I never think about what big-name actors and filmmakers are worth. I know most of them are loaded but I don’t think about it. I’ll read an occasional Forbes article about who’s the richest or highest paid, but you know me — I try to focus on the purely creative and spiritual, what’s going on inside. At least to the extent that external aesthetic choices are often metaphors for “internal affairs,” so to speak. (Even during my battle with the now-legendary Hispanic Party Elephant, the guy who lived upstairs from my place in North Bergen in ’08 and ’09, it was essentially about sensitivity and spiritualism or rather the lack of as that guy was toxic — he was fucking nowhere.) I know that if I sense that a woman I’ve met is inordinately impressed by financial splendor, I immediately write her off. The important thing is to do what you love and then live with the rewards of that, whatever they may be. Which is what I’m doing, and I’m reasonably happy as a result. Especially since ’06 or thereabouts.
But I have to say there’s something that gets in the way of a film-watching experience when you’ve just read about the salaries and net worth of the actors and filmmakers involved. I’m not saying that knowing this or that actor has an ample income is alienating or off-putting. To me, at least. It’s entirely okay for actors to live well and drive nice cars. But when you’re watching a film about middle-class characters who have jobs and bills to pay and are struggling to some extent without investments or trust funds to lean on, you have to imagine or presume that the actors are drawing from some kind of real-deal, hard-knocks, rough-and-tumble experience to make their performances seem real. Even if the story they’re enacting has little directly to do with money, you still want to imagine that they understand what it’s like to live the life that you and your friends and your parents live. Obviously the vast majority of actors and directors and screenwriters manage to convey that. But knowing that they’re worth $20 or $40 million or $75 million…sorry, but that knowledge becomes part of the absorption process. It colors things a bit.
Money does change things. It makes you calmer and improves your grooming and tends to lead to better diets and more exercise. My Hollywood Elsewhere income is hardly flush but it’s semi-comfortable, and I know that I smile and relax a lot more these days than I did in during my freelance, hand-to-mouth, vodka-and-lemonade existence in the early ’90s, or right after I got divorced. (My married life of the mid to late ’80s was quite comfortable.) I can only imagine the changes that would manifest if I was suddenly worth, oh, $3 or $5 or $10 million. It would be terrific, of course, but with that kind of dough…well, you know. Better shoes, nicer car, more trips, bigger flatscreens, a serious savings account, investments, etc.
When I think back upon Spike Jonze‘s Her, which I saw two days ago, I have to say that my reaction to the content of this film (which is all about love and need and vulnerability) is unaffected by knowing what the creatives are worth, and yet I feel…I want to say this correctly…on some level I feel less of an affinity. I don’t feel that they’re really in my corner or that they get what the general thing is out there, or at least not as fully as I do. On some level I suspect that that they’re a tiny bit narcotized by their wealth…maybe. Or maybe being rich just means they have to work a bit harder at projecting everyday naturalism. I don’t know. But I do know that while Brian Warner‘s CelebrityNetWorth.com almost certainly isn’t relying on the same shoe-leather scrupulousness as Forbes reports, it does seem to have some kind of rough idea what famous people are worth, at least in a spitballed sort of way. And I have to say that knowing the aggregate net worth of Her‘s name-value creatives (Joaquin Phoenix, Spike Jonze, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara) is about $130 million…I don’t know if that “means” anything. It doesn’t to me. Really. But on some vague underlying level, reading the actual figures sorta kinda affects my attitude.
The Her guys aren’t David Geffen-wealthy, but Joaquin Phoenix’s estimated net worth is around $25 million, according to this site. Director-writer Spike Jonze is estimated to have a net worth of about $40 million. Scarlett Johansson’s estimated holdings are roughly $55 million, Adams is worth about $8 million and Rooney about $4 million.
Jerry Seinfeld, $800 million. Tom Hanks, $350 million. Johnny Depp, $350 million. Tyler Perry, $350 million. Harrison Ford, $200 million. Leonardo DiCaprio, $200 million. Will Smith, $188 million. John Travolta, $160 million. Brad Pitt, $150 million. Julia Roberts, $140 million. Robin Williams, $130 million. Ben Stiller, $120 million. Denzel Washington, $120 million. Will Ferrell, $80 million.