Actors are known to be paid an obscene amount of money for the movies they make. That’s why they can lead the lavish lifestyles they do. Many celebrities make millions of dollars per movie and really they only need to make a few a year to be considered wealthy. We judge the celebrities from afar because they live a life that many people can only dream about. But when it comes right down to it, we would all do the very same thing if we were in the same position. Although actors regularly get paid upwards of $5 million a movie, we sometimes hear of them taking roles for much less.
Low pay would probably be $1 million a movie. Big named movies such as The Pirates of the Caribbean or Iron Man bring in huge dollars, so celebs that regularly take on those roles make big bucks. But not all movies have the same kind of budget as the Avengers for example, and it can be hard for producers to pay a big name actor $50 million if it’s not in their budget. If an actor is passionate about a role, they occasionally will take less pay on a movie in order to be a part of it. A small paycheck for them would still be a dream come true for the rest of us. So why is it that these actors choose to be paid less when they could be walking away with so many more millions? For the most part, they don’t need the money, so it comes down to how badly they want to be part of the movie. These actors decided it was more important to be part of something than to worry about a paycheck.
15 Jamie Dornan in 50 Shades of Grey - $125,000
Jamie Dornan isn’t exactly in the same league as Brad Pitt when it comes to what he can request for movie roles. When it came time for him to take on the role of Christian Grey he was only offered $125,000 for the role. That is a shockingly low paycheck by celebrity standards, and it makes you wonder why he would even bother. No one really knew if the 50 Shades franchise would go big or become a flop. The movie was made on a low budget, and Dornan didn’t really have a say in the matter. If he wanted to be a part of the movie he had to take on a role with low pay. The great thing, however, is that Dornan was offered $12 million to reprise his role for the sequel. In the end taking the lower paycheck worked out for Dornan.
14 Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club - $200,000
For anyone that watched Dallas Buyers Club, it was an exceptionally well-done movie on a small budget. Matthew McConaughey is most known for his roles in romantic comedies; that is after all where he made most of his money. He probably could have ridden that train for his entire career. But one day he decided that he wanted to be a serious actor and with that came certain sacrifices. Producers weren’t willing to pay him the same amount of money he would have received from the romantic comedies. For Matthew to be a part of these types of movies he had to take a drastic pay decrease. The budget was so low for the film that they only had $250 in the budget for makeup, which is to say many of the actors, male and female, probably did their own makeup. For his role in the movie, Matthew was paid only $200,000.
13 Mel Gibson in Mad Max - $15,000
Mel Gibson used to be a huge star in Hollywood before the days when he started to speak his mind and become violent. He could have pretty much starred in any movie that he wanted to; he was in such high demand. Before he made it big, however, he didn’t have the pull he did at the height of his career. In fact, when he was offered the role in Mad Max he was only paid $15,000 which is insanely low even for 1979. The movie had an overall budget of $400,000 and it ended up making $5 million at the box office. Things worked out well for him in the end, however. Mel doesn’t really have a career in Hollywood any longer; anything he’s made in the past few years hasn’t done well at the box office.
12 Tom Cruise in Magnolia - $100,000
Tom Cruise is considered to be a mega star. He can make pretty much star in any movie that he wants and is paid close to $30-50 million per movie. He’s one of Hollywood’s big wigs, and everyone wants him in their movies because they do well on opening night. It’s a huge amount of money, and there are times in a year that he makes well over $100 million. It’s not surprising he makes so much money since his movies gross so much at the box office. In 1999, Tom Cruise took a pay decrease for the movie Magnolia, where he only received $100,000 for the movie. That’s a huge loss considering how much he would normally make, but Tom isn’t exactly hurting for money. It’s another example of the willingness of a celebrity to take a pay decrease in order to be a part of a movie they believe in.
11 Bill Murray in Rushmore - $9,000
Bill Murray has had a long career in Hollywood; he’s considered to be a legend in the industry. There are so many classics out there that Bill Murray is attached to. I grew up watching his movies, and they were pretty amazing. He’s become such a great icon in Hollywood that you wouldn’t be surprised if someone told you he got paid $90 million per movie. The great thing about Bill Murray is that he does what he wants in Hollywood without a worry about what other people think. He has no problem taking on a low salary if it means he gets to be a part of a movie he believes in, and he’s done it on more than one occasion. For the movie Rushmore, he was basically paid nothing compared to Hollywood standards. It was such an iconic movie for his career, and yet he was only paid $9,000 for the role.
10 Jonah Hill in Wolf of Wall Street - $60,000
Wolf of Wall Street was a career maker for Jonah Hill, before that he had only been known as a comedian in what is known as some of the funniest but most ridiculous movies out there. When the opportunity to be in a movie that was not only directed by Martin Scorsese but would also allow him to act alongside Leonardo DiCaprio was too much to pass up. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, so when it came time to talk dollars Jonah Hill was only offered $60,000 for his role which is nothing compared to what Leo was paid for his role. The two, however, are in different leagues in their career. Jonah Hill is obsessed with Martin Scorsese, and that was the main reason he took a pay cut. “I would sell my house and give all my money to work for him. This isn’t what you make money for. I would’ve done anything in the world. I would do it again in a second. This sh*t isn’t about money. You should do things that you care about.”
9 Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple - $35,000
Oprah is most known for her career as a talk show host; it’s where she made her millions and what she spent her life doing. The Oprah Winfrey show went on for many years, and it brought in millions while Oprah was able to help many people. She’s been in a few movies, however, most notably The Color Purple. The movie went on to earn 11 Oscar nominations and became a classic movie that lasted for generations. At the time Oprah didn’t have enough pull in Hollywood to ask for a big paycheck, so she was only paid $35,000 for a movie that went huge at the box office. She went on to make a huge career for herself, however, so making a small paycheck didn’t last long.
