Top Hollywood stars who took pay cuts for the roles they wanted

Hollywood A-listers earn millions of dollars for every movie role they land. Well, at least they usually do. Sometimes even the biggest stars agree to a significant pay cut whether it is to get roles they really want, help a friend or for some other reason. Here are the actors who starred in a movie for a low salary.

George Clooney

NY: Portrait Of George Clooney







The 52-year-old star is known as a man who likes taking risks. He took a serious pay cut in 2005 for Good Night, and Good Luck which he co-wrote, directed and starred in. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Clooney’s salary was only $120,000 for the movie. The risk paid off because it received six Oscar nominations. Then in the 2011 movie The Descendants, he took the same gamble by agreeing to receive only $300,000. The result was five Oscar nominations.

Bill Murray

Bill Murray







Bill Murray is one of the finest and highest-paid actors in Hollywood. However, for his part as the depressed businessman Herman Blume in Rushmore, he only got $9,000 as a salary. However, Murray negotiated an undisclosed percentage of the film’s profits. And the part paid off in other ways, as Murray went on to earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor that same year.

Ethan Hawke

Film TIFF Woman in the Fifth 20110913







For his role as James Sandin in The Purge, Ethan Hawke did not receive any upfront payment. He did so because he believed in the story and the director. His gamble paid off when the movie, which only had a budget of $3 million, earned $87 million, and he took an undisclosed percentage from its earnings. “There were no perks,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. “No trailer, no driver, no BS, just a great role, a great director.”

Ryan Gosling








After The Notebook, Ryan Gosling became one of Hollywood’s favorite leading men. After that, however, he took a role as a drug-addicted teacher in the movie Half Nelson and received a salary of only $1,000 per week. But he earned strong reviews for his performance in the film and received an Academy Award nomination for it.

Cate Blanchett








Director Woody Allen is notorious for making his yearly films with minimal budgets and paying his entire cast union scale, and Blanchett is the latest in a string of A-listers who’ve taken a salary decrease to work with him. On the other hand, she got an Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Blue Jasmine.

Matthew McConaughey








Considering he reportedly turned down a whopping $15 million payday for Universal’s Magnum, P.I., McConaughey’s $200,000 front-end salary for Dallas Buyer’s Club sure seems light. But, just like Cate Blanchett, Matthew made a good decision and got an Oscar.

Oprah Winfrey








According to producer Quincy Jones’s autobiography, Winfrey was paid just $35,000 to appear in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker novel The Color Purple. She received Best Supporting Actress nomination for the role.

Jim Carrey








In the movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey did the same as Ethan Hawke by not taking any upfront payment. However, he agreed to receive 36.2% of the movie’s profits. He struck gold because the movie earned $223 million worldwide. That was more than he received from some of his other box office hits.

Jonah Hill








For his role in The Wolf of Wall Street Jonah Hill only received $60,000. He said he accepted the role because he wanted to have a chance to work with Martin Scorsese and the other stars in the movie. In an interview with Howard Stern, Jonah said: “They gave me the lowest amount of money possible, that was their offer. I said, ‘I will sign the papers tonight. Fax me the papers tonight. I want to sign them tonight before they change their mind. I said I want to sign them before I go to sleep tonight so they legally can’t change their mind. I got to f*ckin’ be in a Martin Scorcese movie and I just got nominated for an Oscar. I would sell my house and give him all my money to work for Scorsese. I would have done anything in the world.”

Brad Pitt








There is no doubt that Brad Pitt is one of the A-listers in Hollywood now, getting millions of dollars for every movie he makes. But when he was still a struggling actor in Hollywood, he was paid an unimpressive $6,000 to star in Thelma & Louise. That was for his breakout role and today he sure earns a lot more than that.

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4 responses to “Top Hollywood stars who took pay cuts for the roles they wanted”

  1. Matt says:

    When you really like what you do and you are giving yourself all to the business you do not think of the benefit. Here is where you start working not for money, but for the idea. As you can see the results are colossal, many rewards for these roles and movies. This once again proves that getting money is nice, but when you work hard because you love it, the results would be more than just a great pay. Besides, these actors won great funds on other movies.)

  2. Leanne says:

    Well I think sometimes it is not that important to earn a lot of money, there are more important things that actors get while participating in this or that movie. Like for example Ryan Gosling, awe my God the movie “Notebook” has become a real masterpiece, personally I don’t really like it, as I have a too strong character, but I don’t have even one friend who wouldn’t be a fan of it, and watch it each time she is getting split with a new love of her life. Only God knows how many times I have watched this movie and have been a cry shoulder for my friends. Ryan Gosling has earned much more for his performance in this movie than money. He has won the love of one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood- the love of his co partner in the movie Rachel McAdams, unfortunately their love lasted for two years only, but it was a real feeling that was totally worthy. And the second massive argument is the fact that Ryan has become a star and earned a variety of invitations to perform in other more profitable from the financial point of view projects.

  3. Tanya says:

    Jim Carrey is just awesome in every project where he is participating, for me it is enough to look at him in order to feel joy and happiness, each time I am looking at a new movie where he is performing I feel the desire to laugh and live as he is amazing, in everything he is doing. I am super glad he performed in that movie “Yes man” as it showed a life of a person who was able to change everything completely, and it made him happy. So my point is that this movie has made thousands of people throughout the world to reconsider their lives and realize that there is a way out from the depression they are in, and there is certainly happiness awaiting them in the future. That is something that is worth living for. Money doesn’t really matter when it comes to this kind of issues. And the fact that movie has become a very successful one is clearly showing that.

  4. Jadda says:

    Well Matthew McConaughey has certainly performed in the “Dallas Buyers Club” not for the sake of money, but because he totally loved the scenario and the movie producer. Sometimes it is important to do something for yourself, and not for the sake of some benefits. Matthew has even lost a lot of his weight in order to fit into his character’s “shoes” , and this movie became one of the most successful movies there he ever participated in. So the sacrifice he made when he lost the weight was not in vain, though honestly speaking I used to like him much more than he was bigger and not that terrifying skinny as he is now.