Sometimes, undeniably famous, classical actors and actresses take roles in movies that are very against their type. Unlike the Classically Trained Extras, who lament that their talent is being wasted, or the small but legitimate roles of the One-Scene Wonder... or the Old Shame of roles taken when it was the only work available, this trope covers actors who are completely fine with the situation. Why? Simply put: the long green.
Obviously, movies are big business, and the right name at the top of the poster can be the difference between a hit and a flop. And it's hard to argue with the fact that, when offered buckets and buckets of cash for three weeks of shooting, anyone would be a fool not to take it. After all, acting is a volatile profession, as many starving artists can attest, and financial security for you and your family is nothing to turn from: It's not so much selling out, as selling well. And furthermore, most creative professions are overcrowded; for every wealthy and successful artist who can afford to sniff at jobs that are 'beneath' him or her, there's ten or more underworked ones who would kill for a chance at the income. On a cynical note, in the state that America is in today, you shouldn't be surprised to see this more often. Most actors have been seen sliding down the perceived hierarchy of the entertainment field, with the most common "step down" is for actors who primarily work in film suddenly "slumming it" by taking roles on television.
Still, if you do too many of these, you run the risk of having a rather strange IMDb record and irrevocably ruining your reputation as a creative thespian: so much potential and talent wasted. Some artists, however, can turn this to their advantage; a common reason cited by many successful artists who engage in this trope is that a high-paying job that doesn't greatly interest them means that they have more money to put into funding and appearing in lower-budget but more creatively appealing ones.
To be clear, however, there is no shame at all for doing a movie for the money, and if the movie happens to be a great one, artistically or popularly, all the better. People in creative jobs need an income the same as anyone else, and in fact, many of the greatest popcorn flicks of all time are great primarily because the studio shelled out the money to get actors and directors who would rather be doing something else, but who were still prepared to give the audience a good performance. However, doing a So Bad, It's Horrible movie is something to be ashamed of, and it'd be a lie to say the first doesn't often lead to the second. Still, these performances can be delicious Ham and Cheese in the otherwise bad movie. Similarly, whether the result is quality or not an artist who takes the job for the money but still makes the effort to put in a decent (or at least entertaining) performance will usually be afforded more respect from the audience than one who took the money but made it clear through their performance that they couldn't care less or thought it beneath them. And in many cases it can be subverted: Even if it is for the money, the level can be kept high and professional and they can turn out something great (like the example with Coppola and The Godfather). It's just that most cases where somebody does something strictly for paycheck tends to be for a reason...
This is also the reason for the percentage of high quality foreign artists appearing in crummy American films: Hollywood, even at its most cheapskate tends to pay much better than any other film industry in the world.
Similar to getting a healthy paycheck, some actors will just want to do something "their kids can watch", the kind of roles most actors seek usually being dark and not appropriate for minors.
A common theme — especially among older actors and actresses — stems from growing up during hard economic conditions, either from a poor economy as a whole or from family hardships. The fear that "The Next Job" may not come, as it often failed to do for their family, drives them to take roles they might not otherwise be interested in.
Compare and contrast Doing It for the Art (when artistic value and/or achievement is the primary motivator), and Awesome, Dear Boy (when the actor takes the role for the coolness of it, regardless of how crappy the work is).
See also Paying Their Dues, I Was Young and Needed the Money (when this trope is given as the excuse for Old Shame), What The Hell, Casting Agency?, Took the Bad Film Seriously. Not to be confused with Only in It for the Money, which is when this is the excuse a character uses in-story. Also notice that if a great actor is in a crappy movie, it doesn't necessarily mean that he's in it just for the money.
open/close all folders
Arab-American comedian and actor Ahmed Ahmed has a stand-up bit where he talks about getting offered the role of Terrorist #4 in a Hollywood movie (after attempting to troll the audition by playing the role as mockingly over-the-top as possible). Ahmed describes that his first reaction was to reject the role on principle, because every time an ethnic actor takes a stereotypical role it just perpetuates the problem... until his agent informed him that he would be paid $30,000 for a week of work, at which point he promptly signed on.
The pay-grade for dubbing anime is laughably low. In fact, actor/singer Eric Stuart (of Pokémon and Slayers fame) once stated that one commercial gig pays more than a week of dubbing an anime episode. As a result, actors who take these jobs and aren'tDoing It for the Art are doing it for this reason.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar appeared in Airplane! because the role paid for an expensive rug he wished to purchase. Subverted in that the movie is now considered a classic.
Ben Affleck once hawked Paycheck on Conan O'Brien. Conan asked him why he did the film, and Ben fittingly told him "the answer lies in the title." Affleck appeared on a British chatshow to publicise the movie, only to be told by the enthusiastic host that it was one of the best science fiction films he had ever seen - the host actually suggested that Paycheck was at least as good as Blade Runner, and asked Affleck if he agreed. You could see how bemused Affleck was as he admitted that he thought Blade Runner was the better movie. Co-star Paul Giamatti referred to the film as "the aptly-named Paycheck" in an appearance on The Daily Show.
In his book There And Back Again: An Actor's Tale, Sean Astin talks at length about reconciling the conflict between the desire as an actor to do serious, important work, and the need to pay the bills by doing things like Encino Man.
Halle Berry received a record salary for appearing in Catwoman, which flopped at the box office. She accepted the "Worst Actress" Razzie with her Oscar (for Monster's Ball) in her other hand. This film has a strange history; before Berry was attached it was a generic superhero film. After getting her, it became a vanity film for Berry, and they shoehorned in the Catwoman angle. Perhaps Money, Dear Boy was at work when DC Comics allowed their trademarked name to be used in a film they had no input to. It really didn't help that the actual Catwoman character was off-limits because of the possibility she would appear in another Batman movie.
An entry in Roger Ebert's "Little Movie Glossary" describes the effect of Marlon Brando's participation in a film as the "Brando Acceptability Yardstick" - as the whole idea of respected actors doing comic book movies for the money can be traced to him. See the Superman franchise, Apocalypse Now, and the 1996 remake of The Island of Doctor Moreau. Incidentally, Brando received, as a salary for the entirety of his work on The Godfather, approximately 1% of his Superman: The Movie salary, which was once calculated by The Guinness Book of Records as eight dollars for every second he was on screen.
David Thewlis said a huge paycheck, plus going to Australia and working with Brando, was a motivation for Dr. Moreau. Given the Troubled Production, he later regretted it. Thewlis skipped the film's premiere and has vowed to never watch it.
In Rock Brynner's book Yul: The Man Who Would Be King, this sentiment is expressed by Yul Brynner to his son. Due to a combination of factors (including unscrupulous film studios, his absence from the U.S. and an increasing reliance on maintaining his property), Yul was content to take any role as long as it offered a paycheck. He turned in roles in scores of schlocky films, and would always note to his son that because the studios and government felt compelled to try to screw him over at every opportunity, he could do the same thing to make money on projects that were beneath his star power.
In an interview promoting the film 28 Days (no, not that one) the interviewer asked Sandra Bullock why she chose to star in it. She promptly answered that she needed the money. The interviewer started to laugh, but stopped shortly when he noticed Ms. Bullock was serious.
Michael Caine, who has stated: "First of all, I choose the great roles, and if none of these come, I choose the mediocre ones, and if they don't come, I choose the ones that pay the rent." His most shameful role is probably Hoagie in Jaws: The Revenge - his work on the film also prevented him from attending the ceremony where he would've been awarded his first Oscar. After his work on Jaws IV, Caine finally started turning down offers like this. At least until his appearance in Bewitched. Caine said of Jaws IV: "I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house it built, and it is terrific."
In his autobiography, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, Bruce Campbell explains this reasoning in response to fan criticism of his appearances in stinkers like Congo. He reiterates that actors need to pay the bills like everyone else, and notes other side-benefits of being tied to a production. In the case of Congo, he was flown to Costa Rica, and his scenes did not involve the rest of the main cast so he was only needed on set one day a week. The rest of the time he toured Costa Rica on the studio's dime, "which I would have done myself anyway!". As his Congo co-star Ernie Hudson once said: "If there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say."
John Carradine may well be the patron saint of this trope. On the stage he played Hamlet. On the screen he played, well, damn near anything. He wasn't just in B-movies, he appeared in Z-movies like Red Zone Cuba and Vampire Men of the Lost Planet. And his son David Carradine definitely followed in his footsteps.
