The Lowest-Paid '90s Actors Who Deserved So Much More

Nicole Pomarico | Jul 10, 2020 Celebrities
The Lowest-Paid '90s Actors Who Deserved So Much More
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Julia Roberts
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When we think of the salaries that actors make, we usually think of big numbers. After all, it's clear that many of our faves are raking in millions each year for their roles in our favorite TV shows and movies. But it wasn't always that way, especially for those who were just starting out a couple of decades ago. As much as we've adored '90s TV and movies -- back then and even now --  as it turns out, many of the stars who made those projects possible weren't compensated nearly as well as they should have been.

We're more than used to the pay disparity between men and women across all industries, including Hollywood, which does come into play here. But many of these lower paychecks were due to stars taking a chance on a passion project, too -- not necessarily settling for a-low paying job when they really needed it, though that was the case for some of them.

It's funny how many of these low-paid celebrities went on to become major stars with huge careers. Maybe those gigs actually did pay off in something more valuable than cash? 

Here are all the '90s stars who weren't exactly raking in the cash, even though some of these roles ended up being seriously iconic. Most of them are making a lot more today than they did in the '90s, and looking back on these movies and shows, we're still impressed at the performances they delivered even while not being compensated well. 

  • Brad Pitt 

    Brad Pitt
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    He might be a millionaire and an Oscar winner these days, but Brad Pitt definitely didn't make as much in the '90s as he did today. For his role in Thelma & Louise, Brad only made $6,000, which would be a laughable paycheck to him now. It definitely seems like taking the low pay was worth it in the end, considering it's part of what catapulted him to stardom.

  • Kathy Griffin 

    Kathy Griffin
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    Back in the '90s, Kathy Griffin starred in the Brooke Shields sitcom Suddenly Susan, and unfortunately, she wasn't paid what her talent was worth. In fact, as Kathy told Variety, she was the second lowest paid actor on the show.

    "When I was on a sitcom in the '90s, Suddenly Susan, I made the second-lowest salary on the cast," she shared. "Judd Nelson, who I liked, made four times what I made, and he ended up getting fired. And I went on to get two Emmys, a Grammy, three television shows with my name in the title and a New York Times best-seller."

  • Robin Williams 

    Robin Williams
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    Though Robin Williams is known for so many unforgettable roles over the course of his career, he made such an impact as Genie in Aladdin -- and he provided his voice for a very low price. He was only paid $75,000 for the role, when, at the time, the comedian was making millions for each of his movies. Now, his impact as the Genie lives on forever. 

  • Tom Hanks 

    Tom Hanks
    Splash News

    Speaking of prolific actors who took low pay for iconic Disney roles ... we can add Tom Hanks to that list. When he voiced Woody in Toy Story, Hanks made less than $50,000, according to the Los Angeles Times, but he was able to make up for it with royalties after the movie. The Toy Story sequels ended up having massive box office success, so it was a good move. 

  • Jeff Daniels 

    Jeff Daniels
    Splash News

    It's unquestionable that Dumb & Dumber was one of the most iconic comedy movies of the '90s, but unfortunately, Jeff Daniels didn't make a ton of money from it. In fact, according to what he told People, he accepted $50,000 for the role, because he wanted to break into comedy that badly ... even though his co-star, Jim Carrey, made $7 million. 

  • Gillian Anderson 

    Gillian Anderson
    David Longendyke/Globe Photos via ZUMA Wire/Splash News

    We can't imagine what the X-Files would have been like without Gillian Anderson, but she was seriously underpaid for her role. As she told Vanity Fair, she was paid less than David Duchovny for the first several seasons of the show until she fought for equal pay. Sadly, she had to do it all over again when she returned to film the reboot. 

  • Juila Roberts

    Julia Roberts
    Splash News

    Many of us can agree that Pretty Woman is one of the best rom-coms of all time, but it didn't even come close to one of Julia Roberts' best paying gigs. For the movie, she made $300,000 to play Vivian, but it didn't take long for her to make more. We're talking millions by the time she was in movies, like My Best Friend's Wedding

  • The Cast of 'Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers'


    All '90s kids know that Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was a big deal -- and everyone had a favorite. But as much as we loved these teenage heroes, they didn't exactly make a lot of cash for the show. Austin St. John, who played Jason, the Red Ranger, told HuffPost that what they made was comparable to having the same after-school job any kid would have had. 

    "I could have worked the window at McDonald's and probably made the same money as the first season," he said. "It was disappointing, it was frustrating, it made a lot of us angry."

  • The Kids of 'Home Improvement'

    Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Zachary Ty Bryant, & Taran Noah Smith In 'Home Improvement'

    Another young cast that wasn't paid well? Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Zachary Ty Bryant, and Taran Noah Smith, who played Jill and Tim's kids on Home Improvement. Starting out, they were each paid $8,000 per episode for their roles, and even though they did dispute it and threaten to leave, they came back when they realized the show would just recast them. 

  • The 'Blair Witch Project' Cast


    Add another cast of teens to the list of the underpaid. Despite the absolute phenomenon the Blair Witch Project ended up being, the three teenagers who starred in the movie only made $1,000 each. Later, though, they were able to capitalize more off of the movie's success ... which they deserved, since it was a hit. 

  • Sean William Scott 

    Sean William Scott
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    American Pie was crazy popular in the '90s, but the star of the movie, Sean William Scott, didn't exactly profit much off of his role in the film. During an appearance on The Ellen Show, Sean admitted that he only made $8,000 from the movie, which he was fine with, because he "would have paid them to be in the movie." 

  • Bill Murray

    Bill Murray
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    Despite the fact that Bill Murray is a living legend, when it came to the 1998 movie Rushmore, he would have done anything to be in it -- and to work with Wes Anderson. For him, that meant taking a $9,000 salary for his role in the film. On top of that, Bill actually ended up in the negative for being in the movie after he slapped down $25,000 to film a scene that went over budget. 

  • Hilary Swank 

    Hilary Swank
    Splash News

    The face of Hollywood would look totally different without the contributions that Hilary Swank has made with her movies, but for one of them, she was severely underpaid. As she told Indiewire, Hilary was only paid $3,000 for her role in Boys Don't Cry. She went on to win an Oscar for best actress in a leading role for her work in the movie, so we guess it worked out.

  • John Travolta

    John Travolta
    Splash News

    Though his role in Pulp Fiction was hardly his first (this is the man who starred in Grease and Saturday Night Fever, after all) when it came around, he needed to revive his career -- so he ended up settling for a bit less than he normally would have. John Travolta made $150,000 for the role, and in the end, it turned out to be well worth it. 

  • Corey Feldman

    Corey Feldman
    Splash News

    The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as we know it is a pretty huge franchise, and someone who had a big part in that was Corey Feldman, who voiced Donatello in the '90s movies. However, he didn't get paid that much for playing such a huge role in the franchise's success -- he was only paid $1,500 for the role

    That's nowhere near enough! 

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