Movie stars are paid the big bucks for a reason. Fans of the silver screen will turn out in droves if the right actor is cast in the lead role.
But some stars will ditch the huge payday if there’s something else in it for them, even going as far as sleeping on a friend’s couch during filming to get the job done.
Before she was Wonder Woman, Israeli actress Gal Gadot wasn’t very well-known in Hollywood, apart from a small supporting role in the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise.
So when she was told they were casting for Diana Prince, she happily accepted a small paycheck of $300,000 to get her foot in the door. Now the actress commands upwards of $10 million for a movie, making her one of the industry’s top earners. But some actors will go even lower.
When Jonah Hill heard Martin Scorsese was casting for ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, he vowed to do “whatever it takes” to get involved. He told Howard Stern he accepted just $60,000 for the supporting role – the lowest amount an actor can receive for a Hollywood movie according to the Screen Actors’ Guild.
Meanwhile, co-star Leonardo DiCaprio walked away with a whopping $10 million. But sometimes it’s the project itself, not the director, that sees actors working for less.
Tabloid favorite Kristen Stewart commanded $12.5 million a movie for the most recent installments in the ‘Twilight’ saga. But after the budget was slashed for her next role in Jack Kerouac adaptation ‘On The Road’, Kristen had to decide if she would be willing to take a pay cut to remain in the credits.
In the end, the actress walked away with just $200,000. The film flopped, making only $8.8 million at the box office on a budget of $25 million. But taking less up front can pay off if the movie is successful enough.
Sometimes a role is too good to pass up, no matter how low the pay. And if you’re Jennifer Lopez, some roles are so good you’ll actually do it for free and pump money into the movie yourself.
‘Hustlers’ made a total of $157.6 million on a budget of just $20 million and earned actress/producer Lopez praise from critics. “I’ve never been motivated by money. I’ve always been motivated by ‘I want to be a great actress,’” she said. Then again, some stars are motivated by working with other great actors.
‘The Matrix’ star Keanu Reeves wanted to star alongside his hero Al Pacino so badly, he actually offered to take a pay cut so the studio could pay the ‘Scarface’ star his full salary.
It’s not the first time Reeves has distributed his movie earnings, having famously bought superbikes for ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ visual effects team to thank them for their hard work. And sharing the wealth can certainly pay off for actors in the long run.
By the time ‘Friends’ was in its 10th season, the main cast of the hit sitcom were pulling in a staggering $1 million each per episode.
But the will-they-won’t they relationship between Ross and Rachel saw the likes of Matt LeBlanc being offered a lot less than David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston. However, the group decided to stick together and negotiated all of their salaries at once, meaning they all leveled up together. Seems like helping your friends out goes a long way in Hollywood.
One of the most iconic movie stars of all time started his career reading lines for actors at the auditions for ‘Star Wars’ as a favor for a friend, until the casting director realized the space smuggler they were looking for was staring them right in the face.
Harrison Ford was paid a tiny $1,000 a week for playing Han Solo, totaling $10,000. When he reprised the role in 2015’s ‘The Force Awakens’, he was paid $25 million, plus a 0.5% share of the revenue. But taking a pay cut can pay off in more ways than just higher earnings down the road.
‘Interstellar’ actor Matthew McConaughey already sacrificed a lot by slimming down for the role of aids sufferer Ron Woodroof in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (he lost an astonishing 47 pounds).
Not only did he risk his health, but he also turned down $15 million to star in a big-screen version of ‘Magnum, P.I.’, accepting just $200,000 for the dramatic role. The Best Actor Oscar probably made up for it though. And that’s double what this arguably bigger star accepted.
Movie stars don’t get much bigger than Tom Cruise, and taking risks for a role is kind of his thing (he broke his ankle during a stunt in the latest ‘Mission: Impossible’ movie).
But accepting only $100,000 to play a role in ‘Magnolia’ was a great deal for director Paul Thomas Anderson, who Cruise relentlessly chased to cast him in his next project after seeing ‘Boogie Nights.’ It was only a supporting role, but imagine getting paid far less than your co-star when you’re the main character.
While there was a rumor that Henry Cavill was paid more for his role as Superman than Gal Gadot got for ‘Wonder Woman’ (reports incorrectly said he got $14 million, suggesting inequality in the industry), the actor in fact agreed to just $300,000 for the movie.
Amy Adams, who played a supporting role as Lois Lane, was actually paid significantly more (somewhere in the seven-figure range), being a much more well-known actress. And Henry isn’t the only superhero to take a financial hit early in his career.
Chris Evans is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars following the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but before the franchise skyrocketed, Evans’ earnings were somewhat… capped.
The actor signed on to play Captain America for a measly $300,000 – a small figure considering how much cash he’s made the studio and nothing compared to the $15 million he was reportedly paid for ‘Avengers: Endgame.’ But at least he got a hotel and trailer, unlike some.
It’s one thing to take a pay cut for a role, but to lend your stardom to a movie for absolutely nothing takes another level of commitment. Ethan Hawke loved the script for ‘The Purge’ so much that he agreed to star in exchange for a percentage of the profits, even staying on director Jason Blum’s couch during filming.
Doesn’t feel awesome to read about “small” $300,000 paychecks, huh? That’s pretty much enough money to retire for the average person.