Clint Eastwood Only Got Paid $15,000 for ‘A Fistful of Dollars’

by Joe Rutland

Clint Eastwood is a household name thanks to movies like A Fistful of Dollars, but his payday wasn’t that great. It totaled $15,000. The actor actually was more of a household TV name due to his show Rawhide. He played Rowdy Yates on there. Still, the Sergio Leone film would do a heck of a lot to make his movie stardom grow by leaps and bounds.

$15,000 may seem like a small number now for someone of Eastwood’s stature. But the film came out in 1964. That same amount today is equivalent to nearly $140,000. Not bad, but nowhere near what Eastwood earns for major roles now.

Clint Eastwood Gets Paid Mere Pittance For ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ Compared To Today’s Salaries

Eastwood plays the “Man with No Name” in it and just takes up the screen with his image. Would you believe that his TV gig paid him more than that movie? It’s true. Toss in what his future moviemaking work would lead him to get and it’s a mere pittance. What did that role do? It allowed him to expand into the big screen.

“Somebody sent him (Leone) an episode of Rawhide in Rome,” Eastwood said in a 1990 interview with the Deseret News. Upon hearing that money total, the actor wanted to know why his agent didn’t ask for more. “He said, ‘You’d better take it. They have Rory Calhoun in the wings.’ Well, I’d never seen Europe, so I decided to do it.”

How was it to work alongside Sergio Leone? “It was very easy to handle that. I just did my own thing,” the actor-director said. Producers wondered what in the world Eastwood was doing some of the time. “They said, ‘He’s not doing anything. He’s just standing there with that cigar in his mouth,'” he said. “They didn’t understand the symbolism. Italian producers were used to a lot more dialogue.”

Actor Takes A Chance On Going To Europe And It Ends Up Paying Off

Looking at how successful A Fistful of Dollars would become, it would probably make sense that Eastwood wanted to go to Europe. That he would want to do the movie. Nope. He talks about this in an interview with Parade.

“I said no way,” he said. “But the woman at [his talent agency] William Morris said that she had promised the Rome office that I would at least read [the script for A Fistful of Dollars]. Then I realized the story was Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa, which I was a big fan of. And I was going to make $10,000 to work in Spain and Italy, and I’d never been to Europe. So I figured that I would go and have a good trip. The picture did very well in Europe before it even was released in the United States. It’s another example of how things in life are built around something else.” From this point onward, the movie career of Clint Eastwood would pay him handsomely.