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Johnny Depp and Others Take a Paycut for Passion Projects

Topics: Negotiation

Put Johnny Depp’s name on a movie and it’s bound to make a buck at the box office. To date, his films have racked up $6,088,674,212 worldwide and that’s just his starring roles. Even Dark Shadows, which was considered a box office bust brought in $236,527,149 worldwide.

Still, even Johnny doesn’t always get his asking price when he signs on to a new picture. Recently, his salary struggles made the news when the producers of the FBI biopic Black Mass asked him to cut his $20 million salary in half. Rather than take the cut, sources in the know say Johnny walked away from the movie.

News stories make Depp look like the bad guy for balking at $10 but if you take a few zeros off the number and set the scene in corporate America, it’s a different story. Imagine if you negotiated a new job for $100,000 a year, passed on another opportunity, then learned that you had to cut that number in half. Chances are, you’d walk. . . straight to a lawyer for breach of contract.


Do You Know What You're Worth?

The producers of Black Mass, however, had past behavior in their favor. Last year, Depp agreed to slash his Lone Ranger salary by 20% to keep the movie on track. Hollywood Reporter says it’s not the first time he’s agreed take a paycut for a project he’s passionate about.

In 2011, Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell asked the school district to cut his salary from $288,241 to $31,000 during the final three years of his term. He said he did it so his pet projects wouldn’t be slashed due to education budget cuts.

Then there’s Deborah Mayer. She left a lucrative job in the entertainment industry for a menial job at a travel agency. Why? Because at 37, she decided it was important to work for love rather than money and what she loved was travel. She answered phones for half the pay and learned all she could about the business before forming her own company. Now she runs Shop Around Tours, a travel company that books luxury shopping trips to Italy.

What all three of these people have discovered is that sometimes its worth it to work for less. You can do it for the good of the cause. You can do it to get your foot in the door of an amazing company. You might have to do it if you want to switch careers. Then, instead of adding up the dollars at the end of the week, you tally up the worth of the experience.

What Do You Think?

Under what circumstances would you be willing to take a 50% pay cut? Let us know in the comment section.

More From Payscale

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If You Think CEOs’ Salaries Are Outrageous, Look at Their Perks

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

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