Here's How Much Laurence Fishburne Is Really Worth

If anyone says they've never heard of Laurence Fishburne, they've either been boycotting the movies, or they've simply refused to watch television. That's because he's been a famous actor since the 1970s. In fact, Fish, as he's been called, isn't someone who's merely played a bunch of popular characters. Some of the projects he's been in have seeped into pop culture — whether it was his role as Morpheus in "The Matrix" films, or as a confident teenager in the classic movie "Apocalypse Now." You don't have to be a film or TV buff to know who this distinguished actor is.

It's no surprise that Fishburne has made a few bucks along the way, considering his acting career spans nearly 50 years, and he has ample credits as an executive producer. Celebrity Net Worth estimates that he's worth a cool $30 Million, so Fishburne's dedication to his craft has worked out more than well for him, hasn't it? We've examined the jobs and sources of income that have been most significant in his financial life so far. Let's find out how the respected star has accumulated all that dough.

Laurence Fishburne came from humble beginnings

It's a common story among actors: A young person makes his or her way to Hollywood, accepts a menial, low-paying job, and hopes the money will soon come pouring in after landing that first big role. But there are a good number of actors who were rich long before being on TV, in the movies, or on stage. Or, at least, their families were rich. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a prime example as her father, Gerard Louis-Dreyfus, was a billionaire businessman. And Paul Giamatti's late father, Angelo Bartlett Giamatti, was a Major League Baseball commissioner, as well as the president of Yale University. 

But Laurence Fishburne is one of those actors who came from meager beginnings. Despite the financial challenges that he faced, the actor was still able to focus on his art, move from school plays to off-Broadway productions, and land a major television soap opera gig. "When I started, I was doing 'One Life to Live' here in New York. I was 10, 11 years old, a single-parent household," Fishburne explained. "I didn't have the nicest clothes... and I wound up on a TV show," he recalled to Vulture in 2020.

Before he began accruing significant paychecks, Fishburne didn't have much disposable income. When the price of his favorite comics jumped from 10 to 12 cents, he could no longer afford to buy them. The devoted comic book reader used the old five-finger discount (meaning he stole them). "That's how serious I was about it," Fishburne told Collider.

Laurence Fishburne was motivated by money

Kid actors aren't necessarily dealt an easy childhood, but some emerge from their youth behind camera with fun memories of the roles they played. Laurence Fishburne didn't start acting for fun; his earliest roles had entirely to do with money. The star told Collider about his mother's idea that he audition for projects. "[My mother] recognized I had a gift for the dramatic arts. When I was eight or nine she was like, 'Do you want to audition for X,Y, or Z?'" he explained. 

Fishburne only agreed to this plan after hearing about the potential pay. He explained to Collider, "She was persistent and finally she said that if I'd auditioned for a certain part and had gotten it, I'd have made $300 a week. And I was like, 'Why the f*** didn't you tell me that then?' So the next time I auditioned, I got the job and I fell in love with acting." Based on that answer, it's evident that Fishburne was concerned with his personal finances early on. So if $300 a week got him excited, just imagine how thrilled he was once the big bucks started heading his way.

The somber side of this set-up was revealed when Fishburne spoke with The New York Times in 1993. After being asked if he felt like he had "lost something to get where he is," the actor answered, "Yes. My childhood. Isn't that enough?"

Apocalypse Now changed everything for Laurence Fishburne

If an artist is really lucky, they will have that one gig that will change everything for them. As with any profession, a dedicated mentor, a moving experience, or a powerful life lesson can go a long way. 

For Laurence Fishburne, that life-changing project was the 1979 film "Apocalypse Now," directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen. Fishburne was only 14 years old when he landed the part of Tyrone "Mr. Clean" Miller in the film, but in order to get it, he lied about his age and said he was 17. Per The New York Times, the filmmakers were already on location when they found out how old Fishburne really was.

