10 Actors Who Were Paid Almost Nothing for Their Best Roles


Hollywood actors’ salaries are typically valued for a movie at millions of dollars. But often the actors, whether they are interested in the script or want to gain experience from an eminent director, agree to work for a pittance. Or, maybe, their career is just starting, and adverse circumstances have to be embraced.

10. Jonah Hill — The Wolf of Wall Street

© Appian Way

Hill was already a popular comedian, earning millions when Martin Scorsese offered Hill a part in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). And $60,000 was offered to him! Jonah Hill, however, did not even negotiate, signing the agreements on the same day. The role brought him his second nomination for an Oscar. By the way, for his role in the film, Leonardo DiCaprio earned $25 million.

9. Tom Cruise — Magnolia

© New Line Cinema

For an actor who has already earned tens of millions of dollars for work in films such as Mission: Impossible (1996), Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994), and Jerry Maguire (1996), $100,000 is a salary that can hardly be considered remarkable. Tom Cruise, however, was so impressed by Magnolia’s script (1999) that he did not care about the money and accepted director Paul Thomas Anderson’s offer. For his role in this film, Cruise subsequently received a Golden Globe.

8. Brad Pitt — Thelma & Louise

© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The role of Ridley Scott in Thelma and Louise (1991) was Brad Pitt’s first major move on his way to dazzling success: Pitt has noticed in Hollywood thanks to this part. And the fact that the actor earned just $6,000 for his work, as he soon took vengeance, was not an issue. Pitt’s compensation for his role in Ocean’s Eleven (2001), for instance, was $30 million.

7. Ryan Gosling — Half Nelson

The actor abruptly agreed to star in the low-budget drama Half Nelson (2006) for some $1,000 a week, following the success of The Notebook (2004), which won Gosling a lot of money. Not in vain, as it turned out: Gosling earned his first Oscar nomination for the role of a teacher in this film.

6. Hilary Swank — Boys Don’t Cry

© Fox Searchlight Pictures

Hilary Swank’s insightful acting was priced by the makers of Boys Don’t Cry (1999) at $3,000, a sum so meagre that it was not enough to get medical benefits. But not all the difficulties were in vain: Swank won an Oscar for this beautifully played part, and her payment for her next film, The Affair of the Necklace (2001), was already $3 million.

5. Dustin Hoffman — The Graduate

© Lawrence Turman

To this day, The Graduate (1967) is considered one of the most commercially successful films. Dustin Hoffman did not experience this achievement, though, because his salary was $17,000, barely enough to salary off his debt. But the seductive storey of Mrs Robinson helped Hoffman’s career kick-off. For example, the actor earned $1,25 million for his involvement in Papillon (1973).

4. Jennifer Lawrence — Winter’s Bone

© Anonymous Content

Jennifer Lawrence, an early actress, earned just $3,000 for her part in the drama Winter’s Bone (2010). Yet critics highly praised her acting, and Lawrence got a nomination for an Oscar. Her career was moved forward, and the sum in her bank account acquired more zeros with each new position. For instance, Lawrence received $20 million for her work with Passengers (2016).

3. Harrison Ford — Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

Rumour has it that Harrison Ford almost discounted the offer to play Han Solo because he was given $1,000 for a week of work in the first Star Wars (1977). We all know that, in the end, he accepted the role. This won him 10,000 dollars. But over time, Ford’s income increased significantly: he gained $500,000 for his work in Star Wars: Episode VI-Return of the Jedi (1983), and $25 million in Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens (2015).

2. Jim Carrey — Yes Man

His colleagues were shocked by the top Hollywood actor when he decided to appear for $0 up front in the comedy Yes Man (2008). Jim requested 36.7 percent of the box office sales instead of a prepayment. Fortunately for the star, the comedy was successful commercially and earned some $35 million to Carrey. So, much like his character, Carrey lucked out, simply saying “yes” to a seemingly questionable proposal.

1. Bill Murray — Rushmore

In Rushmore (1998), directed by Wes Anderson, Bill Murray was so willing to star that he accepted a $9,000 salary. By then, Murray was already very good. He won $10 million for acting in Groundhog Day (1993), for example. What is even more impressive is that when the studio did not want to fund a helicopter required for shooting, Murray sent Anderson a check for $25,000.

Preview photo credit Metro-Goldwyn-MayerAnonymous Content