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Kirk Douglas once earned $50,000 saying one word

Kirk Douglar has made some of the best movies of all time, yet one particular payday in his career netted him a tidy profit per words spoken.

Kirk Douglas in Spartacus

If you’ve ever wondered why some actors do adverts, the usual reason is simple: money. Advertising can pay incredibly well, just ask drama movie star Kirk Douglas, who was purportedly paid a ludicrous amount for uttering one word on camera during a campaign.


The ads were for Maxim coffee in Japan during the ’70s. In a series of short clips, the action movie actor would pop up drinking a fine cup of the blend. Occasionally, he’d mention exactly what he’s meant to be shilling, “coffee”. And that’s it, that’s all that happens.

How much did the thriller movie icon make in this exchange? According to the book They Did What!? by Bob Fenster, $50,000. Five figures for one word and some other bits of simple acting. Not bad for a day’s work.

You can check out one of Douglas’s fine turns below:

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We take no responsibility for how much you now want a damn fine cup of coffee, no milk. Having starred in adventure movies like Spartacus by Stanley Kubrick, and fantasy movies like Ulysses, these would’ve been a walk in the park.

Have a look at our new movies guide for more actors looking to get their break in advertising.