Movie studios count on getting big name actors that are definite box office draws to star in their films. This is often how one actor’s salary becomes much more inflated than another’s.
In television and film, there has always been some disparity between the salaries of the actors, even those who are receiving similar screen time. A lot of times, the male actors are paid more than females.
Sometimes, it might be because one has an agent who negotiates better for them, sometimes it is just the wage gap that exists everywhere. Equal pay for equal work should be the norm across the board no matter of gender or profession.
It’s understandable if one actor is doing a lot more work, or if they do their own stunts, but sometimes it just seems unfair.
Just because this is how it’s always been doesn’t make it right. It has even caused some actors to end their relationship offscreen.
Here are some examples of actors who were paid significantly more than their co-stars.
1. David Duchovny
The recent reboot of The X Files has brought to light the fact that in the original series, David Duchovny was paid more than Gillian Anderson.
If you’re a fan of the original run of the show, you’ll remember that Anderson ended up being the sole main character toward the end, and Duchovny appeared less and less each year.
Gillian said that she was initially offered less for the revival, and was shocked that he was, again, offered more money than her.
She fought for equal pay the first time, and was put in the same position a second time with the new series.
She won each time, but why should this even be a thing? Equal pay for equal work should be a no brainer.
2. Jim Carrey
While Jim Carrey is certainly the bigger star in Dumb and Dumber, Jeff Daniels literally shares the screen for every second Jim is on it. They really have equal screen time.
Coming off of the wildly successful Ace Ventura, it was clear that Carrey was a solid draw for the comedic role. Daniels wasn’t known for comedy, and was only paid about $50,000 compared to the $7,000,000 that Jim took home. The studio was actually surprised that Jeff accepted the offer.
3. Harrison Ford
Star Wars made stars of many people, but that doesn’t mean they were all paid the same. Several of the earlier movies all featured the same actors, which made them pretty special. Fans like to see roles reprised by the same actors.
Although Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford all came back again and again, Harrison Ford became the cast member who was paid the most, despite the other two having the “main roles” as far as who people think about first when they think of the Star Wars films.
It probably had something to do with the fact that he had so much success outside of the series as well. Indiana Jones and The Fugitive really cemented his status as a huge star, which led to a bigger paycheck in the Star Wars films.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio
As much as we all love Jonah Hill, it’s just a fact that he will never be as big a star as Leonardo DiCaprio.
In ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ they both did an incredible job, each earning Oscar nominations for their roles.
It makes sense that the main star makes more than the person playing a supporting role, but Jonah was paid the bare minimum, just $60,000 compared to DiCaprio’s $25 million.
I’m willing to bet the Oscar nom has upped Hill’s starting offers and his agents are probably better able to negotiate a bit higher for him now.
5. Cameron Diaz
Charlie’s Angels is a story featuring three women, but that doesn’t mean they are equal. Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore shared the screen as the iconic trio, but their paychecks were vastly different.
Drew Barrymore made $9 million, which was much more than the mere $1 million paid to Liu. The biggest paycheck went to Diaz, who earned $12 million for her part in the successful movie.
6. Bruce Willis
While it’s true that Haley Joel Osment isn’t a big box office draw, it’s clear that he was the star of ‘The Sixth Sense.’
Bruce Willis is a known box office draw, and that’s really what it comes down to when the salaries of actors are being decided. He brings butts to seats, so he earned $14 million for playing the therapist who didn’t realize he was no longer with us.
We remember that Willis absolutely gives a good performance in the film, but it’s Osment’s revelation “I see dead people” that we all remember. I think we can agree that he deserved much more than the $150,000 he earned after seeing how fantastic he was.
7. Bradley Cooper
The male to female wage disparity has been a known thing in Hollywood for quite some time. For the last few years, more and more women have been speaking up about it and demanding that it change.
Jennifer Lawrence wishes she had stood up for equal pay earlier. She is a huge box office draw and she finally spoke up in a letter describing her story of lower pay, after she was well established, even.
The main grievance she spoke about was the fact that she and the other female actor, Amy Adams, were paid less that Bradley Cooper and the other male actors, Jeremy Renner and Christian Bale for the Academy Award nominated American Hustle.
