How Much Did Alec Guinness Get Paid For Star Wars?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Alec Guinness was paid $150,000 plus 2.25% of the gross royalties for the first Star Wars movie released in 1977.

In this comprehensive article, we will dive into the fascinating story behind Alec Guinness’ casting in Star Wars, his initially negative reaction to the script, the clever negotiation by his agent for one of the best Hollywood pay deals of all time, and the huge windfall Guinness eventually earned from the record-breaking success of the Star Wars franchise.

Alec Guinness’ Initial Reluctance to Join Star Wars

Guinness was an Established Star Known for Serious Roles

Alec Guinness was already an established star known for his serious and acclaimed performances in films such as “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Lawrence of Arabia.” He had built a reputation as a versatile actor with immense talent.

Given his background in more traditional and dramatic roles, it’s no wonder that Guinness initially had reservations about joining a project like Star Wars.

At the time, the science fiction genre was not regarded with the same level of prestige as other genres in the film industry. It was often seen as a niche category that didn’t necessarily attract top-tier talent.

Guinness, with his extensive experience in theater and film, may have had concerns about how appearing in a science fiction film would impact his reputation and career.

Despite his initial reservations, Guinness eventually agreed to take on the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. This decision would not only introduce him to a new generation of fans but also lead to one of the most iconic performances in his career.

Thought Star Wars Script was ‘Fairy Tale Rubbish’

When George Lucas approached Alec Guinness with the script for Star Wars, Guinness reportedly found it to be quite different from the serious and dramatic roles he was accustomed to. In fact, he famously referred to the script as “fairy tale rubbish.”

Guinness was known for his meticulous approach to acting and his dedication to well-crafted scripts. The fantastical elements and larger-than-life characters in Star Wars may have initially seemed out of place to him.

However, as the story goes, it was his agent who persuaded him to accept the role, pointing out the potential success of the film and the impact it could have on his career.

Little did Guinness know at the time that Star Wars would go on to become a cultural phenomenon, captivating audiences around the world for decades to come. His portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi would become one of his most beloved and enduring roles, and the film itself would become a cornerstone of popular culture.


Guinness’ Agent Negotiated a Game-Changing Deal

When it comes to negotiating contracts and deals, having a skilled agent can make all the difference. This was certainly the case for Alec Guinness, the legendary actor who portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Guinness’ agent played a crucial role in securing him a game-changing deal that would see him earn a substantial amount of money for his work in the franchise.

Base Salary of $150,000 for Just Over a Week of Work

One of the key aspects of Guinness’ deal was his base salary for his role in Star Wars. According to reports, Guinness was initially offered a salary of around $30,000 for his work on the film. However, his agent saw the potential in the project and managed to negotiate a much higher figure.

In the end, Guinness received a base salary of $150,000 for just over a week of work. This was a significant sum at the time and reflected the confidence that the studio had in the film’s potential success.

Also Earned 2.25% of Gross Royalties in Perpetuity

In addition to his base salary, Guinness’ agent also secured him a deal that would see him earn a percentage of the film’s gross royalties in perpetuity. This meant that every time the film made money, Guinness would receive a share of the profits.

According to reports, Guinness earned 2.25% of the gross royalties from Star Wars. This was a groundbreaking arrangement at the time and has proven to be incredibly lucrative for Guinness and his estate.

It’s worth noting that the success of Star Wars far exceeded everyone’s expectations. The film became a cultural phenomenon and went on to spawn a multi-billion dollar franchise. As a result, Guinness’ earnings from the film were substantial.

In fact, it has been estimated that his total earnings from Star Wars, including his base salary and royalties, amounted to several million dollars.

Guinness’ agent’s ability to negotiate such a lucrative deal for his client demonstrates the importance of having skilled representation in the entertainment industry. Without the foresight and negotiation skills of Guinness’ agent, the actor may not have received the financial rewards that he did.

It serves as a reminder of the value that a talented agent can bring to an actor’s career.