Sean Connery agreed to do his last official James Bond filmnote Connery's last Bond outing, Never Say Never Again is considered an unofficial entry because it was not produced by series owner EON but by an independent producer who had the film rights to Thunderball and had the rights to remake it.Diamonds Are Forever for a fee of £1.2 million, which he used to found the Scottish International Education Trust (an arts funding company for Scottish artists). Even if Connery hadn't phoned in the role, it would still be considered one of the worst of the Bond movies (and definitely the worst starring Connery).
Joan Crawford, for much of her life, was an in-demand actress who reigned at the box office. However, no one can deny that her film choices later in life were less motivated by the need for fame and more influenced by cold, hard cash (which was apparently caused by her star power fading and her being ousted from the board of Pepsi, formerly run by her deceased husband). This would explain why she went from dramatic leading roles to scenery-chewing in cheap horror films like Berserk! and Trog (the latter was, in fact, her final film), as well as appearances in several short-lived television series - although she did also appear in the most guest-star laden episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ("The Five Daughters Affair"). As Neil Deagle of Bad Movie Night explained about Trog, "It's really sad to see such a huge star (like her) be consigned to the Z-grade abyss of films like this. But, hey, a girl's gotta eat." Trog can be kind of inverted because the director was a personal friend of hers and she did the movie more as a favor to him than in need of a paycheck. She was paid very well for the movie too, and a good portion of the budget was spent to ensure she had her own wardrobe van.
John Cusack has gone on record as stating that he'll take just about any well-paying gig he's offered, because it lets him finance the small indie projects that are his true artistic love.
When asked why he did Stargate, Jaye Davidson said, "I needed the money."
Originally, he had no intention of acting again after The Crying Game. So when he was offered a role in Stargate, he insisted on a $1 million salary, figuring there'd be no way they'd be willing to pay him that much. But his offer was accepted, and he decided that it'd be nice to have some financial security, so he took the role.
Ditto for James Spader, who found the script "awful". "Acting, for me, is a passion, but it's also a job, and I've always approached it as such. I have a certain manual-labourist view of acting. There's no shame in taking a film because you need some fucking money."
Gérard Depardieu stars in an average of 3.6 movies a year, most of them probably to pay his bills. There's a rhyming lament of the American Foreign-Film viewer that goes: "I fear I shall never view, a French film without Depardieu." Admittedly, it rhymes only if you pronounce him incorrectly.
Michael Douglas's Rottentomatoes page is very telling. He tends to alternate several "rotten" Hollywood films (You Me And Dupree, for example, or The Sentinel) with highly rated indie films (Solitary Man, Wonder Boys). While there are obviously exceptions on both sides, it can be assumed he takes the Hollywood parts to pay for the independent ones.
When promoting Ender’s Game on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno asked Ford about his involvement with The Expendables 3. Ford says, "They asked me if I wanted to be in the movie, they gave me a reason that I should be..." *Leno rubs his thumbs and fingers together, signifying "money", Ford nods.* "That's a good enough reason."
Many of Gene Hackman's roles were like this. A good example was the film Lucky Lady, which was a film that he didn't even want to do until Fox offered him $1.25 million (a lot of money in 1975) to make it. He decided that it would be obscene not to take the offer and accepted the part.
This is why Deadwood star John Hawkes played what was essentially a bit part in season six of LOST - his role was literally just repeating what another actor said and for that he got paid a lot and filmed in Hawaii.
As an actor, Lance Henriksen has appeared in well over 100 films. Many of these have been great (Aliens, The Terminator, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Near Dark). Many more, however, have been pretty dire (Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, Vampires: Out For Blood and Hellraiser: Hellworld to name but a few). He even worked in a Brazilian soap opera about mutants. Henriksen is a king of direct-to-DVD, and seems to specialize in mostly low budget SF, horror, fantasy or action flicks - films in which he is very often the only notable actor on board. Henriksen is also often very guilty of phoning-it-in, and frequently plays the same deadpan, imposing, monotone father-figure character he's been portraying for the last thirty-or-so years. He's appeared in multiple cheap cash-ins on pre-existing popular franchises (see The Da Vinci Treasure and Pirates Of Treasure Island, both released in 2006) has provided voice duties for many animated series and video games, appeared in adverts and also found time along the way to star in Chris Carter's grim (but mostly great) pseudo-X-Files spinoff series Millennium for three years. Henriksen has admitted to taking some less-than-stellar roles for the money because he owed alimony to his ex-wife. He's undeniably one of those actors and when he is good, such as in Millennium, he is very good.
Anthony Hopkins said it in an interview on Conan O'Brien. Conan said to Anthony that "some actors choose movies based on who they'll be working with, or who's catering the set. What makes you choose a movie?" Hopkins' response was "Well, money." After the major success of The Silence of the Lambs, Hopkins' very next movie was (drum roll) Freejack!
Hopper probably starred in the box-office flop Meet The Deedles for the same reason.
Though surprisingly averted with Waterworld, which he admitted to liking. He believed the reason that it bombed in the US was because the filmmakers announced that it was overbudgeted, shooting themselves in the foot.
Jeremy Irons' appearances in Dungeons & Dragons and Eragon are motivated either by this or a desire to be out-acted by his eyebrows. It's a toss-up. According to Wikiquote, when asked why he took his Dungeons and Dragons role, Irons replied: "Are you kidding? I'd just bought a castle, I had to pay for it somehow!"
Jeremy has said that he frequently does movies only to pay for his castle. He also did Beautiful Creatures to pay for the castle.
Ice-T recalled one interview on a hip-hop show where the host made fun of him for doing Tank Girl. He replied "I was paid $800,000 for that movie." The host moved on.
James Earl Jones has always been very upfront about doing anything that comes with a salary attached. Lampshaded by his appearance in Two and a Half Men: "To be completely honest, I didn't know Charlie Harper. But any man who, with his dying breath, would set aside $25,000 and a first-class air ticket so I could deliver his eulogy is aces in my book!"
Julia's accepting of roles as Gomez in the 1991 and 1993 Addams Family movies (particularly the latter) are also attributed to this circumstance.
Similarly, he was in the cheesy Overdrawn at the Memory Bank entirely due to his support of public television. He was also the only bright spot in the entire movie, and when Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed on it shortly after his death, they went out of their way to point out that they respected Julia and were mocking the movie itself, not his performance.
Klaus Kinski says it himself in one documentary. "Every time when I was out of money, I would just make any movie, I really didn't care. And suddenly the newspaper write I am the best murderer, the best this one, the best that one. And it isn't even too megalomanic to say 'Sure, you idiots. I can do all that. Without even trying.'" Kinski was offered the supporting role of evil Nazi torturer Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but he turned it down in favour of a lead role in long-forgotten killer snake film Venom, as the salary was higher. His co-star? Oliver Reed, who had to pay his bar bill somehow. He also turned down a role in a Federico Fellini (!) movie because the cash was too low, by sending him a telegram saying "Go fuck yourself."
John Larroquette in 50 Cent's Gun as the rich gun runner Sam, not to mention his appearance in Southland Tales as Vaughn Smallhouse.
Christopher Lee has made a career out of doing any role at a reasonable price without excessive prima-donnaism. In other words, if you can fork up the cash, you've got a classy talent who will play any role. If you need any more proof, please watch The Castle Of Fu Manchu. Any role, that is, except Dracula. He'll never do that again (although in recent years, his age has made him increasingly uncomfortable with flying, so his roles seem to be limited to the UK, such as when the team on The Hobbit accomodated him when he reprised his role as Saruman). He has also voiced his displeasure with some of his choices; while filming Gremlins 2: The New Batch he apologized to director Joe Dante for appearing in the sequel to his film The Howling.
Eugene Levy is not as top-tiered an actor as many of those on this list... still, you'd think a man with two Emmys and a Grammy could do better than New York Minute, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Bringing Down the House, The Man, and the endless appearances in Straight-To-DVD American Pie sequels. Several of Levy's SCTV co-stars could qualify in this regard, particularly Martin Short.
Ray Liotta has said that the only reason he voiced Tommy Vercetti in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was because of the money. In an MTV interview, he admitted that he's never even seen or played the game. In another interview he was asked if could do the role again, knowing it was a going to be hit. What would he have done differently. His reply was "Ask for more money".
