by Joseph Weisenthal

Tough Times As Hollywood Actors Take A Pay Cut

from the fortuna's-wheel dept

In the past we've suggested that instead of trying to find a business model that supports films with $200 million budgets, Hollywood studios should perhaps look at reducing their budgets. They're starting by cutting the enormous salaries typically afforded to actors, or at least restructuring the deals so that actors can't walk away with a huge payday if the film flops. Part of the realization is that movie returns are random, so it doesn't make sense to spend so much on on-screen talent, when on-screen talent accounts for just a small part of a film's success. In fact, of last year's ten biggest films, seven weren't driven by a major star. While Hollywood is typically obsessed with gross numbers, it would do well to put more emphasis on the bottom line.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Ken Thompson, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:11am

    Big budget movie salaries

    High time. And when my 8-year old nephew wants to see an animated film, he doesn't know or care if the voices are big stars. Enough with that already. Spread the jobs around.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    M. Thompson, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:17am

    File Sharing

    This goes along with the line of junk they feed us with those commercials about telling me if I download a movie illegally how I am taking away this persons insurance, or causing this person to not pay their student loans.

    If they are that concerned, have one of the big name actors take a 1 million dollar pay cut (5% off the 20 million a film they get) and I bet everyones insurance is covered then! But the actors would cry, cause they lost their 5% on a film... so they keep feeding us the line of file sharers are destroying the industry... cause it definitely is NOT the actors and their HUGE salaries!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    SPR, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:19am

    Holly woodheads

    I don't know. Perhaps the fat heads should continue to get the big bucks so that can be full of themselves and tell the rest of us how to live and tell our elected officials how to run the government. After all, they made a movie, so they MUST be experts in all things!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Denfro Licious, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:22am

    Angelina Jolie

    Angelina Jolie gives away 1/3 of her salary to charity... She's perfect...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Hollyweird, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:24am

    Well they can always...

    All of these "big time" actors are always jumping on some political podium somewhere, they could always go into politics if their salaries get too tight.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    EasyJim, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:25am

    $70 million advertising - for what?

    The new M.Night.Shama-whatever movie, Lady in the Water, has a $70mm marketing campaign behind it. Seems crazy. The previews look like the movie is an interesting thriler, but how is it justified to increase the film's costs that much? Personally, I'd rather see that H'wood studio try something new 7 times with 10 films each with $10mm budgets. But what do I know?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    NSMike, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:30am

    More Noobs Please

    I'd rather see unfamiliar faces on screen.

    Despite the fact that Ewan MacGregor did a SPECTACULAR job in the new Star Wars films, I couldn't stand the obvious use of so many familiar actors in these new films.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:35am

    Re: Big budget movie salaries


    Now if we can only get this model to be used in the sports world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    dorpus, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:36am

    Outsource Production

    Those of you who have watched American movies in foreign countries may have noticed that it's different from the version shown to US audiences.

    Why, Powerpuff Girls is now being marketed as "Powerpuff Girls Z" in Japan, with more anime-ish features, Japanese names, and submissive personalities. Who would want them to act like Americans?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    jeff, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:38am



    that is all. thank you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    jsnbase, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:40am

    It's not the actors' fault that studios will pay them obscene amounts of money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Tom, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:44am

    Pay actors like man other occupations - based on performance. Leverage their income based on the movie's success. For instance, give the lead actor $1M to show up and get the film out and then some percentage of the gross. That way if it tanks - the actor is 'paid for performance'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    TedH, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 9:48am

    I prefer the nobodies

    I actually prefer movies with actors I'm not familiar with (as a rule) because it's easier to believe the performance if I'm not staring at some big star's face I've seen all over the tabloids.

    Some actors just seem to play themselves in all these movies. It's the character actors who do interesting acting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    JoeyPoey, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 10:07am

    Story driven vs. Actor Driven

    If the story is good enough, it wouldn't matter if a star or a REALLY TALENTED nobody did the part.

    Of course, will people see it? not right away. They won't have the Big Blockbuster opening weekend. but if it is REALLY good, people would Eventually see it.

    and if the people that made the film did it right, they will make enough money to pay the bills long enough to make another movie and put some aside for retirement.

