14 Times When Actors Agreed to a Small Fee, Even Though They Were Used to Earning More Money
Sometimes, worldwide famous actors earning millions of dollars appear in low-budget films for very little money. And they do it because the script is amazing or because they want to work with a talented director. Besides, it might be a great opportunity to try themselves in an unusual role.
1. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise is one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood. For example, for the role in Eyes Wide Shut, which was released in 1999, he earned $20 million. That same year, he agreed to appear in Magnolia for just $100,000. Cruise just really wanted to work with director Paul Thomas Anderson.
2. Bill Murray
By 1998, when the film Rushmore was released, Bill Murray was a very successful actor who earned millions of dollars for his roles. So, for Ghostbusters II, he got $7 million, and $10 million for Groundhog Day. And for the role of Herman Blume in Rushmore, he earned just $9,000.
He was so interested in the film that he offered director Wes Anderson a check for $25,000 so he could hire a helicopter for the movie. Anderson still has the check, but he hasn’t cashed it.
3. John Candy
The comedy Home Alone (1990) became a symbol of Christmas since the first year of its release. One of the small but memorable roles was played by John Candy. He portrayed a leader of an ensemble of musicians traveling around the country and playing polka. Candy earned just $414 for this role. In 2020, director Christopher Columbus said that at the time John Candy was already a big star, but he agreed to play this role as a favor to producer and writer John Hughes.
And earlier, the actor had earned millions for his roles. So, he got $1 million for National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) and $2 million for Armed and Dangerous (1986).
4. Mark Wahlberg
In 2010, the sports drama The Fighter with Mark Wahlberg in the lead role was released. The actor wanted this role so much that he refused to get his fee for the job. At the same time, he got $8 million for Planet of the Apes (2001), and $10 million for The Truth About Charlie (2002).
5. Christian Bale
Christian Bale played the coach in the same film. Due to its low budget, he agreed to get just $250,000. But 10 years before, Bale had earned $1 million for American Psycho (2000), and Batman Begins (2005) earned him $9 million.
6. Christopher Lee
Most of the cast of the British horror film The Wicker Man (1973) worked for free because the budget was extremely low. Even Christopher Lee, who had been an actor for 25 years and was quite well-known, didn’t earn a penny. But he still thought that the role of Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man was one of the greatest roles of his career.
7. Amitabh Bachchan
Popular Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan did not charge for this film because he thought that working with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was a great opportunity for him. In the end, he won his second National Film Award for Best Actor for this film.
8. George Clooney
In 2005, George Clooney played a CIA agent named Bob Barnes in Syriana. He earned just $350,000. But by 2005, he had already been paid at least several million of dollars. For example, for Ocean’s Eleven (2001) he earned $20 million, and for Intolerable Cruelty (2003), he got $15 million.
9. Liam Neeson
The actor became popular after the role of Oskar Schindler in the 1993 drama Schindler’s List. He earned $1.5 for that role. The fees in his next movies were all millions of dollars. But in 2003, Neeson appeared in Love Actually and earned just $250,000.
10. Edward Norton
Edward Norton earned $2.5 million for Fight Club (1999). This crime drama became incredibly popular and made the actors, including Norton, even more popular. So, of course, Norton got way more money for his next projects. For example, for Death to Smoochy (2002), he earned $8 million and got the same amount for Red Dragon (2002). But for Spike Lee’s 25th Hour (2002), he got way less — just $500,000.
11. Sean Penn
In 1986, Sean Penn and Madonna —they were still married at the time— appeared in the criminal drama Shanghai Surprise. The actor earned $1 million. And 12 years later, Penn appeared in Hurlyburly for just $150,000. Back in 2001, Sean played the main role in I Am Sam for $5 million.
12. Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis was in the black comedy Four Rooms for free, even though he was making more than $10 million per role. For example, Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) earned him $15 million. But he appeared in Four Rooms for fun and as a favor to his friend Quentin Tarantino.
By the way, this is why Willis is not even credited because, according to the rule of the Screen Actors Guild, actors can’t work for free. The Guild agreed not to sue Bruce if he wasn’t credited.
13. Ethan Hawke
In 2013, the film The Purge with Ethan Hawke in the main role was released. He got just $3,000 upfront for it, even though the 2001 Training Day earned him $12 million.
However, The Purge did quite well at the box office, so he probably ended up receiving more money for this film than for any other in his career.
14. Eddie Murphy
In Dreamgirls (2006), Eddie Murphy played one of the supporting characters for free. But the actor was so great at playing the hoarse singer that he got several awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. By the way, he was used to earning $ 10-20 million per role.
Which of these roles, do you think, is undervalued?