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‘Ghostbusters’ Star Ernie Hudson Opens Up About Earning Just $40,000 from Film Despite Its $295 Million Success

Ernie Hudson, the original straight man of the “Ghostbusters” series, provides insight into how his starring role only earned him $40,000. 

Ernie Hudson, photo via Instagram, @ernie_hudson

On March 13, coinciding with the release of the latest “Ghostbusters” film, Hudson engaged in a conversation about self-worth and societal judgment. As the discussion turned to his newfound fame and wealth at the time, Hudson candidly informed “The Breakfast Club” that he is not rich.

Movie Hits Didn’t Equal High Salary

“Well, I don’t know when I got rich, because I’m not sure if I got rich, but I have to check on that. If I got rich, they get rich, I’d call my accountant. But, uh … yeah, no, you know, I used to tell the joke, I came to Hollywood to be rich and famous, and I never realized you could be poor and popular,” Hudson said. 

He added, “People get you signed autographs, you ain’t got no money, you know what I mean? And, but they expect you to behave a certain way or act a certain way, and you fall into that trap. It’s very disheartening because you begin to feel like it’s not real. So, you got to keep what’s real. I was a single dad, so my kids always were, you know, my wakeup call. You know, don’t … don’t take this … let’s just get to the real bottom line, you know?”

When discussing how he landed the role of Winston Zeddemore, a supporting character who served as an audience surrogate and an everyman figure, Hudson expressed confidence that he had “killed it.” 

Zeddemore, unlike the main trio of Ghostbusters, was not only the first non-white, non-scientist member in the science fiction comedy, but also his initial skepticism and confusion about the ghost-catching business mirrored how many viewers likely felt. Suffice it to say, Hudson’s role in the first installment of “Ghostbusters” was critical and met with success.

What might be disappointing to some fans is that his role was reportedly reduced and his pay was of $40,000.

“I knew when I went into that audition, you know I’m, you know, it’s one of those things where I’m like, this is my moment. And I went in and um, killed it. Killed it, you know, this is mine. And then when they, it didn’t happen, it was like, oh, you want me to come back again? It’s like, ’cause I know, I don’t know what I could do different. But um, so the original script was that, you know, by the time we got to the movie, the character had been basically cut down and there have been a lot of changes, you know, and suddenly that wasn’t a thing I signed up for,” Hudson said. 

He continued, “I don’t think it’s probably any secret, and I’m saying this because I look back on all this ‘Ghostbuster’ stuff as a real learning experience. It was exactly what I needed to do to be able to be where I am now. So, whatever minimum was, I think probably for ‘Ghostbusters’ I might have made 40 grand for the whole movie, you know back then.”

“Ghostbusters (1984)” was a massive financial success, grossing $295 million at the global box office. The movie’s stars, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and director Ivan Reitman, negotiated a shrewd deal that entitled them to 30 percent of the box office gross on top of their upfront salaries, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

When host DJ Envy asked Hudson if he agreed to a low salary in exchange for residuals or back end profits, the actor sharply denied this, saying, “No, no. But a lot of it has to do with who’s representing you too.

Hudson would go on to say, “I heard Denzel [Washington] talk about Sidney Poitier was kind of a mentor to him. Well nobody ever mentored me, you know what I mean, I ain’t never had nobody come and say, ‘Let me let me teach you ropes let me hip you to this.'”

“So most of the stuff is you finding out, so an agent … if an agent is weak, and the agent is trying to just get himself in and he’s not looking out for, he’ll take any deal so he’s so excited he’s got a an actor in the movie he ain’t went and fought for me,” Hudson continued. “So the reason I was lack of money is because he was weak, you know, so you say well it’s all these reasons but there are a lot of you know reasons for.”

Hudson has remained realtively busy in Hollywood, acting on a sring of rpojectsover the years including TV hits like “Fantasy Island” to “The Incredible Hulk” to “One Day at a Time,” “Taxi,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “The A-Team.” Filmwise, he’s been in “Champions,” Redemption Day,” “Prisoner’s Daughter,” among other movies.

He also stars in the new installment, “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” and starred in the 2021 and 2016 movies, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “Ghosterbuster” (2016).

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