On Sunday, Leonardo DiCaprio and Alicia Vikander are expected to win Academy Awards. On Monday, DiCaprio's career might not look that different, but Vikander's probably will.
It's the amorphous, fickle value of an Oscar at work once again. That little statuette, valued anywhere from $500 to $900 depending on the price of gold, won't fetch you anything on the open market (all winners are contractually required to offer it first to the Academy for $1), but it can be a significant career booster if the circumstances are right.
"It's often been said anecdotally that the only award of merit that has monetary value is the Oscar," said veteran publicist and awards strategist Tony Angellotti. "I'm not saying that the Oscar necessarily helps Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts in their prime, but at the same time, it makes them all that more cast-able and desirable to directors. It's one of the few cause and effect awards of merit that offer monetary gain at some point."
As far as specific, immediate monetary gain goes, some actors have clauses written into their contracts for the film they're nominated for guaranteeing an Oscar-win bonus — similar to the NFL player bonuses if a team wins the Super Bowl. Some also might see a little uptick if they have the right backend deal, thanks to the box office bump that most Oscar nominated films experience.
For most, though, the value of a win (or lack thereof) comes in what's next. There's no way to pin down a specific increase that applies to everyone, and it's also not something that agents and managers will discuss publicly either. In general, though, it depends vastly on what you won for and where you are in your career when you won.
Still, in an industry governed by the bottom line as much as it is by artistic ambitions, an Oscar can be an invaluable push to getting that future film made.
"Anything that increases the visibility of the talent that you're using is helpful to getting a movie set up," said Peter Kaufman, a longtime entertainment lawyer. "An Oscar win increases a given talent's perceived value; not in all cases, but in most cases, and certainly in the short term. ... On Monday morning, certain agents' and lawyers' phones are going to be ringing off the hook, saying 'we would love to put so and so in this next great thing.' In fact, I?m getting those calls this week from people on all sides who want to hedge their bets and have deal points in place before the outcome of the Academy Awards — up or down — can influence negotiations."
But the effects aren't necessarily equal. DiCaprio, one of the biggest stars working today, will likely not see a huge bump if he wins for "The Revenant."
"There's not much higher he can go," said Scott Feinberg, awards columnist for industry trade "The Hollywood Reporter." ''He's already among the top earners and most in-demand actors out there. He'll continue to be both of those things."
Conversely, a win for someone like Vikander, nominated for her supporting role in "The Danish Girl" and coming off of a year of many well-regarded films, could mean the world.
Lupita Nyong'o's supporting win for "12 Years a Slave," for example, catapulted the then-unknown actress to the mainstream with high-profile roles in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and the upcoming "The Jungle Book." But, last year's supporting actress winner Patricia Arquette, already a nearly 30-year veteran of the industry, has yet to see a similar boost.
"Women seem to generally have less of a bounce," Feinberg said. "I've talked to so many who say it did virtually nothing for them, whether it's Louise Fletcher who won for 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' or Linda Hunt, who won for 'The Year of Living Dangerously.'"
People like to discuss the Oscars jinx, too, where actors actually lose prestige after a win — either by choosing the wrong next project, like an obvious cash grab, or by staying fallow too long. Sometimes it's even because of the perception that they're suddenly unattainable.
"I know people in the past who were well-known character actors who were nominated and didn't work for a year," Angellotti said. "They assumed the offers would start pouring in and they didn't because they were at a certain level and casting directors who had them listed at this price point just assumed that their price point had gone up considerably and quit calling."
The direct cause and effect can be jumbled, too, by actors who don't take a break. A lot of the time, actors are already at work on their next, post-Oscars feature. Last year's best actor winner Eddie Redmayne filmed "The Danish Girl" while he was campaigning for "The Theory of Everything." Similarly, presumed best actress winner Brie Larson has been working on her first big blockbuster ("Kong: Skull Island") throughout this season.
But in general terms, there's still nothing quite like an Oscar to boost a film career. And if things don't work out, you can always get a buck for your golden boy from the academy.