    --or a Hummer/vacation house. Whatever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Charlie Potatoes, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 10:09am

    so what

    so they reduce the cost. lower the actors' money.. we aren't gonna see a penny of it.
    We are still gonna get to buy five dollar coke and ten dollar popcorn and pay obscene amounts to watch while they rake in millions.
    I stay home now. fuck them all... they can kiss my rosy red arse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Limerat, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 10:09am

    *Gets out worlds smallest fiddle and plays it*.
    My heart just breaks for these poor actors...
    I think it's obscene that they get such mind-boggeling saleries..A hundred thou' per actor per flick sounds much better to me.
    Cut um down to size.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Dond, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 10:12am


    I dont agree with the bloated salaries, however, at the same time I dont think its the actors who influence the films sucess either.

    To many movies that I enjoy are given poor reviews, society today needs a movie/story to be handed to them on a silver platter. It may get a bad review and do poorly in the theaters, but I loved it and cant understand where the breakdown occured.

    Might not be the actors fault, your idea is a good one, but might be somewhat flawed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    wolff000, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 10:30am

    Actors Suck

    Not really but they do get paid way too much for most of the time way too little. Hopefully this woll be a grwoing trend in Hollywood. It doens't seem like rocket science to make money on a movie just don't spend alot and the sell the hell out of it. A good marketing campaign can drive up ticket sales much more than spending 200 mill on production.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    NGUVU, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 10:32am

    Compare it to music...

    Music artists don't get paid (much) until the product sells - the same should go with actors. If they feel strongly about the product they are about to put out, then they should do it for the love of art and it would force them to do their best when they are getting paid off of the royalties - then the real talent would come out of that industry - just like in music.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Bob, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 10:46am

    Salaries and performance

    The problem I have is that in many job markets, employees are paid as much as the market will bear. Baseball players and actors come to mind. Surgeons and trans-oceanic airline captains get paid less than a million a year, despite the incredible responsibility and trust between those doing the service and those footing the bill, we find it more important to keep the employees working in the novelty industry more wealthy than the people working in rather important occupations. Personally, if there was some kind of upheaval in Hollywood and suddenly actors were making less than a million a year, it wouldn't affect me a bit, because I don't place that much importance on the movies I watch or the games I see, compared to the importance of the doctors I visit or the air travel I use.

    Sure baseball is an american pastime, but how many millions of dollars per game is justified to pay a player? If all the baseball players suddenly died from cocaine or steroid abuse, it would surely be a personal tragedy for the families imvolved, but society would plod on just fine. If in the other hand all of the surgeons or professional pilots suddenly died of prescription drug overdose or terrorist attack, social chaos would ensue. No docs to heal or cure, no pilots to move people from continent to continent.

    So if we look at a persons value to humanity, I think it's easier to justify paying more to someone on whom my life depends than to someone on whom I receive no real benefit. Sure, sure, I enjoy being entertained. We all do. But when it comes to salaries, 50 million a year to travel to exotic filming locations to play act and try to remember some lines and deliver them convincingly is absurd, regardless of how much Angelina donates to charity. Some actors get paid as if they win the lottery jackpot every fricking month. I struggle to get by on a working man's salary. I need a new car, but I'm looking at the $17K to 20K models, not the 65K or 165K or 750K models. Pro athletes and actors are paid to entertain us at higher and higher salaries and ticket prices. While doctors and IT professionals, while they live comfortably, keep the worlds physiological and electronic infrastructure working so that those actors can get to where they go and so that their finished product can me distributed.

    And don't even mention teachers. The most important job in the world is one of the least well-paid. But hey, if you're a natural actor, skip school and just do your thing; cuz you are SET! ;) Shit. If teachers said, no, I won't teach 6th grade this year unless you give me 100K per semester and a $1M binus for each of my students who wins a nobel prize, I wonder... Either we get an education or we don't, seems we should pay fairly for it. I don't think a teacher should ever have to wonder if paying the rent next month will be a stretch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Sundance Kid, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 10:54am

    Capitalist Pig Here

    Hi guys,

    I am of the opinion that if they can command those kinds of salaries more power to them. Nobody makes us watch their movies. We choose to watch them. So if you want to control there salaries stop watching there movies. It will only take 3 or 4 flops and you won't see them doing movies anymore. In that sense it is kind of pay for performance situation.

