Making it in Hollywood is easier said than done, and most actors can barely get by while pursuing their dream and hoping to land that one breakthrough role. But a few lucky and unusually talented ones have truly won the jackpot and made it big.
Some of the biggest stars make more money per movie than most of us will in our lifetime and it’s hard to not be a tiny bit jealous. Take a look at these celebrities’s most well paid roles and you might be tempted to consider a career move into acting.
Cameron Diaz- $42 million
Cameron Diaz is both a seasoned Hollywood actress, but also evidently a very savvy businesswoman. The 2011 comedy Bad Teacher got mostly negative reviews, and Diaz was actually not offered very much for the part at first. She initially agreed to the relatively low $1 million salary but made sure to renegotiate her contract to include also a portion of box-office earnings.
Diaz must have guessed the plot of a lazy, spoiled and selfish school teacher would speak to the masses, and she was right. People loved her portrayal of the sassy teacher who doesn’t even like her students, and the movie did so well Cameron in the end made $40 million dollars off of it.
Bruce Willis- $120 million
Bruce Willis is the actor with a steely poker face presence few can imitate, and thanks to his unique acting style he has very little competition. He has been known to keep things simple, and has for years asked for a set salary of $20 million for any major movie role. In The Sixth Sense however, Bruce broke tradition in several ways.
His role as a somber child psychologist was itself a departure from his more regular cool action packed characters. But he also seemed to realize this movie would be an amazing success. So on top of his standard salary he made sure to get a percentage of revenue and video sales- upping his salary to an impressive $120 million.
Angelina Jolie- $33 million
Angelina Jolie keeps topping the lists of highest paid actresses, and can even compete with the leading men in Hollywood salary wise. In 2013 she was the only woman listed on the Forbes top 10 highest paid actors which probably doesn’t surprise anyone who has seen this talented star in action.
In the 2014 Maleficent a new clever take put the villain in the center of the tale Sleeping Beauty- with Angelina giving a magnetic performance as as the evil Maleficent. She was paid $33 million for her performance and has already made the sequel premiering in October 2019. Reportedly she will make at least as much for Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil.
Keanu Reeves- $262 million
The Matrix trilogy is one of the most successful, non-Marvel based movie franchises of all times, and Keanu Reeves is the lucky guy who won the part of the lead.
For the three movies he was paid an astounding $262 million- a sum that is almost impossible to comprehend. Keanu could actually have made even more, had he not given up part of his profit to make more money available for the costumes and special effects department. Talk about a true team player!
Jim Carrey- $30 million
Few have made the world laugh as much as Jim Carrey. Loved for his goofy humor and amazing physical comedy, this guy is living the dream of many struggling comedians. So it probably doesn’t come as a surprise the going rate for including him in one of your movies is way above average.
But instead of a regular salary for the 2008 comedy Yes Man, Jim Carrey opted for a more long term investment. Thanks to getting an ownership stake he ended up making a solid $30 million for the movie.
Robert Downey Jr.- $50 million
Robert Downey Jr. is for many simply Tony Spark- Marvel’s Iron Man who he has played in an impressive ten movies to date. Few get lucky enough to land a role that just keeps on coming back in new projects, and Downey Jr. has made sure to make the most of it.
He was reportedly paid $50 million just for the first movie, and with the growing success of the Marvel movie universe it’s doubtful his salary has decreased much since.
Friends Cast- $1 million per episode
When the hit show Friends first aired back in 1994 the fresh faced cast members made a modest $20.000 per episode. For the young and mostly unknown actors, that must still have felt like winning the jackpot. But little did they know they would get much more once the show proved to be a hit.
During the last season of Friends each actor made $1 million per episode, which was an even more impressive sum back then considering it was in 2004.
Johnny Depp- $300 million
Johnny Depp was a seasoned and admired actor long before he got the script of Pirates Of The Caribbean in his hands. But once he closed that deal, he would forever be linked to his iconic character Captain Jack Sparrow.
