17 Actors Who Admitted To Only Taking A Role For The Money

There's no shame in taking a job just because you need or want the paycheck. Even people in creative fields can't make every career decision based on what they're most passionate about.

Here are 17 actors who admitted to only taking a role for the paycheck:

1.At the Shazam! Fury of the Gods premiere, Rachel Zegler told the Hollywood Reporter that she accepted the role of Anthea because she "needed a job."

closeup of Rachel as Anthea
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

"I am being so serious," she continued. "The reality was, we were in the middle of a pandemic and I was not working. I could not get a job for the life of me because West Side Story hadn't come out yet, and it was really hard to book work for me...The fact that they even wanted me to come for a callback and then a chem read and everything in between...I’m so lucky that I got this job."

2.After living large off the success of "Parents Just Don't Understand," Will Smith found himself broke when his next album flopped. He also didn't pay his taxes, so the IRS took a lot of his expensive cars and such. His then-girlfriend encouraged him to network at The Arsenio Hall Show, where he met Benny Medina, who pitched him the idea for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

will and uncle phil on the show
NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

After an impromptu audition at producer Quincy Jones's party, a contract for Will to star in the show was drawn up in the back of a limo that night.


Will couldn't afford a lawyer to help draw up the contract on his own, so Quincy had his assistant get one for him.

3.According to director/co-writer Jerry Zucker, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who's an avid rug collector) was originally offered $30,000 to play First Officer Roger Murdock in Airplane! However, his agent countered $35,000 because it would cover the cost of a fancy rug that Kareem wanted to buy.

closeup of kareem holding a basketball on the show
Paramount / courtesy Everett Collection

Jerry told AV Club, "It was an oriental rug — an art piece, not one to walk on, I don't think — so our initial reaction was, 'That's got to be the best line we've ever heard from an agent.' It was like, 'Boy, this guy's really creative!' But then a couple of weeks later, there's an article in Time with a picture of Kareem standing in front of the oriental rug that he'd bought for $35,000 after we'd paid him."

4.Before his original MCU character, the AI voice Jarvis, evolved into Vision, Paul Bettany felt "like a pirate" or a robber while recording his lines for the Iron Man movies because he'd "walk in, [then] say some lines on a piece of paper for two hours, and then they [gave him] a bag of money." At that point, he hadn't even seen any of his own Marvel movies.

closeup of paul
Marvel / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

In 2012, he told Digital Spy, "I sort of feel guilty, because at least acting can be exhausting, with long hours, but I do nothing! And I've never seen one of them...It's not because of any snobbishness, it's just not my thing. I'm plagued by fanboys who love Jarvis...They come up, and I've got no idea what they're talking about. I've got no idea about Iron Man. I don't get sent the whole script."

Though Vision is obviously a much more demanding role, Paul told Esquire that he'd love to play him forever. He said, "I love Vision. Yes, I'm in."

5.Amanda Seyfried took the role of Sophie Hall in Letters to Juliet because "sometimes, when you want to buy an apartment in Manhattan, you gotta do one or two [romantic comedies]."

amanda in the movie
John P. Johnson/©Summit Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

She told Vanity Fair, "Romantic comedies are great, though, if they're done well. I love watching them; I just don't necessarily love the process of making one. I like a small production company, a small set. That's sometimes really wonderful. But if you’re working with a director who’s trusted by the studio, then you get to be freer. And I'm not bashing studios; it's just a different way of making movies. It's making movies for a different reason: for money. And that's all great. We all want money. I mean, I love my apartment in New York."

6.Billy Bob Thornton played Dan Truman in Armageddon because he "had to pay off a divorce."

billy as dan holding up rocket models
Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

On the 2008 SXSW panel "A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton," he said, "When I did Armageddon, I had to have some money! And my manager said, 'Also, this is the deal: You've gotta do movies like this, because if you don’t, you don’t have your picture on a bus stop now and then, people forget about you.' He said, 'You can do the independent films you love all you want. Every now and then, you’ve gotta be on a bus stop. And that's what's going to afford you the chance to do the movies you want.'"

7.Glenn Close played Irani Rael in Guardians of the Galaxy because it would "afford [her] to go do the other kind of movies that [she] really love[s]."

closeup of glenn in the movie
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

During a Q&A at the 18th Nantucket Film Festival, she said, "It'll be a new experience for me, but practically speaking, it will mean that I can do those smaller movies and it'll be okay."