While Peter Lorre's career probably never reached its full potential to begin with (due to typecasting, studio practices, and a distinctive appearance), it definitely reached a low point after the failure of his only directorial effort Der Verlorene in the early 1950s. After that he took whatever roles he could get because he desperately needed the money after losing most of his early earnings through bad investments and a corrupt accountant, and he had to provide for himself, his family, and cover the costs of various attempts to cure his morphine addiction. Lorre warned friends to never leave money management up to somebody else, and often said that he would have retired from acting if he hadn't needed the money so badly.
Ewan McGregor has always been very up front about the fact that he takes roles in big-budget Hollywood movies so he can afford to be in the little Scottish indie films he loves doing but wouldn't otherwise be able to afford him. That isn't to say he disliked said big-budget films, merely that money was the main factor; he has stated that being part of the Star Wars prequels was cool, as he got his own lightsaber. Not to mention that he's has done some Japandering for an energy drink.
Ian McKellen, early in the 2000s, was a relatively respectable version of this: huge blockbusters, but well-reviewed ones. He seemed to quite enjoy his higher profile, and remarked on how funny it was he and his cohorts from his stage days were known for these sorts of roles. Of course, he's also done things like The Da Vinci Code in between things like appearing with Patrick Stewart in Waiting for Godot on stage.
When David Mitchell and Robert Webb were criticized for appearing in Apple's "Get a Mac" adverts, Webb responded by saying "When someone asks, 'Do you want to do some funny ads for not many days in the year and be paid more than you would be for an entire series of Peep Show?' the answer, obviously, is, 'Yeah, that's fine'". In response to claims that they'd 'sold out', David Mitchell said that since they'd never attacked the capitalist system in any way, the only possible criticism could be their choice of product...and computers aren't notably evil.
This is likely the only reason why Demi Moore starred in Nothing But Trouble.
Roger Moore did Boat Trip for the money and for a free vacation.
Eddie Murphy starred in the very-forgettable film Best Defense. When he hosted Saturday Night Live soon after, he slammed it as "the worst film in the history of everything" and justified his role by saying "If you were paid to do Best Defense as much as they paid me to do Best Defense, you'd do Best Defense too!". In one interview, he admitted that The Adventures of Pluto Nash wasn't very good, but went on to say that it was hard to really regret it when "your pocket goes out to here", while holding his palm several inches away from his pocket. Let's not forget that an interviewer asked Murphy whether he'd have preferred to have the Academy Award for Dreamgirls or his paycheck from Norbit. He replied that while an Oscar statuette would look nice in his living room, it wouldn't pay the bills.
Jack Nicholson's $60 million deal for the 1989 Batman movie included a $6 million base salary, top billing and both a percentage of the gross and merchandising. It remains the single-largest film salary record. Around the time the Joel Schumacher movies were hitting theatres and there were projects for a follow-up if Batman & Robin wasn't so bad, Nicholson said he would consider reprising the role of The Joker for $150 million. Which makes sense. After seeing Schumacher's Batman movies, wouldn't you ask an exorbitant wage to shame yourself on his next movie? Apparently, when Danny DeVito was in negotiations to appear as the Penguin in Batman Returns, he called Nicholson to ask his advice on the character and the contract. Jack's response? "Try to get my deal". Then again Jack Nicholson did go on record for saying he enjoyed playing the Joker and was a big supporter of then rookie Director Tim Burton during filming. So while the money got him to do it, he didn't hate or feel indifferent toward role like most others on the list. He reportedly liked the role so much that he had wanted to reprise the part in the ill-fated Batman Beyond live-action movie that WB had considered making. He was also upset when Heath Ledger took over the part in The Dark Knight.
Speaking of Jack Nicholson: While making The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, Roger Corman offered him a secondary but significant role. Looking at the shooting schedule, however, Jack noticed a small bit part- two scenes and one line of dialog- which due to a Good Bad Bug in the Screen Actors Guild regulations would get him paid for five weeks of work. He took the small role and the big paycheck instead.
Edward Norton has followed the Ewan McGregor route and taken roles in big-budget flicks to help bankroll projects like Spike Lee's 25th Hour. He also made no secret that the only reason he did The Italian Job was because of a contractual requirement.
Gary Oldman is known for driving a particularly hard bargain. He won't even read most scripts without a hefty offer on the table, and he's known for having almost bowed out of the Harry Potter franchise over salary disputes. Sadly, the makers of Quest for Camelot, and Lost in Space must have been aware of this bargain prior to hiring him. He also decided against credit when he wasn't allowed top billing alongside Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal. Further, if you are not a union production, no amount of money will get you his services, as George Lucas found out when he offered Oldman the role of General Grevious in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sithnote Lucas left the Director's Guild in the '80s after the Guild tried to force him to have credits at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, and so many in Hollywood who are pro-SAG and DGA consider it the equivalent of being a scab worker.
The Trope Namer is Laurence Olivier, who was determined to leave a comfortable inheritance to his family, and was more than willing to take unusual roles if they paid well, especially in his later career. The two most striking examples are his portrayals of Zeus in Clash of the Titans and Douglas MacArthur in Sun Myung Moon's (yes, the Unification Church cult leader) terrible production of Inchon, for which it is said he insisted on his salary being paid weekly in a Briefcase Full of Money delivered by helicopter. He also appeared as a hologram in a terrible Rock Opera called Time. Olivier's posthumous performance in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow may be the logical extension of this trope.
Patton Oswalt pretty much only acts for the money or the anecdotes.
He discussed this trope in his special Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time, talking about how he once performed at a casino for a "sacrilegious" amount of money, and the audience was so drunk that all he did was listen while they shouted his past roles at him. The casino was so pleased with the reception that they said they would pay him to come back any time he wanted.
Ron Perlman also falls into this category. A quote of his once posted at AintItCool.com: "I'm doing weapons training for this piece of shit, then I go to Romania to shoot another piece of shit, then come back to shoot my part in this piece of shit...[sighs]...What can I say? My wife loves shoes." Then, he turns around and makes movies with Guillermo del Toro. Film truly is a diverse medium. He has also hinted that a big factor in his taking the role of Hellboy was that, as an actor in his fifties, he had never gotten the girl at the end of the movie. Until that one.
Brad Pitt was very vocal about how much he hated The Devil's Own. According to him it was "the most irresponsible bit of filmmaking — if you can even call it that — that I've ever seen" and he also called the film a "disaster". Which combined with his weak performance in the film (not to mention his totally ridiculous sounding Irish accent) makes it clear that money was his only real motivation for starring in that film.
There was a sort of horror picture that I did called The Mutations. I think I did that solely for the money. I have six daughters, and they can be quite expensive, so one has to keep working and be able to pay the bills.
Oliver Reed ended up doing a lot of B movies towards the end of his life, including an awful adaptation of The Fall of the House of Usher, as his drinking habits and wild lifestyle meant many mainstream directors would not give him a role.
Burt Reynolds was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1996 after being $10 million in debt, so Reynolds vowed to cut back on expenses and to pay back every single dime, and he's appeared in over 40 films since, and it's clear that he starred in most of them (Dungeon Siege, Without A Paddle, The Longest Yard remake, The Dukes of Hazzard film adaptation) for the money.
Tim Roth in Virgin Territory. Haven't heard of it? Roth breathes a sigh of relief.
For years, Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to do a third Terminator movie if James Cameron wasn't directing. Figuring that the character was as much Arnold's as it was his, James just told him to go for it and ask for a lot of money. The $30 million he received are still an upfront record for a single movie (though Tom Hanks is rumored to have received along the lines of $29-59 million for Angels and Demons). Arnold has admitted he loves to spend Hollywood's money. Almost all of his salaries since the first Terminator movie rose from $11 million to $25 million.
Peter Sellers did several ill-fated films and TWA ads in the early 1970s largely because he was nearly broke after a string of late '60s flops and unwise money management. It was also a big reason he agreed to revive The Pink Panther films with Return of... in 1975, which turned things around. He did two additional sequels after that to rebuild his fortunes — but also to achieve the needed clout to get Being There made, crossing this over with Doing It for the Art.
Chloe Sevigny explains her motivation for playing a Butch Lesbian in the TV MovieIf These Walls Could Talk 2: "... yeah, I did that job. For money. I was paying my mom's mortgage. I've still never seen that movie. People say it's really good. We all gotta make a living."
Slight variation: Canadian actor Michael Shanks of Stargate SG-1 fame claimed at a fan convention that he agreed to star in the Sci-Fi Original Movie Mega Snake (without even reading the script!) solely to obtain a new US work visa.
