Most people can agree that actors in Hollywood get paid a ridiculous amount to do what they do. If you’ve ever watched red carpet interviews prior to gala awards shows, it’s impossible not to think about how it must feel to wear designer clothing and have your hair and makeup done any time you want.
However, just because actors get paid the big bucks most of the time, doesn’t mean it’s always that way for every film. There have been instances where big-name celebrities have accepted very small sums of money for their starring roles. Often, it was because they truly believed in the passion behind the project and didn’t care about their monetary gains, and sometimes they simply did it as a favor for a hardworking friend.
Here are 14 Hollywood players who received unbelievably low salaries after starring in some of the most popular movies ever made…
1. George Clooney: George Clooney is one of Hollywood’s biggest actors, and he has been for quite some time. However, he was only paid one dollar for writing, directing, and starring in the movie Good Night, and Good Luck; he even mortgaged his home to help finance the film. Now that’s a passion project!
2. Jon Heder: Napoleon Dynamite was one the quirkiest films ever made. Jon Heder, the actor who played the titular character, was only paid $1,000 for his work. He accepted the role as a favor to his friend Jared Hess who directed the film. It went on to gross $46 million worldwide!
3. Sean William Scott: This actor’s worldwide popularity came after the first installment of American Pie. Steve Stifler was the hilarious standout frat boy character in the film, but Sean William Scott only made $8,000 for the role.
4. The cast of Paranormal Activity: Even though the film raked in nearly $200 million worldwide, Paranormal Activity had one of the lowest budgets of any movie ever made. The entire cast was initially paid a mere $500 for their work!
5. Harrison Ford: Apparently, Harrison Ford only made $10,000 for his role as Han Solo in the first Star Wars film. As we all know, the franchise quickly became one of the most popular of all time, and the first film earned a whopping $775 million worldwide!
6. Daisy Ripley and John Boyega: You may not have heard of these two relatively new actors, but they starred in the biggest box-office hit of all time: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. However, they only earned between $100,000 and $300,000 for their work.
7. Hilary Swank: The movie Boys Don’t Cry earned Hilary Swank an Academy Award and plenty of recognition from her peers in Hollywood. It was a physically taxing role that required her to lower her body fat to just seven percent. However, she only earned $3,000 for all her intense work.
8. Mel Gibson: The Mad Max movies have developed quite a cult following since the first one came out in the 1970s. But the star of the film, Mel Gibson, only earned $15,000 for his role as the titular character.
9. Joshua Leonard: This young actor was paid a mere $500 to star in the blockbuster film The Blair Witch Project. The film was shot on an extremely low budget, but ended up grossing $248 million worldwide!
10. Jamie Lee Curtis: In 1978, the movie Halloween became a cult hit among horror enthusiasts and the average moviegoer alike. Even though the film went on to make tens of millions of dollars, the lead actress in the production, Jamie Lee Curtis, only took home $8,000.
11. Bill Murray: Bill Murray is one of the most beloved comedic actors of all time, but he also likes starring in lesser-known films, such as Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. He only brought home $9,000 for his work in the movie, even though it went on to make $17 million.
12. Patricia Arquette: Patricia Arquette spent 12 years working on Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood. The movie made $25 million; she later quipped that her babysitter earned more than she did while she was working on it.
13. Ryan Gosling: Half Nelson is a little-known independent film that Ryan Gosling worked on for $1,000 a week. The film only grossed $2.6 million, but he received an Oscar nod for his hard work, and that acknowledgment goes a lot farther than a paycheck does.
14. Shia LaBeouf: The Transformers franchise is another one of the biggest money-makers of all time. However, even though the first film, Transformers, earned $800 million worldwide, lead actor Shia LaBeouf only took home $500,000 (which still isn’t all that bad).
This goes to show you that not every actor you see on the silver screen is earning a lot of money. Sometimes, passion is placed before a paycheck—and when it is, the audience reaps the reward.
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