Actor Harrison Ford will take to the big screen in a few weeks in a film that’s undoubtedly one of the most anticipated of his career. But while the 80-year-old veteran actor is one of the most sought-after in the craft, fans are surprised to learn how little he earned in his first films, especially when compared to the enormous paycheck he received for fourth Indiana Jones movie.
Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny is the fifth installment of the Indy Jones franchise. As if imitating life, the film, directed by James Mangold, catches up to Indy as he finds himself in a new era nearing retirement. The famed archeologist is challenged by attempting to find his place in a world that seems to have moved on without him. But when an old rival returns, Indy’s in his element as he picks up his iconic whip and dons his trademark hat on his way to protect a powerful ancient artifact from getting to those who would use it for evil.
The latest Indy adventure, Dial of Destiny, was co-written by director James Mangold, Jez Butterworth, John Henry Butterworth, and David Koepp and stars Harrison Ford as the daredevil archeologist Indiana Jones, Karen Allen as Marion, Antonio Banderas, Mads Mikkelsen as Ethann Isidore, Boyd Holbrook, and Toby Jones. Both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg worked on the film in the role of executive producer. It’s the first Indy movie to be distributed by Walt Disney Pictures following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. in 2012, and AI was used in the new Indy movie to look back in time when a young Indiana Jones was just getting his start.
The brand-new Indiana Jones adventure is said to be the final one in the franchise that began in 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark. Three years later, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) made its theatrical debut, paving the way for two more films–Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).
Throughout his more than 50-year career in Hollywood, actor Harrison Ford has been known for fully embracing the characters he embodies. Fans can’t think of Indy or Star Wars’ Han Solo without Ford’s good looks and iconic voice also coming to mind. Over the years, Ford has abandoned the role of an actor playing the role of various characters to wholly become the characters themselves.
The first offer Ford received to play the role of the titular archeologist and professor came with a $5.9 million paycheck. But despite the wild success of the first film and Ford’s growing popularity in Hollywood and with fans, Ford took a pay cut to star in the second Indy film, bringing in only $4.5 million for that role. His compensation for The Last Crusade wasn’t much better at $4.9 million, even though the franchise had already become one of the most famous cult classics in the history of the cinema, amassing worldwide fame and critical acclaim. And in 2007, Ford retired from acting, leaving many to believe that the Indy film series had played out.
But Paramount execs had other plans, and–knowing that without Ford, there’d be no Indy–they successfully lured the actor away from retirement to star in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. To show their gratitude for his willingness to return to the franchise, Paramount rewarded Ford with a salary 13 times what he made in the previous film. From the third film to the fourth film in the series, Ford increased his earnings by more than $60 million, with a total payout from the studio of $65 million for channeling his inner Indy.
Ford had better luck with George Lucas and Lucasfilm than he had with Paramount when he signed on to play the iconic smuggler named Han Solo. Though the actor made far less in his first three Star Wars films than he did in his first Indy films, Lucasfilm never asked Ford to take a pay cut. When George Lucas began the work of making his first Star Wars film in 1973, he wasn’t sure how moviegoers would respond to it. At the time, Harrison Ford was a relatively unknown name in Hollywood, so compensation for his iconic role in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) only netted him about $10,000.
Three years later, Lucasfilm was more confident in the story of the Star Wars saga, and the studio multiplied his salary from the first film by ten to offer Ford $100,000 to reprise his role as Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). As Star Wars fandom exploded, a third film was inevitable, and so were the chances that Ford’s salary would be commensurate with the success of the saga. For his role in The Return of the Jedi (1983), Lucasfilm wrote Ford a check for $500,000.
Shockingly, though, despite the wild success of each Indy movie and the massive anticipation of the fifth and final film, old habits die hard, and Ford reportedly took a $40 million pay cut to reprise the iconic role one last time, earning only $25 million for lending his talents to Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny, set to debut in theaters, beginning June 30th.