Did Sasha Baron Cohen Save the Star Salary?

Current wisdom says that the Movie Star is dead, and that the only way to put butts in theater seats is with movies featuring vampires, Transformers, or Na’vi. As such, the $20-million-upfront paychecks that Jim Carrey and Denzel Washington used to get are a thing of the past. Or they were! Nikki Finke and Mike Fleming report that Sacha Baron Cohen, hot off the failure of Bruno, just made a deal with Paramount under which he’ll get a first-dollar, $20-million salary (plus back-end that could net him as much as $80 million in total, allegedly) for a comedy he’s making with three Curb Your Enthusiasm writers.

Why is Paramount so hot on this thing? Here’s the pitch:

In the laugher, Sacha Baron Cohen (repped by WME) plays dual roles: both a goat herder and a deposed foreign dictator who gets lost in the United States. Cohen wants to keep the storyline close to the vest, but we’re told it’s in the spirit of Coming To America meets Trading Places… One of the reasons this was so special is that the whole storyline was fleshed out, including all the main comedy scenes, by Sasha during the pitch.”) … Paramount may get some heat. “But this was atypical because it was a guaranteed movie. It had everything,” an insider tells us.

Sounds good to us, but Julia Roberts, Eddie Murphy, Russell Crowe, Ben Stiller, and Jim Carrey might want to get their pitches for goat-herding comedies out to studios before this thing opens.

UPDATE: RICHEST MOVIE DEAL IN YEARS; Paramount Gets Sacha Baron Cohen Film (After He & WME Get Studio’s Goats) [Deadline]

Did Sasha Baron Cohen Save the Star Salary?