The thirty-five thousand dollars that Oprah earned by acting in “The Color Purple” is nowhere near the smallest amount we have on this list, but compared to how much this media mogul is worth now, it’s a drop in the bucket.
Of course, back then, in 1986, this wasn’t all that small of an amount, and Oprah wasn’t the legendary name it is now. She was actually terrified of being fired from the movie. She felt like she didn’t know what she was doing, and another movie had recently had a high-profile firing. She made it through, but that was just the start for Oprah.
Michelle Williams in “All the Money in the World”
This 2017 film stars Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, and Kevin Spacey – or, at least, it did. Spacey was removed from the role after principal filming was done, and actor Christopher Plummer took his place. This meant the other actors had to reconvene for reshoots.
While Wahlberg earned 1.5 million, Michelle Williams only took home an extra one thousand dollars. It turns out her contract included the possibility of reshoots (likely for more money up-front) while Wahlberg's didn't, meaning he could negotiate for more money. Gotta read your contracts, kids.
Julia Roberts in “Mystic Pizza”
Before she became the darling of Hollywood and an A-lister that could get any role she wanted, Julia Roberts still had to get her name out there. Her first big film was “Mystic Pizza,” a romantic comedy-drama that was also Matt Damon's film debut.
As one of the principal roles in the film, Roberts still only took home fifty grand. That's about one hundred and thirteen thousand dollars in today's money, which is still a bit low, but for a little-known actress, it didn't really raise any eyebrows. She also only brought in three hundred thousand for her role in “Pretty Woman,” and since her star had shot up by then, that was a bit strange.
Jeff Daniels in “Dumb and Dumber”
Daniels has been in a healthy number of films, starting in the early eighties and continuing until now. He's been on TV, both as a voice and an actor, and has even wowed on the stage. So why, then, did he earn only fifty grand for his portrayal of Harry Dunne while Carrey took home seven million as Lloyd Christmas?
Some of the old reasons pop up – Carrey was undoubtedly a bigger star, even though Daniels was just as established. In fact, while Carrey wanted Daniels as the second lead, the directors didn't and offered Daniels the low amount, expecting him to turn it down in disgust. He didn't, and comedic history was soon made.
Jamie Lee Curtis in “Halloween”
As one of the queens of the scream, Jamie Lee Curtis owes all her fame and fortune to the “Halloween” series. The film not only launched a series that is still running today (though the quality varies wildly from film to film) but really an entire genre. Slasher movies took off with “Friday the 13th,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and other classic franchises.
The “Halloween” movies have always been sort of low-budget, but even still, the mere eight grand that Curtis cashed from the first film seems almost insulting. The movie's budget was pretty low even in that decade's standard, but now she banks a much higher price.