One of the most persistent questions that we come across is how much do actors actually make. In this article, we will take a look into the salaries of some of the well-known actors in America.
One of the many pastimes that some of us indulge in is knowing the earnings of our favorite stars. There are many A-listers out there who have multi-million contracts, and who like to show it off with their posse of cars and yachts. Even our TV stars, who may earn relatively lesser when compared to film stars, get a decent paycheck for every episode that is aired on the idiot box.
Over the years, there have been agreements on how the studio and the lead stars reap the profits of their toil, with many actors taking a modest upfront fee, compensated by a percentage of the first-dollar earnings, or gross profit of a film. This formula has been thought of as a win-win for the actors and as well as the producers as it serves both the purposes – the studio lowers its risk of losing it all if it pays a big sum to the lead actor, and the actor doesn’t remain a mute spectator if the film goes to on to become a blockbuster. This arrangement works in different permutations and combinations, the percentages and the upfront costs are bigger for established names in Hollywood.
TV stars on the other hand, get a decent amount per episode, which totals out to a hefty sum considering the number of episodes that are aired every season. They also earn a decent amount when their previous shows are syndicated. Before we take a look at the fat paychecks of our favorite actors, it is important to take a look at the following information.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 66,500 actors are employed in the US. The median hourly wage for actors was $17.44 according to the 2010 statistics.
As is evident, a majority of the 66,500 actors working in the United States are paid modestly. In fact, most actors face financial insecurity as they are not sure from where and when will they receive their next paycheck. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out,
“Most actors struggle to find steady work, and few achieve recognition as stars. Some work as “extras”, actors who appear on screen with no lines to deliver. Some do voiceover or narration work for animated features, audiobooks, or other electronic media.”
The fact of the matter is like the rest of the US population, the top-notch, or the 10% of the total actors are the proud owners of sprawling mansions and latest cars that we get to see in the innumerable magazines and websites. The rest of actors work their part, but as they are are relatively unknown, they are relegated to anonymity, and struggle to make ends meet. Let us now take a look at what some of the most reputed actors get for their work.
The salary that an actor gets for a film depends upon the contract that he signs with the production house. Some stars take a low upfront payment in order to get a percentage of the gross-profits, or the first-dollar earnings of the film. Also, actors slash their prices for movies they reckon will get them critical-acclaim. The salary is higher for an established franchise like The Pirates of the Caribbean, and Mission Impossible. A-list actors get more lucrative deals than other film actors.
Nineteen-year old Tom Cruise was reportedly paid a measly $50,000 for his role of David Shawn in the 1981 movie Taps. He has definitely come a long to top the Forbes magazine list of highest paid actors in 2012. According to Forbes magazine, the Mission Impossible star managed to make $75 million between May 2011 and May 2012. On an average, Tom Cruise gets paid somewhere between $10 million to $12 million per film , however, the figures change drastically when it comes to his blockbuster Mission Impossible series, of which he is also the producer. His movie – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol grossed a worldwide total of roughly around $700 million.
Leonardo DiCaprio charges roughly around $20 million per movie. He also gets a significant percentage of the earnings of his films. Many Hollywood actors were in awe of DiCaprio when it was reported that due to a rare agreement between him and the producers of the blockbuster Inception, the actor ended up earning a whopping $50 million.
Adam Sandler’s movies are fun to watch, but it is the man himself who laughs all the way to the bank. On an average, Adam Sandler charges $20 million to star in a movie, and also manages to squeak in a percentage of the film’s gross profits. His 2010 film Grown Ups earned a cool $270 million at the box office, although it was panned by critics. Adam Sandler is believed to be worth $300 million by some estimates.
Like the aforementioned actors, Will Smith usually charges $20 million to star in a movie. He also receives a percentage of the gross profits of his movies. Will Smith is also a producer, having produced ten movies, notable among them being The Karate Kid, starring his son Jaden Smith. The film earned around $360 million worldwide, making a good profit for Will Smith.
Johnny Depp reportedly charges $20 million per film, and is believed to be worth $350 million. Although he has always been considered as a fine actor, his big day, as far as raking moolah is concerned, came when he signed the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It has been reported that Depp ended up making $55 million from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011).
It is reported that Brad Pitt was paid $10 million for starring in Inglourious Basterds. His biggest paychecks have come from the movies, Ocean’s Eleven, Troy, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. He roughly charges between $10 million and $20 million per movie – depending upon the back-end percentage he is offered.
Tom Hanks grabbed headlines in 1994 when it was reported that he had managed to earn $70 million for the role of Forrest Gump in the movie of same name. On an average, Tom Hanks charges $15 million per film. He is believed to be worth $350 million.
