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From Hero to Zero: Stars Who Went Bankrupt

The world of big money and even bigger financial downfalls.

Przemysław Mudlaff

12 April 2024

From Hero to Zero: Stars Who Went Bankrupt

Get ready for an uncomfortable compilation. It concerns stars who want more than they can handle. It also includes those who got involved in costly legal disputes. And those neglecting their tax obligations. Welcome to the world of big money and even bigger financial downfalls. Ahead of you are movie stars who, for various reasons, lost a significant portion of their wealth or simply went bankrupt.

Nicolas Cage’s extravagance

nicolas cage

The story of Nicolas Cage is, on one hand, a cautionary tale, and on the other, a motivational story for all deeply indebted individuals. The star of the National Treasure series from 1996 to 2011 earned over $150 million. He spent this money on a plethora of peculiar things. Cage bought, for instance, the first Superman comic book, numerous rare car models (including the unique Lamborghini Miura SVJ), a Tarbosaurus skull, an empty pyramid-shaped tomb, and even a live octopus, which – he claimed – helped him become a better actor. However, it was not the purchase of exotic animals or strange historical artifacts that plunged Nicolas Cage into financial trouble. Rather, it was the unstable real estate market, combined with a lack of prudence. After all, who in their right mind buys, among other things, two castles in Europe, a haunted mansion that belonged in the first half of the 19th century to the infamous Madame Delphine LaLaurie, or two uninhabited islands in the Bahamas? Technically, no one can stop a wealthy person, but Cage miscalculated his expenses and failed to pay his taxes. When he and his financial advisors (he accused one of them of his financial problems) realized how dire the situation was, he began selling off everything he could at relatively low prices. Ultimately, his debt to the US Treasury amounted to about $13 million (after selling real estate and personal property, he still owed over $6 million), which the actor is repaying with earnings from roles in low-quality productions. Despite his spending spree, Nicolas Cage was forced to tarnish his image, he admitted that no matter what he played during this difficult time, he always gave it his all. It must be acknowledged that although he was often ridiculed for his acting choices, he is emerging from his financial obligations relatively unscathed

The rashness of Kim Basinger

The recklessness is just one of the reasons behind the financial troubles of movie stars. Another reason could be hasty decision-making, as evidenced by the case of Kim Basinger. The early 1990s were a string of misfortunes for Kim. Unsuccessful, ‘award-winning’ performances in weak or mediocre productions from 1991 to 1994, or the beginning of a toxic marriage with Alec Baldwin, turned out to be just a prelude to what soon happened to the star of 9 ½ Weeks. Basinger will probably never have pleasant associations with the Lynch name for the rest of her life. It’s all because of a situation that occurred between the actress and Jennifer Lynch, who was just starting her directing career at the time. Both ladies met in 1991 to discuss Basinger’s participation in the film Boxing Helena after Madonna resigned from the titular role. David Lynch’s daughter convinced the actress that her future film was a psychological thriller, and that a role in it would be an incredible showcase for her. Kim agreed. A few weeks before the start of filming Boxing Helena, Batman‘s star managers received the script for the film. After reading it, they contacted Basinger and convinced her that appearing in this production was a very bad idea. So, at the last minute, the actress withdrew from the film, in which Sherilyn Fenn ultimately played the titular role. Unfortunately for Basinger, Main Line Pictures had already invested a lot of money in promoting Boxing Helena, including the star’s name. The production company then sued the actress, accusing her of breaking an oral contract. The case ended in victory for Main Line Pictures, which Kim Basinger was initially ordered to pay nearly $9 million in damages. The actress would have been able to pay off this debt if not for the fact that a few years earlier, she had bought practically the entire town of Braselton, Georgia, for about $20 million, which she planned to turn into a tourist attraction. The lack of funds to repay the studio responsible for Boxing Helena forced Basinger to declare bankruptcy. She returned to acting three years after the trial. For her supporting role in L.A. Confidential (1997), she won numerous prestigious film awards, including an Oscar. From that moment on, she began to get back on solid financial ground.

