This is pretty funny: Think of studio speciality divisions as "movie laundering" schemes, courtesy of actor Randy Quaid. From Variety today: "Randy Quaid has filed a lawsuit against Focus Features alleging that Universal's specialty arm duped him into deferring normal pay for his role in Brokeback Mountain by falsely representing the project as a low-budget indie pic with no prospect of making money." Quaid is asking to be awarded $10 million, apparently compensation that is commensurate with standard Hollywood practice. The lawsuit accuses Focus of a "movie laundering" scheme, designed to hire Quaid on "economically unfavorable art film terms for a picture that, in reality, had studio backing."
"Movie laundering" might sound illegal, but I believe this is what the entire business model of the studio specialty divisions are based on: Get everyone to cut their rates to make passion projects happen. But as these films get bigger and bigger and higher profiles in the industry, perhaps actors are going to start wising up and ask for bigger and bigger rates, which in turn, of course, makes these movies cost more, risk less and transform them into nothing more than toothless studio productions. The cycle continues.