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16 Actors Who Made Serious Cash From Playing One Character

Often, to build up a career and be able to make seriously high amounts in Hollywood, you have to play several beloved characters throughout a long-running career that sees your varied acting skills take you to the top of the tree.

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However, with movies tending to become franchises now and a desire to see our favorite characters return, film and TV stars can make an awful lot of money just by playing one character. Here we look at 16 who made the most from their single roles.


16. Robert Pattinson - Edward Cullen - $30m

Remember a few years ago when mopey, pale-skinned vampires were all the rage? Yeah, that was partly down to Robert Pattinson's portrayal of sparkly vampire Edward Cullen in the Twilight movie franchise.

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Extremely popular, there were five films in total that made Pattinson very, very rich but he has since distanced himself from the character.


15. Harrison Ford - Han Solo - $35m

Harrison Ford played one of the most iconic characters of cinematic history in Star Wars when he donned the leather jacket of Han Solo. However, he didn't make much money from the original trilogy as the first film was not expected to do well.

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As such most of this money comes from the Disney reboot of the franchise and just one film in The Force Awakens. 


=13. Jack Nicholson - The Joker - $50m

Nicholson only played the Joker once in Tim Burton's dark and gritty Batman film and actually agreed on pay of around $6m which was low for a star of his caliber at the time. Why? Well, he asked for points on the movie rather than cash and at the time superhero films weren't in vogue.

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As such, it was a risky but brilliant move by Nicholson who ended up making around $44m from film profits alone.


=13. Rupert Grint - Ronald Weasley - $50m

The global phenomenon that is the Harry Potter franchise is liked a financial steam train that is practically guaranteed to pick up money and so playing the recurring character in 8 films, Ruper Grint picked up a cool $50m for his work.

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He's not done a great deal in front of the screen since then but if you're worth $50m, why would you?


12. Daniel Craig - James Bond - $59m

Despite him not exactly loving the role, Craig has cleaned up as the British super spy in the four films he has been in so far and is technically contracted for a fifth although it seems unlikely that he will make another, if so though, he may well add to that tasty $59m

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It is little wonder then that many actors are interested in playing the role after Craig.


=10. Tom Hanks - Forrest Gump - $60m

Like Nicholson before him in Batman, Hanks didn't get paid a lot of money up front but rather took a percentage of box office profits from Forrest Gump which was an incredibly smart move as it became an iconic film that also gave Hanks the 1994 Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, a year after winning in the same category for Philadelphia.

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As such, Hanks got a serious payday for just one role.


=10. Emma Watson - Hermione Granger - $60m

Another Harry Potter actor to make our list, Watson made considerably more than Rupert Grint but far less than Harry Potter himself. Not content to sit back on her laurels after taking home that much cash early on in her career, Watson made $3m upfront from Disney's Beauty and The Beast.

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She has also been in a few other films since Harry Potter, but none have been as commercially successful.


9. Hugh Jackman - Wolverine - $65m

Playing the iconic X-Men character Wolverine in 7 films (either as an ensemble part or a cameo - and once as a lead in Logan) Hugh Jackman is synonymous with his character, and as such, he has taken home bags of cash for the portrayal.

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With Logan seemingly the last time he puts on the tank top of Wolverine, it seems unlikely he will make any more out of it, but stranger things have happened.


8. Cast of Friends - $88m Each

The first ensemble cast in TV history to band together and effectively unionize over their pay packets, they would negotiate together to make sure they were all getting paid the same at the highest possible rate.

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Each of the actors made a total of $10 million for seasons 1 through 6, then $36 million for seasons 7 and 8, and a whopping $42 million for the final two seasons. 


7. Ashton Kutcher - Walden Schmidt - $96m

Not that many people watched Ashton Kutcher in Two and A Half Men, or, at least, not enough to justify his massive pay but since he stepped in for Charlie Sheen who was the highest paid actor on TV at the time of his departure the producers were in a bit of a bind and also wanted to prove a point.

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Kutcher made $24 million in each of his four years on the show which is considerably more than any of his films.


6. Cast of The Big Bang Theory - $98m Each

Inspired by the Friends cast before them, the main trio of Jim Parsons (Sheldon), Kaley Cuoco (Penny), and Johnny Galecki (Leonard) started out making $60,000 per episode for the show’s first three seasons going on to become $200,000 for season 4, and $250,000 for seasons 5 through 7 and then $1m for series 8 through 10.

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However, they have recently taken pay cuts in order to include all other members of the main cast so that the whole gang can earn the same amount.


5. Daniel Radcliffe - Harry Potter - $110m

Playing the title character of one of the biggest franchises ever to grace the planet means that, after 8 films, you've probably amassed a fair bit of cash and it certainly seems that is what Daniel Radcliffe has done as he earned almost double of any of the other cast members on the films

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Still in film and theater, Radcliffe affirms he hasn't touched any of this money since he is still working.


4. Tom Cruise - Ethan Hunt - $150m

Tom Cruise was one of Hollywood's highest paid actors when he took on the role of Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible series, so he was always going to make bug bucks on it, but most of this money comes from his share of Mission: Impossible profits than from a salary per se.

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With around 30% of profits from each of the films he does, the series will soon be releasing its sixth film and shows no signs of slowing down.


3. Charlie Sheen - Charlie Harper - $288m

For some reason, people loved Charlie Sheen in Two and A Half Men and the actor made an estimated $48 million per year during his six years in the CBS sitcom, but he was never able to garner the same sort of fees again after he lost his job due to drug and anger issues.

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The actor seems to have cleaned up his act now but, understandably, producers are still wary of paying such high fees for such an unpredictable character but that doesn't prove it can't be done as others on this lit will prove.


2. Johnny Depp - Captain Jack Sparrow - $350m

The swashbuckling drunkard that Johnny Depp plays in the 5 Pirates of The Carribean films is a fan favorite, and much of their success is down to the character alone (let's be honest, they're not great films).

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However, with the franchise faltering in recent years and Disney now owning Marvel and Star Wars cinematic universes, Depp may not get the chance to add to his wealth via the means of Jack Sparrow.


1. Robert Downey Jr. - Tony Stark - $430m

It seems absurd to say it now, but Downey Jr's career was flailing before he got the role of Tony Stark in the first Iron Man film as he had previously had issues with drug abuse, but his pitch-perfect portrayal of the swaggering billionaire was so transformative that he went from making $500,000 for the first Iron Man  to a $10 million salary for Iron Man 2, and got as much as $50 million apiece to act in Avengers and Iron Man 3.

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Appearing in the new Spider-Man film as the character and the Avenger's sequels, this has all added up very nicely for RDJ.

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