Apparently being stuck on a deserted island is a lucrative business, because Gilligan made bank. According to websites that track celebrity wealth, Bob Denver who portrayed the hapless yet hilarious buffoon was worth millions at the time of his death.
Gilligan’s Island was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s. It’s charming cast of characters and wacky high-jinks were good for a laugh. Even the more far-fetched episodes were funny, even if it a bit over-the-top. But the show was able to stay connected to its fans over its 96 episode run mostly because of its characters. And that popularity grew exploded after networks syndicated the show.
Everyone had their favorite character. But the show wouldn’t have worked without its heart, Gilligan, portrayed by Bob Denver. In fact, Denver’s persona was so popular, producers tried to recreate it in the now forgotten show Dusty’s Trail. The show, set in the 1800s, follows a motley group of people who get lost crossing the country. Denver plays the dufus sidekick to the stern-yet-lovable stagecoach driver. Sound familiar? Producers pulled the show fast because of bad ratings, and it’s mostly forgotten now. But it goes to show how in demand Denver was at the time.
So, it should be no surprise that he did quite well for himself during those years financially. He’d continue to work in some films and television later in his life. However, during his career he was able to bank an impressive $20 million estate, according to The Richest, a website that track’s celebrity net worth.
Denver died in 2005, but his family likely still reels in residual checks for the Gilligan’s Island re-runs.
Show Creator Didn’t Want Bob Denver as Gilligan
Denver was beloved for his role of Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. So, when he Schwartz was looking for his Gilligan, he was worried Denver would outshine the rest of the cast.
“From time to time, a co-star, a ‘second banana,’ actually becomes more important on a series than the actual star of the show,” he wrote in Inside Gilligan’s Island. “This happened with the Fonz on Happy Days, with Mr. Spock on Star Trek, and with Bob Denver on Dobie Gillis. Audience research and fan mail clearly indicated there were thousands of Bob Denver fans.”
But Denver really wanted the role of Gilligan and he got his talent agent to set up some meetings with Schwartz. Those went well and Schwartz realized Denver was the right man for the role. That’s pretty obvious considering the show’s massive success.
But Schwartz also notes in the book that Denver doesn’t get enough credit for his talent as an actor. Fans are quick to believe Denver is a dope just like Gilligan. Nope, Schwartz says, that’s not even close.
“Bob himself is very quiet by nature, extremely bright, and very well-read. In fact, he had been a teacher before becoming an actor. But it’s amazing how truly gifted performers can give a flawless characterization in a role that’s so counter to their own personality.”