Depp played this character in five movies over the span of more than ten years, and got paid $300 million total for his work. A pretty decent deal for a role he so clearly enjoyed.
Tom Cruise -$75 million
No one can make running look cooler than Tom Cruise. And luckily for us he does plenty of that, and many amazing stunts, as his iconic character Ethan Hunt of the Mission Impossible franchise.
In the fourth installment, Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol, Tom was paid $75 million for his efforts and it’s not like he was paid peanuts for the previous ones either. Apparently he made around $70 million also for the second and third movie.
Jerry Seinfeld- $1.5 million per episode
Jerry Seinfeld is probably the luckies guy on earth. He basically got paid millions just to be his own funny self on television for nine years. By the last season he was making a reported $1.5 million per episode, and NBC was even willing to pay him more.
They offered Seinfeld a raise to $5 million per episode, just to get him to agree to a tenth season. But he refused as he felt the show had run its course Jerry wasn’t willing to compromise on quality just to make more money.
Daniel Radcliffe – $50 million
Imagine being a child actor so successful you’re a millionaire before you even reach 18. That’s reality for Daniel Radcliffe. At the ripe young age of 12 he won the role of his lifetime as Harry Potter, and his career has been a done deal ever since.
Besides the amazing experience of gettin to portray the worlds most famous wizard, he was also paid handsomely for it. Just for the last two movie he was paid $50 million, and could easily have retired had he wanted to.
Harrison Ford- $65 million
Harrison Ford may not be very young anymore, but for many he is still one of the best action actors there is. His reputation is in big part thanks to the beloved classic Indiana Jones franchise. So when it was announced he would star in a third Indiana Jones movie, almost twenty years after the last one, people were thrilled.
Producers realized this role deserved a big part of the movie budget, and Harrison definitely got a generous deal with $65 million for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.
Tom Hanks- $40 million
Tom Hanks has made his fair share of epic and touching movies, and one of the most legendary is Saving Private Ryan.
This powerful war drama earned him a nomination for best actor, and he made a reported $40 million salary. This was back in 1998 so taking that into consideration this was an unusually high salary at the time, and a sum only a handful of actors make for one single movie even today.
Big Bang Theory cast- $1 million per episode
Everything is relative, and on a list like this $1 million suddenly doesn’t sound like so much. But keep in mind the five main cast members of The Big Bang Theory show all received $1 million- per episode.
Imagine going to work for the day knowing you are making around $100.000 an hour. But even more amazing is that some of the leads even took pay-cuts to make sure supporting cast Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch could get paid more.
Jennifer Lawrence-$20 million
Jennifer Lawrence is the goofy relatable girl next door of Hollywood, but her salaries are anything but ordinary. She was only 22 years old when she portrayed Katniss Everdeen in the first Hunger Games movie, but made a pretty impressive $500.000. That sum would quickly pale in comparison.
Fast forward to 2016 and the then 26-year old Jennifer made $20 million for Passengers. If she continues like this she will soon surpass the salaries of some of the most established leading ladies in Hollywood.
Scarlett Johansson- $40.5 million
Even though she didn’t even star in a movie of her own between June 2017 and June 2018, Scarlett Johansson still won the title of highest paid actress that year.
Due to her high-profile (although not lead) roles in the big blockbuster Marvel films Captain America: Civil War and The Avengers, she jumped to the top spot in the list of highest paid actresses, allegedly making $40.5 million that year. Her net worth only climbed even higher in 2019, with the release of the last Avengers film.
Sofia Vergara- $42.5 million
In 2018, Sofia Vergara was the highest paid actress on television, making a little bit over half of the $42.5 million she raked in for her famous role on the sitcom Modern Family.
