In a perfect world, our most acclaimed dramatic actors would only appear in films for the sake of their art. But this isn’t a perfect world, and even Hollywood’s most beloved thespians take paycheck roles. What’s great about these honest actors is that they totally admitted taking certain roles simply for the Do-Re-Mi.
No one is judging these actors who took roles just for the money. Who can blame a young Eddie Murphy for taking a part in a bad comedy because producers flashed a million dollars in front of his face in exchange for two weeks of work? Michael Caine does not care what you think about his decision to appear in Jaws 4; he's too busy enjoying the house the $1.5 million paycheck helped build.
Some of these actors just like to mix up their Oscar-caliber films with blockbusters by incorporating a “one for them, one for me” strategy. Independent films don’t buy mansions - but appearances in Marvel movies certainly do.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Most modern American movie fans only know Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi from the original Star Wars trilogy. However, the trained Shakespearean is widely regarded as one of the most acclaimed actors in British cinema history. He won an Academy Award in 1957 for his performance in The Bridge on the River Kwai and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1959 for his esteemed contribution to the arts.
In 1977, a young and wildly ambitious George Lucas came calling. Author Piers Paul Read published several letters in the actor's 2003 biography, Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography. In one of the letters Guinness wrote to a friend, he called Star Wars "fairy-tale rubbish." However, he also admitted, "I may accept, if they come up with proper money."
The production indeed came up with the "proper money." The actor not only earned a salary, but also received 2.25% of the movie's royalties. Guinness must have enjoyed his millions in profits. But he did not enjoy his time on the set of Star Wars. He wrote in a 1976 diary entry:
Apart from the money, which should get me comfortably through the year, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them all well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue, which is lamentable, keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young.
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Sir Michael Caine has played nearly every kind of movie role from hero to villain, spanning nearly every genre across six decades. In 1987, Caine won his first Academy Award for his performance in Woody Allen's film Hannah and Her Sisters. In that same year, the British actor starred in Jaws: The Revenge (AKA Jaws 4).
It's tough to find a reason - besides money - why such an esteemed actor would appear in a movie so bad that it reached the dreaded 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and is widely regarded as one of the worst sequels in film history.
Caine admitted in his 1992 memoir What's It All About that he signed on for the sequel just for the paycheck: "I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it was terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."
The actor reportedly earned $1.5 million for what amounted to a week's worth of work.
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Most people know Paul Bettany from his roles in A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code. Many MCU movie fans will recognize the English actor only by the sound of his voice. Bettany voiced Tony Stark's computer J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, before later taking on the physical role of Vision.
Despite his prominent voice work in so many MCU installments, Bettany admitted he didn't know anything about the films at the time. He only read his lines in those early scripts because superhero movies are "just not his thing."
"I feel like a pirate. This is robbery. I walk in, I say some lines on a piece of paper for two hours, and then they give me a bag of money and I leave and I go about my day," said Bettany. "I sort of feel guilty, because at least acting can be exhausting, with long hours, but I do nothing! And I've never seen one of them."
- Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing
Gary Oldman has made a fine career stealing the show playing delicious villains in films like Léon: The Professional and True Romance. The British actor won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2018 for his performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. However, not every film in the actor's decades-long career was made for the sake of art.
Oldman played the cyborg scientist/creator Dennett Norton in the 2014 remake RoboCop. The superhero film left many critics wondering why the original 1987 film needed to be remade in the first place. Oldman was extremely candid when asked why he agreed to star in the remake. "Why am I in this movie? Money," Oldman revealed. "I'm at the mercy of what the industry is making and what comes through my door."
The actor complimented the movie, as well: "But I thought this was an intelligent script and I love José [Padilha]'s point of view."