Surprisingly, These Actors Were Paid Peanuts For Some Of Their Roles

It’s easy to imagine actors cashing in huge paychecks at the end of filming, but that’s not always the case. While stars such as Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. earn millions of dollars per film, others are, surprisingly, paid the bare minimum, or, at least, they used to be.

Talents such as Ryan Gosling and Amanda Seyfried weren’t necessarily getting paid their dues for some roles, considering their two huge names in the industry. From pay gaps in Hollywood, wanting exposure, and caring more about the art of acting than money, these big-name actors and actresses used to earn metaphorical peanuts for their movie roles.

Dustin Hoffman Walked Away With $17,000 From The Graduate

Dustin Hoffman Walked Away With $17,000 From The Graduate
Embassy Pictures
Embassy Pictures

It’s hard to imagine a legend like Dustin Hoffman earning anything under a few hundred thousand dollars. But, like all actors, he had to start somewhere. Upon its release, The Graduate made $104.9 million at the box office, with Hoffman paid close to nothing for his performance as Benjamin Braddock.

All in all, in his debut performance, Hoffman was paid $17,000. And while the pay sounds low compared to what the actor earns now, the role opened a lot of doors. After the success of the film, offers began to roll in for Hoffman, such as Papillon, a movie where he earned $1.25 million.

Jamie Lee Curtis Took On Mike Myers For $8,000

Jamie Lee Curtis Took On Mike Myers For $8,000
Compass International Pictures
Compass International Pictures

Jamie Lee Curtis has been a force in the entertainment industry since the late 70s, with her film debut in 1978. That debut was none other than the iconic role of Laurie in the horror film Halloween. And while Curtis was nothing more than an unknown actress at the time, her pay is still startling.

To take on the infamous serial killer Michael Myers, Curtis was paid a solid $8,000. Personally, someone would have to pay us way more to take on a crazy guy chasing us around with a butcher knife, even if it’s fake.

Barkhad Abdi Only Earned $65k For Captain Phillips

Barkhad Abdi Only Earned $65k For Captain Phillips
Paul Morigi/Getty Images
Paul Morigi/Getty Images

An actor that has proven his talent is Barkhad Abdi. And while he is a critically acclaimed actor, time and time again, he has come into contractual money problems. While Abdi’s performance as Abduwali Muse, the Somalian pirate in Captain Phillips, should have shot him straight to the top of the pay scale, it didn’t.

Abdi was compensated $65,000 for his efforts on the film’s $55 million budget, only five grand above the Screen Actors Guild’s minimum contract amount at the time. Of course, it was his debut role, but not much in terms of money has changed for the actor since.

George Clooney Made $1 For Writing, Directing, And Starring In Good Night, and Good Luck

George Clooney Made $1 For Writing, Directing, And Starring
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Turner
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Turner

George Clooney has been in the entertainment industry since the late 70s, having paid his dues a time or two in terms of pay. So, it might be interesting to learn he only made one dollar each for writing, directing, and starring in the political drama Good Night, and Good Luck. A total of three dollars.

The actor even went as far as mortgaging his Los Angeles home to help finance the film! Luckily former eBay president Jeffrey Skoll and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban invested in the film. Considering the three men’s net worths, this is what we’re going to call a full-on passion project.

Jon Voight Told His Agent He’d Take A Part For “Nothing”

Jon Voight Told His Agent He'd Take A Part For "Nothing"
United Artists
United Artists

Actor Jon Voight has been in the entertainment business since the late 1960s, building a fortune in the process. And while he might be worth between $44 and $55 million now, Voight used to take on jobs with close to no pay to gain exposure. His participation in the film Midnight Cowboy was one of those instances.

During an interview with The Guardian, Voight said, “[I told my agent] I’ll do this part for nothing. They took me at my word, and they gave me the minimum for Midnight Cowboy. I knew what it meant, It was going to give me a career, and I was right.”

Jim Carrey Was Paid $0 For Yes Man

Jim Carrey Was Paid $0 For Yes Man
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Jim Carrey is known for his comedic roles, with a few dramatic works thrown in every once in a while. But one thing is certain, Carrey gives each of his characters’ his all, no matter what genre. He’s churned out more than one successful movie, getting paid a nice amount of money in the process.

So, it might come as a surprise to learn that the comedian made a solid zero dollars for his work on Yes Man. That’s right, Carrey wasn’t paid a cent for his time. Instead, he signed a contract promising him 36.2 percent of the box office take. He wound up with $35 million.

