What are the salaries of actors and how much do they really take home?

Table of Contents

  • What are the salaries of actors and how much do they really take home?
  • How is the actor’s salary determined?
  • What is the pay for TV actors?
  • What are the Actor’s Most Regular Expenses?
  • Summary

What are actors paid and how much do they really take home?

Will Smith getting paid

(Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images).

Actors are a fascinating subject. Actors are often pictured as having a perfect life. Reality is usually quite different. Some actors, even those who make millions of dollars per film, have very little net worth. Lindsay Lohan, for example, is said to have a net worth only $500,000 and Randy Quaid is $1 million. Actors often take home between 40-50% and 50% of their salaries. This is how it can be possible. We will now look into the income of actors.

How is an actor paid and what are the negotiations

Some actors are paid high salaries for films but the vast majority of them make the union rates set by the Screen Actors Guild. While the pay for an SAG actor is dependent on experience, it currently begins at $335/day with a weekly wage of $1166. These rates are not comparable to high income in California where most of the production takes place.

Actors with a greater reputation are more likely to be able negotiate higher daily rates and a fixed rate for each project. In the film industry, the fixed rate is the minimum amount of zeroes required to obtain above-the line talent. This shorthand refers to the creatives who must show up to work on the set. For example, Robert Downey Jr. made $75 million for Avengers Endgame. Famous actors might also be able to negotiate for convenience perks like assistants, hotels accommodations and private jet transport.

Some actors get paid in advance while others receive their money after the project is completed. Large contracts often pay a percentage of the contract upfront, with the remainder paid after production is completed. Many actors that negotiate higher fees do so not because they are acting, but for licensing their likeness. They get some upfront payment and then get a share of the licensing profit. Others actors earn based on the movie’s performance. Sandra Bullock, for example, earned $20 million plus 15% of the studio’s gross on Gravity. This led to an income of more than $70 million.

Sometimes, the actor may also receive residuals. These are usually coordinated by unions. They are earnings from movie sales or airings on TV. The length of the production, contract terms, medium and time since the release are all factors that go into calculating residual amounts. Over time, residuals tend to drop significantly. Studio City has a bar that trades a drink for a check less than one dollar.

The salaries of actors are either paid by the major studios, or from direct producers that raise money from investors. Actors may lose their salaries in exchange for a share of the profits. Twins was the most well-known example of this. Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger took no salary. The gamble paid off, as the movie grossed $216million. Schwarzenegger revealed that his paycheck was greater than any film he had made in his entire career. Gross points are a type of payment.

The game has changed dramatically with the advent of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Netflix invests more than $12 billion annually in films, with a large portion of this going towards actor salaries. Because there are no residuals, Netflix pays actors more than other studios. An actor is paid the same no matter how well the movie performs. Netflix plans to offer bonuses for films that perform well.

What are the TV actors paid

Different salaries are given to movie and TV actors. Movie actors get paid by the movie, but lead actors on TV programs are usually paid per episode. Friends’ cast is known for their ability to negotiate for $1 million per episode for each star in its final season. This amount was significantly higher than the $75,000 per hour salaries of the actors in Season 3.

There are other payment options that you can consider. Costars, which are minor characters with no story arcs, usually get paid on a scale of $1,005 plus 10% per day. Agent negotiation is possible.

Guest stars are often paid for their appearances, a “top-of-show” payment. Half-hour comedies are paid $5,400 per day for five days, while a one-hour drama pays $8,600.

While TV actors are often paid more than movie actors, they tend to be less well-paid. The TV star’s salary is usually higher because TV shows last longer than movies and have fewer sequels. It also takes a lot longer to make TV work than it does for movies.

What is an Actor’s Average Expenses

Actors often take home only 40-50% from their gross income. Where does the money go? Here’s a breakdown on the expenses of each actor.

Taxes The IRS usually gets 35% off of the top. You should also consider state taxes. Some actors pay in the same state where they work and in the one they reside in. Managers Essential for booking actors; therefore, they are expected to earn between 15-20% and 20% of the gross income of their clients.

Agents Earn between 5 and 10%. These include accountants and lawyers.

Publicist : serves as a liaison between actors and journalists, helping to create their image. They usually earn about 5% of the actor’s net.

There are additional costs such as assistants (200/day), drivers (350/day), security (1500-1,500/day) and union dues (222 plus 1.6% earnings above $500,000).

Actors don’t usually have to pay extra for certain things. Generally speaking, actors don’t have to pay for extensive travel and accommodation costs. However, there may be exceptions.


One of the most important lessons from the structure in actors’ salaries is that actual take-home earnings are often lower than reported salaries. An actor’s arrangement payment can be up to 60% if it is not taken into account by taxes, management, agents, publicists and any other required staff. Although it’s not known what Robert Downey Jr. took home from the Avengers Endgame contract worth $75 million, it is likely that it was as low as $30 million. It is a reminder of how even the most successful actors have times when they are struggling or have multiple streams of income.