatur: That movie is practically a religious icon to any female who’s ever wept love-lorn into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while wearing sweatpants, cursing men, and pantomiming other stereotypically estrogen-saturated chestnuts gleaned from years of watching movies much like Valentine’s Day. Eleven years ago, when Roberts and Marshall reteamed for Runaway Bride (albeit with Richard Gere, too), it grossed $309 million worldwide.
Insiders tell us that Roberts agreed to appear in the film as a favor to Marshall, who’d made her a star. After Roberts jumped in, casting the rest of the film was much easier, and Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Ashton Kutcher, Taylors Lautner and Swift, McSteamy and McDreamy et al signed on quickly. However, with the exception of Jamie Foxx (who we hear is a gross participant along with Marshall and Roberts), her co-stars were paid their usual quote, pro-rated to however many days they filmed. Since most, like Roberts, only worked three days or so, it seemed a fair and painless commitment, and New Line was able to make the film with a cavalcade of celebs for only $50 million. Now get going.