Michael Lewis: I don’t make $$ when my books become movies

Michael Lewis may have a slew of bestselling books, but he doesn’t  make much money when they become movies.

Ten days after Sandra Bullock won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in The Blind Side – which was originally a book by Lewis – he told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that he will never see a penny from that film.

“Are you asking me if I got rich off that movie?”  Lewis said in a radio interview broadcast Tuesday. “As a writer  you get net profits. There are no such things. They give you net profits because there are no such things.”

The Blind Side cost $29 million to make and another $20 million to promote, said Lewis. The movie will probably earn $400 million and yet “it will not make a cent.”

That’s Hollywood accounting. (Of course Lewis was paid when his book was optioned).


Lewis has just published a new book, The Big Short, about the recent financial meltdown. That book was optioned by Brad Pitt even before publication.

Lewis said shooting will begin in June for a film based on his Moneyball.  Pitt is set to star.

“What I’ve learned is if a star wants to make a movie, it gets made,” said Lewis, who added that his dream cast for a movie version of The Big Short would include Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Matt Damon and the Judd Apatow crowd.

Lewis and (presumably) his wife Tabitha Soren (they live in Berkeley) were invited to the Oscar ceremonies, unlike Walter Kirn, who complained he did not get an invitation even though he wrote Up in the Air, which was adapted into a movie that was nominated for  Best Picture. (Kirn eventually scored a ticket).

Lewis said it was a thrill to attend the Oscars, but after a while there were “so many famous people in the room that everyone ceases to become famous.”

“I don’t think it’s healthy for a writer to spend too much time in the presence of movie stars. It reminds him of his insignifigance.”

The Big Short is sure to be a bestseller. Lewis has already appeared on 60 Minutes, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart,  and CNBC’s Power Lunch. He got a great review in the New York Times.

Unfortunately,  I don’t think he has any plans to sign books in Berkeley.

Frances Dinkelspiel is co-founder and executive editor of Berkeleyside. Email: frances@berkeleyside.com.