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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 of Diagonal Billing include:


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.
  • 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.
  • Yul Brynner and Richard Benjamin in Westworld.


Live Action TV

  • Adam Scott and Ken Marino in the closing credits of Party Down.
  • Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams in the Laverne and Shirley opening title sequence.
  • Ted Danson and Shelley Long in Cheers.
  • The Sprouse Brothers on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
  • Bonanza did a variation, before this method existed: Each episode had the four (later three) stars in the Opening Credits in a different order.
    • Episode A: Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon
    • Episode B: Blocker, Greene, Landon, Roberts
    • Episode C: Landon, Roberts, Greene, Blocker
  • Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz in Bones.
  • Abigail Spencer and Matt Lanter in Timeless.

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.
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