The ladies were paid two percent less than the men, and that ends up being quite a lot when you’re talking about a movie that made a huge amount of money.
8. Mel Gibson
When the movie “Signs” was released, Mel Gibson was still a beloved star, known to ensure ticket sales. Joaquin Phoenix wasn’t as well known, even though he was in the critically acclaimed, award winning “Gladiator” prior to this M. Night Shyamalan flick.
Despite a great performance, he earned much less than his then more famous co-star.
The two men played brothers in the film, and Mel Gibson reportedly earned $25 million for his role while Joaquin Phoenix earned significantly less.
These days, the roles would definitely be reversed.
9. Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts is one of the most successful and highest paid actresses of all time.
Natalie Portman is a bona fide star in her own right these days, but back when she starred in “Closer” with Julia Roberts, she got the short end of the stick when it came to pay.
She was already pretty well known due to her part in the Star Wars series of prequels. It wasn’t enough to garner her a big paycheck for this film, though.
She earned just $1 million compared to the $20 million theaters Roberts took home.
10. Tom Hanks
Captain Phillips was a big movie in 2013, but it probably wouldn’t have been if Tom Hanks wasn’t in the lead role.
Hanks is arguably one of the greatest film actors of all time, who consistently earns $20 million per picture. His movies always do well so it’s not surprising that he would draw the biggest paycheck for this film as well.
The sad part of this story is that Barkhad Abdi, who played Muse opposite Hanks, earned a measly $65,000 for his Oscar nominated role.
He reportedly now works for his brother in his cell phone business.
Hopefully he will earn another part and take home a bigger paycheck next time.
11. Michael Douglas
“Basic Instinct” was a huge movie for Sharon Stone. Who doesn’t remember the racy leg crossing scene? It has been emulated and talked about for decades since.
She was definitely the most memorable part of that movie, yet she earned just half a million dollars for it. Michael Douglas, who starred alongside her earned a hefty $15 million.
Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?
12. Sandra Bullock
Back when Matthew McConaughey didn’t have a Best Actor Oscar to his name, he was the one making less money than his co-stars in films.
In the beginning, he was more of a supporting player known for comic relief and being easy on the eyes.
When he starred in “A Time to Kill,” he ended up being paid less than Sandra Bullock. She was already popular from her roles in “Speed” and several more movies.
These days, McConaughey is one of the most beloved and highest paid actors out there, earning $25 million in 2015.
13. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman did several flicks together before and during their relationship.
It is no secret that he’s one of the biggest stars of all time, so his paychecks reflect that. Even when working with his own wife, it seems. He was paid more than her for “Days iOS Thunder,” the film they met on, and later he got more, again for “Far and Away” in 1992.
Their most popular and well known joint film was “Eyes Wide Shut.” She was well established and respected by the time they made this film, yet she still earned $6 million less than her husband.
14. Richard Gere
Before Julia Roberts was the one with the biggest paycheck, she wasn’t. That’s normally how it goes. Everyone starts from the bottom.
“Pretty Woman” is the film that made her a household name, so maybe it was worth it to take home less than half a million for the part.
It’s one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time and made nearly half a billion when it was in theaters.
She definitely commands a better salary these days, and carries movies just fine on her own.
15. Kevin Spacey
The now disgraced Kevin Spacey has had a long and successful career. His last project, the Netflix series, “House of Cards,” found him sharing the screen with actress Robin Wright.
Even though they had parts that were equally significant to the series, Spacey was making about $80,000 more per episode than Wright was.
Luckily, with it being a television show instead of a movie, Robin had some leverage as the show was renewed again and again, and argued for equal pay to her co-star. She won.
16. Robert Downy Jr.
Nearly any movie featuring superheroes is bound to be a blockbuster, and the actors make bank for sure. For example, Captain America: Civil War made over a billion dollars.
It wasn’t always like that. A few years ago, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man didn’t do as well as expected, but Iron Man was the start of the interconnected universe that fans enjoy today.
Marvel is certainly thankful for the success of the film, and the wild popularity of the man who portrays Tony Stark, Robert Downy Jr.
They make sure he keeps coming back by paying him twice as much as the next highest earners in the Avengers films. A cool $40 million.