George Clooney charged $2 million for starring in the 2009 comic flick Up in the Air. In the past, he has charged anywhere between $10 million and $20 million to star in a film. His salary depends to a large extent on the studio or the franchise he is working in. For example, he reportedly charged $20 million to star in Ocean’s Eleven, but cut down his salary to $15 million for Intolerable Cruelty, which released two years later. He is believed to be worth $160 million
Denzel Washington charged $40 million for the role of Frank Lucas in the 2007 crime film American Gangster. It is reported that he usually charges $20 million per film. He is estimated to be worth $200 million.
Matt Damon charges around $10 million per film. His salary goes up when he is starring in the The Bourne series, as it is reported that he took in $20 million for The Bourne Ultimatum. Apart from being a well-known actor, Damon has also produced thirteen movies.
Ben Stiller is paid anywhere between $10 million and $15 million per film. Apart from acting career, he also produced/directed seventeen movies. His total yearly earnings for the period of May 2011 to May 2012 were $33 million. (Forbes)
Jamie Foxx is paid roughly around $10 million for a film, and is believed to be worth around $90 million. His latest film, Django Unchained has garnered around $400 million worldwide.
Jude Law is paid around $8 million to $10 million for a film. He received a $9 million paycheck for the role of Dr. John Watson in the 2009 film Sherlock Homes.
Morgan Freeman is one of the most respected actors in Hollywood. He reportedly charges between $5 million to $10 million per film. He is believed to be worth $100 million.
Robert Pattinson was reportedly paid $2 million for starring in Twilight. As the franchise gained worldwide acclaim, the salary of Pattinson increased, and he was paid $12.5 million each for two parts of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. It is also reported that he also received a 7.5% of the gross profits.
Kristen Stewart was paid $12.5 million each for starring in the two parts of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, but according to reports, it was her $34.5 million earnings for Snow White and the Huntsman that made her top the Forbes magazine list of highest earners.
Reportedly, Cameron Diaz charges anywhere between $10 million and $15 million for a film. She received a paycheck of $20 million for starring in 2003 hit, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. She took a low upfront salary for Bad Teacher, but due to the back-end agreement she had agreed to, she ended up making a whopping $34 million from the movie.
Sandra Bullock demands an upfront payment of around $10 million to $12 million per film. She was paid $15 million for the role of Det. Cassie Mayweather in 2002 psychological thriller Murder by Numbers . The 2009 sports drama film The Blind Side earned Bullock a cool $20 million, on account of the back-end deal she had signed with the producers.
Although Angelina Jolie started her career in 1982, her big paychecks came only after she starred as Lara Croft in the 2001 movie of the same name. She reportedly earned $7 million for the film. She went to earn $12 million for the next Lara Croft series movie. It is believed that she charges anywhere between $10 million to $15 million per film, although she did manage to get a salary of $20 million for the thriller spy film Salt.
Charlize Theron makes around $10 million to $15 million per film. According to Forbes magazine, in the period of May 2011 to May 2012, she made $18 million, a great part of that coming due to the success of the film Snow White and Hunstman.
Julia Roberts regularly charged anywhere between $10 million to $20 million when she was at the peak of her career. It is reported that she was paid $25 million for her role in 2003 hit Mona Lisa Smile. Although her recent flicks haven’t done extraordinarily well at the box office, Julia Roberts still manages to make around $15 million per film.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker gained fame with the role of Carrie Bradshaw in the comedy series Sex and the City, where she was paid $325,000 per episode. As far as movies are concerned, it is believed that she gets a salary of $15 million per film.
Meryl Streep is one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood and has worked in films, television, and theater. Over the years, Streep has charged an average of $5 million per film, occasionally getting a share of the gross profits, or the first-dollar earning of the movie. According to Forbes magazine, she earned $12 million in the period of May 2011 and May 2012 for her role of Margaret Thatcher in the film Iron Lady.
Jennifer Aniston used to make $1 million per episode for the popular sitcom Friends. Reportedly, she charges $8 million to $10 million per film, with a percentage of gross profit.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) lays down the payment guidelines.
According to AFTRA, the newcomers on soap operas are paid around $700 per episode. However, this not for a considerable period of time. This is when the actors appear only in some episodes or do not work for all days in a week.
The prospects are better for actors with a high visibility and they are offered good salaries when it comes to pay per episode. The work also keeps flowing in regularly. The star power is very crucial at this point , as then the actor can put across his or her own terms.
Let us take a look at the earnings of some of the well-known TV actors and actresses.
Ashton Kutcher famously replaced Charlie Sheen in the hit sitcom Two and a Half Men in 2011. He reportedly charges $700,000 per episode and with the sitcom airing around 24 episodes per season, he made around $24 million, which includes his returns on investments in the silicon valley.
Hugh Laurie played the role of Dr. Gregory House in the medical drama House from 2004 to 2012. It is believed that he was paid around $400,000 per episode for House, bringing his yearly salary up to $18 million.
