Roles for which actors received pennies

We often discuss the actors’ incredibly high salaries but we must be honest that if the film collected hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office then its main screen stars have the rights for pretty large profits. However, sometimes the actor or actress happen to be paid a ridiculously small amount, either because they are interested in the material or because a beginner can’t claim hefty fees. We at have collected a selection of actors and actresses who received too little money for the enormous work on the role or for a successful film.

Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese is one of those directors every actor dreams of working with. This honor is a great lever to get actors to work for much less money than they usually receive.

By the time The Wolf of Wall Street started to be shot, Jonah Hill had already recommended himself as a good actor who had even received an Oscar nomination for the Moneyball. Nevertheless, the opportunity to star in the Martin Scorsese film was such an exciting prospect that Hill agreed to do it for a minor by the Hollywood standards $ 60,000.
A shot from The Wolf of Wall Street
A shot from The Wolf of Wall Street
What makes this salary even smaller is the fact that the film itself had a budget of over $100 million and Jordan Belfort, the real stockbroker, who Leonardo DiCaprio plays in the film, received a whole million dollars just for the rights to his story.

Bill Murray – Rushmore

Being one of the main Hollywood comedy stars in the 80s and early 90s Bill Murray’s career declined during the decade, when the legendary actor seemed to stop caring about roles.
Bill Murray in the Rushmore
Bill Murray in the Rushmore
Everything changed when Murray appeared in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore picture in 1998, which revived the actor’s career and showed that he was starting to give preference to more complex roles. Murray agreed to work for $9,000.

In addition to such a pay cut, Bill also helped in transporting the equipment for free and gave Anderson a blank check to cover the staging costs, which the production company refused to extra pay for.

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

Few believed in George Lucas’s and the Star Wars’ success, which resulted in a rather small budget. Nevertheless, the budget for the fourth episode, the New Hope was already 11 million dollars and that was already a huge budget for a science fiction film from the 1970s.

Despite the opportunities the filmmakers continued to save particularly on the cast. For example, Harrison Ford earned a small amount of $10,000 for helping to create one of the most iconic characters in the history of cinema.

It is curious that even after the Star Wars had become a hit, Harrison’s salary in The Empire Strikes Back episode grew only to $100,000.

Gal Gadot – Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was released at a time when superhero films, whether Marvel or DC, were guaranteed to have a record success. Despite the so-called adventure of making a film about a superheroine in the lead role, no one expected that the Wonder Woman would collect almost a billion dollars in a movie.
The Role which brought Gal Gadot worldwide fame
The Role which brought Gal Gadot worldwide fame
Does nescience acquit the filmmakers, considering that the lead actress Gal Gadot was paid only 300 thousand dollars? In any case, it was the image that brought the girl worldwide fame, which is priceless.

Jeff Daniels – Dumb and Dumber

Yes, $50,000 was good money for Jeff Daniels to play in the Farrelly Brothers comedy, especially since no one expected it to bring hundreds of millions of dollars. However, it is worth recalling how much the second lead actor Jim Carrey received.
Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels on the set of the Dumb and Dumber
Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels on the set of the Dumb and Dumber
Of course, Jim was one of the most popular actors in the days of the Dumb and Dumber His participation in the film largely determined the box office success but Jeff Daniels didn’t do less for the picture. That is why the fact that Kerry received $7 million for the Dumb and Dumber but Jeff's salary contains only 4 zeros, is surprising.

George Clooney – Good Night, and Good Luck

Good night and good luck became a financially disastrous project for George Clooney, because he was paid only a dollar for what he had written, shot and played in the film. The actor laid his house to finance the project and because of the serious injury he had previously received while shooting the Syriana, he couldn’t even receive proper medical care.
Good Night, and Good Luck - trailer
With big blockbusters like the Ocean's Eleven and The Perfect Storm, Clooney was at the point in his career when he chose roles and possibly salaries but the desire to shoot the Good Night, and Good Luck was so great that he decided to go into debt. Clooney's total rental income in the end was $120,000.

Ryan Gosling – Half Nelson

Ryan Gosling is a graduate of the Mickey Mouse Club along with such stars as Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. While his peers were already on the top of all the charts, Gosling was a teenage actor, appearing on second-rate TV shows.
Ryan Gosling’s breakthrough role
Ryan Gosling’s breakthrough role
Gosling received his first lead role at the age of 20 in the famous The Believer neo-Nazi drama. Role by role he proved his talent and the main breakthrough was The Notebook, where he worked in a duet with Rachel McAdams. This was followed by the Half Nelson indie film. The Small budget determined Ryan’s income - $1,000 for his first Oscar nomination.

Mel Gibson – Mad Max

Mad Max is a brilliant franchise of the 70s, which was continued in the 21st century. The story of the creation of the picture began simultaneously with the career of then rising star Mel Gibson.
Mad Max - trailer
Though Mel Gibson was not yet a first class actor and Mad Max had not yet become a cult fighter, it’s amazing to find out that he received only $15,000 for helping to create the franchise. For comparison, 10 years later Bruce Willis would receive $5 million for the Die Hard, despite the fact that he was only known for second-rate TV shows.

Chris Evans – Captain America: The First Avenger

No one surely knew how deafening would the Iron Man be and it was the picture that would launch a huge cinematic universe worth several billion dollars. But by the time The First Avenger was in production and was already the fifth Marvel film, so everyone was expecting millions of box office cash.
Chris Evans in the image of Captain America
Chris Evans in the image of Captain America
Therefore, forcing Chris Evans to debut as Steve Rogers and paying him just 200 thousand, even promising to gradually increase his salary for each subsequent film, was a rather dubious decision from Marvel and Disney. By the way, Robert Downey Jr received 2.5 times more for his Marvel debut.

Sean Astin – The Lord of the Rings trilogy

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by Peter Jackson was one of the most ambitious cinematic events in the history of Hollywood, which involved hundreds of actors for an exhausting 438 days (not counting the annual re-filming over the next three years) and with a budget of almost 400 million dollars.
Permanent Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Permanent Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings trilogy
You would think that the main actors were compensated for spending more than a year on shooting an extremely demanding film in New Zealand on a schedule that did not allow them to return home. Actor Sean Astin earned only NZ $250,000 for all the three films, which is only about $83 000 per picture.