William Shatner earned some money off of the Priceline adverts by being paid in stock when Priceline was still young (though not the hundreds of millions sometimes reported). Also notoriously true during those long, lean years in The Seventies after he had been profoundly typecast by Star Trek but before his career resuscitation in The Eighties. Obviously, this affected all of his castmates as well. Only Leonard Nimoy seemed to land on his feet, first getting a job across the Paramount lot at Mission: Impossible and then starring in well-attended stage productions of Fiddler on the Roof and, later, Equus, Vincent and a camped-up Sherlock Holmes play, meanwhile narrating the In Search Of... series. Even Star Trek itself was an example of this for Shatner. Known at the time for his guest appearances in various other shows (most famously The Twilight Zone), he turned down the role of Dr. Kildare, only to regret it a couple of years down the line when offers started drying up. Needing the financial stability of a regular job, he took the role of Captain James T. Kirk.
Michael Sheen has made a servicable career of juicy dramatic roles, including playing Tony Blair several times on the small screen and the big screen, plus solid hits like The Damned United, Frost/Nixon and Midnight in Paris. On the other hand, he's Chewing the Scenery in glorified bit parts from films such as Alice in Wonderland, TRON: Legacy. and Underworld. There's no reason why he would be doing this unless he wanted a paycheck so that the filmmakers could capitalize on his star power. In the case of Tron, he said he chose the role because he loves science fiction and enjoyed making it, and in the case of the Twilight movies, he did it for his daughter.
Stellan Skarsgård is blunt about his motives for starring in films. He's called several of his larger-budget Hollywood movies "utter crap" that pay well and allow him to do great films with lower budgets - during EPK interviews. In an even more pronounced example of this trope, Skarsgård was a softcore porn actor in his youth.
Patrick Stewart as the hammy King Ooblar in Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius, The Great Prince of the Forest in Bambi 2, an over-the-top drug lord confined to a chair in Gunmen and 1996's Masterminds. Stewart's knowingly hammy scene-chewing is all part of the fun - he's clearly having a blast with it. He has said in interviews he loves "popcorn movies" like X-Men and Star Trek as much as he loves stage and serious drama. To be fair, most of what Stewart does is because he just loves acting in general and has the habit of doing whatever he likes at the time, being serious drama to cornball comedy and everything in between. It's been said that he never takes on a role unless he wants to. Even before he was in Star Trek, Stewart took a role in Lifeforce (the naked space vampire movie) to pay for the replacement of a broken bay window at his house. By the way, Stewart once recollected about accepting an award in Britain. While with other British stage actors, he said he was asked the same thing repeatedly about his Hollywood experiences - "How much do you get paid?"
Ryan Stiles admitted in an interview that, despite having a fear of flying, he was willing to fly to the UK to do Whose Line Is It Anyway? because at the time he desperately needed the money.
The Japanese actor Tetsuro Tamba was legendary for never turning down a paying role, no matter what it was in (he also never read the entire script for a movie, or memorized a script). He also founded a religion. Cool guy.
Jon Voight as Principal Dimly in Bratz: The Movie, and the Big Bad Bill Biscane in Baby Geniuses 2. He produced those movies as well.
Christopher Walken is honest about the fact that he never turns down a well-paying gig. This has led to his appearances in Joe Dirt, The Country Bears, Kangaroo Jack, Gigli, Envy, Click and the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives, just to name a few. He is also the best thing in each of these films. He also subverts this trope. He's said repeatedly in interviews that he takes any role offered to him as long as he has the time because he regards every film he works on as a learning experience. One can only guess what he learned from The Country Bears.
Crow T. Robot (As David Warner): In it for the money, folks.
Sigourney Weaver's involvement in Alien³ and Alien: Resurrection was motivated largely by this. After Aliens, Weaver had intended it to be the last role she would play as the character...until 20th Century Fox lured her back to the third film (after rejecting several scripts by other writers that didn't include her) with a much bigger payday and a producer's credit. Years later, during an interview, she responded to the question, "Why did you agree to do Alien: Resurrection?" by saying, "Because they drove a dumptruck full of money to my house."
Orson Welles willingly accepted an endless chain of well-paying bit parts in many films. He also hawked frozen peas and Paul Masson wine. His work on these commercials has been the subject of parody, most notably on The Critic and Animaniacs.
One of Welles' last roles was voicing the Transformers villain Unicron. While both the character and the performance are unforgettable, Welles himself viewed the production with contempt and could only recall it was a movie about "toys killing each other."
He did the narration on the remastered version of Tales of Mystery and Imagination - Edgar Allan Poe by the Alan Parsons Project. It was straight wagework: the whole thing was arranged through agents, Welles was sent a script, and Parsons was sent a tape.
He also narrated the frightfully awful, fundamentalist Christian dreckfest, The Late, Great Planet Earth, with Hal Lindsey, and the cheesy, sensationalistic Nostradamus "documentary" The Man Who Saw Tomorrow.
John Rhys-Davies lives and breathes this trope. He's a fantastic actor who often winds up in Direct-to-Video B-movies and was one of the more prominent actors to appear in FMV games in the 1990's. Basically, if you have a paycheck, no matter how small, he'll show up in it. Fortunately he's also been in some great A-class titles too.
In general, this is the traditional mindset among British stage-trained actors: the theatre is where the "real" acting is. You do movies for the money...or for fun.
Cloris Leachman recently admitted she only does kids movies for the money
Michael Ironside has never made any bones about the fact that he takes jobs based on the pay he's offered, and once joked that he took his role as The Dragon in Total Recall (1990) because he wanted to buy his oldest daughter a new car for her 16th birthday.
Michael Ironside: "Yeah, listen, I hated that script. We all did. Me, Sean, Chris... we all were in it for the money on this one. I mean, it (the script) read as if it had been written by a thirteen year old boy. But I'd never played a barbarian swordsman before, and this was my first big evil mastermind type. I figured if I was going to do this stupid movie, I might as well have fun and go as far over the top as I possibly could. All that eye-rolling and foaming at the mouth was me deciding that if I was going to be in a piece of shit like that movie, I was going to be the most memorable fucking thing in it. And I think I succeeded."
In his comedy special in Hawaii, Gabriel Iglesias mentioned that when he signed on to do a show in Singapore, he was unaware that English is actually the dominant language there. When asked why he would agree to do a show when he didn't even know if they spoke English, he replies, "Because the check was fat. And I'm a little whore."
David Cross has said he only does the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise for money and doesn't think much of them. He even asked people to not watch the 3rd movie in theaters on Conan.
The "Curly Joe" era of the The Three Stooges was mostly this. However it's easy to justify because the Stooges got royally screwed over on the shorts that made them famous.
Richard Burton made a career of it. The accomplished actor who did Becket, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Equus also starred in The Assassination of Trotsky, Bluebeard, The Exorcist II...
Brad Dourif admits to pretty much taking any role he can for a paycheck.
"I'm a whore. If they have a check and camera and a script and stuff for me to say, I am mostly there, unless I just can't take it."
This is the sole motivation for Whoopi Goldberg who has said "nobody like a paycheck like her." On the other hand, she's one of only twelve people to win the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.) See also the Film folder for her most (in)famous example.
Denis Leary on the Ice Age series: "I've been around long enough to think ahead, so I'm like, 'Ah, f***, the guy dies.' As an actor I'm like, 'Well, I get to do a big juicy death scene, but I could be out on the sequels which is where the real money is." He also has mentioned that he also does these movies for his nieces and nephews.
Charles Dance has done some films he's not proud of. In a quote taken from Londonon's Evening Standard he said "I've done some appalling films. Junk is absolutely the right word. You do what you can with the stuff you're given. It's a misconception that actors make choices. For all but the most privileged few, the only choice is to work or not to work."
This is the main concept behind Japandering. Many American celebrities have done commercials for other countries promoting energy drinks, whiskey, cars and pachinko machines, and everything in-between. Usually, they have clauses in their contract stating that these won't be shown anywhere overseas, but the invention of the Internet and Youtube has rendered that a moot point. These include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ben Stiller, Nicolas Cage, Charlize Theron, Kiefer Sutherland, Sean Connery, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and many, many others. When you realize it's good pay for one day's work, can you blame them?
When asked why he did a series of adverts for American Express, Peter Ustinov responded "to pay for my American Express".
Michael Ironside doesn't do a lot of commercials, but the ones he has consented to tend to be several kinds of awesome.
