11 Actors Who Made Over $20 Million For Just One Movie, And 11 Who Were Stupidly Underpaid
Hilary Swank was paid so little for Boys Don't Cry that she wasn't even eligible for health insurance: "I made $3,000. For insurance, you have to make $5,000, so I didn't even know that I didn't have health insurance."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Michelle was paid $625,000 for her performance in All the Money in the World which earned her a Golden Globes nomination. In comparison, her costar Mark Wahlberg made $5 million — nearly ten times her pay.
Even worse, she was paid less than $1,000 for reshoots while Mark's compensation was increased by $1.5 million. After the story went viral, Mark donated the $1.5 million to the Time's Up campaign.
In a statement to Entertainment Tonight, Michelle responded to Mark's donation. "Today isn’t about me. My fellow actresses stood by me and stood up for me, my activist friends taught me to use my voice, and the most powerful men in charge, they listened and they acted. If we truly envision an equal world, it takes equal effort and sacrifice."
According to Forbes, the actor agreed to a lower-than-normal salary for Inception. This allowed him to negotiate for a first-dollar gross arrangement, meaning that he got a cut of the box office earnings before the studio even made its production and advertising costs back yet.
Due to the structure of his contract, he made about $40 million in additional earnings, bringing his total compensation to $50 million.
3.Underpaid: Taraji P. Henson
During an interview on The Real, the actor opened up about her salary for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. She was paid $150,000 for the role that earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. After paying taxes and her team, she was left with about $30,000 — the same cost as her son's tuition.
On the Ladies First with Laura Brown podcast, Taraji revealed that she initially asked for $500,000, but the studio shut that down and offered her $100,000 instead. They settled on $150,000, but she pointed out her costars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett made way more. "I’m not saying they shouldn’t have paid Cate and Brad what they deserved," she said. "They deserved that because when this comes out, people are coming because of Brad, and they’re going to discover me. I’m bringing a certain amount to the seat, too, and I felt like what I was asking at that time in my career was fair."
4.Made millions: Robert Downey Jr.
The actor was paid a $20 million salary for Avengers: Endgame, where we said goodbye to our beloved Iron Man. According to Forbes, Robert made an additional $55 million due to the back-end profits he negotiated in his contract — a total of $75 million.
Back in the beginning of her career, the TV host was severely underpaid for her work in The Color Purple. According to Insider, she was paid just $35,000 for playing Sofia. Her performance went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
6.Made millions: Tom Cruise
According to Variety, the actor accepted a smaller-than-usual salary of about $13 million for Top Gun: Maverick. That way, he could negotiate for a larger percentage of first-dollar gross. Considering the film made over $1.3 billion in theaters, Tom's total compensation for the film is estimated at $100 million.
7.Underpaid: Jonah Hill
The actor was paid just $60,000 for his work in The Wolf of Wall Street, which took seven months to shoot. In comparison, Leonardo DiCaprio made $10 million.
Jonah accepted the Screen Actor Guild's minimum rate in order to work with director Martin Scorsese. "They gave me the lowest amount of money possible, that was their offer," he revealed on The Howard Stern Show. "I said, 'I will sign the paper tonight. Fax me the papers tonight.'" His performance went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
8.Made millions: Will Smith
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor reportedly made $40 million for producing and starring in King Richard, where he played the father of Serena and Venus Williams.
When the movie pivoted last-minute so it was available both in theaters and on HBO Max, Will personally wrote checks to his costars to help make up the compensation they lost.
9.Underpaid: Priyanka Chopra
The actor told Insider that she once costarred in a Bollywood movie where she was paid significantly less than her male counterpart. "A producer-director said to me, 'Well, you know how it is in these big tentpole movies with the big boys. This is the budget for the girl, and we can't move beyond that,' which was a measly 5% of what [the male lead] was getting."
10.Made millions: Sandra Bullock
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor was reportedly paid a $20 million salary for the space epic, Gravity. She also earned 15% of first-dollar gross — meaning that she got a cut of the box office earnings, DVD sales, etc. – for a total of around $70 million.
11.Underpaid: Viola Davis
During a Women in the World interview, the actor opened up about the struggles she faces as a Black woman in the entertainment industry. While she didn't share her pay for specific roles, she expressed frustration that she wasn't compensated on par with even white women, let alone white men.