The actor spoke with Metro in 2017 about "Apocalypse Now" and said working on it was one of the "most formative experiences of [his] entire life." It not only helped him personally and artistically; its success put him on the map in a major way. Since that project, the Georgia-born thespian has pretty much worked consistently in his adult life, and not every actor can say that. Shucks, not many everyday people can say they've been employed that consistently. Plus, the mere mention of Fishburne working with such Hollywood heavyweights as Coppola and Brando certainly didn't look bad on his resume, and that had to lead to bigger paydays. At least compared to what he was making on "One Life to Live."

Laurence Fishburne also made theater money

In addition to the big and small screen, Laurence Fishburne found success onstage. His first theater appearance was in 1976's "Eden," which only added to the money he was already making on "One Life to Live." So that means as a youngster, Fishburne was earning income in a couple of different ways. And as an adult, he kept adding to his movie and TV dough, appearing in other stage plays like "Short Eyes" in 1985 and "Loose Ends" in 1988. In 1992, Fishburne won the Tony Award for best featured actor in a play for portraying Sterling Johnson in August Wilson's "Two Trains Running." With years of experience, he starred in "Fences" and "Thurgood" in 2006 and 2008, respectively.  

Per the New York Post, a big-named actor can be paid handsomely to star in a Broadway production. Julia Roberts earned over $150,000 a week for her turn as Nan in 2006's "Three Days of Rain." Fishburne's pay for theater work is unknown, but regardless of the amount, he said it was ultra-important for him to work on stage. "Being in the theater, you're exercising all of your muscles as an actor, and you're using all of your senses as an actor," he told Vulture in 2020. "You're not at the mercy of technology ... You're collaborating with other actors ... I think the most important thing is you're in communion with an audience. You're in communion with a group of human beings."

Laurence Fishburne earned money as a pitch person

If there's anyone who can deliver a line so convincingly that it appears he's merely talking and not acting, it's Laurence Fishburne. It's something that a handful of companies have seemed to recognize over the years, since he's been hired by Kia, DirectTV, and Cadillac. For Kia, he reprised his Morpheus character from "The Matrix" in a Super Bowl commercial to introduce the Kia K900

So how much can a big star like Fishburne make to endorse a product? His earnings haven't been shared, but put it this way: Penelope Cruz earned $2 million a year for being a spokesperson for L'Oreal in 2006 (via CBS News). In 2013, Page Six reported that Ashton Kutcher was set to earn a ridiculous $10 million to endorse Lenovo. And one could argue that Fishburne is a bigger star than both of those actors. 

"All of my heroes are doing commercials now," said Fishburne in an interview with AutoMotoTV while discussing the Kia ad. "James Earl Jones is doing commercials now, David Bowie...Malcolm McDowell, Sam Jackson ... So I feel like I'm in really good company. ... What interested me about this piece was that it's an opportunity for me to do something that I don't get to do very often," Fishburne explained. As an added bonus, he noted, "I get to be kind of funny in this little commercial we're making." 

Television is a lucrative business for Laurence Fishburne

Per The Week, Laurence Fishburne earned $350,000 per episode while playing Dr. Raymond Langston on "CSI" from 2008 to 2011. A typical season during Fishburne's run would have more than 20 episodes, so he really cleaned up. And despite not being the main star of ABC's "Black-ish," Fishburne earned an estimated $200,000 per episode while wearing an executive producer hat on that series (he's also an executive producer for spin-offs "Grown-ish" and "Mixed-ish"). 

But it's not the money that he seems to like most about being on "Black-ish" — it's working with the younger actors on the show. "Yeah, I mean it's been wonderful," Fishburne told Gold Derby. "We've watched the kids grow up before our eyes. ... I was a child actor myself, so I know a little bit about what they're going through."