Kate Mulgrew (Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager) defended herself after doing the voiceover for a geocentrist documentary trailer by stating that she was simply a voice for hire and wouldn't even have taken the job if she'd known what the documentary in question was actually about or who was involved in making it.
Anime and Manga
Kia Asamiya has admitted in interviews that he doesn't really have much interest in manga at all and thinks of himself as a businessman rather than an artist.
Osamu Tezuka was forced into this many times over his long career. Most notably, almost everything he did involving Astro Boy after the 1950s, as he lost interest in the character after a while but it was so popular he couldn't afford to abandon it completely.
In 1996, writer Mark Waid and artist Ron Garney were unceremoniously removed from a critically acclaimed run on Captain America and replaced by Chuck Dixon and Rob Liefeld. One year later, Waid & Garney were reinstated. At that year's Comic-Con, when asked why he would come back after what happened, Waid simply rubbed his fingers together
Comics great Fabian Nicieza once talked about his role in writing the terrible comic book NFL Superpro: "I was handed the concept and character, including his basic origin. I don't know if that was all the NFL's creative work or a combination of Marvel editorial and the NFL. I didn't ask. I just wanted Jets tickets."
Wilhelm Busch (from 19th century Germany) rather wanted to become a "real" artist, like a poet or a painter, but found that people preferred his simpler, funny picture stories.
Charles M. Schulz freely admitted that he agreed to Peanuts endorsement and merchandising deals so he could have more money for his various philanthropic projects.
Jim Davis has infamously admitted that this trope was the sole reason behind the creation of Garfield.
Chester Gould of Dick Tracy. He saw himself as a businessman competing, in addition to other cartoonists, with the other sections of the newspaper, such as the front page. He created many of his stories and characters from situations ripped from the headlines (Flattop, created in the mid-40s, was named after a WWII aircraft carrier). Although he was in it for the money, he found this sense of competition compelled him to create memorable stories and characters.
This is the primary reason why Ken Penders went to court over the characters and concepts he created for Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog. While he claims that this was to also bring awareness to the other writers and artists shammed by Archie over reprinting rights, many fans claim that this was more of a money grab for a writer who is clearly trying to regain what he had in the past.
Jackie Chan admits that he did appear in a porno film to get by several years before he became famous.
He originally did his own stunts because it meant he brought home a little more money every week. Over time this became his trademark, proving Tropes Are Not Bad.
It's also the reason he continues doing big budget Hollywood movies. The massive salary enables him to fund his Asian movies as well as continue his charitable work.
On a similar note, John Sayles wrote genre Hollywood scripts to finance his well-received independent films.
One notable exception: Kim Basinger backed out of the production of Boxing Helena, and as a result was sued for eight million dollars. Basinger was forced to enter bankruptcy. Money well spent? Considering its critical/commercial failure and career damage (to both director/writer Jennifer Chambers Lynch and star Sherilyn Fenn), most would agree it was. Rolling Stone's review even stated: "Sometimes even making the right decision can cost you."
Basinger's situation was the main reason Whoopi Goldberg settled for a massive paycheck on Theodore Rex. She agreed to do it, saw the script, tried walking out, and decided "rich & ashamed" beat "broke & principled".
Mike Myers backed out of a film based upon Dieter, the SNL character, and was sued by Universal Pictures for $3.8 million. His decision to back out of the $20 million contract was an inversion of this trope; he was unhappy with the script (despite having written it himself) and didn't feel the film would be of a standard acceptable for moviegoers. If only he'd had similar scruples when he got the idea for The Love Guru...
Ever wonder why Whoopi Goldberg agreed to do Sister Act 2? Disney promised to bankroll a movie she wanted to make, an adaptation of the Broadway musical Sarafina!, in exchange for donning the habit again.
The spoof adaptation... of Casino Royale (1967). Featuring David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Woody Allen, Peter O'Toole, Orson Welles, Deborah Kerr, John Huston...and nothing resembling coherence at any point. Part of the incoherence may be because Sellers wasn't in it for the moneynote When he signed on to the movie, it was pitched to him (and genuinely intended) as a straight and serious adaptation of the novel, with Sellers as the sole Bond of the film, and this to him was the draw — a chance to try out his drama chops and leave comedy for a film. As writing went on and the producers felt they couldn't compete with the series, they turned it into a parody, leaving Sellers feeling he was the victim of a Bait and Switch. He retaliated by hiring his own writer to try and rewrite his scenes to something approximating the original vision, or outright ignoring the script altogether and making up his own dialogue. but proved extremely difficult to work with and was subsequently fired, leaving the producers with half a film which they roped Niven into completing.
Christopher Eccleston has said in several interviews that he has no illusions about the artistic merit of any of the Hollywood movies he's been in, and that he only does these jobs to be able to afford concentrating on the infrequent and not-too-generously-paid TV and theatre roles he really cares about.
Christopher Plummer in the Italian B-movie Star Wars knock-off Starcrash. Well, the money plus an opportunity to visit Rome.
The Superman franchise has been the focus of a number of publicized instances involving the stars:
Marlon Brando was ultimately paid $14 million for 10 minutes as Jor-El.
Christopher Reeve only signed to star in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace if he could get a pet project made by Cannon Films (Street Smart, in case you're wondering).
Gene Hackman, as Lex Luthor, also apparently swung a nice deal. Hackman admitted in interviews that his appearance in The Quest for Peace was entirely financially motivated. Admittedly, it couldn't be much else.
Welles told his biographer about the film, "I play a big toy who does horrible things to a bunch of smaller toys."
Idle admitted in his book The Greedy Bastard Diary that he had hated every minute of production. "Why did I do it, again? Oh, right, they offered me oodles of cash." He's also said that he never even watched the movie, and makes a habit out of it with such roles.
It is rumored that Leonard Nimoy was so embarrassed about it that he refused to address it for years afterwards, whether in interviews or at science-fiction conventions. Only Michael Bay's interest in casting him as The Fallen in Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen prompted him to talk about his role, and then only briefly (and he also said that Bay could call him up if he wanted to, but Bay ultimately went with Tony Todd). Bay finally called up Nimoy to cast him as Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
That said, this negativity wasn't true of all the celebrities in the movie; Robert Stack and Judd Nelson were in it to get paid and embraced their roles; Robert Stack (according to some production staff) liked the movie and Judd Nelson reprised his role for Transformers Animated 20 years later.
Both Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have said that they only did the Twilight movie for the money, and both of them have inserted Take Thats against the book and its fans in interviews. Also, Pattinson said that he wanted to do Twilight in order to have the opportunity to work with Stewart, who, prior to Twilight, was known as a serious actress who did mostly independent films (andZathura). Also, it's Kristen Stewart. He was reportedly hitting on her throughout filming. Jamie Campbell Bower, who is playing Caius, also seems to have only signed on for the money as all he knew about Twilight prior to then was that the first movie had done well. And Pattinson has gone on record as saying he thinks Stephenie Meyer is literally insane. Both lead actors have also been publicly caught in scandals, in what many anti-fans jokingly claim are attempts to get released from their contract... a hypothesis that was then backed up by Stewart in an interview.
It is pretty telling to note that Pattinson and Stewart collectively drove a particularly hard bargain going into New Moon and negotiated a six-fold salary increase for themselves (in other words, these two people alone cost the filmmakers 40% of their budget).
David Slade, who publicly blasted the Twilight franchise prior to signing on to do Eclipse, had to apologize for his comments later on. Given the budget for Hard Candy, he can be forgiven for invoking this trope.
Any film made by Uwe Boll. He might not be much of a creative talent, but he reportedly pays well:
His Far Cry movie managed to have Til Schweiger, one of Germany's highest rated actors. Bizarrely, he did tell German gaming magazine GameStar in an interview that he was in it because Uwe Boll is apparently a very pleasant guy to work with as a director.
I’m sorry about The Hills Have Eyes, Part II. The reason I did that film was that I was dead broke and needed to do any film. I would have done Godzilla Goes to Paris.
The late director Gary Winick did a number of cookie-cutter romantic comedies (13 Going On 30, Bride Wars, Letters to Juliet) and family films (the remake of Charlotte's Web) so that he could finance smaller independent projects that made use of digital cameras. It ended up working rather well as he produced a number of critically acclaimed films through his company Indigent.
When asked in an interview what he hoped to achieve with his early movies, John Ford simply replied "a big check". He repeatedly maintained over the years that moviemaking was just a way for him to make a living, which he stuck with because it paid well and he found it easy.