    The Kid

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Hmmmm, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 10:57am

    Seems the ones who will get hurt in these cuts are the typical non-start actors who get industry average low pay. When mister big shot actor refuses to take a cut, the people making and filling in the movie will take the hit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 11:06am

    Re: Salaries and performance


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 11:11am

    People seem to forget the fact that these actors/actresses do indeed have full time jobs. They have to work out every day, undergo plastic surgery, and put up with paparatzi following them everywhere. They can only make money if they spend the time and money to maintain their freakish good looks. But still, it is a dream job for most. And I'm sure there are plenty of yet unknown good looking people who'd be willing to fill those stilettos for less cash.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    knome, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 11:14am

    Re: Salaries and performance

    The actors/sports stars are the shining gimmicks that the crowds can idolize. Who else do they look to for escape from their miserable daily lives? The doctor affects a few hundred or thousand. The pilot affects many, but only in passing. The actor entertains millions, temporarily lifting them from their squallor. The sports star gives a shining false hope to the downtrodden that they too can escape their dooms and fates. They offer the illusion of escape.

    They are the lie that people want, and people will pay through the nose to have it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Steven, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 11:38am

    Get A Reality Check!

    Why don't we stop paying these actors these outrageous saleries and start paying our military and law enforcement better or better yet give them better protection like money for bullet proof jackets or vehicle armor. They protect us and we need to help to protect them. Honestly without the freedom they fight for, we would freely watch a movie or listen to whatever flavor of music we enjoy.

    Think about it..........Tell me what you think!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Wyndle, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 12:18pm


    While I agree with the concept of paying the actors through royalties, that will greatly increase the price of tickets and home video (VHS, DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, and whatever else is in the works). I am more of the opinion that they should get a set amount per movie and then a set bonus for every $5m profit. And it would change for every project. Mr. Tom "I am Hollywood" Cruise is the one that made Hollywood really look at the issue seriously. Think about what he DEMANDED in pay for "War of the Worlds" compared to what it actually made. His salary alone was enough to cause the film to be considered a flop. When it came time to set up for MI3 he got less than half of his previous pay and the studio nearly pulled the plug on the project (they would have done themselves a huge favor). Yes, Tommy boy is a good actor but I don't pay to see him in a movie I pay to see a movie even if it DOES have him in it.

    There are a few exceptions to all the grumblings here, the biggest of which that I can think of is Harrison Ford. I don't know what he gets paid and I really don't care because he becomes the character instead of playing it. He is a rare breed of actor on many other levels as well (no politics and he avoids Hollywood when he isn't on the job).

    One of the above posts complained about the familiar faces in the Star Wars prequals, you have to remember that almost every one of those big names volunteered to work for next to nothing just so they could be part of the legend.

    Then you have to look at what has been doing well at the Box Office (Think Harry Potter, Spider-Man, and X-Men). The relatively unknowns (yeah, I know everyone recognizes Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, but they didn't get megabucks for their roles either) get paid a little for a movie that does good and then they get paid more for another movie that does alot better, and so-on. Spider-Man 3 will be out next summer and you can bet that it will be "the" blockbuster of the year if not more (Venom, Sandman, and I think Goblin2 - and from what I can tell, a storyline that "could" easily go 3 hours). I doubt there will be an X-Men 4 but I do think there will be many spin-offs besides the already planned Wolverine and Magneto movies. I would love to see Cable, X-Force, X-Factor, or any of the other "spawned from the X-Men" characters and groups - I'd even enjoy seeing the StarJammers on the big screen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    aleeya (profile), Jul 17th, 2006 @ 12:22pm

    Lower Prices

    If the movie theaters would charge less, more people would want to see a movie and could afford to see one (or more often diff ones).. The prices to go to a movie are too utrageous these days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Wyndle, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Lower Prices

    If the movie theaters would charge less, more people would want to see a movie and could afford to see one (or more often diff ones).. The prices to go to a movie are too utrageous these days.