She plays Gloria Pritchett, the loud, outspoken, and hilarious wife of Jay, the patriarch of the family. The role was huge, gaining her tons of fans (in addition to the money) and made her a household name. The rest of her massive paycheck came from a number of endorsements and licensing deals
Emma Stone- $26 million
Emma Stone has been one of Hollywood’s most sought after actresses for years, so it is not surprising she is on this list. Quickly climbing up the salary ladder she reached new heights with 2016 musical comedy drama La La Land. As the female lead she received $26 million for her role as the charming aspiring actress Mia. The role was a true challenge for Emma. On the one hand she was already an experienced actress when she took on the part, but in this movie she had to truly move out of her comfort zone.
The musical genre is always a risk for actors who are not specifically trained in singing and dancing- which Emma was not. However, clearly her risk paid off and she was compensated more than handsomely for her dedication and hard work on the movie. On top of getting a great salary, Emma also won the 2017 Academy Award for Best Actress.
Ray Romano- $1.7 per episode
Everybody did indeed love Raymond, and this classic beloved sitcom ran for nine years. The star of the show, Ray Romano, made a pretty decent salary through the whole show but especially for the last few years.
In 2003 he got a raise to no less than $1.7 million per episode. Considering the show ran for three more years, he ended up making quite the fortune.
Michael C. Hall- $20 million
Getting cast in a successful TV-show is often even better than landing a big movie deal. In television, if you get lucky, you can enjoy a kind of job security that is rare in the acting profession. Michael C. Hall is one such lucky actor.
He got cast as the lead in the unique show Dexter- which follows a likable serial killer. Michale’s sensitive portrayal as the sort of righteous killer Dexter made him a star, and he made a reported $20 million for the last two seasons alone.
Jack Nicholson-$50 million
The icon Jack Nicholson knows how to broker a good movie deal. For Batman back in 1989 he cleverly made sure his contract stated he would get a small percentage of the movies overall earnings.
That way he managed to increase his actual initial salary of “only” $6 million to a generous $50 million. Don’t forget this was thirty years ago too so $50 million then was a pretty shocking sum for an actor to make for just one movie.
Will Smith- $100 million
Smooth Will Smith has charmed the world ever since his Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air days, and in Men in Black he yet again showed how his unique mix of comedy and drama can really captivate an audience.
This franchise left people wanting more and luckily Will kept delivering during three movies. For the third installment, Men In Black 3, he made an impressive $100 million – his biggest salary to date and a well-deserved one. Despite only mediocre reviews, Will was as hilarious as ever in the role of Agent J.
Sandra Bullock- $70 million
Sandra Bullock is known as one of the most talented yet down-to-earth actresses in Hollywood and has had no problem finding work since her breakthrough in Speed. But it wasn’t until 2013 Sci-Fi thriller Gravity she really got the movie contract of her life.
She made a whopping $70 million, and for good reason. The movie had some pretty intense scenes and Sandra had to spend six months in intensive training just to prepare for the part.
Brad Pitt- $30 million
Brad Pitt is no stranger to great movie deals, and has been on many top paid actors lists over the years. But he reached new heights in 2001. That’s when he starred in classic heist flick Ocean’s Eleven.
The movie was an immediate hit, with an impressive ensemble cast the audience simply fell in love with. George Clooney and Pitt shined together as the leaders of the heist, and Brad earned the biggest salary of his career with an impressive $30 million.
Leonardo DiCaprio- $50 million
Leonardo DiCaprio is used to making the big bucks, and has been one of the top paid actors in Hollywood for the majority of his long career. But he is also not scared to take risks and jump on controversial movie projects. With Inception he dedicated himself fully to the ground breaking vision of director Christopher Nolan, a movie far from everyone was sure would be a success.
Fast forward nine years since its premier, Inception is still one of the highest rated movies on IMDB and Leo earned $50 million for his outstanding performance. Nolan he revealed getting Leo to play the lead was crucial for the movie to succeed, so it isn’t surprising the director was willing to splurge on the actor.