Julie Delpy stated that she only made An American Werewolf in Paris because "I got paid a lot of money; let's face it, a girl's got to eat." Delpy admitted it was " just a campy, stupid little movie", but despite the experience being so miserable that she remained away from Hollywood, she says it's not an Old Shame because "it allowed me to spend time writing".
Betsy Palmer appeared in Friday the 13th (1980) because she was in desperate need of a new car. After she read the script she called the film "a piece of shit".
Nick Nolte has said that he sold his soul by agreeing to make I Love Trouble strictly for the money and that it's his worst film, which explains how his attitude on set was so bad that his costar, Julia Roberts, still says he's the worst actor she's ever worked with.
Michael J. Fox said that after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991, his thinking during that time was "I'd better do as much movies as I can before I can no longer act", and started accepting roles for movies that, in the end, weren't very good.
Practically any film that the Marx Brothers accepted to make together after A Day at the Races was made to raise money to cover for Chico Marx's recurring debts and expenses.
L. Frank Baum, creator of the Wizard of Oz series repeatedly tried to end the franchise, which bored him, only to repeatedly come crawling back once his other non-Oz books failed to sell.
Edgar Rice Burroughs only started writing in his thirties during a period of low employment. He had been reading pulp magazines and thought that he could write at least as well as this garbage and get paid for it, despite never having written anything before. After his stories became successful he made all the money he could, in particular marketing Tarzan, his most successful character, in every way possible. This was against advice that doing so would overexpose the character. Burroughs was right though, the public couldn't get enough of Tarzan.
Agatha Christie openly acknowledged that she wrote The Mystery of the Blue Train and The Big Four because she needed money. It shows.
Arthur Conan Doyle had initially refused to revive Sherlock Holmes (the man did, after all, kill Holmes off purely out of spite for the character). The huge sums of money editors were offering him for new Holmes stories, and his dwindling bank account, no doubt played a part in his decision to finally take the plunge. There is an anecdote sometimes cited that says that, tired of being asked to revive Holmes, he finally asked for a ridiculously huge sum of money that he knew the publishers wouldn't be able to pay, and was appropriately shocked when they immediately said yes. Doyle was paid around 600 Pounds per Holmes story, worth about 80,000 Pounds (or $125,000) today
As noted before, this trope doesn't necessarily result in bad fiction - think of the doorstopping evergreens by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Alexandre Dumas. Both were paid per line. In case of Dostoyevsky his urgent need to repay his gambling debts caused him to write Crime and Punishment at a crazy speed. This is thought to be one of the reasons for the novel's unique flow of thoughts making it both an inspiration to psychoanalysis and Joyce's stream of consciousness.
Richard Ames: The most beautiful prose in the English language is "Pay to the order of..."
Samuel Johnson wrote Rasselas in only seven days to pay for his mother's funeral.
An in-universe example occurs in Robert B. Parker's novel Shrink Rap when Tom Cruisestand-in named Hal Race threatens to leave after the lead character refuses to take her dog out of the room, and the author of a book that he's interesting in playing a role in a film adaptation tells him he can take a hike if he doesn't cut the attitude. Sure enough, he stays. When asked later why the author was willing to risk him walking, she replies with this trope.
Terry Pratchett, in an interview with Stephen Briggs in the third edition of The Discworld Companion, on not having won many literary awards and the hint that the Booker prize may be opened up to more popular works: "A 'popular' book means the author has already got what a true writer craves: a lot of readers and a big cheque". He once said of being beaten out for a Hugo award "On the other hand, going home and falling backwards into a big pile of money always helps." Of course, Sir Terry's (Kt, OBE, Ph.D. (x8, all honorary)) lack of literary awards was likely due to the Sci-Fi Ghetto more than any lack of talent on his part.
When asked if he was jealous of the money that Douglas Adams made, he replied "Not at all, especially since it's been tactfully pointed out that I had to change banks after filling the last one up."
Anthony Burgess basically belched out A Clockwork Orange in a matter of weeks to pay off some debts. He regretted its glorification of violence and was annoyed by the way it overshadowed the rest of his work, causing quite a bit of Creator Backlash.
The ultimate example may be William Shakespeare. The plays were probably written for the quick profit and the poetry to increase the author's social standing in the Elizabethan court. Not surprisingly, Hamlet seems to be the major exception.
Arguably the entire point of the Spackman Initiative inThe Pale King.
After his wife gave birth to their fifth child, Charles Dickens needed some cash to cover the doctor's bills. Six weeks later he had written and sold A Christmas Carol. Something of an aversion in that, even though it was almost immediately a critical hit and is regarded as a classic today, it ultimately didn't make Dickens as much money as he hoped it would.
Great Expectations was only written because Dickens's magazine 'All The Year Round' was doing poorly and the only thing that would revive it was a serialised Dickens novel.
Robert Graves claimed he wrote I, Claudius and Claudius the God for this reason.
This was his stated motive for writing all of his novels; he considered himself primarily a poet but was plagued with money problems throughout his life.
The "penny dreadful" pulp authors of the 1930s, when magazines paid $0.01 a word.
Of course, "penny dreadfuls" have been around for much longer than that. Benjamin Disraeli wrote a bunch of cheap Romance Novels for the sole and explicit purpose of funding his political career (politics didn't pay nearly as well back then as it does now).
Parker: All those writers who write about their childhood! Gentle God, if I wrote about mine you wouldn’t sit in the same room with me.
Paris Review: What, then, would you say is the source of most of your work?
Parker: Need of money, dear.
Edward Stratemeyer, he of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, could be seen in modern times as being a little chauvinistic (of course, remember, this was the 1920's, feminism was only just beginning to come into focus.) So why did he end up creating and outlining Nancy Drew, who has been seen as a feminist role model by many? Because when he saw how many girls were reading The Hardy Boys books, a little voice in his head said, "If you write them, they will buy." This was also true of most of the many ghostwriters, who got paid fairly well for the books (roughly one month's work could net six weeks pay.) Although there were at least two aversions to this, though. Two of the most prominent ghostwriters, Mildred Wirt Benson for Nancy and Leslie McFarlane for the Hardys, actually did put quite a bit of effort into their characters (at least initially, McFarlane grew tired of the stories later.)
This is my house. Note the new roof. (photo of house)
This is how I paid for the roof. (cover of Wild Wild West novel)
Any more questions?
Louisa May Alcott, who enjoyed writing thrillers and protofeminist tales, nearly turned down the publisher who suggested she write a book for young girls. One staggering success later, she decided that writing children's fiction was the most practical way to go.
In-universe, Lawrence Block's hitman character Keller once retired and, feeling a bit bored, decided to take up a hobby and settled on stamp collecting. After a while he gets back in touch with his former manager, who assumes he misses the work, but he eventually admits that stamp collecting is a pretty expensive hobby and he could use the money.
In the midst of writing some of his most highly-regarded Conan the Barbarian stories, author Robert E. Howard also churned out "Man Eaters of Zamboula," a completely paint-by-numbers story with a Damsel in Distress who’s naked throughout the whole thing. It was pretty obviously written because Howard knew he could immediately sell it to Weird Tales and get the higher cover-story rate.
The producers of LOST managed to get almost every main character back for at least one episode in the sixth and last season. The exception was Mr. Eko, as actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje asked for too much money.
Joe Rogan once referred to Fear Factor, a show which he hosted, as "Joe Gets Paid".
"This is me, every day at work: '...REALLY. And they're going to do this on camera? What the fuck is wrong with these people? ...No, dude, I got a mortgage; mic me up."
In one game of "Scenes from a Hat" on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where the scene in question was "rejected names for Whose Line", Wayne suggested "Drew Carey's House Payment".
Then-well-known stage actors James Daly and Louise Sorel, who guest-starred together in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Requiem for Methuselah" as Flint and Reyna, respectively. Both thought the series was childish and cartoony and later both admitted the only reason they did the episode was the paycheck.
Louise Sorel: (about the episode) "They put me in this funny costume – I stood still and they just wrapped fabric around me – and I had an Annette Funicello bouffant and Dusty Springfield eye make-up. James Daly and I thought of ourselves as these two very serious theater actors. He kept looking at me and asking, "Why on Earth are we doing this?" I kept telling him, 'Christmas money.'"
