As the biggest star in the anthology film co-directed by Quentin Tarantino, you’d think that Bruce Willis would head home with a big sack of cash when filming was over. However, he got nada. How could that be? He only did the film as a favor for Tarantino, working for free just because he could, since Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” had been such a boost to Willis’s career.
The Screen Actors Guild oddly threatened to sue Willis, but they agreed no charges would be pressed if he wasn’t credited for the role.
Tom Cruise in “Magnolia”
As soon as Cruise just his first starring role, you'd think that he would be earning millions for each and every film. It wasn't always the case, however. Even though he was already a well-known actor in 1999 when his film “Magnolia” came out, he earned only a hundred thousand dollars.
That's a far cry from these days when he does all his own stunts and plenty of great acting and will often net upwards of forty-five million dollars per film. Of course, there are always times when an actor will feel strongly about a project and agree to a lower salary.
Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct”
For her role as the stunning femme fatale in “Basic Instinct,” Stone has said that she didn't earn anything near the fourteen million dollars that co-star Michael Douglas made.
She's never revealed how much she got in her paycheck, but she has relayed that while she was famous and up for awards, she could barely afford a dress to the Oscars. She called it a weird limbo. Thankfully, however, her stellar performance made it much easier for her to negotiate a better price in future projects.
John Travolta in “Pulp Fiction”
Yes, Travolta was an established actor before he appeared in “Pulp Fiction,” with his roles as Danny Zuko in “Grease,” and Billy Nolan in “Carrie,” but those movies both came out in the eighties, and he hadn't maintained his star power when he was cast in Quentin Tarantino's blockbuster hit.
As such, his pay was only a hundred and fifty grand. Thanks to the film itself, of course, he would once again find himself in Hollywood's good graces, allowing him to cash in on future projects. “Pulp Fiction” is still one of his most celebrated works.
Diane Keaton in “Something's Gotta Give”
“Something's Gotta Give,” a 2003 dramatic rom-com, starred Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and a number of other famous names, and all things considered, the pay was pretty good for everybody. However, the two leads, Keaton and Nicholson, weren't paid the same amount.
Keaton was paid a fair amount for the time, and for most people, even a modest acting gig pays pretty well, but Nicholson thought the payment difference was unfair. So, after the movie came out, Nicholson sent Keaton a check for half of his back pay. What a guy.