Do Actors Get Paid More Than Directors? Facts You Need To Know

Although there are many players (make-up artist, hairstylist, location coordinators, cameramen/technical teams, lighting, sound, chefs, security, directors, producers, and scriptwriter) in the production of a movie, actors seem to get all the buzz/hype for movies – much more than any other member of the production crew. This has led many to believe that actors are the highest-paid crop of the bunch, even more than directors – but is that the case? Well, we will attempt to satisfy everyone’s curiosity on the matter basing our analysis on how much each earns per movie or show episode or yearly. We will also ascertain if indeed actors get paid more than directors in the industry. Below are our findings and the parameters payment.

Do Actors Get Paid More Than Directors?

Do actors really get paid more than directors who are behind the camera telling them how to to do the job right? As interesting as it sounds, we will be exploring all the possibilities below. To quickly answer the above question, we must call to mind that payments depend on certain laid down criteria in the industry. As such, some actors get paid less while others are paid way bigger than some directors for a movie. On other occasions, most experienced/high pedigree directors get paid far more than any actor/actresses on their set.

The payment pattern, however, follows some sequences and parameters such as; what the demand is for both the actors (categorized as A to D) and directors, the experience of the actors or directors, the movie budget and gross at box office, and of course the standard of payment by unions like Screen Actors Guild or Director Guild of America and the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as the negotiation skills of agency representing either the actors or directors.

Having established the above, an average actor relatively unknown in the industry reportedly gets paid a yearly salary estimated to be between $1,000 to $50,000 or more while the annual earnings of first time or average movie director ranges from $65,000 to $150,000 yearly or per shoot. If the director is experienced, the sum could be more based on the box office earnings of the movie and a back-end percentage (usually between 10% to 20% bonus). Below are more facts on how this paradox has played out over time with examples.

Facts You Need To Know

The first fact is that the payment made to these key players is influenced or regulated to an extent by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The stipulated median pay per hour for an actor is pegged at $20 to 50 dollars while the annual estimated earnings is pegged at $65,000 to $150,000. A starter director would earn as much as $20 to 50 dollars per hour or simply put, a range of average salary pegged at about $70,000 to $250,000 or more depending on the budget of the movie and the director’s negotiation power.

Actors Paid More Than Director
Michele Williams, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson image source

Again, the more experienced the actor is, the fatter the paycheck is guaranteed and the same goes for a director. An experienced actor gets paid between $75,000 to $200,000 or more per episode depending on the classification and perhaps, gender. The big earners are usually the A-list actors like Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock, who made over $89.4 million as of August 2019, Keanu Reeves received $156 million for Matrix, Mark Wahlberg made $1.5 million in All The Money in the World.

A director on the other hand, can either be a first-timer/beginner or an established/star director. What this means is that the earnings of these actors/directors varies greatly from one category to the next.

Sadly, it has been observed that there is a far cry between what both men and women earn. The male folks are paid hefty amount than their female counterparts leading to high pay disparity in the industry. One clear example of the earning disparity between both genders was when Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million against the $1,000 Michele Williams got paid as his co-star for the re-shoot of All the Money in the World movie. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were paid 7% of the profit from the American Hustle movie while their male counterparts had 9%.

See Also: How Much Do Saturday Night Live Actors Get Paid Per Show Or Per Season?

For directors also, the issue of gender also rears its head. Jordan Peele earned more with his first directed film Get Out in 2017; he made over $100 million while Patricia Lea Jenkins was paid $1 million for directing 2017 DC Comics superhero film, Wonder Woman. The movie which raked in $821.8 million has its sequel also directed by Patty Jenkins for which she is paid a higher sum of $8 million.

The big sharks have ten times as much as the beginners. Directors like Christopher Nolan made $20 million from the war film Dunkirk in 2017, while Michael Bay got $80 million plus back-end bonus from the films series Transformers, thanks to the contract clause he signed.

It is noteworthy, that some directors earn as high as 20% of the movie’s total gross/profit at the box office, that is to say, a back-end percentage on the movie outing at the box office as well as a percentage of all tickets sold on a movie. A case study is Peter Jackson, who earned $20 million and 20% of the back-end of the epic film, King Kong (2005) while Steven Spielberg got 2% of all tickets sold for Jurassic Park.

Indeed, based all the above permutations we can assume that most directors are paid way more than the average actors.


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