Carroll O'Connor pulled off a massive version of this during the sixth season of All in the Family. During the hiatus between seasons, O'Connor lobbied for CBS to greatly increase his salary, as well as give him more creative control. Studio executives balked at his demands, and production of the season started without him (which led to a three episode arc where Archie goes missing on the way to a convention). CBS head Fred Silverman successfully convinced O'Connor to come back at a much higher salary. By the time Archie Bunker's Place began, O'Connor was the highest-paid cast member (and, by the end of the first season, the only original cast member) and an executive producer, and rode the salary bump through four more seasons of diminishing ratings.
It seems that a sitcom is doomed as soon as its star/s become/s the "highest paid on television." (Notably, Seinfeld, Frasier, Friends).
Brent Spiner signed up to play Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation figuring that remaking such a famous show was doomed to fail, so he'd be able to get money from doing the season and move onto something else.
Stewart Lee's sudden appearance on a lot of Quiz Shows in 2006 was just to pay off his wedding. Other than that Lee tends to focus on low key events with only slim profit margins.
"When they asked me to do the show. I thought; well I don't know anything about music. But on the other hand, that kitchen extension is not going to pay for itself."
Danny Slavin from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy stated that the only reason he agreed to play Leo was so he could make money to go to law school. He only returned for the Wild Force episode 'Forever Red' as a favor to the show's producer.
Peter Cook agreed to do a US TV pilot purely for the money, believing it wouldn't sell - but unfortunately (for him) The Two of Us (a Trans Atlantic Equivalent of the British comedy Two's Company) sold and become his only sitcom on either side of the Atlantic.
Chevy Chase with Community. Despite the critical acclaim and devoted fanbase, Chase made little secret of his discontent with being on the show, creator Dan Harmon, and sitcoms in general ("the lowest form of television"). He stated outright that the paycheck and his cast members were the only things that kept him around. He finally left the show after four seasons.
The two lead actors on My Family, Robert Lindsay and Zoë Wanamaker, freely acknowledged that the show's writing was rather poor, with Lindsay openly stating "There's some real dross (in the scripts) and we're aware of it". This trope is probably why they stuck around.
On a somewhat more local level, Totally Hidden Video once did an episode in which several different kinds of professional musicians were hired to play for a wedding with it only being revealed to them once they arrived that the newlyweds were... a pair of dogs. Since they were, after all, being paid their going rate to perform for the happy couple, the most reaction the camera was able to get out of any of them was a rather long and curious stare before they set up their instruments and went to work. To keep the audience amused, therefore, the show also milked some comedy out of the dogs' reaction to the musicians. (They didn't like the mariachis very much, but they did cradle their heads together for a romantic love ballad from one of the other bands.)
When he was first offered the role of John Steed on The Avengers, Patrick Macnee turned it down to pursue a career as a television producer. The producers kept coming back to him, so to deter them, he asked for (at the time) a exorbitant amount of money, more than an actor had ever been paid for British TV up to that time. To his great surprise, the producers accepted his asking price, and the rest is history.
James Spader claims that this is the reason why he did his gig on The Office.
Jeff Garlin has said he likes The Goldbergs and is very proud of the show, but that the major appeal of doing the series came from the fact that a mainstream sitcom on a major network gives him the financial security he needs to pursue riskier indie projects in his downtime.
The Boomtown Rats never bothered to pretend that they weren't at least partly in it for the large sacks of cash they were getting out of their success, unlike pretty much every other punk band of the era, particularly The Clash. Interestingly enough, whilst Bob Geldof went on to devote his fame and connections to one of the greatest humanitarian endeavors of the 1980s, Johnny Rotten of the Pistols, after a decade of Doing It for the Art with his acclaimed experimental band Public Image Ltd., was last heard of appearing in a decidedly not-punk butter commercial.
On a related note, while the artists appearing at Live Aid were unpaid, many of them were fully aware of the exposure they would get from their performances. While not entirely a case of this trope, some of the less keen artists were persuaded by their managers (and Bob himself in many cases) to take part because of the resulting publicity that would translate into increased sales.
Anthrax rhythm guitarist Scott Ian responded to charges that the band was "selling out" with new singer John Bush and the more mainstream-sounding Sound of White Noise album by noting in an interview that "The bottom line is, everyone in this business is in it to make money. Myself included."
In an interview on VH-1 some years back, Kid Rock responded to comments made by another rock star in the vein of Doing It for the Art. "I'm in the for the music? You're a lying sack of shit. You're a musician, I'm a musician, of course you're in it for the music; that's a given. Why are you REALLY doing it? Money and girls."
Legendary band KISS is blatantly and unapologetically in it for the money. Founder and band leader Gene Simmons makes no bones about it. If there's a buck to be made, KISS will do it. They'll license anything if the money is right; action figures, lunch boxes, coffins, condoms and so on. Their unique work and over-the-top live shows were designed to draw people in and make more money. To their credit, their shows are still excellent, even at their age.
Gene Simmons: God gives you a wallet, and you can have less money or more, what would you pick?
Back in the 70s, Gene Simmons was asked if his mother approved Simmons' demonic stage makeup and costume. His response was, "Well, I don't know about that, but I know she approves of the house I bought her, so I guess it evens out."
"Weird Al" Yankovic has often said "I wrote 'Eat It' because I wanted to buy a house. It worked."
Johnny Rotten said quite bluntly that The Sex Pistols reunion tour in the mid-90s was for "your money." The tour was even called "Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here's the Filthy Lucre."
Tool's song "Hooker with a Penis" is in response to former fans who accused them of selling out for the money. The song essentially states that every professional musician you've ever heard has sold out for the money, otherwise you'd have never heard their music in the first place. The most telling sequence is "All you know about me is what I've sold you / Dumb fuck / I sold out long before you ever heard my name / I sold my soul to make a record / Dip shit / And you bought one."
The Bowling for Soup song "A Really Cool Dance Song" lampshades this trope. The song is about a band that needs money, so they write a dance song, as dance songs are popular and sell albums.
Finding out your entire retirement fund has been looted by a third party is never fun, but at least Leonard Cohen could fill it up with a few new concerts.
Interviewer: "What does 'Help Me Make It Through The Night' mean to you now?" Kris Kristofferson: "Oh, about a hundred thousand dollars a year."
Averted by Swedish pop supergroup ABBA, who turned down $1 Billion for a reunion.
Most reunions seem to be examples of this trope, but the Dead Kennedys' has been a particularly egregious example due to the band's former anti-corporate stance. The band (minus Jello Biafra) now licenses songs for television commercials.
The Monkees were on a British interview program just before their 2011 reunion tour kicked off. When asked why they were getting back together again, Peter Tork looked directly into the camera and (jokingly and literally) rubbed his fingers together..
A major reason Michael Nesmith usually declines Monkees reunions is because of inheriting his late mother Bette's fortune for inventing liquid paper, making him independently wealthy. He is also hesitant to step away from his Pacific Arts corporation for too long, for fear that the small company may unravel (a fear only compounded by problems with PBS, who bought the company in The Seventies, and in which Michael sued successfully in The Nineties).
This is also likely the reason why Sting, a devoted environmentalist, agreed to shill for Jaguar and Compaq Computers during the promotion of his "Brand New Day" album. The Jaguar deal alone brought in more than 3 million extra sales of the album, and covered the costs of promoting the album (as the song "Desert Rose" was played in the commercial). Likewise, Sting and his production team got more than $7 million from Compaq, who sponsored the "Brand New Day Tour". Sting made out like a total bandit at the end of this.
In his autobiography Life, Keith Richards says that he formed the side project X-Pensive Winos in the 80's for several reasons: the Stones were on an indefinite hiatus, Keith wanted to get back on the road, and he still had a lot of bills to pay. Later on, he specifically notes he enjoys the royalties that one of the Winos' songs gets from its inclusion in an episode of The Sopranos. He also talks at length about the fact that the Stones barely broke even in their early years due to a heavily-unfair record company contract, and that their renegotiation of their contract in the early 80's allowed them to get much more royalties than normal, which is why they officially licence all their own products (for big paychecks).
The song "American Pie" is often debated by music critics for its metaphorical lyrics and veiled references. What exactly does it mean? Don McLean has been asked several times, and his answer is always the same. 'It means I never have to work again.'
An early magazine interview with The Who utilized a format where each band member filled in a form answering a standard set of questions. John Entwistle's stated "Personal Ambition" was "To be rich." His "Professional Ambition"? "To be rich."
Little Mix have fell into this trope; well, at least one of them.
