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You have probably heard by now the rumors about Sony allegedly offering the James Bond of the past decade, Daniel Craig, $150 million to reprise his role as the friendly neighborhood super agent, 007, for two more installments. That works out to roughly a cool $75 million for each film.
Although it sounds like a great headliner, we have to take this news with the grainiest of salt because no Sony executives have confirmed it and we all know Daniel Craig hasn't had the best time as Bond. Now I'm of the mindset that nobody should have 150 million of anything except chocolate kisses, of course. However there have been many examples of actors' paychecks exceeding $50 million to portray a character — fifty million dollars?!
The following are examples of the highest paychecks these actors received for playing a role. It really makes me wish I had talent so I could pursue a career as a successful Hollywood actor.
5. Tom Cruise, War Of The Worlds (2005) — $100,000,000
The 2005 Steven Spielberg-directed hit loosely based on the H.G. Wells novel was the second collaboration between Spielberg and Tom Cruise, following 2002's Minority Report. In order for the film with a budget of $132 million to be greenlit, Cruise decided to take 20 percent of the movie's gross sales rather than receive a salary from the role.
Bold strategy, Cotton. Did it pay off? Yes, Yes it did.
War of the Worlds went on to gross $591 million worldwide, over $110 million on home video, and allowed Tom Cruise to develop his magnificent calves.
4. Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense (1999) — $120,000,000
In 1999, Spyglass Entertainment took a chance on the screenwriter of Stuart Little (1999) named M. Night Shyamalan and his psychological thriller, which also happened to be his Hollywood directorial debut. Choosing to lower his usual rate of $20–25 million per picture to $14 million for his role of Dr. Malcolm Crowe, Bruce Willis negotiated a deal wherein he received a percentage of the gross and home video profits of the film. The Sixth Sense (1999) went on to enter the homes of over 80 million, thus becoming the most-rented movie of 2000.
On a budget of $40 million, the film went on to gross over $672 million worldwide, solidifying Shamalamadingdong in our Hollywood psyche and lining the pockets of Bruce Willis real good.
3. Johnny Depp, Pirates Of The Caribbean Franchise (2003–Present) — $185,000,000
The film franchise based on a ride has managed to gross a little over $1 billion throughout four films. The mainstay of this franchise has been Johnny Depp's portrayal of the swashbuckling captain you may or may not want to lead you into battle, Captain Jack Sparrow. Depp's salary for the first film, The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), earned him $10 million. Due to the massively insane success of Black Pearl, Depp's salary increased for the second film, Dead Man's Chest (2006), to $20 million. The third film, At World's End (2007), had a budget of $300 million, which garnered him a respectable $50 million. For the most recent installment, On Stranger Tides (2011), Depp received $55.5 million plus bragging rights following a Disney exec revealing the Pirates franchise would be "dead and buried" were it not for Depp,
"These may seem like astronomical figures, but studios can no longer afford such budget-busting agreements... [Depp] commands huge leverage, however, because without him the franchise would be dead and buried.”
The franchise has its lucky fifth entry, Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) slated for a May 26th, 2017 release and it will certainly be fun to learn how much Depp will make for the role.
2. Keanu Reeves, The Matrix Trilogy (1999–2003) — $262,000,000
If there is anything we can learn from these highest paid roles, it is that negotiating a deal for a cut of a film's gross profits goes a long way.
The (semi) beloved Matrix trilogy directed by the Wachowski Siblings grossed over $1 billion worldwide, with its first installment surprisingly grossing over $460 million. Keanu Reeves a.k.a. the face of the trilogy had a salary of $10 million for the first Matrix (1999) plus 10 percent of the gross, pocketing $56 million when all was said and done. The second and third installments were filmed back-to-back and were released only six months from each other.
With a salary of $15 million for both films plus 15 percent of their respective gross, Reeves pocketed roughly $126 million from The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and $80 million for The Matrix Revolutions (2003).
Fun Fact: That $126 million he received for Reloaded is the largest paycheck ever received for a single movie to date. Not too shabby there, Mr. Anderson.
1. Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible Franchise (1996–Present) — $290,000,000
Without Tom Cruise portraying Agent Ethan Hunt, there really is no Mission: Impossible. Without Cruise's production company optioning for the film rights and producing all the films of the franchise thus far, he probably would not have made as much as he has with these movies. Let's not get it twisted: He would be able to afford two life-sized Tom Cruise bronze statues regardless.
Cruise is incredibly adamant on receiving a percentage cut of a film's profits or gross, receiving cuts for such films as Rain Man (1988), Jerry Maguire (1996), Vanilla Sky (2001) and The Last Samurai (2003), just to name a few. The Mission: Impossible franchise has grossed over $2 billion worldwide throughout the past two decades, with Cruise earning $70 million off the first film, $75 million for the second and third and $70 million for the fourth. 2015's Rogue Nation earned over $682 million worldwide, so his earnings will certainly adjust for future lists as the franchise does not seem to be slowing down.
In an interview with E!, Cruise revealed how long he intends on being a part of the Impossible franchise,
"I'm thinking about 90, then I'll cap it off."
The most intense stunt he can think of a 90-year-old Tom Cruise performing?
"They will be throwing me out of planes in my wheelchair at that point, so whatever it takes, we'll keep going!"
Cruise's portrayal of Ethan Hunt throughout these films has granted him the honor of earning the largest cumulative paycheck any actor has ever received for a single role.