Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen
As much as I wish this could say $0 because personally I think his best role was as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, after Voldemort had his way with him, if you know what I mean, it’s true. He didn’t get much for the first 3 films, but the last two netted him $25 million, plus the retroactive money made off of the series’ profits.
Worst of all, he hated every. f@#king. second. of that role. How about that? Guess you don’t need to love your job to get paid a s@#t ton of money. How do I get one of those?
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Star Wars Episodes IV-VII
This one is a bit of a misnomer in the sense that get got all this cash for one character, but all in one go. It’s a commonly known fact that no one had any hopes for Star Wars, to the point that they cast relative unknowns and George Lucas asked for the merchandising and sequel rights and the studio just gave those away. Joke’s on them because George Lucas is now worth $5.1 Billion after the Disney purchase.
So Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill didn’t make a whole lot of money for the first film, probably around $1,000 a week. But when 2015’s The Force Awakens came along, Harrison Ford negotiated a salary that netted him $35 million when the film grossed $1 billion at the box office. It did, so he got paid. Four movies over 40 years, but this last one was a doozy for the roguish smuggler.
Jack Nicholson as Joker
$50 Million (Tie)
Everyone gives credit to Tim Burton for being the first filmmaker to make superhero movies serious and grim, as 1989’s Batman is a stellar example of what a Batman film should be, but there’s another pioneer in there who goes uncredited: Jack Nicholson.
He was the first seriously psychotic Joker we saw on film and truly brought the menace of Joker to life. He also inspired Heath Ledger and Jared Leto, not to mention Mark Hamill’s portrayal of the Joker in the animated universe. He’s also the highest earning actor in any Batman movie, ever.
When he signed on for the role, Nicholson agreed to only be paid $6 million for the role, but wanted a share of the movie’s profits. After the film was a huge success, he netted an additional $44 million just off of his percentages of the film’s gross profit.
Rupert Grint as Ronald Weasley
Harry Potter Film Franchise
$50 Million (Tie)
It’s obvious that anyone who’s played the same role 8 times, is going to be on this list, but you’d be surprised that Rupert Grint is actually the lowest grossing of the top 3 Harry Potter actors. Still, $50 mill isn’t too shabby.
He hasn’t really done much after his Ronald Weasley fame, working more on investments and businesses, but to have that much cash by the time you’re 23 is insane.
Daniel Craig as James Bond
James Bond Franchise
For a guy who begrudgingly did the job, he’s made quite a bit of money from being the sexiest secret agent around, and if he can suck it up, he can milk the studio for just a bit more for the yet untitled Bond 25.
After the franchises last 4 instalments, he’s the Bond actor that’s made the most money of all the Bond actors, as well as having the second longest tenure as the secret agent based on the number of days as the agent.
For the record, my favourite Bond Sean Connery only made about $4 million a film.
Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump
$60 Million (Tie)
One role in one film -that’s all it takes for Tom Hanks to make this list. Life truly is a box of chocolates, eh?
Hanks didn’t get paid all that much initially, but like the other members of this club, he took a percentage of the profits of the film. So far, the film’s made well over $660 million worldwide, so that works out to $60 (at least) for Tom Hanks. It also got him the Oscar for the Best Actor for this role, so it’s a win all around.
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Harry Potter Franchise
$60 Million (Tie)
As the second Harry Potter alum on this list, she’s doing pretty well off of the profits of this 8 film endeavour. That’s $10 million more than her comedic co-star Rupert Grint, but no where near what Daniel Radcliffe made. But that’s ok.
She was offered $3 million upfront to play Belle in the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, so I think she’ll be ok.
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine
X Men Film Franchise
There’s been plenty of talk about how Hugh Jackman took a pay cut to ensure that his, and James Mangold’s vision, for the final film could be realized. Except we really don’t know how much.
Figuring he made close to $55 million for the X-Men Trilogy, Days of Future Past, Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine plus his cameos in the other two, he probably made close to an additional $10 million for the final film. Sadly, this is all he’s going to make for his role as Logan.