8.Even after winning her Oscar for Monster's Ball, Halle Berry faced a lack of opportunities compared to her white peers. She still had to accept certain roles out of financial necessity rather than passion because acting is "how [she takes] care of [her] children."

closeup of halle's character
Sony Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

She told Entertainment Weekly, "It's like, okay, that's a film I can't say I'm totally in love with, but this isn't a hobby...But I try to keep that sense of wonder and stay curious. Because being a Black woman, I haven't always had parts that I absolutely love."

9.Bella Thorne "didn't want to audition for Shake It Up!," but her family was "about to live physically on the street if [she] didn't have that role."

bella and her castmates in the movie
Craig Sjodin / Disney Channel via Getty Images

On the Happy Sad Confused podcast, she said, "We were living off Stouffer's coupons, and that's all we had to eat every day. That may not sound like a big deal to everybody, but when you're a single mom raising four kids with debt and you have nothing to your name, it's fucking shitty."

10.When Michael Caine, who played Hoagie Newcombe, was asked if he'd ever seen Jaws: The Revenge, he replied, "No. But I've seen the house it bought for my mum."

closeup of michael's character steering a boat
Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

On The Jonathan Ross Show, he added, "It's fantastic!"

11.Tim Roth played Sepp Blatter in United Passions because he "had two kids in college, so [he] had to make a decision, and it was probably poorly judged, but once you make that decision, you have to follow through."

closeup of tim

In a Reddit AMA, he said, "The film is awful (can't say that because I haven't seen it), I hated doing it, it was the wrong film but for the right reasons...It's a hard road, being in something you don't want to do, but I'm glad I did it for my family."

12.When Stephen Dillane played Stannis Baratheon on Game of Thrones, "money is the main thing [he] got out of it."

stephen on horseback during a scene

He told the Radio Times, "It's an odd situation. There is a kind of etiquette around these things. I think it's extraordinary. I am not dismissing it at all."

He also explained that, while he admired the show for creating such an "amazing phenomenon," he didn't watch much of it himself because he found it "pretty brutal" and "hardcore."

13.Morgan Freeman chalked his Ted 2 role, Patrick Meighan, up to "earning a living."

closeup of morgan

On Today, he said, "If it pays, I enjoy doing it."

14.Eddie Murphy initially turned down the role of Lieutenant T.M. Landry in Best Defense, but he decided to accept it when Paramount "finally came back with an offer of a million dollars for something like a couple weeks' work."

eddie as the lieutenant
Paramount/courtesy Everett

He told Interview, "Now, I want you to tell me a 22-year-old is going to turn down a million dollars for two weeks' work?"

15.On the Inchon set, Laurence Olivier, who spent a lot of time during filming on bedrest because of his arthritis, was mainly motivated to play General Douglas MacArthur so he'd have money for his family to inherit. At one point, he reportedly refused to come out of his tent until a briefcase containing $250,000 in cash was delivered via helicopter.

closeup of laurence during a scene
MGM/UA Entertainment Co. courtesy Everett Collection

He reportedly said, "People ask me why I'm playing in this picture. The answer is simple: Money, dear boy. I'm like a vintage wine. You have to drink me quickly before I turn sour. I'm almost used up now, and I can feel the end coming. That's why I'm taking money now. I've got nothing to leave my family but the money I can make from films. Nothing is beneath me if it pays well. I've earned the right to damn well grab whatever I can in the time I've got left."

16.Jackie Chan, who played Chief Inspector Lee, said that "there was no reason [in making Rush Hour], you just give [him] the money, and [he's] fine."

jackie hanging from a pole in the movie
New Line / courtesy Everett Collection

He told Southern People Weekly, "I have reasons to do each film, I have something to say. Unlike Rush Hour...I dislike Rush Hour the most, but ironically it sold really well in the US and Europe."

17.And finally, after wrapping Spectre, Daniel Craig was so burnt out on playing James Bond that "if [he] did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money." Six years later, he did No Time to Die.

closeup of daniel at a bar
Nicola Dove / © MGM / © Danjaq / Courtesy Everett Collection

After Spectre, he told IndieWire, "I was contracted to do another one. That was all set up. But at the studio, there was a real keenness to get it done as soon as possible. In fact, there was a conversation at one point that went, 'Let's film two movies back to back.' I just went, 'You're out of your fucking minds.' In the nicest possible way. They're just too big."