Darren Aronofsky's departure from The Wolverine last week--a sequel to a spin-off of a movie based on a comic book--is still officially being attributed to the director's desire to spend more time with his family. This may be the case. But heres another theory making the rounds: the famously finicky art house director has made so much money from the unlikely hit Black Swan ($271 million in worldwide box office grosses so far) that doesn't need to make a movie about Wolverine's efforts to become a samurai in order to land a $5 million payday anymore. At the very least, Aronofsky's success provides indie directors looking to avoid the one-for-you, one-for-me Hollywood career path with a clear--if not particularly replicable--model for success: work for nothing on an independent movie with limited commercial prospects and hope it grosses hundreds of millions at the worldwide box office.
Easier said than done, concedes Deadline's Mike Fleming, but Aronofsky's success proves gambling on passion projects can be just as lucrative as hired gun work. When he accepted the Wolverine job last year. At the time, it seemed like his "first real chance in his career to make big money--$5 million against 5% of gross." Then Black Swan broke out and everything changed. His payday equal that of Todd Phillips, whose interest in The Hangover netted him a $50 million payday, but Fleming expects Aronofsky's payday to be in the 8-figures. More important than the money, writes Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells, is the leverage the film provided him with. Black Swan provided Aronofsky--no stranger to abandoned projects or studio interference-- with "enough clout to finally leave [The Wolverine] without repercussions from Fox."