16 Times Actors Donated Their Paycheck To Help Someone Else Or Took A Massive Pay Cut To Get Their Movie Made

Being an A-list actor comes with a lot of privileges, but one of the best and most obvious has to be the money. When a studio decides you're worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, you've gotta feel that you're on top of the world.

NBC / Via giphy.com

While many actors keep their paychecks to themselves, some share the wealth with others, from charities to their own costars and crew. Others voluntarily take a substantial pay cut to make sure a movie they truly believe in gets made.

Here are 16 times actors gave away some or all of their salary:

1.When Chadwick Boseman produced and starred in 21 Bridges, he donated part of his own salary so that the studio could meet the fee his costar Sienna Miller asked for.

Chadwick and Sienna standing together
Matt Kennedy / © STXfilms / Courtesy Everett Collection

"He said that that was what I deserved to be paid," Sienna told Empire. "It was about the most astounding thing that I've experienced. That kind of thing just doesn't happen. He said, 'You're getting paid what you deserve, and what you're worth.'"

2.After King Richard actor and producer Will Smith received his reportedly $40 million paycheck, he divvied up some of the money into bonuses for his castmates to make up for the studio's switch from an exclusive theatrical release to a simultaneous streaming release.

Will with the actors playing Serena and Venus
Chiabella James / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

3.Brendan Fraser donated all of the money he made from Gimme Shelter to Several Sources Shelters, the New Jersey–based shelter for teenage girls experiencing homelessness that the film was based on.

Brendan embracing Vanessa Hudgens in a car in a scene from the movie
Roadside Attractions / Courtesy Everett Collection

4.His costar James Earl Jones also gave a "significant portion" of his Gimme Shelter paycheck to Several Sources Shelters.

James Earl Jones smiling with a portrait of Mother Teresa behind him
Roadside Attractions / Courtesy Everett Collection

5.While preparing to play Etta James in the biopic Cadillac Records, Beyoncé spent several weeks at Phoenix House, a drug rehabilitation center. Afterward, she gave her entire $4 million salary to the center.

Beyoncé as Etta singing
Sony BMG Feature Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

6.In 2021, Michael Sheen shared his plans to become a "not-for-profit actor," meaning that any money he makes from acting will be donated to social causes.

Smiling Michael in a suit and bow tie and holding an award
Michael Kovac / Getty Images for Champagne Collet

He told the Big Issue, "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."

7.In order to get his passion project Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny made, Jack Black took a salary cut from $12 million to $1 million, which he split evenly with his costar and collaborator Kyle Gass.

Kyle and Jack playing guitars
New Line / Courtesy Everett Collection

8.After facing backlash for working with alleged abuser Woody Allen in A Rainy Day in New York, Timothée Chalamet decided that he didn't want to profit from the film and donated his salary to Time's Up, the LGBT Center in New York, and RAINN.

Timothée on the red carpet
Jeff Spicer / Getty Images

On Instagram, he said, "I have, to this point, chosen projects from the perspective of a young actor trying to walk in the footsteps of more seasoned actors I admire. But I am learning that a good role isn't the only criteria for accepting a job — that has become much clearer to me in the past few months, having witnessed the birth of a powerful movement intent on ending injustice, inequality and above all, silence... I want to be worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with brave artists who are fighting for all people to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve."

9.Ryan Reynolds was so passionate about Deadpool that he personally paid to keep screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick on set during filming when Fox refused to foot the bill.

Smiling Ryan with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

10.The $250,000 production budget for Lilies of the Field was less than half of what Sidney Poitier typically earned per movie at the time, but he believed in the script so much that he agreed to work for only $50,000 and 10 percent of the back-end profits.

Black-and-white photo of Sidney in a T-shirt
United Artists / Courtesy Everett Collection

His passionate performance made him the first Black actor to win Best Actor at the Academy Awards.

11.George Clooney got Warner Bros. to green-light the political thriller Syriana by agreeing to take no paycheck up front so that the studio could invest the money he'd typically be paid into the film.

George sitting at a table
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.'"

12.Similarly, to make his passion project Good Night, and Good Luck, Clooney took a $1 salary for each title he had in the production: screenwriter, director, and actor.

Clooney as TV executive Fred Friendly in the movie wearing an earpiece
Warner Independent Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

He told the Los Angeles Times, "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."

13.After an "extreme" bidding war over an upcoming Jon Watt–directed thriller, Apple offered Clooney and costar Brad Pitt a big paycheck, but — as Clooney told Deadline — the two actors "said [they'd] like to take less as long as [they] can guarantee that [the movie] can have a theatrical release, and [Apple] said great."

Brad and George in suits
Steve Granitz / WireImage / Getty Images

14.Keanu Reeves reportedly took a several-million-dollar pay cut for The Devil's Advocate so that the studio could afford his costar Al Pacino's rate.

Keanu in a suit and tie and Al in a fur-collar coat
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

15.Reeves also reportedly took a pay cut for The Replacements so Warner Bros. could meet Gene Hackman's quote.

Gene standing with Keanu, who's wearing a football uniform
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

16.And finally, Reeves reportedly gave his back-end profits from The Matrix sequels to the costume designers and special effects artists who worked on the trilogy.

Keanu as Neo in The Matrix holding two guns
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection
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