Jonah Hill: When Money Doesn’t Matter

Jonah Hill’s announcement that he made the lowest wage possible in order to be a part of the Wolf of Wall Street rippled across the Internet Tuesday. Not only did he bank minimum buck on a box office hit, he was eager to do so because it meant he could work with his hero, Martin Scorsese. ”They gave me the lowest amount of money possible, that was their offer. And I said, ‘I will sign the paper tonight. Fax me the papers tonight. I want to sign them tonight before they change their mind,’” Hill said on Howard Stern’s show.

“I would sell my house and give [Scorsese] all my money to work for him. This isn’t what you make money for. You do ’22 Jump Street’ or you do other things and you can pay your rent,” the LA Times carried specifics of Hill’s remarks. He estimates that in all, he will take away something like 60 grand before commissions and taxes.

His paltry pay, by Hollywood standards, was the lowest amount allowed by the Screen Actors Guild. Minimum wages for actors and other entertainment industry workers are set by the union, SAG-AFTRA. The union is the combination of two unions, originally formed in the 1930s, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

The mission statement of the union is organize and negotiate work payments, and conditions on behalf of its members. Part of that includes pay, and SAG-AFTRA has established various minimum levels depending on the budget for the film, and how many weeks are spent working.

During the interview, the actor revealed this isn’t the first time he chose a part he wanted over a potential windfall. In order to film Cyrus, he needed to turn down a part in The Hangover. The script of Cyrus appealed to him so much, he determined that was the film he wanted to be a part of.

Hill’s decision is being compared to a move his Wolf co-star Leonardo DiCaprio made in 2011. Before it was released, the concept of Inception was considered a risk, and the studio did not know if audiences would flock to see it. DiCaprio agreed to slash his usual salary, but signed an agreement to receive a share of the proceeds. According to Statistics Brain, DiCaprio eventually took home $59 million from Inception.

Variety is speculating that Hill has signed a similar agreement that will see his payday increase. The Wolf of Wall Street has grossed $129,946,677 so far, earning over $18 million on its opening weekend. With a string of worldwide release dates coming up, that number is likely to grow, especially since the movie has been nominated for five Academy Awards. One of those nominations belongs to Hill for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.”

If Hill did sign a revenue sharing agreement, his $60,000 could grow. However, on Stern’s show, when he was asked, “Did you get a piece of the –” Hill quickly responded before Stern finished asking his question, with a simple, “Nope.” 

DiCaprio’s takeaway from the film was less that his usual as well. Statistics Brain reports he earned $10 million, significantly more than Hill’s decrease, but also half of what DiCaprio was paid for The Great Gatsby.

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