These 19 Celebrities Refused To Let A Low Budget Get In The Way Of Their Ambitions

It takes a village to raise a movie from the ground up. Filmmaking can be painfully expensive, and even "low-budget" productions can be a chore to finance. These celebs took matters into their own hands, gambling their own money to get their projects made.

Christopher Nolan directing The Dark Knight Rises
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1.Insecure star Issa Rae put herself $10,000 in the hole to fund her 2011 web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Though she maxed out all her credit cards in her endeavors, the show garnered a loyal audience that raised money to fund its first season. Rae was debt-free by Season 2.

Issa Rae smiling on Watch What Happens Live
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2.Vin Diesel risked it all — even homelessness — for 2013's Riddick. Without the financial backing of a major studio, the crew faced various obstacles caused by a tight budget. Diesel leveraged his house and used the money to finish the film, which was (luckily for him) a box-office success.

Vin Diesel posing on a red carpet
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3.Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now) has self-funded several projects, but his most ambitious is yet to come. He's offering up a whopping $120 million to fully realize what could potentially be his most epic film yet, Megalopolis.

Francis Ford Coppola smiling
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4.Star Wars has exploded into one of the biggest franchises in cinematic history, making it hard to imagine its humble beginnings. Despite being owned by Disney today, George Lucas originally gambled his own money to make the 1977 film.

George Lucas at a film premiere
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5.Kevin Costner has no qualms about throwing down cash to get films made. For example, he helped fund Dances With Wolves with $2.5 million of his $3 million salary. He dropped $750,000 on Open Range. He also put money on the line for Swing Vote and his upcoming Horizon project, among others.

Kevin Costner smiling on a red carpet
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6.Ava DuVernay has been shattering glass ceilings left and right. On top of her many accolades, she was also the first African American woman to direct a film with a budget of over $100 million. However, she never let money deter her ambitions. DuVernay claims that, before working on big-budget projects, she would self-finance her films “on two pennies in a paper clip.”

Ava DuVernay holding a clutch and posing on a red carpet
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7.Kevin Smith made numerous sacrifices to finance his 1994 movie Clerks. He sold his comic book collection and borrowed money from friends and family. On top of that, he maxed out some ten credit cards in the process.

Kevin Smith posing on a red carpet with his hands on his head
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8.Despite being a successful playwright at the time, Tyler Perry had a hard time convincing studios to take his now-iconic Madea character to the big screen. He eventually struck a deal with Lionsgate's CEO: Perry would pay for half of the production cost of Diary of a Mad Black Woman.

Tyler Perry posing at the Oscars
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9.John Travolta spent millions out of pocket to fund one of the worst films of all time — and he doesn't regret it. The Scientology-based sci-fi movie, Battlefield Earth, was a massive flop, both critically and commercially. It returned a mere $29 million with a $73 million budget.

John Travolta posing on a red carpet
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10.Zach Braff stirred controversy when he used Kickstarter to raise money for his 2014 movie, Wish I Was Here. However, the movie wasn't entirely funded by fans. He clarified that he used some of his own cash and foreign pre-sales to complete the film.

Zach Braff smiling on a red carpet
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11.Spike Lee also landed in hot water while using Kickstarter to fund films like Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. However, he's been candid about self-financing many of his works, including projects like Malcolm X and She's Gotta Have It.

Spike Lee posing at a Vanity Fair party
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12.Contrary to popular belief, not all celebs have millions of dollars to spend on passion projects. Lake Bell threw down $30,000 of her own money to shoot the Sundance short film, Worst Enemy. However, she resorted to crowd-funding to pay for post-production.

Lake Bell posing on a red carpet
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13.Whoopi Goldberg is yet another famous name that raised eyebrows for using Kickstarter. She requested $65,000 to finish producing her directorial debut, I Got Somethin’ To Tell You. Despite initially self-funding the documentary, she couldn't complete it without external contributions.

Whoopi Goldberg smiling at a gala event
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14.The Room (2003) is now a cult classic "so terrible that it's good" film, and it was funded entirely by Tommy Wiseau and his mysterious income. He wrote, directed, and starred in the project, spending $6 million only to earn $1,800 at the box office on opening weekend. Renewed interest in The Room after 2017's The Disaster Artist has since helped the movie turn a profit.

Tommy Wiseau smiling and holding a blu-ray copy of The Room
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15.Nicole Kidman self-financed the indie drama Rabbit Hole for the sake of creative liberty. While she didn't write or direct the project, she played an active role in its development as the lead, noting that it's easier to fulfill a creative vision without studio interference.

Nicole Kidman smiling at a film event
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16.Harvey Keitel used his own cash to help Quentin Tarantino bring his 1992 classic, Reservoir Dogs, to life. Keitel and Tarantino both starred in the film, with the former throwing down money to secure a roster of talented costars.

Harvey Keitel posing on a red carpet
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17.M. Night Shyamalan's career has been rocky, to say the least. The general public hasn't always received his projects with open arms (remember The Last Airbender?), but the director continues to press forward. Shyamalan's been secretly funding his own films, including Split, Glass, and The Visit.

M Night Shyamalan posing at an event
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18.Mel Gibson used millions of his own dollars to make The Passion of the Christ. After companies like 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. refused to distribute the controversial film, Gibson paired with the independent Newmarket Films. Despite its sensitive subject matter, the movie was a box office smash.

Mel Gibson smiling at a film premiere
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19.Film icon John Wayne invested over $1.5 million (an extravagant amount of money at the time) and took out second mortgages on his homes to fund his 1960 war film, The Alamo. The passion project was relatively successful and was nominated for seven Oscars (winning the Sound category).

A portrait of John Wayne wearing a suit and tie
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