The actors in Star Wars: The Force Awakens may not make nearly as much money as you think they would for being in a movie with a $200 million budget.
Of course, we’re talking in terms of Hollywood dollars, so it’s not like they will go hungry, but it’s estimated the entire cast – which includes lesser knowns such as Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver – will make less than, say, Robert Downey, Jr. did alone on the last Avengers movie.
Reports are the newcomers made somewhere between $65,000 and $125,000 for their roles in Episode VII. Amazingly, Harrison Ford is reported to have made $34.7 million for The Force Awakens, plus 0.5% of the film’s profits.
Of course, Ford said he made only about $1,000 per week on the first Star Wars, A New Hope.
Carrie Fisher is said to have made a little more than $2 million and director J.J. Abrams raked in $6.8 million. In its opening weekend, The Force Awakens made $334.4 million.
The History of Star Wars Payroll
The actors’ salaries for the original Star Wars movies were far from blockbuster.
If you look at the history of Star Wars payroll, you might be shocked at just how little some of the major players got:
- Ford made just $10,000 on the first movie. He increased that to $100,000 for Empire Strikes Back and quintupled that on Return of the Jedi.
- Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, did substantially better, making $650,000. Much better than that, though, was the ¼ percent he received of the movie’s profit, and revenues from when the movies were shown on TV or re-released.
- Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) got the same percentage, but missed out on a huge windfall when she gave up her likeness without receiving a royalty.
- Alec Guinness (Obie-Wan Kenobi) got a whopping 2 and ¼ percent of the movie’s profits. Estimates have him making as much as $50 million over the years, more than all of his other films combined.
- The actor who played Chewbacca reported got $450 a week on A New Hope, and in his 30s, had to move back into his parents’ home.
- James Earl Jones – the voice of Darth Vader – made around $5,000.
The Star Wars Credibility Problem
While you may think being in a franchise as beloved as Star Wars would be a huge boost for your career, only Ford has emerged as a big movie star.
Natalie Portman has been quoted as saying directors didn’t even want to work with her after the Star Wars prequels she starred in, which were plagued by wooden dialogue, clunky storytelling, and cartoonish CGI effects. It made her seem like a bad actress.
The actors in the Star Wars franchise risk becoming pigeonholed in the roles, and getting so tied up in filming the sequels, they miss out on other opportunities. Ewan McGregor, Carrie Fisher, Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen seemed to have promising careers that never really got a boost from the Star Wars episodes they appeared in.
The Upside of The Force
Of course, being on the payroll of a Star Wars trilogy is hardly a bad thing. As the sequels are produced and the money starts rolling in from merchandising and other tie-ins, even a tiny percentage of royalties can equal millions.
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