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The Movie That Earned Johnny Depp A $55 Million Paycheck

When Johnny Depp made his acting debut in director Wes Craven's 1984 franchise-launching horror film "A Nightmare on Elm Street," few could have predicted the level of stardom to which he'd someday rise. Even in his breakout role as Tom Hanson on "21 Jump Street," an undercover cop who uses his youthful appearance to pose as a high school student, the writing wasn't exactly on the wall yet. When Depp starred in the title role of 1990's "Edward Scissorhands" — kicking off a prolific decade of film appearances and a string of award nominations — it was clear he was destined to make it big. 

For his performance in Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands," Depp received a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a motion picture musical or comedy — one of three he'd garner in the '90s. He earned another for his performance as Sam in "Benny & Joon" and a third for his part as the title role as the renowned filmmaker in the biographical comedy "Ed Wood." Films like the offbeat "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," rom com "Don Juan Demarco," drug-fueled black comedy "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," crime thriller "Donnie Brasco," and the supernatural horror film "Sleepy Hollow" may not have put Depp on the awards radars but they earned him plenty of fans and allowed him to showcase an amazing versatility in his craft, all with increasingly large paychecks.

In the early 2000s, Depp took on one of his most iconic roles, playing the offbeat, swashbuckling antihero Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," a role to which he'd return multiple times as the film developed into a massively successful franchise. In fact, one of the "Pirates" films gave the actor a pretty hefty payday. Here is the movie that earned Johnny Depp a $55 million paycheck.

Depp earned a reported $55 million for Pirates 4

The first "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, released in 2003, was a huge hit with critics and audiences alike. The film's praise from reviewers amounted to an impressive 79% critics score on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and it grossed more than $650 million at the global box office (via The Numbers). For his performance, Depp received nominations for several major acting awards, including the Academy Award for best actor, the BAFTA films award for best actor in a leading role, the Golden Globe for best actor in a motion picture musical or comedy, and the Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role, which he won.

With such unanimous acclaim and success, Walt Disney Pictures expanded on the initial movie to build the five-film franchise we know today — with a sixth "Pirates of the Caribbean" film in the works. The fourth film, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," sees Depp return as Jack Sparrow, this time seeking the mythical Fountain of Youth. The movie cost a whopping $410 million to make, according to a report from financial outlet Forbes, which called the film "the most expensive movie in history" at the time. According to Forbes, more than 13% of that total went towards a reported $55 million contract Depp received for his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow.

There may be some debate as to the overall cost to make the fourth installment in the "Pirates" franchise. The data at the movie box office website The Numbers reports a production budget of $379 million for "On Stranger Tides," though the Forbes report does detail that filming in the UK may have allowed Walt Disney Pictures to recoup up to 20% of its production costs via a "government film tax credit scheme." It's possible this tax credit explains the discrepancy between the respective figures between the two sites.