Diagonal Billing

Also known as "staggered" or "staggered but equal" billing. When two stars of equal prominence star in a movie together, in posters and credits billing, the two names may be staggered next to each other on the same title card- with the one on the left being lower, the one on the right being higher. This way, reading left to right gives one actor prominence, and reading top to bottom will give the other prominence. "Staggered but equal billing" serves to avoid causing tension between the two A-list lead actors over who is more important. Often, they will receive the same payment for their roles as well.

In Film Posters, another result of a billing conflict could be a Misplaced-Names Poster. If it happens when their roles aren't equally important, it could be a case of Billing Displacement.

The first time diagonal billing was used in a film was in The Towering Inferno, with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. They also received the same salary and the same number of lines (at McQueen's insistence). The idea was originally proposed when it was thought that Newman and McQueen would star in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but dropped when Robert Redford was cast instead of McQueen.


Examples:

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    Film 
  • As detailed above, The Towering Inferno, starring Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, is the Trope Maker in film. McQueen's role as the fire chief was expanded from a smaller role at his insistence so as to equal Newman's character.
  • Jaws has a three-man variant of this, with Roy Scheider at lower left, Robert Shaw at center top, and Richard Dreyfuss at lower right.
  • Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino in Righteous Kill.
  • The poster for Inside Man manages to do something similar with three actors: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster. Washington's picture is furthest to the left while Owen's is nearest the top, while their names are angled in such a way that Foster's name is furthest to the left and Washington's is nearest the top.
  • In the 2002 film of Chicago, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
  • In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow get diagonal billing, while Angelina Jolie gets the honored And Starring position on the same card. See it here at 00:18.
  • Yul Brynner and Richard Benjamin in Westworld.
  • Boeing Boeing had the names of Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis criss-crossed.
  • Lillian Gish and Bette Davis, who combined for 131 years in the movie business when they co-starred together in The Whales of August (1987), get diagonal billing in the opening credits. Davis is billed first in the closing credits.

    Live Action TV 

    Theatre 
  • Posters for the 1936 Broadway musical Red, Hot and Blue! placed Ethel Merman's and Jimmy Durante's names in crisscrossing bands because of a billing dispute. (When the two starred again in the 1939 flop Stars in Your Eyes, Merman was billed first.)