Wesley Snipes’ Tax Evasion Maneuvers

After examples of extravagance and impulsiveness leading to financial troubles, it’s time to discuss tax evasion and other fiscal crimes. A perfect example of why it’s not worth messing with the tax authorities is Wesley Snipes. The star of Blade never had a good reputation, even among his colleagues in the industry. Numerous altercations on and off movie sets, in which he was involved, didn’t go unnoticed in Hollywood. However, he was beloved by the audience, so despite everything, he was often invited to collaborate. At least that was the case until around 2005. From that moment on, Wesley’s acting career began to slowly unravel, which is perfectly reflected in his filmography and poor performances. It’s quite possible that frequent visits to court and bailiffs at his properties contributed to this decline. A two-year paternity suit filed by a certain Lanise Pettis, whom Snipes had never even met, and the loss of two properties in Florida due to tax evasion were the beginning of the actor’s financial downfall at that time. In 2008, a court in Florida sentenced the actor to 3 years in prison for willful tax evasion from 1999 to 2001. Wesley Snipes considered his time in prison (from December 2010 to April 2013) as purifying and valuable. Although the 61-year-old actor may not earn as much money from his roles as he once did, it’s worth noting that he now chooses his films more carefully and manages his finances much more sensibly.

Lindsay Lohan’s Party Escapades

Another cause of financial troubles among movie stars is their party lifestyle, often affecting those who amassed wealth at a young age. Let’s take the case of Lindsay Lohan as an example. LiLo began acting at the age of 12. Her debut dual role in the family comedy The Parent Trap (1998) gained immense popularity and paved the way for a promising career. To this day, Lohan’s biggest film achievement remains Mean Girls (2004). Directed by Mark Waters, the production earned nearly $130 million worldwide, causing Lindsay’s wallet to burst at the seams. Unfortunately, along with the big money came significant troubles for the young star. Parties, drugs, alcohol, reckless driving, robberies, or assaults were just part of LiLo’s “achievements” at the time. In July 2010, LiLo was sentenced to 90 days in jail by a final judgment. After serving her sentence, not much changed in her life. Well, perhaps except for the fact that financial troubles were added to her legal troubles, as Lohan hadn’t appeared in profitable productions for a long time. In 2016, tabloids reported that Lindsay was unable to pay the rent for her London apartment, often borrowing money from friends, and was essentially facing bankruptcy. The life of the Mean Girls star only recently changed. Allegedly, financier Bader Shammas, with whom Lohan started a family, is behind this transformation. Finding peace in her private life (including financially), LiLo returned to acting. She signed a deal with Netflix for three original productions for the streaming platform. The first was the film Christmas Journey (2022), the second is The Irish Wish, scheduled for release in March of this year, and as for the third, we don’t know anything yet.

Burt Reynolds’ Costly Women

In one of his interviews, Burt Reynolds was asked what he spent the most money on in his life, to which he replied without hesitation that it was… women. He supported his statement by mentioning that shortly after marrying Loni Anderson, he gave her a credit card with a $45,000 limit. Allegedly, she exceeded the limit within half an hour of receiving the card. Although Anderson neither confirmed nor denied that such a situation occurred, her divorce from Burt Reynolds in 1994 cost the actor a fortune. Of course, it wasn’t just the divorce settlement that was unfavorable for the star of Smokey and the Bandit (1977); it also left him financially adrift. This was also due to failed investments (bars, restaurants, real estate), lavish lifestyle (who needs 150 horses or a collection of toupees worth $100,000?), and unsuccessful artistic projects. When Burt Reynolds was at the peak of his career, his fortune was estimated at $60 million; at the time of his death in 2018, it ranged from $3 to $5 million. In 1996, the actor declared bankruptcy, owing approximately $11 million to various entities. In the same interview where Reynolds confessed that he spent the most money on women, he also said that if he could live his life again, he would certainly do everything to make Sally Field his wife and would squander even more money on his pleasures.

Failed Investments of Polish Movie Stars

It seems that the financial problems of Polish movie stars are primarily associated with their, as it soon turns out, unsuccessful investments. They often allocate their own and borrowed money from banks to open restaurants/restaurants chains or production companies. Failed investments have happened to Wojciech Malajkat, Bogusław Linda, Cezary Pazura, Borys Szyc, Katarzyna Figura, Adam Zdrójkowski, and Leszek Lichota. One of the most spectacular business failures of Polish actors is probably the unsuccessful investment of Grażyna Szapołowska, who reportedly invested 4 million PLN  in building her cosmetic brand. The SZA company did not gain recognition, putting the star in a rather difficult financial situation.

Przemysław Mudlaff

Przemysław Mudlaff

He appreciates the truth and sincerity of the intentions of its creators in cinema. He loves to be emotionally kicked and abused by the film, but also happy and amused. A hunter of film curiosities, references and connections. A fan of the works of PTA, von Trier, Kieślowski, Lantimos and Villeneuve. What he likes the most is talking about the cinema over a beer, and the beer has to be cold and thick, you know what.

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