12.Made millions: Harrison Ford
According to Men's Health, the actor made $65 million for his work in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Apparently, Harrison was semi-retired when Paramount made him an offer he couldn't resist: a large share of the movie's profits between him, director Steven Spielberg, and franchise creator George Lucas.
13.Underpaid: Hilary Swank
On Chelsea Handler's Netflix talk show, Chelsea, the actor revealed that she was only paid $3,000 for her work in Boys Don't Cry. Her performance won an Oscar for Best Actress.
"I made $3,000. In order to have health insurance, you have to make $5,000," she shared. "So I didn't even know that I didn't have health insurance until I went and tried to get a prescription filled. They said, 'That's $160.' I went, 'Um, did you try my insurance?' They said, 'Mmm-hmm.' I had an Academy Award, no health insurance."
14.Made millions: Bruce Willis
The actor reportedly made over $100 million for his work in The Sixth Sense. Apparently, he was paid about $14 million upfront, and then negotiated for a large percentage of profits on the backend.
15.Underpaid: Barkhad Abdi
According to the New Yorker, the actor was only paid $65,000 for his role in Captain Phillips, which earned him Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. After production ended, he returned to selling cell phones in a Minneapolis mall. While promoting the movie in LA, he lived in the hotel the studio put him up in and wore loaner clothes.
16.Made millions: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
According to Variety, the actor was paid $22.5 million for playing the lead role in the upcoming DC film, Black Adam. He will also be paid millions more for producing the film and promoting it on his social media.
17.Underpaid: Natalie Portman
In 2017, the actor told Marie Claire UK that costar Ashton Kutcher was paid three times more than her for the rom-com No Strings Attached. "I knew and I went along with it because there’s this thing with 'quotes' in Hollywood," she said. "His [quote] was three times higher than mine so they said he should get three times more. I wasn’t as pissed as I should have been. I mean, we get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy."
18.Made millions: Daniel Craig
According to GQ, the actor was paid $25 million for No Time To Die, his fifth and final installment as James Bond. Last year, he told Candis Magazine that he plans to donate much of his fortune rather than leave it all for his children. "I don’t want to leave great sums to the next generation. I think inheritance is quite distasteful. My philosophy is get rid of it or give it away before you go. Isn’t there an old adage that if you die a rich person, you’ve failed?"
19.Underpaid: Octavia Spencer
The actor has spoken up about being underpaid numerous times. During a 2018 Sundance Film Festival panel, Octavia recalled a phone call with Jessica Chastain, who was pushing for pay equity between men and women. Octavia informed her that women of color make far less than white women, so they need to be brought into the conversation, too.
With a comedy project involving both actors on the horizon, Jessica proposed the two tie themselves in negotiations to ensure they got a better deal together. Octavia ended up with a salary five times higher than she would have originally gotten.
In a later tweet, Octavia wrote, "I don't know what or if it cost her anything as far as her rate, I just know she stood with me, and am eternally grateful."
20.Made millions: Angelina Jolie
According to Time, the actor made $33 million for playing the lead in Maleficent. Forbes named her the highest-paid female actor of 2013.
21.Underpaid: Jeff Daniels
The actor was paid just $50,000 for his work in the '90s comedy, Dumb and Dumber. In comparison, costar Jim Carrey made $7 million.
22.Made millions: Tom Hanks
During a 2020 interview on In Depth With Graham Bensinger, the actor revealed that he and director Robert Zemeckis paid for some scenes out of their own pockets while filming Forrest Gump. When Paramount said it was too expensive to film the iconic scene of Forrest running across the country, the director asked Tom to split the cost with him.
"He said, 'Well, this run is going to cost X amount of dollars.' And it wasn’t cheap," Tom recalled. "And I said, 'Okay.' He said, 'You and I are going to split that amount, and we’re going to give it back [to Paramount]. We’ll give you the money back, but you guys [Paramount] are going to have to share the profits a little bit more.' Which the studio said, 'Fabulous, great. Okay.' And it was good for us, too."
Tom ended up making about $65 million from the movie. He also won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actor.
Can you think of any other actors who were severely underpaid or made millions for just one movie? LMK in the comments below!