Actor Johnny Depp has recently been in the news and not at all for good reasons. In large part due to his messy divorce from Amber Heard, Depp is in some serious financial difficulty. As such, expect to see Depp in about a dozen of poorly thought-out movies over the next few years as well as plenty of advertisements for who know’s what. Fried chicken? High-interest savings accounts? Adult diapers? Whatever, look, the man needs money. So what will he do? Well, perhaps he’ll look to the example set by some of his celeb friends.
And that got us to thinking about other celebrities and the things they’ll do for money. Some celebs are seen as very principled or perhaps even reclusive. It would be weird to see Daniel Day-Lewis trying to sell you ramen or Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai in an ad for Dentyne Ice. But not all public figures have such priorities. For many, it’s all about how much money they can get. For some, that means doing ad work for just about anything. For some actors, that means taking on horrible roles just for the paycheck. For musicians, it can mean performing in some pretty questionable circumstances. And nowadays, people will always find out about it. It’s not like back in the day when Arnold Schwarzenegger could do a Japanese ad for an energy drink and hope not many would notice. But, regardless of how or why they do it, here are 15 celebrities who just can’t seem to turn down a big, fat, payday.
15 Paris Hilton
Heiress Paris Hilton is famous for two things: being rich and being famous (ok, yes, and the "tape", but the "tape" wouldn’t have mattered if she weren’t already rich). So it’s no surprise the hotel heiress is fond of a paycheck. Hilton first rose to public consciousness via her starring role in the reality television program, The Simple Life. In this show, Hilton would do laborious, menial, sometimes dirty jobs --you know, the kind of jobs that we regular humans have to do-- for our amusement. But while Hilton has dirtied her hands go get a payday (via the circuitous route of reality TV), it’s her other business interests that truly show her low standards for money. She has endorsed everything from over 20 perfumes to Carl’s Jr.; an ad that saw her enjoying the artery-clogging burger in lingerie and elaborate makeup, you know, like how we all do.
14 Halle Berry
Halle Berry is by no means a terrible actress and she has been in several good films. But she’s also been in her fair share of stinkers. Her role as the titular character in Catwoman comes to mind as an example. Berry openly voiced her distaste for the movie and even picked up her Razzie in person. But that movie had a lot of problems and it may not have been clear to Berry when she accepted the role that its only positive point would be her paycheck. Swordfish, however, is another matter. The formulaic ‘thriller’ movie proved very lucrative for Berry, specifically for one scene. Berry was set to be paid a whopping $2 million for the movie, but that number was increased by 25% when Berry agreed to appear topless for the first time ever on film. That’s $250,o00 per nipple. Those are some expensive nipples.
Mr. Worldwide didn’t get to where he is by turning down paychecks. Let’s start with his music itself. For many musicians/singers/rappers/producers, their music is their art; a vital aspect of their self-expression. For Pitbull, his music is simply an avenue for revenue. Pitbull’s songs are less about emotional expression or socio-political commentary and more about crafting the best noise energetic 20-somethings hopped up on Molly want to hear at 2 AM. And he’s pretty good at it, churning out EDM hits with industrial proficiency. What’s more, Pitbull is always willing to stop by your event for the right amount of money. Whether your event is the World Cup opening ceremony or Tony Robbin’s Real Estate Wealth Expo, Pitbull will be there doing his thing.
12 Carlos Tevez
Carlos Tevez is a very good footballer (soccer player) but is not one of the absolute best in the world. And at 32, Tevez is nearing the end of his playing career. And yet, Tevez is the highest paid footballer on the planet. His salary is reported to be an eye-watering $41 million (USD) a year. Tevez is the highest profile player to go to China over the past year. The Chinese Super League is flush with money thanks to the handful of oligarchs who own most of the clubs. But the Chinese Super League is not one of the best leagues in the world. The equivalent would be if somebody like Rob Gronkowski left the NFL to play in the CFL for a dump-truck full of money, or if Joe Thornton left the NHL to play in the Russian KHL for a solid gold house. What makes Tevez’s move particularly galling is that he left his hometown club, Boca Juniors, in Argentina to go to Shanghai Shenhua. This from a player who left Juventus, the top club in Italy, just 18 months ago to be with his family because he was homesick. I guess he got over that.
