13 Times An Actor Took A Pay Cut To Help Get A Movie Made

We tend to think of actors as snooty, rich people who only care about their next paycheck – and if they’re giving away their money it must be because they need a tax break.

These 13 instances suggest that’s not always the truth, though, because there have been at least a few times they donated pay for the greater good.

13. Jack Black

Image Credit: New Line Cinema

Black reportedly considered Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny a passion project, and took an $11 million cut in pay in order to give more to his costar and collaborator Kyle Gass.

12. Chadwick Boseman

Image Credit: MWM Studios

Boseman produced and starred in 21 Bridges, and donated some of his salary so the studio could also afford Sienna Miller.

“He said that was what I deserved to be paid. It was about the most astounding thing that I’ve experienced. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen.”

11. Ryan Reynolds

Image Credit: Disney

It’s well-known that Ryan Reynolds pushed and pushed for Deadpool to be made, but he also personally paid expenses for screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wenick to be on set the entire time after Fox refused to pay.

10. Will Smith

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Smith divided up his $40 million paycheck for his work on King Richard in order to provide bonuses for his castmates to make up for the studio deciding to release the film on streaming up front.

9. George Clooney

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

He actually agreed to work for free in order to get Syriana off the ground, according to what he told the Los Angeles Times.

“I had to go to [production partner Warner Bros.] and say, ‘Here’s the deal. Say someone would pay me $20 million to be in the film. If someone were to pay me that, which I’ve certainly been offered, that would basically mean I’m a $20 million investor in this film.’ It makes me gambling with them. I’m saying, ‘I’m taking no money up front; I’m already investing in this film. Now, do you want to come on board, or do I raise the money somewhere else, which I probably can.'”

8. Brendan Fraser

Image Credit: Roadside Attractions

Several Sources Shelters, a shelter for homeless teenage girls, received Brendan Fraser’s entire salary for Gimme Shelter.

The movie was based on the in-real-life shelter.

7. George Clooney again.

Image Credit: 2929 Entertainment

Good Night, and Good Luck was another of Clooney’s passion projects, and he earned a single dollar each for producing, writing, directing, and acting in the movie.

“I got a dollar for writing the script. I had to endorse my check for directing and turn in my acting salary. [Cowriter, actor, and producer] Grant [Heslov] and I each made a buck for doing it.”

6. James Earl Jones

Image Credit: Roadside Attractions

Like his co-star Brendan Fraser, Jones gave a “significant portion” of his paycheck from Gimme Shelter to the Several Sources Shelters charity.

5. George Clooney again (and also Brad Pitt)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Apple won an “extreme bidding war” over an upcoming thriller helmed by Jon Watt, but co-stars Clooney and Pitt wanted to make sure a theatrical release would happen before the film went to streaming.

They told Apple they would take less money in order to make sure that happened.

4. Beyonce

Beyonce spent several weeks at a drug rehabilitation center, Phoenix House, in preparation for her role as Etta James in Cadillac Records.

She donated her entire $4 million salary after the film was completed.

3. Keanu Reeves

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The studio would not have been able to afford the going rate for Al Pacino on The Devil’s Advocate if Reeves hadn’t taken a big (think millions) pay cut.

2. Michael Sheen

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

In 2021, Michael Sheen announced he would become a “not-for-profit actor,” meaning that he’s donating everything he makes to social causes.

“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. I don’t want to just be someone who enjoys the fruits of what other people have done and then pull the drawbridge up.”

1. Keanu Reeves again

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

He gave his back-end profits from The Matrix sequels to the costume designers and special effects artists who made the magic happen.

I love hearing stories like these.

If you have another similar one that belongs on this list, tell us about it in the comments!