People do not have to talk to do well in movies. Of course, for years, before talkies, actors did not talk at all. Directors carried the notion that less is more in dialogue over into films after dialogue could be heard. In some movies made by film acting and directing giant Clint Eastwood, he says very little. Another major American actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, appeared as Hugh Glass in 2015’s “The Revenant” and is another example. With very few lines of speech, he managed to carry the two-and-a-half-hour film and win the Academy Award for Best Actor. DiCaprio is famous for dialogue from other films, like “The Aviator.”
Saying little, however, does not prevent many of today’s most high-profile acting talent from collecting massive amounts of money. In some cases, Hollywood has doled out as much as $10,000 per word to its favored actors.
To determine the actor getting paid the most per word, 24/7 Tempo reviewed salary data and word counts for about 2,000 movies. Actors who made it to the level of finalists were ranked by the ratio of their total earnings to the number of words of dialogue written for their character or characters in a given screenplay.
The actor paid the most to say the least was Jack Nicholson as the Joker in “Batman.” He received $166,101 per word for a total of 585 words. The 1989 film has an IMDb user rating of 7.6/10
Data on word count came from “The Largest Ever Analysis of Film Dialogue by Gender,” a project by Hannah Anderson and Matt Daniels hosted on the website The Pudding, as well as analysis by 24/7 Tempo.
Word counts reflect dialogue in a film’s screenplay and may not be representative of the actual word count in a film’s theatrical version. Only roles in which actors speak fewer than 2,000 words were considered.
Actors for whom reliable salary and word count data could not be located were not considered. As a result, actors who would have likely made the list were excluded, such as Matt Damon for the role of Jason Bourne in 2016’s “Jason Bourne,” Henry Cavill as Superman in 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and Scarlett Johansson for the role of the Female in 2013’s “Under the Skin.”