At the turn of the decade, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was having herself a moment. She had just come off a successful second season of her hit show Fleabag, which swept all six of its Emmy nominations. And Amazon gifted her a massive deal worth $60 million over three years.
A $20 million-a-year contract is nothing to sneeze at. And Amazon did it for a promising reason—Waller-Bridge was planning to collaborate with Donald Glover on a series about the 2005 film Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Two creative minds with a track record of success. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, as it turns out, quite a bit. Waller-Bridge left the show after only a few months, pointing to creative differences in the show’s direction. As The Hollywood Reporter noted, those three years came and went and “bore no fruit.”
Yet, Amazon isn’t deterred by a lack of traction so far. Instead, it announced it’s handing Waller-Bridge ANOTHER $60 million over the next three years, for a grand total of $120 million. This time, Waller-Bridge will be writing a Tomb Raider series. But anyone hoping to see a Fleabag version of Lara Croft will have to look elsewhere—Waller-Bridge isn’t planning to star in the show.
From an outside perspective, this looks like Amazon is paying a ton of money for…well, a whole lot of nothing. Yet Amazon’s head of television Vernon Sanders believes having patience in these projects will ultimately pay off.
“She’s a perfectionist, so she absolutely wants to make sure that what she does is great and right,” Sanders said about Waller-Bridge. “But she’s proven that when she does deliver, she delivers.”
Of course, the when of that statement is notable. Waller-Bridge hasn’t delivered anything yet. This isn’t the first fruitless deal Amazon has made, either. Lena Waithe was an executive producer on the hit show Them, and Amazon offered her a two-year deal worth $16 million. In November 2021, Waithe moved to HBO Max without any Amazon shows to her credit.
To be fair, some of the money Amazon is paying is likely in recognition of Fleabag’s success. And Waller-Bridge has been keeping busy—she co-wrote the James Bond movie No Time to Die, starred alongside Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones 5, and has executive produced and appeared in the HBO comedy Run.
The problem for Amazon is that none of those projects are on their platform. And if something happens to this Tomb Raider series, it could very likely mean Amazon paid Waller-Bridge $120 million to go make shows and movies for its competitors.