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14 Times Actors Got Basically No Money Upfront For A Role, And It Paid Off Big-Time

What a gamble!

Most of the time, big-name actors pull in thousands — if not millions — of dollars for every movie they star in. However, this isn't always the case.

Sometimes, actors choose to take little to no pay for the opportunity to make their passion project, or they take a percentage of the movie's profits instead — which can result in a huge chunk of change. Other times, they do get paid but then decide to donate their entire paycheck to a worthy cause.

Here are 15 movies that actors did for little or no upfront pay:

1. Jennifer Lopez starred in Hustlers for free because she's "never been motivated by money."

J.Lo in a pink bikini and white heels, sitting outside and smoking a cigarette

2. When Nick Castle played Michael Myers in Halloween (1978), he only made $25 a day.

wearing his creepy rubber mask, Michael Myers sneaks up behind Laurie

3. John Candy reportedly only got $414 for his cameo in Home alone — the highest-grossing domestic comedy in movie history.

Kate listens to John Candy playing the clarinet

4. Beyoncé made $4 million for the biopic Cadillac Records, but she donated all of it to the Phoenix House — the drug treatment center she stayed in to prepare for the role.

Beyonce as Etta James singing passionately into a microphone

5. George Clooney paid himself $3 for writing, directing, and acting in Good Night, and Good Luck — which he called a "love letter to [his] old man" — because he's "in the enviable position of being able to force studios to make films that they wouldn’t ordinarily make."

clipboard in hand, Fred delivers instructions to the news cast and crew

6. For Yes Man, Jim Carrey forewent any upfront payment in exchange for 36.2% of the back-end profits.

Carl falls flat on his back and gasps

7. In late 2021, Michael Sheen announced his plans to be a "not-for-profit" actor and donate all of his extra profits to support social causes.

sitting on his cot, Martin folds his hands in front of him

8. Jon Heder starred in Napoleon Dynamite for only $1,000.

Napoleon Dynamite walks down the hall wearing his Vote for Pedro shirt

9. Working for scale, Bill Murray only made about $9,000 upfront for Rushmore, but when Disney refused to pay for the helicopter shot director Wes Anderson wanted for the "A Quick One While He's Away" montage, Murray wrote him an out-of-pocket $25,000 check.

addressing the crowd Herman puts his hands on a lever

10. Christopher Lee played Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man for free, and he called it one of the greatest roles of his career.

standing in front of the wicker effigy, Summerisle lifts his hands in praise

11. For The Purge, Ethan Hawke took a very small upfront salary in exchange for a cut of the profits — which reportedly ended up being worth $2 million.

carefully, James peaks out the slot in the door

12. When Sanjay Leela Bhansali offered Amitabh Bachchan a role in his film, Black, Bachchan was so excited to fulfill his dream of working with the director that he refused to accept any payment for it.

sitting in the library, Debraj has red eyes and a stressed appearance

13. Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface, was paid $800 for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Leatherface snarls through his terrifying mask

14. And finally, Adam Levine made his acting debut in Begin Again "for no money," and he wanted "to treat [acting] completely differently [than music] because [he has] the very fortunate luxury of not having to think of this in terms of money."

sitting on the steps with Greta, Dave holds out his hand for her earbuds