Actors Who Are Poorer Than You Thought

Hollywood is all about glamour, and part of that image is money and the lifestyle it affords — and there is a lot of money out there for actors. According to Forbes, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson earned nearly $90 million in 2019 alone, while Robert Downey Jr. earned about $55 million from his work on a single film (Avengers: Endgame). Even actors who aren't quite so famous can do pretty well for themselves — union scale for a day's work on a television show, for example, is $1,005

So it's easy to assume that an actor's fame is commensurate with their personal wealth when even the lower-tier movie and television stars are making millions of dollars a year. And yet, in the cases of the actors on this list, you'd be wrong. While none of them are poor by any real standard, they're surprisingly poor compared to the money they've made over the courses of their careers. While it should be noted that getting an accurate net worth on a celebrity involves a lot of guesswork and estimating, there's plenty of public information indicating that the following actors are much poorer than you thought.

Lindsay Lohan (net worth: $800,000)

The time when Lindsay Lohan was the hottest young star in the world seems like the distant past, but according to IMDB, it was only the early 2000s when she was getting paid $7.5 million per film for projects like Herbie Fully Loaded, Just My Luck, and Georgia Rule. So it's not too surprising that the website SheKnows reports that as of 2004, the then-18-year old had a net worth of more than $30 million. What is surprising is that in 2020, Celebrity Net Worth estimated her fortune at just $800,000. That would seem like a lot of money to plenty of people, of course, but it's not what you think of when you think of a movie star who was once paid $1 million to pose for Playboy Magazine

Of course, if you've been paying attention, it's pretty obvious where Lohan's money went. As Business Insider reported way back in 2010, the actress had been to rehab three times by the age of 23 and found it difficult to get acting work because she was impossible to insure as a result of her drug problems (and spending $5,000 a week on drugs will wear out even the biggest bank account). Add to that the declining paychecks for the work she could get (she was paid scale — just $6,480 — for her work on The Canyons in 2013), and you have a recipe for financial disaster on an epic scale.

Chris Tucker (net worth: $5 million)

When both The Motley Fool and Forbes write an entire article about your spectacular financial meltdown, you know mistakes were made. A net worth of $5 million (according to Celebrity Net Worth) certainly isn't nothing, but considering that Chris Tucker was once one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood (he got $25 million for Rush Hour 3 alone, according to IMDB), it's a surprisingly low number, even when you take into account his apparent lack of interest in working. Since his 1998 break into megastardom with 1998's Rush Hour, Tucker has only appeared in four films: Rush Hour 2, Rush Hour 3, Silver Linings Playbook, and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. 

So what happened to all the money? Tax problems and "poor accounting and business management" resulted in a whopping $14 million fine from the IRS. (He eventually settled for an undisclosed amount.) Those problems sparked a domino effect: Yahoo! reports that Tucker had a $6 million home foreclosed on as well. Having your money mismanaged by so-called professionals can happen to anybody, and Tucker's fortunes may be on the upswing again if the rumors about a fourth Rush Hour film turn out to be true, though whether he can match that $25 million salary remains to be seen.

Gary Busey (net worth: $500,000)

Gary Busey has been a phenomenally successful actor. While never a superstar, over the course of five decades, he's compiled nearly 200 acting roles and has rarely gone more than a year without a job. And some of those credits were in some pretty successful films, movies like Under Siege and Point Break. And yet, according to Celebrity Net Worth, Busey is worth just $500,000. So what happened? 

As with most people's stories, Busey's is complicated. He was once regarded as a major leading man and was nominated for an Oscar for his work in The Buddy Holly Story in 1978. But in 1988, he suffered a horrific motorcycle accident that resulted in brain injuries — injuries that changed his behavior in ways that impacted his career. 

As The Hollywood Reporter notes, Busey's actor son, Jake, says his father's inability to censor his thoughts has made it harder for both of them: "The same Busey name that helped me 30 years ago has become a scorpion's tail because it's associated with insanity," he says. Busey's injury also exacerbated an existing drug habit, and the combination of no impulse control, drugs, and a lack of high-paying jobs led to a 2012 bankruptcy filing in which he listed just $50,000 in assets.