Bill Murray Made $9k For Rushmore

Bill Murray Made $9k For Rushmore
Touchstone Pictures
Touchstone Pictures

Actor Billy Murray is one of the most well-known names in Hollywood, having a career spanning over many decades. Known for his dead-pan delivery, Murray first rose to fame as part of the Saturday Night Live cast, earning an Emmy Award for his outstanding performance. And while that sounds like the start to a fantastic and money-riddled career, it wasn’t.

There was a time when Murray was grossly underpaid, starting with his role in the film Rushmore. The actor was only paid nine thousand dollars for the film. But Murray is a rare soul. The actor’s said he doesn’t care about the pay, as long as he can perform.

Brad Pitt Was Paid Six Grand For Thelma And Louise

Brad Pitt Was Paid Six Grand For Thelma And Louise
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Academy Award-winner Brad Pitt is another big-name actor who was once paid nothing compared to the amount of money he can negotiate for now. For example, Pitt was easily able to command $30 million for his work on the film Ocean’s Eleven.

But back when he was part of the 1991 Thelma and Louise cast, Pitt didn’t have the luxury of the big bucks. Instead, the actor had to settle for a low $6,000 total. At the time, Pitt was still paying his dues in Hollywood and was most likely more concerned with getting a leg up in the industry than the actual paycheck.

Ryan Gosling Was Paid $1,000/Week Post-The Notebook

Ryan Gosling Was Paid $1,000/Week Post-The Notebook
THINKfilm
THINKfilm

Currently, Ryan Gosling is far from one of Hollywood’s underpaid actors, but that can’t be said for earlier in his career. After finding major success as Noah in the romantic drama The Notebook, Gosling should have been on the up and up. Instead, his next project was paying him close to nothing.

While working on Half Nelson, Gosling was paid a measly $1,000 per week. While it sounds like nothing, accepting the job was a smart career move on his part. His excellent performance and stunning reviews helped him move up the Hollywood ladder. Pretty much, Gosling was still paying his dues at the time.

Diane Keaton’s Co-Star Didn’t Appreciate Their Different Contract Stipulations

Diane Keaton's Co-Star Didn't Appreciate Their Different Contract Stipulations
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

While Diane Keaton made a nice chunk of change for her part in the film Something’s Gotta Give, she wasn’t offered the same back end deal as her male co-star, Jack Nicholson. The actor was offered a substantial back pay of whatever the film earned; money Keaton would never have seen had it not been for Nicholson.

About two years after the release of the film, Keaton received a mysterious check in the mail with a whole lot of zeros. After calling her agent, she learned Nicholson shared half of his back pay. Apparently, he didn’t think the pay gap was fair.

Even Though Matthew McConaughey Didn’t Earn Much With Dallas Buyers Club, He Still Won An Oscar

Even Though Matthew McConaughey Didn't Earn Much With Dallas Buyers Club, He Still Won An Oscar
Focus Features
Focus Features

Considering his extensive resume, which includes an Academy Award, it’s hard to imagine Matthew McConaughey earning anything other than top-dollar for his time. Him coming on-set to say “alright, alright, alright,” is worth a solid million, at least! Alas, that wasn’t the case when it came to his paycheck for Dallas Buyers Club.

While the role of Ron Woodrof earned McConaughey an Oscar for his performance and opened many doors in Hollywood, he didn’t receive as much money as you’d think. The actor walked away with $200,000, a substantial some for us normal folks, but peanuts in terms of a Hollywood payout.

Hilary Swank Only Earned $3k For Boys Don’t Cry

Hilary Swank Only Earned $3k For Boys Don't Cry
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox Searchlight Pictures

By the time she earned three million for her role in The Affair of the Necklace, Hilary Swank had paid her dues and was climbing up the ladder in Hollywood. But, like most things, it took some time and some horrible pay to get there.

Although it launched her career into superstardom, Swank earned a startling low three grand for her role as Brandon Teena in the romance drama Boys Don’t Cry. The actress didn’t even have insurance at the time! While the role was very taxing on Swank’s body, she landed an Academy Award and proved she’s a force to be reckoned within the industry.

Jennifer Lawrence Made Half Of What Her Male Co-Stars Earned

Jennifer Lawrence Made Half Of What Her Male Co-Stars Earned
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence is one of the young talents that fell victim to the wage discrimination issue in Hollywood. Even though she is a big name in the industry, having starred in her fair share of films, Lawrence was unfairly paid for her work on American Hustle.

Lawrence’s salary for the film was locked in at five percent of the film’s earnings. The issue is that her male co-stars were guaranteed nine percent, almost half of her take away. It’s not that Lawrence didn’t have a nice payout from the film, as it grossed $150 million at the box office, but fair is fair, and this was not.