The Cast of Friends
$88 Million Each
Given that the show’s been off the air for over a decade, the fact that they’re on this list is a testament to how smart these actors were. If you were to look at them individually, they’d sit in different places on this list, but when you package them up, they’re a money-making powerhouse.
Up until season 3, they did their own thing, but starting with the 4th season, they started negotiating together, netting a total of $10 million each for seasons 1-6, $36 million for seasons 7-8 and an insane $42 million for the final two seasons. That adds up to $88 million per character for the entree 10-year run. Holy s@#t.
Ashton Kutcher as Walden Schmidt
Two and a Half Men
Unless you were super-into Two and a Half Men, you probably didn’t realize that Ashton Kutcher was on the show for 4 years, and he’s probably the least known person on this list. This was his return to sitcom television after his run on That 70’s Show and he made them pay.
Due to Charlie Sheen’s dramatic exit from the show, they needed another man and they ended up giving Kutcher $24 million/season.
I hope he sent Sheen some flowers or something as a thank you.
The Cast of The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory
$98 Million Each
In hindsight, I wish I had focused on my burgeoning kindergarten acting career and really pursued it to be a sitcom actor, because this is insane.
The central trio of the show, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki are a super-rich group. When the show started, they were making $60,000 per episode for the first 3 seasons, then upped to $200,000/episode for season 4, then $250,000 for seasons 5-7. After that, they started negotiating as a trio and ended up getting $1 million an episode for the past 3 seasons.
What the hell? I’m an adorable nerd, where’s my $1 million?
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Harry Potter Franchise
Everything generally comes with a price, and finding the right guy to lead this billion dollar franchise wasn’t cheap, especially when you’re casting a 10-year-old who’s never acted before.
In any case, after the 8 films were done, Radcliffe walked away with an insane amount of cash.
If they ever end up making The Cursed Child into a film, he’s gonna probably rise up higher on this list.
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Mission: Impossible Franchise
With the latest Mission: Impossible gearing up to start filming soon, this list’s gonna be outdated any day now. With over 10 years in the role and 5 films, Tom Cruise is really making this franchise work for him.
Like Tom Hanks and Jack Nicholson, Cruise’s money comes from his share of the profits of the film, more than the salary he makes for them.
It’s no wonder he chose not to walk away from the franchise after Ghost Protocol. He made $75 million off of that one between his salary and cut of the profits.
Charlie Sheen as Charlie Harper
Two and a Half Men
I’ll admit, I never really was a fan of the show. It was always the same jokes, and Charlie Sheen on drugs isn’t my favourite version of him. Now Charlie Sheen in Hot Shots: Part Deux, that’s someone I could get behind. In any case, for the first 6 seasons of the show, he made $48 million a year.
Now here comes the “Don’t do drugs lesson” kids. If he’d have stayed clean, his potential to make even more money would have been staggering. Even if he didn’t renegotiate his fee, and kept on making what he was (unlikely given that the show was still making crazy numbers), he’d be at the top of this list, easily.
Instead, he went crazy, said some things and now he’s unlikely to see that kind of cash again.
Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise
It shouldn’t be a surprise that one of Disney’s most lucrative franchises, would pay its star some insane gold coins. Shortly after confirming his role in the fifth film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, it was confirmed that he’s grossed about $350 million, by playing a lovable loser of a pirate.
Depending on how this new one does next month, will determine if he’ll make it to the top of the list or not.
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Marvel Cinematic Universe
So there you have it: the actor to make the most money by playing one character is none other than Robert Downey Jr. His run as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the MCU is the most lucrative contract in Hollywood and he’ll make close to half a billion by 2019 after Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War & Avengers 4.
It’s crazy to think that 10 years ago, the MCU wasn’t even a thing, Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t even a bankable actor, and here we are. Making only $500,000 in the first film of the franchise, he upgraded his salary to $10 million for Iron Man 2 and it’s only gone up from there. Not only has he gotten his career back, but he’s made a huge payday out of it.
Let’s hope that he extends his contract after 2019, because I’d pay more to see more of RDJ kicking ass with some serious Stark snark.