20 Actors Getting Paid the Most to Say the Least

November 29, 2018 by Steven M. Peters

Source: Courtesy of Bold Films
Some screenplays require actors to go above and beyond when it comes to delivering dialogue. The early films of Woody Allen or just about any episode of “Gilmore Girls” on television feature characters rattling off lines at a mile a minute, hardly stopping to take a breath.

Yet other movies require actors to rely less on dialogue and more on subtle, physical tools to portray their characters. Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent appearance as Hugh Glass in 2015’s “The Revenant” is one such example. With very few lines of speech, he managed to carry the two and a half hour film and win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Saying little, however, does not prevent many of today’s most high-profile acting talent from collecting massive amounts of money. In some cases, Hollywood has doled out as much as $10,000 per word to its favored actors.

Some of these parts simply don’t require much dialogue, such as Johnny Depp’s largely silent character in “Edward Scissorhands.” Others might have more lines than that but collect similarly high pay – if not higher – such as Brad Pitt’s titular performance in “Meet Joe Black.” In both cases, the amount of money paid per word spoken is exceptionally high.

To determine the actors getting paid the most per word, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed salary data and word counts for about 2,000 movies. Actors were ranked by the ratio of their total earnings to the number of words of dialogue written for their character or characters in a given screenplay.

Click here to see the 20 actors getting paid the most to say the least.
Click here to see our methodology.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

20. Angelina Jolie as Jane Smith
> Movie: “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” (2005)
> Total pay: $6,850 per word
> Word count: 1,794
> IMDb user rating: 6.5/10

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

19. Jennifer Aniston as Dr. Julia Harris
> Movie: “Horrible Bosses” (2011)
> Total pay: $7,715 per word
> Word count: 856
> IMDb user rating: 6.9/10

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

18. Johnny Depp as Will Caster
> Movie: “Transcendence” (2014)
> Total pay: $10,633 per word
> Word count: 1,907
> IMDb user rating: 6.3/10

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

17. Brad Pitt as Joe Black
> Movie: “Meet Joe Black” (1998)
> Total pay: $12,204 per word
> Word count: 1,434
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

16. Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne
> Movie: “Batman” (1989)
> Total pay: $12,243 per word
> Word count: 793
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

15. Eddie Murphy as Slide
> Movie: “Tower Heist” (2011)
> Total pay: $12,759 per word
> Word count: 647
> IMDb user rating: 6.2/10

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Source: Courtesy of FilmDistrict

14. Ryan Gosling as Driver
> Movie: “Drive” (2011)
> Total pay: $13,797 per word
> Word count: 116
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

13. Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken
> Movie: “Escape from L.A.” (1996)
> Total pay: $14,216 per word
> Word count: 1,076
> IMDb user rating: 5.7/10

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

12. Keanu Reeves as Neo
> Movie: “The Matrix” (1999)
> Total pay: $14,451 per word
> Word count: 995
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10

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Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

11. Sean Connery as John Patrick Mason
> Movie: “The Rock” (1996)
> Total pay: $14,557 per word
> Word count: 1,261
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

10. Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands
> Movie: “Edward Scissorhands” (1990)
> Total pay: $14,889 per word
> Word count: 185
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

9. Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller
> Movie: “Independence Day” (1996)
> Total pay: $14,969 per word
> Word count: 509
> IMDb user rating: 7.0/10

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

8. Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass
> Movie: “The Revenant” (2015)
> Total pay: $17,422 per word
> Word count: 1,148
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures Corporation

7. Johnny Depp as Frank Tupelo
> Movie: “The Tourist” (2010)
> Total pay: $19,209 per word
> Word count: 1,146
> IMDb user rating: 6.0/10

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures Corporation

6. Angelina Jolie as Elise Clifton-Ward
> Movie: “The Tourist” (2010)
> Total pay: $20,934 per word
> Word count: 999
> IMDb user rating: 6.0/10

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

5. Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley
> Movie: “Alien: Resurrection” (1997)
> Total pay: $23,128 per word
> Word count: 712
> IMDb user rating: 6.2/10

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Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

4. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator
> Movie: “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)
> Total pay: $30,687 per word
> Word count: 861
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

3. Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter
> Movie: “Alice in Wonderland” (2010)
> Total pay: $66,606 per word
> Word count: 661
> IMDb user rating: 6.5/10

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

2. Keanu Reeves as Neo
> Movie: “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003), “The Matrix Revolutions” (2003)
> Total pay: $159,393 per word
> Word count: 638
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10, 6.7/10

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

1. Jack Nicholson as the Joker
> Movie: “Batman” (1989)
> Total pay: $166,101 per word
> Word count: 585
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10

Methodology

To determine the actors getting paid the most per word, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed salary data and word counts for approximately 2,000 movies. Actors were ranked by the ratio of their total earnings to the number of words of dialogue written for their character or characters in a given screenplay. Salary figures came from “George Lucas’s Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success” by Alex Ben Block and Lucy Autrey Wilson as well as a number of additional sources, and were adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data on word count came from “The Largest Ever Analysis of Film Dialogue by Gender,” a project by Hannah Anderson and Matt Daniels hosted on the website The Pudding, as well as analysis by 24/7 Wall St. Word counts reflect dialogue in a film’s screenplay and may not be representative of the actual word count in a film’s theatrical version. Only roles in which actors speak fewer than 2,000 words were considered. Actors for whom reliable salary and word count data could not be located were not considered. As a result, actors who would have likely made the list — Matt Damon for the role of Jason Bourne in 2016’s “Jason Bourne,” Henry Cavill for the role of Superman in 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and Scarlett Johansson for the role of the Female in 2013’s “Under the Skin” — were excluded.