8 Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons - $2,300
Lindsay Lohan made a big career for herself by being in various rom coms as well as Disney movies. She’s had a career in Hollywood since she was a child. Once she became a teenager, however, she started acting out and her career started to take a dive. Due to that fall in the public eye, Lohan can’t pull in what she used to when it comes to making movies. For The Canyons, Lohan made a shockingly low amount of money, only $100 a day. She worked just 23 days on the film so at the end of filming she only made 2,300 for the whole film. It’s shocking to think that any celebrity would work for that. Many believe that Lohan took the low pay because she hoped that she could fix her failing career by showing the world her acting chops. Sadly, the movie barely broke even at the box office.
7 Seann William Scott in American Pie - $8,000
No one knew that the American Pie franchise would reach the level it did. Which is probably why Seann William Scott only took $8,000 for his role as Stifler in the movie. That’s quite a low pay for an actor especially since the budget of the movie was around $11 million. It did so well at the box office that it made $235 million which makes even more of a joke over Scott’s payment for his role. Things changed however when it came time to negotiate his salary for the next four movies. When it came time to make the rest of the movies Scott was paid $5 million plus a small amount of the gross that it brought in. He made a lot more money for the next four films than he did for the original, so, in the end, it worked out well for him.
6 Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson - $25,000
Ryan is a big name in Hollywood these days, and he’s been in many different varieties of movies. He’s definitely far more interested in making low budget movies, however, as he wants to be a more serious actor. He made a lot of money making movies such as Fracture and Crazy Stupid Love, but he had a lot more interest in making movies such as Half Nelson. The budget for the movie was $700,000, and Gosling wasn’t in a position in his career to demand more money, so he was paid $25,000 for the role. It was a small amount for the indie film, but it did help launch his current successful career in the industry. Since then he’s been able to pick any movie that he wants to be in. He knows how to bring in the money at the box office and although the budget was low for the Half Nelson it made a lot of money at the box office.
5 Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy - Minimum Wage
Jon Voight is a legend in Hollywood; he’s had a long career that has served him well. He also has a famous daughter in Angelina Jolie who is just as successful in the industry. You would be shocked to find out that there was a point in Voight’s career where he wasn’t paid a lot of money for his movies. In 1969, Voight starred in Midnight Cowboy, a movie about a man who wants to make a career out of being a male prostitute. This was the movie that ended up launching Voight’s career because it did so well at the box office. He made close to what is the bare minimum an actor can make in a film, which is basically like agreeing to be paid minimum wage and he agreed to this because he believed the role would make his career. He was right. What is worse, however, was that after the film had wrapped, he was sent a bill for $14.73 for the coffee he consumed while on set.
4 Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry - $3,000
Hilary Swank is a pretty big name in Hollywood, and she’s been paid a fortune for her movies. She’s the kind of actress that invests a lot in her role to make it authentic. For her role in Boys Don’t Cry, where she played a trans man who was raped by other men, she decided to live as a man for an entire month to get into character. She went so far as to lower her body fat percentage to seven percent. She did all these extreme things for $75 a week. At the end of filming, she ended up only making $3000 for her role in the film, which wasn’t enough for her to get health insurance. At the time, Swank wasn’t the big star that she is today and in order to get to that point she had to accept low pay roles. She earned an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the role.
3 Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise - $6,000
Brad Pitt is another mega star; the kind of actor that can work anywhere and get paid just about anything to do so. He has had a strong career that has made him a wealthy man, pulling in millions per movie throughout his long career. His handsome good looks and lean body have taken him far, never mind the fact that he’s one hell of an amazing actor. He’s been in a variety of movies, grossing in millions at the box office. He wasn’t always famous of course, and when it comes to his role in Thelma and Louise, he was virtually unknown. Despite his boyish good looks, Brad Pitt only made around $6,000 for his role in the movie. The movie went on to become a cult classic, therefore, launching Pitt’s career, making it laughable to think of him accepting a paycheck like that again.
2 George Clooney in Good Night, and Good Luck - Mortgaged His House To Produce
George Clooney has had an interesting career, for awhile there we weren’t sure if he was going to make it in Hollywood. His career had a slow burn for many years before it finally launched into what it is today. Nowadays, he can pull in millions per film and basically do what he wants in Hollywood. When he starred in Goodnight, and Good Luck he wasn’t exactly paid the big bucks that he’s used to. It was an unusual role because he was not only an actor in the film but also the screenwriter and director. He had to finance the film on his own which meant putting a mortgage on his house to pay the $7 million it would cost to make it. He must have been relieved when it ended up making 56.5 million at the box office. He only took a $3-million paycheck for the three roles he played in the film.
1 Jim Carrey in Yes Man - Worked For Nothing, But Made $35 Million Off Profit
Another big name actor that made a killing in the industry because he was one hell of a funny guy. There wasn’t a movie that he made that wasn’t ridiculously funny. When he was offered the role in Yes Man, Carrey agreed to do the film for absolutely nothing. Shocking, considering how much money the actor makes per film usually. He did this because he liked the role but had no idea it would do so well at the box office, pulling in a whopping $70 million. It’s a good thing that Carrey asked for 36.2% of the overall gross profits instead of payment on the film. So even though he originally was paid nothing for making the film, he ended up walking away with $35 million of the $225 million that the movie made at the box office. He took a big risk because the movie could have done terribly at the box office but that’s the way it goes; you just never know. In the end, he pulled out on top, which makes him not only funny but smart as well.
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