11 Michael Caine
Michael Caine is a great actor who has given us some legendary performances in iconic films repeatedly over his career. But Caine has also done his fair share of money-grabbing movies, as well. His performances in the Austin Powers and Batman movies aren’t exactly high art and they earned him quite a bit of money. But these movies have been very well received by the public, so Caine’s take-home isn’t an issue. However, the same cannot be said for Jaws: The Revenge. Caine has been pretty honest about taking terrible roles if the money is good enough. But rarely has he been so candid than he was about this better-left-forgotten installment of the Jaws story when he said, "I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house it built, and it is terrific.”
10 Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige is one of the top R&B singers of all time. Perusing her back catalog, her work stands up both artistically and commercially to any of the other greats from Tina Turner to Patti Labelle to Whitney Houston. However, Blige has not been as good at saving all that money as she has been at making it. The “Real Love” and “I’m Goin’ Down” singer apparently needed some cash one day, so she accepted an endorsement from Burger King that would go down as one of the worst celebrity sponsorships ever. Blige didn’t just appear in a BK advert, she sang in it. And she didn’t just sing anything. She sang her song, “Don’t Mind”, but replaced the lyrics with ingredients from the chicken menu. At best, Blige was accused of being a sellout. At worst, she was accused by some of playing up racial stereotypes. Burger King quickly pulled the ad and the whole ordeal became a famous lose-lose situation.
9 Kevin James
Movies like Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Zookeeper, Grown Ups. Honestly, do I even need to write anything here or can I just list off Kevin James’ filmography? Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Grown Ups 2, Here Comes the Boom. Clearly, Kevin James is not making these movies to express raw emotion from his tormented soul nor to shine a mirror on a flawed society. They’re mindless, silly movies designed to make people laugh. What people? I don’t know. I assume Kevin James’ target audience is people who showed up to the theater too late to get tickets to the movie they actually wanted to see. In James’ defense, he has written several of his movies. You could argue that makes it more artistic. Maybe? Honestly, he’s like the lamer, white version of Tyler Perry. He’s only in it for the money.
8 Matt Groening
In the early 1990s, The Simpsons took America, and the world, by storm. While the show would later become even funnier, more poignant and more creative (and would later still, become crap), the show never quite gripped the cultural zeitgeist as it did from 1990-1992. Most of this mania surrounded the Bart character. When Fox executives came up with the idea of merchandising Bart and the other characters, creator Matt Groening loved the idea. Seemingly, there wasn’t anything Groening wouldn’t slap his creation on. Dolls, t-shirts, calendars, lunch-boxes, you name it. While the naked commercialization of the show bothered some of the writers, Groening knew no shame in this regard. It was actually one of the sources of conflict between Groening and the writers, who resented the massive wealth Groening accrued despite not having much to do with the actual show beyond having created the characters several years before.
7 David Hasselhoff
David Hasselhoff is well remembered for his roles on The Young and the Restless, Knight Rider and Baywatch. All were very successful shows at a time and made Hasselhoff a lot of money. But of course, you’d never confuse ‘The Hoff’ with Sidney Poitier or Marlon Brando. They were fun, easy-to-digest shows with no real message. You could say the same of his music career, except in Germany where both he and his song “Looking for Freedom” became (bafflingly) monstrously popular. You’d think all that would be enough for The Hoff, but he wanted more. As such, he was always open to endorsing products. Perhaps most notorious was Hasselhoff's ad work for Lean Pockets. Maybe it was because The Hoff was later on in years and had fallen from the Hollywood limelight, but Hasselhoff's endorsement of the food-like Lean Pockets just came off as sad and pathetic.
6 Khloe Kardashian
You knew there would be a Kardashian somewhere on this list. They’re all famous just for being rich. But rather than lump the whole family in together, it seems Khloe deserves special consideration for her pursuit of paychecks. Yes, Kim is basically just a human celebrity-endorsement machine at this point. And while she has definitely had missteps, Kim has begun to show some impressive business acumen, usually knowing which ventures to support and when to pass. Khloe has not been so discriminating. Either on her own or along with husband Lamar Odom, Khloe Kardashian has endorsed pretty much everything you can imagine. Most infamously, though, was her and her husband’s endorsement of the Calvin Klein unisex fragrance Unbreakable, which came off as ridiculous and the product failed miserably.