Huge Windfall from Star Wars’ Success

When it comes to the financial success of the Star Wars franchise, it’s not just the film studios and toy manufacturers that have reaped the rewards. The actors involved in the original trilogy also enjoyed a significant boost to their bank accounts, none more so than the legendary Alec Guinness.

Earned $3.5 Million Total from Original Trilogy

Alec Guinness, who portrayed the wise and enigmatic Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, earned a staggering $3.5 million from his involvement in the original Star Wars trilogy. This was a substantial sum, especially considering that the first film, “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” was released in 1977 when movie salaries were not as astronomical as they are today.

Guinness’ compensation was based on a combination of up-front fees and backend deals, which allowed him to benefit from the immense success of the franchise. Over the course of the three films, he received a percentage of the box office profits, which contributed to his significant windfall.

It is worth noting that Guinness initially had reservations about taking on the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, considering it a “fairytale rubbish.” However, he ultimately agreed to be a part of the film and ended up benefiting greatly from its success.

Received $1 Million for Return of the Jedi Cameo

Even after the original trilogy concluded, Alec Guinness continued to receive substantial paychecks from the Star Wars franchise. In the final installment, “Return of the Jedi,” Guinness made a brief cameo appearance as a Force ghost.

For this small role, he was reportedly paid a handsome sum of $1 million.

Guinness’ cameo in “Return of the Jedi” was a significant moment for fans and added an extra layer of nostalgia to the film. It served as a touching tribute to his character and solidified his place in Star Wars history.

It is important to remember that these figures are estimations based on available information and may not be entirely accurate. However, they do provide valuable insights into the financial success enjoyed by Alec Guinness thanks to his involvement in the Star Wars franchise.

For more information on Alec Guinness’ earnings and other fascinating facts about Star Wars, check out Mental Floss.

Guinness’ Legacy and Impact on Hollywood Deals

Alec Guinness, a legendary actor known for his iconic role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars franchise, left behind a remarkable legacy that extends beyond his on-screen performances. His impact on Hollywood deals, particularly his compensation for Star Wars, has forever changed the landscape of actor contracts in the industry.

One of the Most Lucrative Actor Deals in History

When Alec Guinness agreed to play the wise and enigmatic Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi, in the first Star Wars film, little did he know that it would become one of the most successful and influential franchises in history.

However, Guinness was not initially convinced that the movie would be a hit and negotiated a deal that would ensure he received a share of the film’s profits.

As Star Wars became a cultural phenomenon, Guinness’ shrewd decision proved to be incredibly lucrative. According to industry insiders, Guinness earned a staggering $3.3 million for his role in the original Star Wars film, making him one of the highest-paid actors of his time.

This was an unprecedented amount for an actor at that time and set a new benchmark for future blockbuster deals.

Opened the Door for Profit Sharing in Blockbusters

Guinness’ groundbreaking deal with Star Wars opened the door for profit sharing agreements in blockbuster films. Prior to this, actors were typically paid fixed salaries without any participation in the film’s financial success.

Guinness’ success demonstrated the potential financial rewards of such arrangements, leading to a shift in how actors negotiated their contracts.

Following Guinness’ success, many actors began demanding a share of the profits as part of their deals. This not only allowed them to earn significant sums of money but also gave them a vested interest in the success of the film.

It created a win-win situation for both actors and studios, as it motivated actors to promote the film and contributed to its overall success.

Today, profit sharing has become a standard practice in the film industry, especially for actors attached to major franchises. It has transformed the way actors are compensated and has led to more equitable deals that align the interests of actors and studios.


In closing, Alec Guinness initially turned up his nose at the Star Wars script but eventually agreed to take the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Through a savvy deal brokered by his agent, Guinness earned $150,000 upfront and a 2.25% cut of gross royalties, which ultimately amounted to $3.5 million just from the original trilogy.

This pioneering deal paved the way for other actors to negotiate lucrative profit-sharing and gross participation deals in blockbuster movies. Guinness’ story provides a fascinating case study in how a skeptical actor took a chance on an unknown space opera film and wound up vastly exceeding his own expectations with one of the most profitable film deals of all time.

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