Fishburne's film and television work has extended to videos games within franchises, including "CSI: Fatal Conspiracy" in 2010. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, a non-famous actor can pull in $3,150 per week to be in a video game. So, just imagine how much Laurence Fishburne would make. To compare, one unnamed famous person earned $500,000 for lending their voice to a game in one recording session (according to Reuters), which Lev Chapelsky, who books actors for video games, said was far too much. Plus, another high-profile star wanted $750,000 for a mere hour's worth of video game work.

Laurence Fishburne owns some pricey real estate

After acting in back-to-back projects, working as a producer, and signing on as a pitchman, Laurence Fishburne certainly needs to get his rest. He's been able to do that in some really nice digs. In 2005, The New York Times reported that he purchased a two-bedroom penthouse on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. New York City, especially the island of Manhattan, has been listed as the most expensive place to live in the U.S. until fall 2021

In 2008, the Daily News reported that Fishburne purchased a home in Manhattan's Hudson Heights neighborhood, which overlooks the Hudson River. Talk about living swanky. And it shouldn't be surprising that Fishburne is bi-coastal, since he probably has to be in New York City and Los Angeles a lot for work. The site Virtual Globetrotting claims that he owns a mansion in the City of Angels that looks more like an office building due to its massive size. 

But in 2013, the actor had to deal with a different type of drama when an ex-convict named Mark Francisco showed up unannounced to the home of Fishburne and his then-wife, Gina Torres. The Daily Mail reported the story: Francisco claimed the former couple was living in the home "illegally," so he notified police and threatened to evict them in a handwritten letter. It wasn't explained how Francisco formed his opinions, but it didn't matter because Fishburne and Torres got a restraining order. 

He may be frugal

Laurence Fishburne doesn't seem to be the kind of person who's doling out money or gifts to people left and right — at least based on some of the news reports concerning his finances. In 2015, Fishburne's mother, Hattie Crawford Fishburne, claimed the actor "hasn't given [her] a penny" in his entire career. Of course, that seems super cold, and Fishburne hasn't responded to the claim, but if it's true, it could show that he's incredibly frugal. 

The actor's daughter, Montana Fishburne, also once said her father cut her off — not just financially, but totally — after she decided to work on pornographic films. "I'm not going to speak with you 'til you turn your life around," she claimed her dad told her, per TMZ. "You embarrassed me ... You used your last name. No one uses their real name in porn." But father and daughter may have made up, based on an Instagram photo with Laurence that Montana shared in 2018. 

The "CSI" star filed for divorce from actor Gina Torres in 2017. As reported by Entertainment Tonight, Fishburne asked the court to disallow spousal support for his ex. But he asked the court to remove the chance of him getting spousal support, as well.

Laurence Fishburne constantly gives back

"Acting and philanthropy are braided together." That's what Laurence Fishburne told NBC BLK in 2017, and those aren't just words for him; he's lived by that saying. Fishburne was named a Global Ambassador for UNICEF in 1996. He's reportedly worked with charitable organizations including 21st Century Leaders, Artists for a New South Africa, and the Cancer Research Institute. So, it's clear the "Boyz n the Hood" alum isn't satisfied with just fattening his pockets. Instead, he's on a life-long mission to help others. 

Fishburne is the president of the Roscoe Lee Browne scholarship fund, which "underwrites The Roscoe Lee Browne Poet-In-Residence Award at The Millay Colony for the Arts," as its website describes. Browne was a highly respected actor, director, poet, and former track star before he died in 2007. Per the Los Angeles Sentinel, Fishburne created the fund with Anthony Zerbe. Both actors were close to Browne.

Fishburne received the Global Philanthropist Award from UNICEF USA in the spring of 2017 for his charitable work and focused many of his efforts on improving young people's lives. "When I came into my adulthood I recognized how fortunate I was to be doing what I loved to do," he said to NBC BLK. "I created a larger-than-life profile that put me in a position to speak out about things that mattered to me." So, it's evident that Fishburne associates his success not with dollars and cents, but with the opportunity to use his fame to create positive change. Good going, sir!