14 Actors Who Did Movies For Little Or No Money

Barbara Merkley

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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:


Jennifer Lopez starred in Hustlers for free because she’s “never been motivated by money.”

TX Entertainment /Courtesy Everett Collection

She told GQ, “I did it for free and produced it. Like Jenny From the Block — I do what I love.”


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

Compass International Pictures/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

He told Vanity Fair, “My interest in doing the film was being on set, so I could demystify the experience of filmmaking and directing. I expected to hang around the set for no money.”


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

20th Century Fox / Via youtube.com

He agreed to the deal as a favor for producer/screenwriter John Hughes.

Director Chris Columbus told Business Insider, “There was certainly a little resentment on John’s part.”


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.

Sony Pictures / ©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

She spent several weeks in the facility to help her prepare to play Etta James, who spent time in drug rehabilitation centers during the ’70s.


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.”

Warner Bros / ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

He told the LA Times, “It’s me saying [to my journalist father], ‘Thanks for setting the bar that high, for believing so strongly in the responsibility of information,’ and taking it to the level where it cost him a lot of things over the years. There were jobs he left because he wasn’t willing to compromise.”


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

Warner Bros / ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

It was a huge risk that resulted in a $30 million payday.


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.

Fox / FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

“I’ve realized in the last few years that I want to be one of those people who help other people the way so many people helped me,” he told the Big Issue. “I don’t want to just be someone who enjoys the fruits of what other people have done and then pull the drawbridge up.”


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

Fox Searchlight / ©Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection

However, after the movie became a box office hit, he successfully negotiated a percentage of the profits.


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.

Walt Disney Co. / ©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

However, Anderson never actually cashed the check, choosing to keep it as a memento instead.


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

British Lion Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

In fact, most of the actors in the cult classic horror movie worked for free.


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.

Universal / ©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

For comparison, the movie’s budget was $3 million, and it made $34 million in opening.


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.

Applause Entertainment / Via youtube.com

In a blog post dedicated to the movie, Bachchan wrote, “I had just wanted to work with Sanjay, after seeing all his other works he had done…Just being a part of such an enterprise, was sufficient fees!”


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

Bryanston Distributing Company / Courtesy Everett Collection

He was also required to wear the same outfit for the entire duration of filming, and he wasn’t allowed to wash them. Eventually, the stench made him sick.


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.”

Weinstein Company / ©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Coll / Everett Collection

He told USA Today, “I’m very lucky that I’m in that position…I want to have good experiences. “

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