Ray Romano used to earn $1.8 million per episode for sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. The show ended in 2005, and after a period of four years, he made a comeback to TV with comedy drama Men of a Certain Age. The show was canceled after two seasons in 2011. Currently, Romano is working in the comedy drama Parenthood. According to Forbes, Ramano made $18 million in the last year, a major part of which came from the reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.
Alec Baldwin gets a salary of $300,000 per episode for the television comedy series 30 Rock. Forbes estimated that his annual earnings were $15 million as of May 2012.
Mark Harmon has been playing Leroy Jethro Gibbs in the police drama NCIS since 2003, and reportedly earns $500,000 per episode.
Tim Allen takes around $225,000 for every episode of the sitcom Last Man Standing. He is still paid a percentage of the earnings of the sitcom Home Improvement that ran between 1991 and 1999. Forbes estimated his yearly earnings at $14 million as of May 2012.
Jon Cryer’s salary used to pale in comparison with Charlie Sheen’s paycheck when the latter was the part of the sitcom Two and a Half Men. After Sheen’s departure from the show, Cryer has a lead role in the series, and he now earns $600,000 per episode, which is slightly lesser than his costar Ashton Kutcher.
Patrick Dempsey has been playing the role of Dr. Derek Shepherd in the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. He reportedly charges $350,000 per episode. He also received a handsome amount for the role of Dylan Gould in the 2011 movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Jim Parsons’ geeky act in the sitcom The Big Bang Theory earns him a cool $300,000 per episode. According to Forbes magazine, he made $8 million between May 2011 and May 2012.
Johnny Galecki earns around $300,000 per episode for The Big Bang Theory, in which he plays Leonard Hofstadter. His annual salary was pegged at $8 million as of May 2012 by Forbes magazine.
James Gandolfini used to earn $1 million per episode for the role of Tony Soprano in the drama series The Sopranos. Recent estimates put his worth at $70 million.
William Petersen plays the role of Dr. Gilbert “Gil” Grissom in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He reportedly gets $600,000 per episode and his net worth is estimated at $35 million.
Simon Baker is paid $425,000 per episode for the role of Patrick Jane in police procedural The Mentalist. His net worth is around $16 million.
Christopher Meloni, who plays Elliot Stabler in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is paid $350,000 per episode.
Zach Braff was paid $350,000 per episode of the medical comedy drama Scrubs, whose original run ended in 2010. His net worth is estimated at $22 million.
Although Sofia Vergara was rumored to make only around $65,000 per episode, but it was reported that after renegotiating her deal, she gets an estimated $160,000 per episode. She has lucrative deals with Diet Pepsi, Cover Girl, Burger King, Comcast, and State Farm, which supplement her salary from the American comedy series Modern Family. Forbes magazine ranked her first on their list of highest paid TV actresses, estimating her annual salary to be worth $19 million as of May, 2012.
The Keeping Up with the Kardashians star earns about $80,000 per episode. Her earnings are further substantiated by her business ventures which include her namesake fragrance, clothing line, family boutique, and a specialty store. Her annual earnings were estimated to be $18 million.
Eva Longoria was reportedly paid $350,000 per episode for Desperate Housewives. After the show ended last year, Eva Longoria busied herself in the production of Ready for Love, a reality show which will air on April 9 this year. Forbes magazine estimates her annual earnings at $15 million.
The Real Housewives of New York City star is paid $400,000 per episode. She also gets substantial earnings from her four self-help books. She also earned big bucks when she sold her alcohol brand Skinnygirl Cocktails to Beam. Forbes reports that her earnings last year were to the tune of $12 million.
Khloe Kardashian Odom
Khloe Kardashian Odom also stars in the show Keeping Up with the Kardashians and is reportedly paid $20,000 per episode. Like her sister Kim, her major earnings come from the proceeds of their business ventures. Her annual earnings were reported to be around $11 million.
Tina Fey’s salary was around $500,000 per episode for the comedy series 30 Rock. Her annual earnings are estimated to be the tune of $11 million.
The star is reportedly paid $500,000 per episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Her annual earnings were reported to be around $10 million.
Zooey Deschanel makes a cool $275,000 per episode for New Girl. She has lucrative ad contracts with Pantene, Apple, and Rimmel London. Her annual earnings are about $9 million.
Felicity Huffman was reportedly paid around $395,000 per episode for Desperate Housewives. She also received paychecks for doing Got Milk? commercial and being the spokeswoman of Dole. Her estimated annual earnings are around $9 million.
Ellen Pompeo earns about $275,000 per episode for starring as Meredith Gray in the medical drama series Grey’s Anatomy. She reportedly earned $9 million in the period of May 2011 to May 2012.