Nicolas Cage (net worth: $25 million)

Nicolas Cage's slide into the video-on-demand category of film has been one of the more surprising career transformations of the modern age. Cage was once considered an A-list talent, an actor who could do serious work (Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation) as well as play a believable action star (Con Air, The Rock). His net worth of $25 million (according to Celebrity Net Worth) is a lot of money, but considering the fact that according to CNBC, Cage was worth as much as $150 million at one point and (per IMDB) earned as much as $20 million for work on a single film, that number seems awfully low. 

The figure seems tiny until you start reading about Cage's insane shopping spree, in which he purchased no fewer than 15 homes, other properties, and collectibles like a rare Superman comic book and a dinosaur skull. Spending like that will erode any fortune, and when Cage came up short on the absolutely massive property tax bills, foreclosures began and he had to scramble to stay solvent. While he's become a bit of an Internet meme for the slew of low-budget and sketchy films he's appeared in over the last decade, that hustle is why he's rebuilt at least a portion of his former fortune.

Stephen Baldwin (net worth: $500,000)

As part of Long Island's Baldwin acting family, Stephen Baldwin has appeared in some big movies — films like Born on the Fourth of July and The Usual Suspects – and, yes, a lot of not-so-big movies. Still, he's worked as a well-known actor for decades, so you might imagine he'd be worth a bit more than the $500,000 Celebrity Net Worth estimates. That is, until you factor in the fact that Baldwin got into a lot of tax and credit card trouble a few years ago. 

After falling behind on his mortgage payments on his million-dollar Long Island home, Baldwin tried to sell, and, according to The Blast, wound up defaulting on the $781,000 loan instead. At the same time, the IRS came after him for basically not paying taxes for a couple of years, slapping a $407,000 lien on the actor. 

Baldwin has spent the last few years cleaning up his finances. The house was auctioned off, and Baldwin and his wife moved into a "small apartment in Queens" to reduce expenses. Baldwin got the lien lifted a few years ago, but all that drama has had a negative effect on his net worth. All the same, the actor has four projects listed on IMDB this year, so he might be on his way to being a millionaire again.

Wesley Snipes (net worth: $10 million)

Wesley Snipes once again demonstrates the difference between celebrities and regular folks, because $10 million would mean early retirement for most of us. But Snipes, who was once a top-line action star and was once paid $13 million for Blade: Trinity alone (according to IMDB) should be worth a whole lot more. What happened? In a nutshell, Snipes is one of the many extremely wealthy people who thought he could get away with not paying his taxes. 

As Forbes reported in 2018, Snipes was indicted in 2006 on tax fraud in the form of $12 million in refunds he illegally claimed, not to mention failing to file tax returns for several years. His legal team claimed he was the victim of terrible advice but comically failed to mount any sort of defense when the case went to trial, while the IRS proved he'd earned about $40 million between 1999 and 2004. Yep, Snipes wound up in jail on tax evasion charges — but just because you go to jail doesn't mean you stop owing the IRS, so Snipes still had to repay his back taxes when he got out in 2013. He managed, after a few more years in court, to get his debt reduced from $23 million to $9.5 million, but that's still gotta hurt your bottom line, especially when you're not the A-Lister you once were.

Kelly Rutherford (net worth: $1 million)

In most cases of actors and other celebrities dealing with money troubles, there's a delicious schadenfreude involved: most of these folks had opportunities beyond what most of us get, and watching them fritter it all away is kind of fun, sometimes. Rutherford's story isn't one of reckless spending and inflated ego, though. The reason the star of Gossip Girl and Melrose Place is estimated to be only worth $1 million today (as pegged by Celebrity Net Worth) is a devastating divorce and custody battle. 

Divorce is pretty much the main destroyer of wealth in the modern age, after all, and Rutherford's was particularly nasty. In addition to legal fees to her attorneys, Page Six reported that Rutherford had to spend enormous amounts of money flying back and forth to Monaco just to see her children after her estranged husband moved them there, making 70 trips in just two years. This also impaired her ability to work, since she was traveling all the time. The exorbitant costs of divorce and custody battles plus no work forced Rutherford to declare bankruptcy in 2013. With that in mind, it's kind of impressive that she's clawed her way back to millionaire status.

