It’s no surprise that the film industry is one of the most lucrative businesses in the world, so it’s also no longer a big surprise when a celebrity takes home a $20 million paycheck for a role in one single film. A-List Hollywood stars can make a pretty penny for their role in a film, especially when they’re able to negotiate a percentage of the films gross earnings. In other words, it’s safe to say that actors and actresses are usually given appropriate gratification for having to deal with the pressures of “being in the spotlight.” Although, as we said, it is not necessarily the case for all actors. Below is a list of 13 A-Listers who obtained the highest paying movie roles of all time.
13. Leonardo DiCaprio – Inception – $59 million
The 2010 film, Inception had a $160 million budget and was originally deemed too risky by studio executives. So, lead actor, Leonardo DiCaprio was forced to take a pay cut from his upfront salary to ensure that the film would still be made. Instead, he negotiated a first-dollar-gross deal, which would still deliver a good paycheck, even if the film bombed at the box office. However, the mind-bending thriller was a complete and total success, grossing $825 million at the box office, receiving an 86% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and taking home 4 Oscar wins. DiCaprio cashed in on the success too, earning a whopping $59 million for five months of filming, which equates to $393,333 dollars per day of work.
12. Adam Sandler – Anger Management – $60 million
Anger Management is a 2003 film starring A-list actors, Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson. The film had a $75 million budget and went on to earn over $195 million in the box office, worldwide. Jack Nicholson earned $20 million for his role in the film, while Adam Sandler had negotiated a $20 million salary and 25% of the gross earnings. Sandler took home 3 times as much as Nicholson, earning $60 million for his role.
11. Johnny Depp – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – $60 million
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest released in 2006, was the second installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. Dead Man’s Chest had a budget of $225 million and ended up earning over $1 billion in the box office, worldwide. For his role as Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp took home a paycheck of $60 million.
10. Jack Nicholson – Batman – $60 million
In 1989, Jack Nicholson accepted the role as the Joker in Tim Burton’s film, Batman and struck an amazing deal. He reduced his standard $10 million salary to $6 million, but added in a percentage of the gross revenue on top of it. When the film went on to make more than $411 million in the box office worldwide, Nicholson received a $60 million payday – which was a record for the time.
9. Harrison Ford – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – $65 million
The 2008 sequel, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was heavily protested by fans of the original Indiana Jones movies, but it didn’t stop Harrison Ford from reprising his role as Indiana Jones. The film took four months to film and had a budget of $185 million. Although it was heavily protested, the film went on to earn more than $786 million in the box office worldwide, and received a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 78% by critics. With his salary and profit-sharing deal, Harrison took home a $65 million paycheck, which equates to $541,666 per day of filming.
8. Tom Hanks – Forrest Gump – $70 million
Forrest Gump ran into our lives in 1994, and has never really left. It was a commercial and critical success and is considered one of the greatest films of all time. The film had a budget of $55 million and when production was going over budget, Hanks offered up half of his $10 million salary, in exchange for a 10% share of the movie’s gross revenue. Hanks’ decision paid off, because the film earned over $677 million in the box office worldwide. Tom Hanks walked away with an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role and a $70 million paycheck.
7. Tom Cruise – Mission Impossible I, II, III, IV – $290 million
Tom Cruise has an estimated net worth of $350 million, making him one of the richest actors in Hollywood. Cruise has been able to reach that huge milestone by demanding a percentage of his film’s gross earnings, which has given him some huge pays. The Mission Impossible films were optioned and produced by Cruise’s production company and earned over $2 billion in the box office worldwide, making them one of the highest grossing film series of all time. The enormous box office earnings allowed Tom to make $70 million off of the first film, $75 million off the second, $75 million off the third and $70 million off of the fourth, totaling $290 million in earnings, for playing the role of Agent Ethan Hunt.
6. Sandra Bullock – Gravity – $77 million
The 2013 sci-fi film, Gravity had a production budget of $100 million and earned $716 million worldwide at the box office. Sandra Bullock was paid $20 million upfront and also struck a deal for 15% of first-dollar-gross, which ended up making history. Sandra Bullock became the highest paid female actress for a single role, when she took home her $77 million paycheck for Gravity.
5. Keanu Reeves – The Matrix Revolutions – $80 million
In 2003, just six months after The Matrix Reloaded was released in theaters, the third installment in The Matrix trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions hit theaters. Keanu Reeves played the role of Neo for the third and final time. The film had a budget of $110,000,000 and despite receiving a critic rating of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, it went on to earn $430 million in the box office worldwide. Keanu earned a $15 million salary and 15% of the gross, which totaled a payout of $80 million.
4. Will Smith – Men in Black 3 – $100 million
In 2012, Will Smith reprised his role as Agent J for the third time in Men in Black 3. The film had a $225,000,000 budget and happened to be a production nightmare. Filming was delayed several times and when it finally started, the second and third act of the script wasn’t complete. Despite all of the issues during pre-production and filming, Men in Black 3 cleaned up at the box office, earning more than $625 million worldwide. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 70% rating, which certified it fresh. Will Smith had negotiated a $20 million salary, as well as a percentage from the box office and home video profits, increasing his payday to a cool $100 million.
3. Tom Cruise – War of the Worlds – $100 million
In 2005, the sci-fi thriller, War of the Worlds hit theaters with a bang. The film had a budget of $132 million and took only 73 days to film. The film grossed $591.4 million worldwide, and received a critic Rotten Tomatoes rating of 74%. When it was all said and done, Tom Cruise walked away with a $100 million paycheck, earning a staggering $1.37 million per day of filming.
2. Bruce Willis – The Sixth Sense – $120 million
In 1999, the supernatural thriller, The Sixth Sense hit theaters and became an instant success among critics and audiences worldwide. However, in order to convince mega A-List star, Bruce Willis to take on an unusual role in a film about ghosts by an unknown director, studios offered Willis a $14 million salary and 17% of the gross. The film had a $40 million budget and ended up grossing over $672 million in the box office worldwide. Bruce Willis walked away with $120 million, while his co-star, Haley Joel Osment walked away with $150,000 and an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Osment may see dead people, but Willis sees money.
1. Keanu Reeves – The Matrix Reloaded – $126 million
The 2003 film, The Matrix Reloaded was the first sequel to The Matrix and the second installment in The Matrix trilogy. The film had an estimated budget of $150 million and it took one year to film. The movie earned over $735 million in the worldwide box office, making it the most commercially successful R-rated film in history. Keanu Reeves’ paycheck reflected this feat. He earned a $15 million salary and 15% of the gross, totaling $126 million – making it the largest payout for a single film role in movie history.