Who Is The Highest Paid Actor Of All Time?
The highest-earning actor for a single film was Keanu Reeves in 2003 for his Matrix films. He earned a salary of $USD 30-million ($AUD 44-million), but his final income totalled more than $USD 156-million ($AUD 228-million) thanks to a profit participation deal.
If we consider only the salary earned, then Robert Downey Jr definitely takes the cake. The Marvel actor took home $USD 40-million just for his role in Captain America: Civil War.
The Economics Of Hollywood: Film Versus TV Actors
Although plenty of actors move between the small screen and the silver screen, there’s generally a divide between TV actors and film actors – especially when it comes to pay.
Actors in TV shows have to sign on for multiple episodes and networks usually have limited budgets. Big stars in a popular show (e.g. Game of Thrones) can charge a high per episode fee, so they may stand to earn more than their movie counterparts overall, but it’s also more work for (typically) less money.
In contrast, film actors can demand for millions of dollars per movie, especially in a money-making property like a successful film franchise (e.g. Marvel) or a much-awaited movie. Plus, actors sometimes make deals with the studio to defer part of their salary for a share of the film’s profits instead. For box office successes, this can triple or quadruple an actor’s earnings.
The Hollywood Gender Pay Gap
Here’s an observable fact: women typically earn less than men in Hollywood. This happens even for similar billing in the same movie, or even if the woman is just as famous or in-demand as her male co-star.
Some people have tried to ‘rationalise’ this in a few ways:
- Feminism is a relatively new movement, and women’s salaries haven’t caught up yet.
- Women aren’t considered as ‘profitable’ as their male counterparts.
- Women are often relegated to smaller ‘supporting’ roles (e.g. the love interest or the girlfriend) rather than lead roles.
- Women tend to star in low-draw films in the romance or comedy genres, while men tend to star in big-budget action or drama flicks.
- Women may leave their careers early to focus on starting a family, limiting their overall net worth or earnings.
- Women become ‘less desirable’ as actresses as they age, so their careers are effectively ‘cut short’ and younger actresses are more prioritised. This does not happen with male actors.
There’s an effort around the world to reduce the gender pay gap, and there’s a similar movement within Hollywood. Still, the pay gap is quite noticeable, especially in our list below!
Highest Paid Actors In The World
Highest Paid Female Actresses
In the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale, star and executive producer Elisabeth Moss earned $USD 175,000 per episode. This year, she earned $USD 24-million and entered Forbes’ highest-paid actresses list at #7.
Aniston was one of the highest-paid TV actresses of all time with a $USD 1-million salary per Friends episode and now a $USD 2-million per episode for The Morning Show. She also brought in $USD 28-million in 2019.
With Big Little Lies and The Morning Show in full swing and two upcoming producer credits, Witherspoon is set to earn $USD 35-million by the end of the year.
Even though Modern Family is ending, Vergara is exiting with a $USD 500,000 per episode salary and a $USD 44.1-million paycheck for the year.
Black Widow is the highest-paid actress this year with a cool $USD 56-million paycheck (salary plus profit share) for her Marvel films.
Highest Paid Male Actors
Between Guardians of the Galaxy and A Star is Born, Bradley Cooper is one of the most in-demand actors today. He earned $AUD 57-million this year and tied with Adam Sandler for 6th highest-paid actor in 2019.
Leo isn’t just a great actor, he’s a big box-office draw. The Oscar-winning actor earned $USD 40-million in 1997 for Titanic – that’s more than $USD 63-million in today’s money.
Robert Downey Jr
RDJ took in $USD 66-million this year alone, and he’s been pretty consistently paid big bucks for the Avengers and Iron Man films.
While Hanks has had huge successes with Toy Story and other films, his biggest payday came in 1994 when he earned $USD 70-million for Forrest Gump.
The Rock is on a roll! Dwayne Johnson had three movies this year where he starred and produced: Fighting with My Family, Hobbs & Shaw, and the Jumanji sequel, bringing in a total of $USD 89.4-million.