Pink Floydzigzags this with The Wall. The band faced financial mismanagement and heavy taxation in England by 1978, and had to enter tax exile in France while the group's lawyers settled the management situation and recovered the band's uninvested money. The album was make-or-break and had to be a smash success to keep the band afloat; the group conceded to co-producer Bob Ezrin's suggestion to give "Another Brick In The Wall Part 2" a disco beat and release it as a single (they were normally very anti-single since the late 1960s). Though the album was certainly a case Doing It for the Art for Roger Waters, it would explain much of the pressures between the group that gradually tore them apart.
Unlike many fighters in MMA, UFC light heavyweight Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson always makes it clear that he's purely in it for the money, much to the confusion/amusement of most interviewers.
Wrestler Kevin Nash has stated in the past year in interviews on TNA iMPACT! that he was only in TNA for the money. After he went back to WWE, Nash admitted that he signed with WCW for similar reasons: a guaranteed contract and a sweet clause in his contract that allowed him to be paid the same amount of money as the highest paid guy in the promotion. To sum up his mind set, he once said in an interview "It's funny, they all call it 'the business', but the second you start treating it like a business you're the bad guy."
Speaking of TNA, there's Gail Kim. Gail hasn't been shy about mentioning how much she prefers TNA to WWE. TNA made her a star; she all but created their Knockouts division, was their first Knockouts champion, and actually headlined a main event of Impact. However, after a pretty nasty contract dispute, she decided to go back to WWE where she was basically turned into scenery. When she realized they would give her three times the money for about a third of the work, she thought she could deal with it. In the end, she couldn't. She quit WWE in 2011 with less than two months to go on her contract and went back to TNA.
Molly Holly got put through all kinds of hell in her career in WWE (having the entire world calling her "fat-ass", getting her head shaved on the biggest show of the year, having to spoon-feed and put over women who had no wrestling skills, ...), but always swallowed her pride and did what was asked of her because of the paycheck. It was only after a breast cancer scare that she realized how unhappy she was.
British boxer Nigel Benn, AKA "The Dark Destroyer", would talk openly about how he was only really in it for the money, and about how there was rarely anything personal against his opponent, how he was seriously worried about the possibility of brain damage, and how he was going to quit boxing as soon as he felt able. The UK boxing press thought this was all a jolly bad show, and gave Benn a rather negative reputation at the time.
Winston Bogarde, a former football player, did this after signing for Chelsea FC, well knowing that he was overpaid compared to his abilities.
There's a lot of European football/soccer teams which often try and invoke this trope to get reputable players, the idea being that good players will give the club instant success. In the case of Manchester City, they were right. This also explains why such non-traditional soccer markets such as Russia, Ukraine, and all Arabic countries (even Bahrain and Qatar!) can attract big names - who cares about isolation or unfavoring weather when oil money goes straight into your pocket?
Besides dysfunctional ownership, this is one of the reasons why the NHL allowed the Atlanta Thrashers to relocate to Winnipeg; the league would not have collected a $60 million relocation fee if they found a new owner committed to keeping the team in Atlanta.
After the Phoenix Coyotes filed for bankruptcy in 2009, the city of Glendale, Arizona, who owns and operates the Coyotes' home arena, the Jobing.com Arena, paid the NHL $75 million over three seasons (from the 2010-11 season to the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season) for the Coyotes to remain in Arizona while the league searched for a new owner, preferably one committed to keeping the team in Arizona. note The payment for the 2011-12 season was also another factor behind the Atlanta Thrashers' relocation. True North Sports and Entertainment originally intended to buy and move the Coyotes to Winnipeg (as the Coyotes were the original Jets) if the league failed to find a buyer to keep the team in Glendale; however, the Glendale city council elected to cover the Coyotes' losses for another season. Eventually it worked, as a new buyer was found in 2013.
In Tennis, the top players typically skip the smaller, non-mandatory tournaments to save time and energy because they don't need the extra ranking points. Because of this, if you do see a top 5 player at some obscure ATP 250 or WTA International event, chances are that a sizeable appearance fee was included somewhere. One specific player example of this would be former top-5 stalwart Nikolay Davydenko, who was quite upfront in admitting that he played in a lot more tournaments than he needed to solely for the additional money.
This was why Formula One driver Niki Lauda came out of retirement and joined McLaren: he had started an airline and needed money for it. It did get him his third title (in the narrowest margin of victory ever, no less), so there's that.
NBA star Charles Barkley is one of the many, many athletes who was taken advantage of by an unscrupulous agent early in his career. Luckily he got his finances in order while still at the peak of his abilities; others weren't so lucky. In his autobiography he theorized that part of the reason that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar continued in the NBA for so long was to be able to handle debts after being taken advantage of.
In The World Cup 2014, three African teams showed they considered their pay as important as victories: Cameroon delayed their trip because they wanted to get paid before, and while in Brazil one of the players admitted he's Only in It for the Money; Ghana threatened to strike during the tournament, only shutting up once a jet filled with cash arrived; and Nigeria also complained with their managers about the prize money.
Fork Parker, The CFO of Devolver Digital, (possibly jokingly) states that he only takes in semi-indie games so he can fund his jetski and yacht. Most of his interviews ham it up about it. The other half of the interview is him mocking people who get antsy about video game violence.
Suda 51 and his company, Grasshopper Studios, will occasionally make quick and cheap licensed games to get some extra money to fund the projects he's truly passionate about, as he knows most of his original work doesn't turn a profit.
Treasure agreed to develop McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure for Sega only so that Sega would help them fund the development of Gunstar Heroes. Although Treasure Land Adventure finished development first, Treasure managed to complete Gunstar Heroes quickly enough to release a week ahead of the other game so they could claim Gunstar as their true debut game.
Activision president Bobby Kotick has always made clear he's more interested in profits than making games (not that it hasn't worked, as the company went from "struggling with the new times" to "biggest in the business"), to the point that a few games were passed over due to not being Cash Cow Franchise candidates and a few series and studios were killed for failing to meet time and gross expectations.
Gameloft (an offshoot of UbiSoft) makes video game-equivalents of The Mockbuster for mobile platforms like iPhone. When confronted about this in an interview, the CEO of the company said it's just the business of the industry and that people should expect "one new idea" per year.
In Lil' Formers, this is Devastator Jr's sheepish excuse to Devastator Sr (G1) to why he went on show in Bayformers.
Devastator Sr:Junior! What were you thinking?! My own son, parading around with no crotchplate on!
Devastator Jr: C'mon Dad! It was important for the role... and don't you know how much money that movie made?
Devastator Sr: You know who else makes a lot of money? HOOKERS! But they don't brag about what they did to get it!
Ian MacDonald stated that this was his ultimate goal behind doing Bruno the Bandit, and that his utter failure to monetize the comic after eleven years was the main reason he gave up.
This was the reason Christian Weston Chandler created Sonichu, holding the belief that this character would become a big hit. The Trolls were quick to tell him that's not how things work.
1960's crooner Johnny Mathis confessed he did the famous theme song to Trans Lux's The Mighty Hercules cartoon series purely for the cash plus residuals; nothin' wrong with that!
This was originally the reason why John de Lancie took the role of Discord in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. He had completely forgotten about the role, recorded months earlier, by the time the fan mail started pouring in. Upon interacting with the fanbase, he changed his mind somewhat, and not only expressed willingness to reprise his role, but also brought his own connections and resources to help make a documentary about the fans (though he was not happy when 4chan uploaded said film onto The Pirate Bay just to spite him, and the combination of that plus a horrible convention experience - where he and the other actors didn't get paid - led him to break off contact again).
This seems to be the case with Harry Shearer. He's been highly critical of the show's quality, he has never done a DVD Commentary, and the actors (himself included) are some of the highest paid in animation.
This may be true for most of the cast, given their infamous salary disputes with Fox over the decades that led to them being the highest-paid voice actors on TV. Matt Groening, despite his producer credit, always sided with the actors during these fights... until Fox threatened to cancel the show outright unless the actors took a pay cut.
This is part of the reason Matt Groening made Simpsons at all. Fox originally approached him about doing a cartoon version of his indy comic Life in Hell, but then at the last minute he learned that Fox was planning to make him sign away all of his rights to the series (this included giving Fox executives creative control over the original comic itself). Unwilling to give up Life In Hell, but still wanting that sweet Hollywood money, Matt hastily sketched a family based heavily upon his own (including the names). The rest is history.