Rebel's not alone: Stars who were paid a pittance

Publish Date
Thursday, 14 September 2017, 3:51PM

One of the more surprising details to emerge from Rebel Wilson's record-breaking $AU4.5 million defamation win over Baeur Media is just how little the homegrown star got paid for her breakthrough Hollywood role.

Wilson was a scene-stealing flatmate from hell in the 2010 hit Bridesmaids, a movie that went on to gross $US288.4 million ($39.7m NZ) at the box office and was nominated for two Oscars.

For her work on the film, Wilson was paid just $US3000 ($4000 NZ).

She's far from alone in Hollywood, though - many notable actors have been paid a pittance for film work over the years, among them up-and-coming actors gambling on exposure rather than cash in breakthrough film roles, and established stars taking massive pay cuts to work on low-budget projects. Here are just a few examples:

Barkhad Abdi

He had the second-biggest role in 2013 pirate thriller Captain Phillips, providing the film's most memorable line ("I'm the captain now") and picking up an Oscar nomination for his efforts. Somalian-born Abdi was paid just $US65,000 for his work - a fraction of co-star Tom Hanks' reported $US50 million payday from the film.

Brad Pitt

While he can command tens of millions of dollars per movie nowadays, back in 1991 Pitt was a struggling young actor looking for a big break.

He found it with his memorable role as an attractive small-time criminal in Thelma and Louise - work for which he was paid just $US6000, but which quickly turned him into a bankable leading man.

Jonah Hill

Hill wanted to work with director Martin Scorsese so badly on the Wolf of Wall Street that he was paid just $US60,000 for appearing in the film.

"I said, 'I will sign the paper 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," he later told Howard Stern.

"It's not about money for me. None of this s*** is about money."

George Clooney

Here's an example of a mega-rich star taking a big pay cut for a passion project.

Clooney pocketed $US120,000 for writing, directing and starring in the 2005 drama Good Night and Good Luck - a fraction of his usual $10-$20 million leading man salary.

Gal Gadot

OK, you're probably not going to rush to set her up a Kickstarter when we tell you that Gadot was paid a tidy $US300,000 to star as Wonder Woman.

But consider this: The film has so far grossed over $800 million at the worldwide box office, and fellow superhero star Robert Downey Jr negotiated his way into an over $US40 million payday for a Captain America movie (Captain America: Civil War).

This case is not a gender thing, though: Captain America himself, Chris Evans, earned $US300,000 for his first film in the superhero franchise.

Ethan Hawke

Hawke starred in the 2013 thriller The Purge for almost no money upfront - although he did get a portion of the film's profits.

"There were no perks," he said in an interview. "No trailer, no driver, no BS, just a great role, a great director. Hell, on The Purge, I slept on his couch the whole shoot."

Lindsay Lohan

LiLo acted alongside porn star James Deen in the ultra low-budget 2013 'erotic-thriller-drama' The Canyons. The little-seen film was savaged by critics - and Lohan reportedly earned just $US100 per day during the shoot.

The cast of The Walking Dead

For years now, some of the most eye-watering actor salaries exist over in TV land, with stars of hit sitcoms from Friends to Seinfeld to Big Bang Theory able to demand more than $US1 million per episode - not bad for a week's work.

But while The Walking Dead is one of the biggest show in the US, until a recent salary renegotiation its leading actors were earning around $US60-90,000 per episode. Supporting players took home even less.

The real reason for the low salaries may lie with the very nature of the show: Bloody and brutal, the zombie-ruled universe of The Walking Dead is a place where anyone can be killed at any time ... even the most beloved of characters.

Pushing for a pay rise? You might just get eaten by a zombie in your next episode.