Actor Donald Sutherland lost an estimated $20 million dollars for his role in Animal House. Not because it was a bad movie, it actually became a popular cult classic. Not because he lost money investing in the movie. Certainly not because he he was swindled for his role by the producers. He was the highest paid member of the cast. The blame for the massive loss can be blamed solely on Donald Sutherland.
The loss by Donald Sutherland in Animal House does not compare to the loss of Apple co-founder Ronald Wayne, it doesn’t even come close, but it is a loss that not many could ever afford. Not that many would ever see that amount of money in their lifetime. So I bet you are wondering how the popular movie cost Donald Sutherland $20 million?
During the 1970’s Donald Sutherland was one of the biggest actors in the industry. When Animal House was being made the movies director wanted Sutherland in the cast, they became friends during the filming of Kelly’s Heroes. The role would have taken him just two days work to complete and he was offered $35,000 for the work. He declined this initial offer, and Universal Studios offered him another sweetener. This time he would have been paid $35,000 plus 15% of the films gross. Wanting guaranteed money, Donald Sutherland rejected this offer and settled for $50,000. He felt that the movie would be a flop and quickly forgotten.
Animal House went on to become a massive hit worldwide and a cult classic. It has been credited with jettisoning the careers of Saturday Night Live star John Belushi. Had Donald Sutherland accepted the generous offer from Universal for his role in animal house he would have made an estimated $20 million, perhaps even more. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be his last poor decision as an actor. He later went on to turn down roles in ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Straw Dogs’ because he thought the movies were too violent.