5 Maria Sharapova
While she’s run into a little doping trouble recently (shocking for a Russian) Maria Sharapova’s stats on the tennis court make her one of the all time greats. But as good as she’s been on the court, she’s better off it. Her 35 singles titles and 5 grand slam titles are surpassed only by the Williams sisters among active female tennis players. But her endorsement figures are even greater. Nike, Evian, Samsung and Porsche are just a few of the companies that have paid ‘Masha’ a handsome sum in exchange for using her beautiful visage to promote their products. Sharapova’s endorsement deals are worth an estimated $23 million (USD). While clearly a great tennis player, the inordinate amount of money she gets might have just a little something to with her looks.
4 Mariah Carey
For musicians, recording a Christmas album is often seen as a money-grabber. Rarely does a lot of creativity go into a Christmas album but they generally sell very well. To say that Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas or its lead single, “All I Want for Christmas is You”, ‘sold well’ would be a massive understatement. Merry Christmas is the best-selling Christmas album of all time. But it’s not just Christmas music that Carey uses to line her coffers. She’s happy to do plenty of corporate events, such as receiving $1 million to sing two (2!) songs for the opening of a Saks Fifth Avenue in Toronto. Carey also controversially performed for Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos in 2013. Controversial, because he is president in title only and is, in effect, a dictator. However, if there’s one thing Carey might not do, it’s return to play Dick Clark Productions’ New Year’s Eve show again. No matter how much they offer her.
3 Donald Trump
The President of the United States is on this list. Let that sink in. And his presence here is entirely justified. Before being elected to the highest office in the land, the controversial businessman was unquestionably ‘a celeb’, being most famous for hosting the reality television program The Apprentice, as well as making cameos in everything from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, to WrestleMania 23. And how did Donald Trump become wealthy (apart from inheriting a large sum)? Via endorsements. Yes, his base was in real estate, but he truly became rich by lending his name to products such as wine, a dodgy university, and a failed line of steaks. While you can criticize a lot of Trump’s dealings, if a developer asked you if he could pay you a bajillion dollars to put your name in gold on their behemoth of a building, would you say no?
2 Tiger Woods
Of all the athletes who have repeatedly lent their good name to companies and products, one man has topped them all: Tiger Woods. There was a time when Woods knew no bounds with regards to endorsements. His prolific success on the golf course led to deals with companies such as Nike, Upper Deck, Fuse Science, NetJets and Rolex (to name but a few). All this advertising work was worth about $65 million (USD). Good work if you can get it. There was a slight snag, however, when Woods was outed as a serial philanderer. His squeaky clean image was shattered and with it, so too was his marketability. Sponsorships dropped left and right, along with Woods’ golf game which suffered greatly. In the years since, Woods’ endorsement portfolio has rebounded better than his golfing has.
1 50 Cent
What else can you expect from a rapper who named himself after a monetary value? When 50 Cent first broke onto the hip hop scene, the rapper was seen as true ‘G’ with plenty of street cred (getting shot nine times will do that). However, he quickly began to produce ‘bubblegum rap’ songs such as “Candy Shop”, which proved very lucrative. Even more rewarding was Fiddy’s investment in Vitamin Water, which provided him with a reported $100 million payoff when the company was purchased by Coca-Cola. But all this wasn’t enough for Fiddy who fell into the trap many musicians have and played a show for a ruthless dictator. While it’s understandable that Mariah Carey wasn’t all that knowledgeable about Angolan politics, Fiddy played for infamous Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, which makes his sin less forgivable. But, at least Fiddy got that money, right? Except, actually, he filed for chapter 11 reorganization (bankruptcy) in 2015. He became broke, somehow. But wait, there’s one more twist! On February 3, 2017, Fiddy paid off his $22 million debt. And he did it early! “Get rich or die tryin’”, 50 Cent is a celebrity who will do anything for money.
Sources: Opendorse, USA Today, TheWrap, the Guardian, youtube