Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix, Cesar Romero, Jared Leto, Barry Keoghan … it’s getting increasingly difficult to keep track of all the actors who have portrayed the Joker onscreen. But one name missing from that list is also the actor who arguably got the most out of playing the villain: Jack Nicholson.
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Nicholson, one of the most popular actors of all time, made an indelible mark as the Joker when he played opposite Michael Keaton’s Batman in the 1989 film of the same name. He also deposited an indelible amount of money into his bank account thanks to the role.
Before Keaton or director Tim Burton even came into the picture, Warner Bros. courted Jack Nicholson to be the villain in the 1989 movie, as Far Out Magazine noted. Warner Bros. execs reportedly capitulated to many of his demands in order to make that happen.
So … just how much money did Jack Nicholson make for playing the part? The amount is probably more absurd than you would realistically guess.
Nicholson’s Massive Paycheck for Playing the Joker
Batman producer Gary Peters started luring in Jack Nicholson to play the Joker as far back as 1986, according to Far Out. He apparently requested a salary of $6 million, even though his minimum guarantee at the time was $10 million.
But, as you probably guessed, there’s more to the story.
In addition to the guaranteed $6 million, Jack Nicholson also sured a cut of the movie’s earnings at the box office and with merchandising.
Far Out Magazine ball-parked his income at around $200 million when adjusted for inflation. But, as the publication notes, he got a lot more out of the deal than just money.
Jack’s Additional Demands
Beyond the financial aspects of the deal, Jack Nicholson also got Warner Bros. to succumb to a series of additional demands.
For example, in the opening credits to Batman, Nicholson’s name appears before Keaton’s.
But even more famously, Jack Nicholson convinced Warner Bros. to limit the shooting of his scenes to just three weeks. He reportedly did that to ensure he could attend as many home games as possible by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Nicholson’s devotion to the basketball team is well-known thanks to shots of him appearing in the crowd. He capitulated on his three-week shooting demand and ultimately worked on the production for more than 100 days.
Regardless, between his salary, the additional income, and getting cast over even Keaton — despite playing a villain — it’s hard to think Nicholson regrets the ludicrous arrangement.