Sinbad (net worth: $4 million)

Depending on your age, you may or may not remember Sinbad, but the comedian was once a pretty big deal. He had his own TV show at one point and starred in plenty of movies, all while maintaining a solid stand-up comedy career — all of which should leave him an incredibly wealthy man. However, Celebrity Net Worth estimates he's worth about $4 million, which is nothing to sneeze at, but considering that there was a point in the mid-1990s when Sinbad seemed to be everywhere, it's a surprisingly low number. 

Sinbad has been pretty honest about what happened to his money. In 2013, he did an interview with Huffpost Live and admitted that he tried to keep his business interests afloat with his own money, assuming he'd get a big movie role to cover the losses — a job offer that never came. As he struggled to pay salaries and equipment fees, he fell behind on his taxes and eventually had to declare bankruptcy ... twice. A series of medical crises followed, including spinal fusion surgery in 2015, which further slowed his ability to work while putting pressure on his finances. Sinbad has done some sporadic television in recent years, including a regular role on the now-canceled FOX series Rel, which has allowed him to rebuild his fortune to a certain extent.

Teri Polo (net worth: negative $800,000)

You probably know Teri Polo best from the Meet the Parents films, which, together, grossed over $1 billion worldwide. A former model, Polo has appeared in over 100 other movies and TV shows in a career lasting nearly four decades. Yet, she fell into enormous debt and filed for bankruptcy in 2014, and today, Celebrity Net Worth her net worth to be negative $800,000 — meaning her debts far exceed her assets. 

Huffpost reported that when she filed for bankruptcy, she claimed to have less then $50,000 to her name with debts (mainly back taxes) of about $1 million. She was also being sued by her landlord when she stopped paying rent with almost a year to go on her lease, allegedly leaving her apartment in a disgusting and disastrous state, which added to her legal and financial woes, although he dropped the suit when her bankruptcy filing made it difficult to make a financial claim against her. Polo continues to work, but it looks like most of her salaries are going toward paying off that tax debt, for the moment.

Norm Macdonald (net worth: $1.5 million)

Norm MacDonald is widely considered to be a legend in the world of stand-up comedy. For nearly 30 years, he's been one of the most recognizable names in the business, appearing in countless TV shows and films as well as doing comedy specials and voice work, all while touring with his stand-up act. Sure, he's always been a bit controversial, and he's gotten himself into hot water a few times, but it hasn't slowed down his career — in fact, according to IGN, MacDonald was one of television's highest-paid performers as recently as 2018. 

So how come Celebrity Net Worth estimates Macdonald's fortune at just $1.5 million? There's a one-word answer: Gambling. MacDonald is famous for his love of gambling, and as Marc Maron recounts in his book Waiting for the Punch, the actor once said point-blank, "I went broke a few times when I actually had lots of money. With gambling. And I mean broke. Dead broke." In fact, Forbes reports that MacDonald was once so desperate to stop gambling that he actually threw away $60,000. While that kind of decision-making certainly helped reduce his net worth, MacDonald is at least self-aware, quipping in the same interview, "When you lose money gambling, people don't feel sorry for you, they get angry, as if you were going to give them the money or something."

Randy Quaid (net worth: negative $1 million)

If you've lost track of Randy Quaid in recent times, don't feel too bad — he seems to have lost track of himself. Best-known for his roles in National Lampoon's Vacation and Independence Day, Quaid was once one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood. Between 1971 and 2009, he appeared in nearly 120 films and television shows. Along the way, he picked up some pretty hefty paydays according to IMDB – including $1 million for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and $2.25 million for Kingpin – and as recently as 2006, he was able to command $1 million to appear in Goya's Ghosts

Nevertheless, today, Celebrity Net Worth estimates Quaid's fortune at negative $1 million despite these big paydays, largely due to a series of bizarre actions taken by Quaid and his wife, Evi. As The Washington Post reported, the Quaids claim they have been targeted by a shadowy organization they call "The Hollywood Star Whackers," a shadowy group they say has killed many celebrities, including Heath Ledger. Along they way, they've skipped out on huge bills, squatted in properties they didn't own, and tried to live in Canada illegally. While the Quaids have been relatively quiet for a few years, and (per are living back living in Los Angeles, it's been a rough ride, one which has apparently cost Quaid all of his money.