Low pay, high aim
Hollywood actors often reap benefits by taking huge salary cuts to star in films they believe in
For some inexplicable reason, it's widely assumed that all Hollywood stars rope in millions per film. Well, this might be true for a small galaxy of uber-popular actors but for a majority of them, this isn't the case. In fact, economically speaking, the difference between a star and an actor is decided on the basis of their paycheck.
However, there have been commendable instances where the so-called stars took incredible salary cuts to ensure they chose scripts they thought were worth the low returns. And most of them were rewarded handsomely, too! With Channing Tatum making news for not only taking a pay cut for the film festival-favourite Foxcatcher but also getting appreciated for his role, hitlist digs into movies which paid the respective actors relatively little in emoluments but much more in acclaim...
Film: The Canyons (2013)
Director: Paul Schrader
Lowdown: In exchange for a profit share and decision-making rights, LiLo decided to star in this movie that took barely 23 days to shoot. The troubled actress was paid a daily rate of just $100. Although the film attracted conflicting reviews, it's widely believed that Lohan didn't receive any profits from the low-budget drama due to her lack of creative control.
Film: The Purge (2013)
Director: James DeMonaco
Lowdown: In exchange of his services in this action horror film, Hawke did not receive any upfront payment. Apparently, the Before Midnight star took the project because he completely believed in the script and the director. His gamble paid off when the $3 million movie grossed more than $87 million. He took an undisclosed percentage from its earnings.
Film: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Lowdown: There are actors who'd do anything to work in a Scorsese movie. Turns out Hill was one of them! He was willing to get paid a paltry sum of $60,000 — which happens to be the minimum wage according to Screen Actors Guild guidelines — for his supporting role in the film. To prove his faith right, the chubby actor was rewarded with an Oscar nod as well.
Film: Blue Jasmine (2013)
Director: Woody Allen
Lowdown: Nobody can stop Woody Allen from churning out films at the pace he does. And it goes without saying that almost all his films are minimum budgeted. When Cate Blanchett earned rave reviews and awards for her performance, she was just reinstating the theory that Allen might pay low but the returns in terms of accolades are usually enormous.
Film: Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Lowdown: He was offered a mindblowing $15 million payday for the movie adaptation of Magnum, P.I. but he turned it down. After all, he had better things to do. With a measly salary of $200,000 and a diet regime that helped him shed nearly 25 kg, McConaughey must have been extremely delighted to go back home with the golden statuette for Best Actor.
Film: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Director: Andrew Dominik
Lowdown: He's one of the best-paid actor-turned-producers around with a pay scale north of
$20 million per film. Regardless, he instantly agreed to work in this low-budget period film. Essaying the role of notorious Jesse James, he accepted $1 million as fee. For his belief in the script, he scored an Oscar nomination for his measured performance.
Film: Half Nelson (2006)
Director: Ryan Fleck
Lowdown: Post the phenomenal success of The Notebook (2004), which made Gosling a star, he made a wise choice. After starring in Stay the following year, Gosling decided to take a drastic step. The Canadian actor played the part of a drug-addicted teacher. For his work, he received a weekly wage of $1,000 but it earned him his only Oscar nod so far.
Film: J Edgar (2011)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Lowdown: He's one of the highest-paid actors on the planet and yet, Eastwood managed to convince him to lower his fee for a film. In fact, DiCaprio took a 90 per cent pay cut to $2 million and gained weight for the role. However, the gamble didn't pay off well for the film, commercially speaking. But the Titanic star was appreciated for his sublime performance.
Film: The Descendants (2011)
Director: Alexander Payne
Lowdown: When it comes to gambling, Clooney is in a league of his own. The actor-director might have earned tens of millions from The Perfect Storm (2000) and Ocean's Eleven (2001) but he took only $120,000 for Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) which got him Oscar nods. Later, he received only $300,000 for his work in the five-times Oscar-nominated The Descendants.
Film: Black Swan (2010)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Lowdown: Unlike Sandra Bullock who brought in $56 million last year thanks to the unprecedented success of the sci-fi marvel Gravity (2013), Portman didn't make the most of moolah. Despite being one of the most bankable film stars, she clocked in less than a million dollar mark for her Oscar-winning performance in the $13 million film. Interestingly enough, the small film went on to pocket $77 million in box-office across the globe.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) continues to be the highest rated film on IMDb for more than a decade now. However, the writer Stephen King, whose book was adapted by director Frank Darabont, didn't receive a single penny for his contribution. According to reports, the bestselling author simply wanted the film to be made and later didn't even cash the $5000 token cheque sent to him by Darabont.
A lot of actors, famous or otherwise, are said to have been paid exceptionally low salary for their work in the film...
Jon Voight gladly accepted the role of a prostitute in John Schlesinger's cerebral Midnight Cowboy (1969) for “the lowest pay possible”. Fortunately, he earned his first Oscar nomination for it.
Oprah Winfrey was paid just $35,000 to appear in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple (1985). She won a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
When Brad Pitt made his presence felt in Hollywood, it was in the role of a seductive conman in Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise (1991). For his services, he was given a cheque of $6,000 and a lasting career.
Despite being an established star, John Travolta accepted $150,000 for his part in the highly-rated but minimally-funded Pulp Fiction (1994). For his troubles, he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
When James Howson became the first black actor to be cast in the role of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (2011), he was commended for his work. But he took home only $13,036 for his role.
How many actors receive an Oscar nod for their debut film? Well, Barkhad Abdi did. But the Somalian chauffeur-turned-actor earned only $65,000 for his services in the $55 million Captain Phillips (2013).