    The movie theaters don't have much if any say on the price of the tickets. The only way the theaters stay in business is the snack stands (which is why $.50 of popcorn sells for $6). If the actors were not overpaid and the advertising budgets weren't over inflated then the price of tickets would generate more profit for the studios (since they are too greedy to pass on the savings).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Robert, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 12:35pm


    So, if someone came to you and said, we’re going to pay you $20 Million to act in our movie you would say, “No thank you. I will only take $50,000 since it’s all it takes to pay my bills to work the 4 months it will take to make the movie.”

    Sure, that would happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Saboteur, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 12:53pm

    Cha Ching

    What the movie actors and sports stars make, reflect how much more of a draw they are. Just because Tom Cruise is in a a movie many millions more dollars are made. Now if he took a paycut, the price of movies wont go down but the studios and team owners in sports situations would keep more. A good example is the football jerseys where the quarterback sells more shirts and so he gets paid more. If he didn't get it the team owner would and they would be just as expensive. The better you are the more people will pay to see you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Angelina Jolie

    Make an offer to me for 10 or so Million and I promise I'll give 3 to charity!!! :)

    Heck, I'll even give the other 1/2 to the Government!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    End User, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Salaries and performance


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Wyndle, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re:

    So, if someone came to you and said, we're going to pay you $20 Million to act in our movie you would say, "No thank you. I will only take $50,000 since it's all it takes to pay my bills to work the 4 months it will take to make the movie." Sure, that would happen.

    I'm suggesting that the big stars, like Tom Cruise, should get $20m plus $1 for every $5 profit from the film (i.e. the studio gets their investment back before paying him extra). Toby McGuire (sp.) should get the same pay for Spider-Man 3. He would start at $20m but I'm pretty sure that by the end of the opening weekend he would easily be up another $15m if not more (at 20% of the profit).

    What about the little guys? If they are in lead roles they should be decently paid with a stipulation of 2.5 - 5% of the profit from ticket sales if the movie goes into profit. As for the crews, having their names on the credits of big movies already ensures that they get hired again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Division by Zero, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 1:35pm

    Blockbuster Bigness

    The big-name actor is one of the factors driving the "box-office hit" that H'wood is in love with. With the typical movie spending under 6 weeks in the theater and profit/loss being largely determined by the opening weekend, H'wood will continue to pay actors what it thinks it takes to get them involved with the film. As long as you have people who will see a movie (whether in the theater, DVD, or downloaded) simply because of the actor(s) involved, actors will continue to command the big bucks. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying it's the reality of the situation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    DittoBox, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Re: Angelina Jolie


    Bullcrap. They take it anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    MockingBird, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 2:08pm

    we don't pay actors

    we don't pay actors, so we can't reassign the pay to military people. we pay to see movies. like xmen3. which has made close to $200 million already. if the lead actor got 20 million dollars, the studio would still make 180 million. if he got 10 million, the studio would make 190 million. it's all about studios wanting to keep more $ in their pockets. if they wanted to hire guy A for less, or jennifer aniston for more, then they have that right. but, if there's a film with deniro AND paccino in it, I'm gonna go see it. generally I'm there to see a movie, but a movie I might not have otherwise seen might get my $ if there are some actors in there that I like. don't buy the hype. we don't pay actors. we really really don't. and studios would love to go back to the time when actors worked for slave wages.
    but.. it's been shown a big name can draw big crowds.
    not EVERYONE.. but certainly some.
    no one cares if I get out of a limo.. but if it's tom cruise.. he gets swamped. it carries over to films too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    Jake, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 2:12pm


    As a young adult with little money, i know it sucks for people to get pay cuts, so just pay the actors, because we all know that it takes 50 million dollars to live on every year, because people can't drive normal cars, it has to say porche or lamborghini (sp?) and these are must haves. Lets be serious, why not pay the actors, and then make them pay higher taxes, its a win win for everyone. Social Security is no longer a problem with my idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    William Williams, Jul 17th, 2006 @ 2:12pm

