The Big Picture
- Warner Bros. Discovery is facing a lawsuit from Bonnie Aarons, star of The Nun franchise, who claims they hid her share of merchandising royalties and gross receipts.
- Aarons’ lawyers argue that her likeness played a crucial role in the success of her character and she is entitled to compensation from merchandise using her likeness.
- Despite the film’s success and the extensive merchandise produced, Aarons alleges she only received $71,500 and was not given additional compensation or a cut from merchandise sales.
Warner Bros. Discovery is being haunted by something unwanted—a lawsuit from the star of their highly lucrative The Nun series, Bonnie Aarons, who is accusing the company of “obscuring and hiding” her share of merchandising royalties and gross receipts of money earned from merchandise that features her likeness, in character as Valak, the habit-wearing demon. Aarons’ lawyers are attempting to make the argument that her character’s success is based on the actor’s likeness, quoting WB executive and Conjuring producer Peter Safran, who said, “The moment we saw [Ms. Aarons], with the unique geography of her face, everybody said: ‘This is exactly who we want; this is who it has to be.’” Since her appearance in Conjuring 2, the character has spawned a spin-off, which grossed $365 million worldwide, as well as “all manner of merchandise, including toys, dolls, decorations, pins, jewelry, t-shirts, socks, bedding, costumes, drinkware, and posters all using Ms. Aarons’ likeness,” the lawsuit states.
Despite the success of the film, and the sheer amount of merchandise inspired by The Nun which was subsequently produced by Warner Bros. Discovery, Aarons is alleging that she was only paid the paltry sum of $71,500 for her work in The Nun, adding that her contract had stipulated she would have “the opportunity for additional compensation through box office bonuses” and that she would receive a cut of the gross receipts from “merchandise exploiting Ms. Aarons’ likeness.” That did not happen, according to her lawyers, who have accused the studios of obscuring the “true amount of Ms. Aarons’ rightful share of merchandising revenues, all while continuing to exploit her.”
A Terrifyingly Familiar Face
Outside of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, the stars of The Conjuring films, Aarons’ terrifying entity is arguably the most recognizable figure from the Conjuring franchise of films, and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that The Nun, a spin-off, is the highest-grossing film in the franchise.
The Hollywood Reporter was the first to report the lawsuit, which named Warner Bros. Discovery, New Line Cinemas and Scope Productions as those targeted by the actor for compensation. The film grossed over $365 million against a budget of $22 million, as stated in the lawsuit, which also noted Aarons was due a $175,000 bonus tied to box office performance on top of a share of profits from merchandise exploiting her character.
Aarons will reprise her role as Valak in The Nun II, which premieres in theaters on September 8.