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Why Leo DiCaprio Will Still Make Big Money, Despite Taking "Long, Long Break" From Movies

Leonardo DiCaprio Sara De Boer/startraksphoto.com

Leo DiCaprio is taking a break from work, which has me wondering: How much money does someone make just sitting around being Leo? Are his residuals huge?
—Jewel, New Hampshire, via Twitter

A-list dollars have a habit of disappearing as soon as they show up in a star's bank account. Thanks to big paychecks and even bigger back-end deals, the Titanic star may technically never have to work again...but he actually does, if he wants to keep himself in yachts and supermodels.

Just how much is a Leonardo DiCaprio-level star making just sitting around being amazing? Or, as Leo put it, taking "a long, long break?"

The numbers, they are obscene:

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First, know this: Most stars don't survive on residuals, the relatively small amount of ongoing pay dictated by the Screen Actors Guild.  

"I've seen residual checks that are $40,000 for a first-time payment, all the way down to a check from an episode of Saturday Night Live done 20 years ago, and that amount was 23 cents," celebrity accountant Andrew B. Blackman of the firm Schulman Lobel tells me.

Instead, most of the cash flowing into a DiCaprio-style bank account comes from "participation" deals--money skimmed off of box-office gross or profit. And that can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year...or more.

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Leonardo DiCaprio David Tonnessen, PacificCoastNews.com

Just how much are we talking?

Well, put it this way: One Oscar-winning Hollywood writer pulls in roughly $250,000 a year, just from participation deals from his decades-long career. And he isn't even an on-screen talent. DiCaprio is said to have made $59 million--$59,000,000--from Inception alone, thanks to salary, back-end pay and a cut from DVDs and rentals.

Then there are the box-office bonuses.

Even second-tier stars can score those these days: We're talking six or seven figures, automatically paid, once a star's film hits a certain number at the box office. DiCaprio's films from the past 2 years include, among others, Django Unchained, which is close to hitting $140 million in U.S. box office; Inception, which raked in $293 million; and Shutter Island, which grossed $128 million. 

Supposing that the actor scored a million-dollar box office bonus for each flick--well within imagination and probably a conservative figure--that's another $3 million in icing that the actor has banked since 2010.

And we haven't even gotten to the eight-figure salaries that DiCaprio scored in the early aughts, when he was charging $20 million apiece for The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can, The Departed or Blood Diamond. If he's smart, he's invested a piece of that cash and is living on at least some of the interest.

In other words, fret not for Leo. He may be face a life of joblessness for the next few years, but for an A-lister, joblessness never equals homelessness.

See pics of Leo in all his best movies 

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