Did Leo Really Make $50 Million-Plus for Inception?

Nobody's making money like DiCaprio these days, not even Kristen Stewart, Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise

By Leslie Gornstein Aug 21, 2010 3:01 PMTags
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Is it true that Leonardo DiCaprio earned $50 million for Inception? Aren't stars hurting from the recession at all?
—Blake, via the inbox

Of course they are! Look at poor, poor Julia Roberts, who made only a reported $10 million to eat all that pizza for Eat Pray Love. Or Kristen Stewart, who supposedly earned a paltry $12.5 million for each part of Breaking Dawn. And oh, one A-lister has reportedly taken a huge pay cut:

And that's Tom Cruise. The actor reportedly has accepted a scaled-down salary for an upcoming fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise.

So then where does DiCaprio's obscene haul for Inception fit into all this? It's more like a fluke, if the facts are to be believed.

Inception has earned about $570 million so far and, per Forbes,  is expected by analysts to bank closer to $750 million before it's all over. DiCaprio has earned more than $50 million of that—so far; the cash is still piling up over at his place—not by a simple, traditional paycheck, but with a much rarer arrangement.

Because the film was considered a risky venture by financiers, DiCaprio agreed to take an up-front pay cut, much like Cruise will do. But unlike Cruise, who will get additional back-end pay once the film breaks even, DiCaprio cut himself a sweet deal called "first-dollar gross."

In plain language, that means that, once DiCaprio earned back his advance, he started raking in cash with every ticket sold, regardless of whether the film ever broke even on its $160 million budget.

First-dollar gross used to be more common, back when men were men and superstars could demand outrageous perks from studios. Nowadays it's harder to come by, meaning that even your megastars like Kristen Stewart can't ask for such things.

According to Forbes, DiCaprio's Inception haul marks his biggest payday yet. Maybe he can foot the bill next time he and Roberts do lunch.