Is the future for big stars? As Paramount hammers out deals for Mission: Impossible 4, one detail has come to light: Tom Cruise will take a lot less money up front than he once would have commanded. The trade-off is that he’s in line for a back-end payday that could still put his take in line with old-school movie star signing salaries. If the film does well, that is.

Vulture has word from the Cruise camp that the actor is getting “a substantially reduced upfront payment relative to his previous outings with the M:I films.” But it’s not the shameful pay cut that some have reported, because Cruise stands to make a lot out of M:I4 once the film is released. And because he’s Cruise, his deal is likely worded so that he gets his money at a much earlier ‘break-even’ point than others might.

(Studio accounting is notoriously shady about declaring a film to be profitable. Someone who has a back-end deal could theoretically never see a dime, even from a seemingly profitable film, if their deal is structured so that they get paid way down at the end of the line.)

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The day where mega-stars could command $20m up-front signing paychecks is mostly gone. Which is good. Spend less money up front on talent and more on the film, and then let stars take profit off the back end where they can.

Vulture also highlights the fact that Paramount is looking to David Ellison to help finance the film. The co-financing deal is also nothing too notable, as studios frequently share the financial weight on massive films. But Ellison is seen as a kid with ambitions that go beyond financing films, and reports that his acting ambitions drove the Taylor Lautner film Northern Lights into the ground when he wanted to co-star with Lautner as well as produce the film. (Remember, too, that there was a rumor Cruise would be in that film, though it was quickly debunked.)

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