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10+ Actors Who Made Their Movie a Box-Office Success but Got Paid Very Little for It

Famous actors receive impressive paychecks for their work for a reason. They have to endure sleepless nights, get through long working hours, and meet high demands in terms of their looks. These are just a few challenges they have to face in their profession. Of course, not everyone manages to immediately achieve a high level of compensation, but famous actors often receive multimillion-dollar checks. However, sometimes they have to work for minimum wage, and these low-paying roles become the most successful in their careers and remain in the memories of viewers for a long time.

At Bright Side, we decided to watch our favorite movies again and recall who of the famous actors were deprived of their fair share.

Mel Gibson — Mad Max

The first part of the famous trilogy grossed $100 million worldwide with a budget of $300,000, $15,000 of which were paid to Mel Gibson. And it’s not such a small amount for the actor compared to the $400 he received for his first role in the movie, Summer City. However, it seems completely insignificant in comparison with his future paychecks.

Seann William Scott — American Pie

American Pie was Scott’s first serious movie role, and he couldn’t ask for a big fee. He acted in the movie about teenagers for just $8,000 and got so in character that most of his lines were pure improvisation. Thanks to his ideas, the movie became what we know and love, even today.

Jeff Daniels — Dumb and Dumber

By the time he worked on the movie, Dumb and Dumber, Jeff Daniels already had acting experience, but his fee for the movie was quite small at just $50,000. However, his colleague, Jim Carrey, earned $7 million.

At the same time, it’s worth taking into account the fact that Daniels made the same contribution to creating a cheerful atmosphere for this cult comedy, and his jokes were in no way inferior to Carrey’s. The screen time was also split almost equally between the actors.

Michelle Williams — All the Money in the World

When the movie was almost finished, some scenes had to be hastily reshot because the starring actor had to be replaced. Michelle Williams, like some other actors, was willing to act in the reshoots for free, but they were still paid.

Michelle Williams was paid less than $1,000, while her colleagues, like Mark Wahlberg, received $1.5 million. It all ended with a scandal because people couldn’t understand why the talented actress who was a multiple award-winner and the movie’s main heroine could get such laughable compensation.

Jamie Lee Curtis — Halloween

Jamie Lee Curtis is known to the world as the ultimate scream queen thanks to her roles in horror movies. The most successful franchise the actress took part in was Halloween. She was cast in the film thanks to the fact that she was the daughter of Psycho actress Janet Leigh.

At that time, Curtis was just an aspiring actress, so she earned only $8,000. Who knew that she would become one of the most famous actresses in this genre and would participate in many parts of this franchise?

Patricia Arquette — Boyhood

We know Patricia from many movies, but Boyhood brought her fame, thanks to which she won a Golden Globe and an Oscar. This epic coming-of-age drama was produced over the course of 12 years and earned more than $57 million worldwide. In one of her interviews, Arquette said, “I paid more money to my babysitter and my dog walker than I made on Boyhood.”

Barkhad Abdi — Captain Phillips

Barkhad Abdi became an actor thanks to a lucky coincidence. He was an immigrant from Somalia, and film director Paul Greengrass was looking for Somali men for his movie. After being cast, Barkhad got one of the main roles and played alongside Tom Hanks. He was nominated for many awards but was paid just $65,000 for his appearance in the film and returned to working in his brother’s shop afterward. Sony Pictures had to rent clothes and a car for him to participate in official events.

Julia Roberts — Pretty Woman

Initially, Julia Roberts wasn’t chosen for the main role because Disney management didn’t like her. But other candidates couldn’t take part in the film for one reason or another, so the young actress got the job with a fee of just $300,000. Thanks to Roberts, the film became iconic, and she is now one of the highest-paid actresses in the world.

Bruce Campbell — Evil Dead

We know Bruce Campbell thanks to the movie, Evil Dead. Not only did he play the main character, Ash Williams, but he also produced the movie. However, he received the same small salary as the rest of the cast: they were all paid just $100 a week.

John Travolta — Pulp Fiction

Vincent Vega, who was portrayed by John Travolta, became an iconic character. And a huge reason for this was due to the actor’s charm. Viewers finally saw that Travolta had dramatic acting potential, and his career took off afterward. However, Travolta’s fee was quite small, just $150,000. But without him, the movie would’ve been quite different.

Michèle Mercier — Angélique

For Mercier, the role of Angélique was both lucky and cursed. When she was cast for the role, she was still an aspiring actress, despite the fact that she already had more than 20 movies in her filmography, but she was popular mainly in Italy. The movie about the French beauty instantly brought her international fame, but her fee was quite small. She was paid only 50,000 francs per movie, although millions of people around the world came to movie theatres to see Mercier.

Such a low fee became one of the reasons why the actress refused to participate in further parts of the franchise. But finding new roles became even more difficult because people thought of her only as Angélique. In 1999, Mercier even had to sell her personal belongings and all the heroine’s dresses, which she had once bought from the studio, due to her financial problems.

Bonus: Fifty Shades of Grey actors received a small fee in the beginning.

The actors of the scandalous melodrama probably didn’t even suspect how famous they would become after the release of the movie. The film was controversial and many stars had refused to take part in it, given the plot and the provocative scenes, but Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan went for it for a very modest fee of just $250,000 each.

The film earned more than $500 million worldwide, which is why the starring actors decided to renegotiate the terms of their contracts. Of course, they were entitled to a tiered structure of bonuses, but that wasn’t enough. Eventually, Johnson and Dornan asked for a 6-figure fee for the next 2 parts of the franchise.

Which of these famous characters do you love the most? Tell us in the comments below.

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