10 Times Big-Name Stars Got Hired to Play a Role That Surprisingly Paid Them Little to No Money
Many famous people who have achieved fame have agreed to take on roles in films for incredibly low pay. While it might seem like most actors have received buckets of cash for their work, you’d be surprised to learn how many celebs have received tiny wages only because they desired that particular role or were new to the movie business.
1. Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers
Despite receiving favorable reviews for her portrayal of Ramona, the title character of Hustlers, Jennifer Lopez starred in the movie for free. However, the enticing singer and actress engaged in the project because she was passionate about it.
“I didn’t get paid a whole bunch of money for Hustlers,” she said. “I did it for free and produced it. Like Jenny From the Block, I do what I love.”
2. Jim Carrey in Yes Man
Jim Carrey was well known in the 1990s in the film industry for his many comedic roles. Carrey typically demands a sizable salary for a film, but for Yes Man, he adopted an unusual strategy. The actor consented to accept a $0 salary in exchange for 36.2% of the net earnings for the film.
Jim Carrey was prepared to take the chance, even though he knew that signing this kind of contract would be extremely risky. The movie’s $223 million global box office haul proved Carrey would make a sizable profit and that it was well worth the risk of losing it all.
3. George Clooney in Good Night, and Good Luck
George Clooney, who also co-wrote, produced, and directed the black-and-white documentary-style film, had to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work and essentially worked for free to complete this project. “I got a dollar for writing the script,” he said. "I had to endorse my check for directing and turn in my acting salary.
Although Clooney only received a $3 up-front payment for the movie that garnered 6 Academy Award nominations, he was excited to work on it because his father served as inspiration.
4. Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street
Jonah Hill agreed to work on Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street for $60,000, and the film went on to earn him an Oscar nomination. Hill claimed he had gone to great lengths to collaborate with the director and that, given the chance, he would make the same deal again. “That was their offer, and I said, ’I will sign the paper tonight,’” Hill confessed. “I want to sign them before I go to sleep tonight, so they legally can’t change their mind.”
5. Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise
One of Hollywood’s most well-known actors, Brad Pitt, received a payment of $6,000 for this single film role. When he was shooting Thelma & Louise, the first of many box office hits he would go on to star in, he began to draw attention.
6. Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
Jennifer Lawrence, an Oscar winner, claims she was paid significantly less than Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper for her role in American Hustle. She received 7% of the profits, compared to the 9% her male co-stars and director received.
In an interview, the actress stated she did not want to fight because she did not want to appear “difficult” or “spoiled.” She did, however, bring up the issue of the gender pay gap in the film industry, stating, “We have to be made equal.”
7. Harrison Ford in Star Wars: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’s box office success was unexpected because science fiction wasn’t exactly a genre that was popular at the time. In the movie’s meager $11 million budget, the producers, directors, and cast each received $75,000.
Actors frequently put in the most time and effort for the least pay, and the Star Wars cast was not fairly compensated. For instance, Harrison Ford was compensated with a paltry $10,000 for his role in developing one of the most recognizable characters in cinema history.
8. Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct
Even though she was already well-known at the time, Sharon Stone received very little pay for her leading role in Basic Instinct. While her co-star, Michael Douglas, earned $14 million, she was unable to make enough money to purchase an Oscars gown.
Stone revealed that she was only paid $500,000 to play Catherine Tramell, the female lead. “I was in this weird limbo where I was suddenly famous but didn’t have any money,” she admitted.
9. Christian Bale in American Psycho
Christian Bale starred in the classic suspense film, American Psycho, in 2000. The movie was a huge hit right away, and Bale received a lot of praise for his portrayal of Patrick Bateman, the protagonist.
Years later, it was revealed in an interview that Bale had been compensated for his acclaimed role with less than the legal minimum. They paid the makeup artists on set more than him, he admitted, before remembering the time they made fun of him for the circumstance.
10. Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry
In her ground-breaking performance in Boys Don’t Cry, Hilary Swank won an Oscar for portraying a real-life transgender man. Despite the incredible success of her role, the actress only received a salary of $3,000 to $2,000 less than what was required for her to be eligible for health insurance.
“I didn’t even know that I didn’t have health insurance until I went and tried to get a prescription filled.” She confessed, “I had an Academy Award, no health insurance.”
Do you know any other celebrities who were paid very little for their roles?