One of the perks of being a movie star is the insane amount of money you make for each film. Can you guess what Robert Downey Jr. made for Avengers: Endgame? Well, be prepared to review your career options. Apparently, at least $75 million (Rs. 524 crores), according to Hollywood Reporter. Once a movie grosses pretty high at the box office, it’s natural that the stars get a pretty huge chunk of the profits.
But there are times when actors are HUGELY underpaid for major roles. This can be for a variety of reasons: as a favor to the filmmakers, passion for the material, or they’re just not popular enough to demand higher salaries. Sure, $6000 dollars seems VERY high from the middle-class perspective, but for established Hollywood actors, it’s peanuts. Here are actors who took a huge pay cut to play major roles.
1. Brad Pitt (Thelma and Louise, 1991)
Thelma and Louise was Brad Pitt‘s big break, and he finally got noticed by critics and audiences all over the world. However, in this big budget film directed by Ridley Scott, ol’ Brad’s cut was a measly $9000 (keep in mind that I’m writing from a mainstream Hollywood actor’s POV). But on the bright side, his career took off like a rocket and he has since reached for the stars.
2. Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson, 2006)
Fresh off starring in The Notebook (2004), Ryan Gosling decided not to make blockbuster films for the sake of it, but rather prioritize script over salary when he decided to star as a drug-addicted teacher in Ryan Fleck’s 2006 film Half Nelson, for a salary of $1000 per week. He later went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for the role, so something good did come out of that.
3. Adam Levine (Begin Again, 2013)
This was the Maroon 5 frontman’s big-screen debut, and it’s fair to say he didn’t do a bad job.
Adam Levine, on playing his role in Begin Again said:
I did this movie for no money. I’m very lucky that I’m in that position. I want to treat [acting] completely differently because I have the very fortunate luxury of not having to think of this in terms of money.
Good show, Mr. Levine!
Where to Watch: Netflix
4. George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck, 2005| The Descendants, 2011)
George Clooney is one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men. But he isn’t afraid to take risks despite his reputation. As the writer, director, and lead actor of 2005’s Good Night and Good Luck, the actor took only $120,000 as salary. The movie earned 6 Academy Award nominations.
He took another risk with 2011’s The Descendants, agreeing to a salary of $300,000 for the film, which then went on to earn a total of 5 Oscar nominations. Guy’s got an eye for sure things.
Where To Watch: Good Night, and Good Luck (Netflix)
5. Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, 2013)
Matthew McConaughey dropped 40 pounds to play a Texas man diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1985. Up until then, he was known as a guy who’d make sweet romcoms and possible blockbusters. Dallas Buyers Club showed the world the true extent of his acting prowess with McConaughey giving the best performance of his career to date.
He was given a measly $200,000 for his efforts, but he was willing to take the cut. He was rewarded with the Best Actor Academy Award that year. Alright, alright, alright.
Where To Watch: Netflix
6. Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013)
Back in 2007, who would’ve thought that fat, bloated Jonah Hill would go on to become a Hollywood heavyweight who’d be nominated for 2 Oscars and work with some of the greatest directors of all time? Hill usually gets paid millions for his comedic roles, but he accepted a sum of $60,000 just for the opportunity to work with the legendary Martin Scorsese.
“I would sell my house and give him all my money to work for [Scorsese]. … I’d have done anything in the world. I would do it again in a second,” the actor said to Hypable in January. Jonah earned his 2nd Oscar nomination for the hilarious portrayal of Donnie Azoff. He made it.
7. Harrison Ford (Star Wars: A New Hope, 1977)
At the time, few people had faith in George Lucas and his visionary universe that would capture our hearts even to this day. Still, the budget for A New Hope was $11 million. And out of that, Harrison Ford, who played what is now one of the most iconic characters in cinema history was paid a ridiculously small sum of $10,000.
If you thought he’d get his due for the next one, you were wrong. The Empire Strikes Back, one of the greatest movies ever made, got Harrison Ford a paycheck of $100,000. But hey, you do it for the recognition, not the money. Well, mostly for the recognition.
I'm an engineering graduate trying to make the most out of what life throws at me. Currently working as a Brand Strategist at Mitsogo Inc, Chennai. Outside work, you can find me on a football pitch, a basketball court, or in front of a tea stall - still trying to make the most out of what I get.