    Actors make what they make

    As long as people are more likely to see a movies because there favorite star is in it big-time actors will always make to much money. And if one studio decides not to pay than another will and take away all the blockbusters. That's the free market that we live in guys. And if one baseball/football team decided not to pay millions others would and take all there good players and they would lose every game. And don't be mad at the actors/players for making as much as they can, I and just about everyone else in the world would do the same given the opportunity. Most of these people just sound mad that there not making that kind of money. If you really want to make that kind of money to Hollywood and try-out then you can say "Oh, I only want 25K per film I have standards. I don't want to make more than a teacher thats not fair."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    Natasha, Nov 10th, 2006 @ 7:50am

    I better get paid right...

    All im saying is that when i become an actress,i better get paid the right amount of money...not just some cheap sh!t!...that's it for now...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Toni, Nov 14th, 2006 @ 7:59am

    i think thats unfair

    i think that is very unfair. although i am not an actress (yet, i hope to one day be a sucessful film actress) i feel that the actors work just as hard as any one else and should be payed the same too

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. identicon
    Ray Lanfear, Apr 2nd, 2007 @ 11:07am

    High Salaries

    Its tough with high salaries for actors, for an independent to produce a great film, however
    there is one, see below.

    Were the proud parents of our son Lance Lanfear, who is an independent movie producer and has
    just produced "Jake's Closet". Lance is 29 years old and resides in Hollywood, with his wife Martha.

    Our goal is to get 1 million people to be among the first to see the trailer of "Jake's Closet". To be
    among the first visit: put your mouse over the images and click on. Any
    other publicity and/or interview we could obtain for Lance, would greatly be appreciated. If if only to
    simply forward this email on.

    The writer/director is Shelli Ryan and the the producer is our son, Lance. Its a true depiction of the
    unconsicious and insidiousness way parental alienation occurs in families distressed by divorce. The
    movie depicts just how real a child's fears are. With divorce rates approaching over 50% versus 25%
    in the sixties, it should have a massive audience appeal, due to the content.

    Appreciate any help you can give in spreading the word, again to be among the first to view the
    trailer simply visit:

    Thanks for your help in reaching our goal of 1 million viewers for a subject that should have an
    potential audience in the millions.

    Ray and Judy Lanfear
    Proud Parents of Lance
    970 256 1834

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2007 @ 11:20am

    what ever

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44. identicon
    dennis taylor, Dec 13th, 2007 @ 7:32pm

    actor pay

    6.50 an hr. if they can sell,after all they would do it for nothing,i can only belive that. what has our country became?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45. identicon
    dennis taylor, Dec 13th, 2007 @ 7:44pm

    Re: Salaries and performance

    your so right, been saying the samething for yrs. damn i"m at a loss,people seem to be dumbed down as has been . thanks, remember rome...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46. identicon
    monica, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:58am

    Re: Salaries and performance

    you are so right! what u said is what i think! there a lot of job's very important who are miserably paid!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47. identicon
    blah, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 5:18pm

    Re: so what

    i hear that. imma stay at home too and wait till it comes out on t.v. that way i don't gotta pay nothing. shoot, cable is high enough. or at blockbuster and take it home and buy my popcorn and coke from walmart and call it at night. bout to go chill at the house.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48. identicon
    blah, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 5:25pm

    Re: actor pay

    i hear that. they get paid millions of dollars and yet are country is in a recession, thousands of people being laid off from work, we're in debt, yet tom cruise, and halle berry, and jen aniston demand millions of dollars per movie. greed. pure greed. and if we're so much in debt. why are they paying them so much? hmmm. here's some news for ya. Govenor of cali, arnold shwartezzenegar (however ya spell it) threatens to lay off a good bit of employees in the state of cali. Because they're in "debt" but yet as much money as he has from all his movies he made AND being govenor at that i'd say he should throw in a couple thousands dollars to help. but then again just my stupid opinion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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