Actress and director Olivia Wilde is said to have shrewdly leveraged her in-demand status to secure an almost unheard backend deal. (Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)
Actress and director Olivia Wilde is said to have shrewdly leveraged her in-demand status to secure an almost unheard backend deal. (Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

Now that’s how you turn interest into income.

Earlier this month, actress and director Olivia Wilde — coming off of the critical success of her directorial debut, coming-of-age comedy “Booksmart” — inked an especially sweet deal to release her next directing project, thriller “Don’t Worry, Darling,” through New Line Cinemas.

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The decision was the culmination of a bidding war between 18 deep-pocketed production companies, financiers and streaming services. Netflix, Apple and MGM had all tossed their names in the ring. But New Line emerged victorious by offering her a rare bonus: 50 percent of the profit participation, or the film’s generated revenue, once the $20 million movie breaks even.

No filmmaker — and certainly no female one — has reportedly come close to making such a backend deal since 2009 comedy “The Hangover,” which gave 30 percent of the film’s revenue to its team. However, it only did so after budget cuts had been made during production.

Wilde’s deal also represents a milestone for female directors. The annual “Celluloid Ceiling” report, which seeks to draw attention to how few women are in charge on movie sets, found that women accounted for just 8 percent of directors working on the top 250 films of 2018.

Wilde is primarily known as a performer, thanks to her work in films like futuristic action film “Tron: Legacy” and sports biography “Rush,” as well as her recurring role the hit television medical drama “House.” But in addition to her promising, if presently short, directorial career, she’s also a producer herself, having bankrolled several successful documentary shorts.

The offer she was able to get from New Line may simply “speak to the lack of good material out there,” a source familiar with the decision-making process told The Hollywood Reporter. But it might also be an indication of interest in the type and quality of her work. “Anything that is unique will generate interest,” the source added.

[Related: Why Hollywood’s Gender Gap Exists, and How to Fix It]

Whether Wilde’s new film is a hit — and whether this deal sets a new precedent for female filmmakers — remains to be seen. Either way, she hopes to be a positive example for her fellow women. “People underestimate women,” she told NBC’s Today in May, when “Booksmart” was released.  “And there’s this amazing opportunity to prove people wrong.”

The mom of two young children, she also hopes her directing inspires other entrepreneurial women who are considered a leap of their own, whether that’s making a film or starting a business. “There are a lot of women out there who are still not giving themselves permission to chase their dreams because they deal with guilt connected to motherhood,” she says. “It’s important for mothers to realize that you are no less of a mother because you chased your dreams.”

[Related: One Year Later, Has #TimesUp Changed Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?]

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