Star Wars – Episode IV, Harrison Ford Earned $10,000

Star Wars - Episode IV, Harrison Ford Earned $10,000
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

It’s no secret that the role of Han Solo isn’t exactly Harrison Ford’s favorite. It’s rumored he even rejected the part at first, due to his measly pay of $1,000 a week for Star Wars – Episode IV. Of course, he wound up accepting the part, and the $10,000 he earned during filming.

Thankfully for Ford, his paycheck kept growing from there. For Return of the Jedi, the actor’s earnings rose exponentially, settling at a solid $500,000. In 2015, Ford earned more than $25 million for his part in The Force Awakens. Obviously, The Force was telling Ford the part was a good idea!

Tom Cruise Didn’t Always Make $20 Million Per Film

Tom Cruise Didn't Always Make $20 Million Per Film
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

Tom Cruise is one of the biggest names in Hollywood, having been in the industry since the early 80s. Since then, the actor has accrued a net worth of $570 million! But before Cruise earned that significant sum, he as making peanuts (kind of).

While the actor is now known to make between $20 and $70 million per film, he wasn’t always on that high pay scale. For his work on Magnolia, Cruise was paid $100,000. We know, that’s a large sum. But for Cruise, that’s peanuts compared to what he makes nowadays.

Next To His Co-Stars, Jon Boyega Made Close To Nothing

Next To His Co-Stars, Jon Boyega Made Close To Nothing
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Considering he is one of the new faces of the Star Wars franchise, it’s hard to imagine Jon Boyega making anything but the big bucks. Well, he kind of did. But when compared to that of his co-star Harrison Ford, Boyega made close to nothing for The Force Awakens.

While Ford walked away with over $25 million for his role, Boyega only earned $100,000. That’s an alarming difference when you think about the amount of screen time each of these actors had in the film. Thankfully, the movie also helped establish Boyega’s acting chops, and he was about to renegotiate his pay for the next to films.

Daisy Ridley Was in The Same Boat As Jon Boyega

Daisy Ridley Was in The Same Boat As Jon Boyega
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

When she was cast as Rey in the new Star Wars trilogy, Daisy Ridley was an unknown. This meant she had to pay her dues, taking a substantially lower pay cut than that of her more-known co-stars, such as Harrison Ford and Carrier Fischer.

Like Jon Boyega, Ridley only made between $100,000 and $300,000 for her work on The Force Awakens, compared to Ford’s $25 million. Honestly, considering she was making minimum wage in a pub before landing the role, we’d imagine she was pretty thrilled with the paycheck! The role also helped establish her as a serious actress.

Lindsay Lohan Was Paid $100 A Day For 23 Days

Lindsay Lohan Was Paid $100 A Day For 23 Days
IFC Films
IFC Films

Once upon a time, Lindsay Lohan was America’s sweetheart, gracing the screen in classics such as Parent Trap and Freaky Friday, making a pretty penny while doing so. It wasn’t until her later years and questionable social life where Lohan made a change in her career. At the time, exposure meant more to the actress than money.

So, when she was offered the part of Tara in The Canyons, Lohan saw her chance. She agreed to sign a contract stating she’d earn $100 a day during filming, something that only lasted a solid 23 days. For the film, Lohan walked away with a total of $2,300. Yikes.

Jamie Dornan Only Made A Few Hundred Grand For 50 Shades

Jamie Dornan Only Made A Few Hundred Grand For 50 Shades
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Somewhat unknown at the time, Jamie Dornan agreed to very low pay for his role as one of the lead characters in 50 Shades of Grey. It’s no secret Dornan was not the studio’s first choice for the role, but after Charlie Hunnam was unavailable, they went to Dornan, lowballing the pay in his contract.

For the first film in the trilogy, Dornan earned a low $125,000. It might sound like a lot, but it’s peanuts considering the success of the movie. Of course, Dornan knew his worth, and he asked for quite the raise for the second film, $12 million.

Gal Gadot Earned A Fraction Of Her Male Batman V Superman Co-Stars Salary

Gal Gadot Earned A Fraction Of Her Male Batman V Superman Co-Stars Salary
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Before landing the role of Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Jusi, actress Gal Gadot was fairly unknown, unless you’re a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise. And while Gadot plays a major role in the DC film, she was paid a fraction of what her two male co-stars earned.

Gadot made $300,000 for the film. And while that might sound like a lot, it’s peanuts compared to Henry Cavill’s $14 million and Ben Affleck’s $43 million. Of course, Gadot gained valuable exposure, but the gender pay gap in this instance is a bit much.