It is no secret that actors and actresses, especially famous ones, are among the highest-paid people on the planet. Their job is often physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging and requires a lot of preparation and great personal sacrifices, and earning a considerable amount for months of shooting, seven days a week without a break, sometimes for 15 hours at a time, seems justified. But do all actors earn their paychecks through hard work? Or is it just their name that is worth millions?
Some of Hollywood’s greatest stars are paid extraordinary amounts of money just to make an appearance of a few minutes on the screen. This is not a new phenomenon – it peaked sometime in the 1990s, when having a big Hollywood star in your film meant that you would get an equally big audience in cinemas. Although moviegoers are now believed to follow franchises rather than actors, this trend still persists when it comes to certain stars. The 2023 Academy Awards showed yet again that they are not about the hottest names or the biggest productions. Our team at TradingPedia decided to find out whether that is the case, and to actually calculate how much actors who were awarded Oscars for their performances earned per minute of screen time.
We compared these amounts with what the rest of their fellow nominees reportedly earned. In addition, we looked at some of the highest-grossing titles of 2022 and estimated how much their stars were paid for participating in these films. It should be noted that these are all rough estimations based on the actors’ reported salaries on these projects.
Oscar Winners Make Less Than Expected
Indie hit Everything Everywhere All at Once stars three Academy Award Winners, but their salaries have not been made public. With a budget of up to $25 million, the sci-fi film which was the biggest winner this year with 7 awards and 11 nominations, managed to secure names like Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis. Looking at the small budget of the production, it is safe to assume that neither of them was paid very generously.
However, Yeoh recently starred in The Witcher: Blood Origin, and it has been reported that she was paid $70,000 per episode or roughly $420,000 for the entire season. Considering she is in the lead in Everything Everywhere All at Once, her salary should have been at least twice that – or around $1 million. As she is on screen a little over an hour and a half – out of 2 hours and 20 minutes for the entire film, we calculated that she must have made around $10,526 per minute.
Jamie Lee Curtis
Halloween legend Jamie Lee Curtis, who won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her performance as tax inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre in the sci-fi comedy, is believed to have been paid $5 million each for Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills, and Halloween Ends. So, for Everything Everywhere, we assume (and hope) that she left with a paycheck of at least half a million dollars. If that is the case, it means Curtis was paid roughly $29,400 per minute of being on screen.
Ke Huy Quan
The other Oscar-winning star of the film, Ke Huy Quan, may be unfamiliar to many – at least as an adult. The Vietnamese, who is now 51, once starred in The Goonies and played Short Round alongside Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones films. His salary for Everything Everywhere also remains undisclosed to the public, so for this calculation, we will assume he was paid between $100,000 and $200,000. It may be a shot in the dark, but this would mean he earned around $3,389 per minute. While it may be less than what the others on this list collected, it is quite impressive for the largely forgotten child star.
Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale might have been the best thing that happened to Brendan Fraser in a long, long time. For his critically-acclaimed portrayal of the 600-pound gay man Charlie who is trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter, he received an Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role. At the same time, he resurrected his career decades after starring in the likes of The Mummy or Journey to the Center of the Earth. Moreover, this role might have been a nice boost to his net worth.
According to various reports, Fraser was paid $12 million for his performance. This astronomical figure, however, seems unrealistic to say the least, as official data shows that the budget for the entire production was around $3 million. He was most likely paid less than a million (much less, in fact) but for this calculation, we settled on $1 million as he was once one of the hottest Hollywood stars. So, his earnings per minute come close to $12,200.
The Highest-Paid Oscar Nominees (As Pay per Minute)
As evident from our list of the highest-paid actors with an Oscar nomination in 2023, Irish actors seem to earn much more than anyone else. With 9 nominations, The Banshees of Inisherin has been one of the most talked about films in the past month or so. However, it ended up without a single award.
The Martin Mcdonagh movie had a $20 million budget and actors Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Barry Keoghan were reportedly paid $3 million each. It is believed that Kerry Condon also received the same amount. According to The Irish Sun, Farrell agreed to a smaller paycheck just to be able to work with the acclaimed director. In fact, this salary is far from what Colin Farrell or Brendan Gleeson have been paid over the years – Farrell, for instance, was reportedly paid $5 million for Minority Report and $10 million for Alexander.
Still, the $3 million paycheck means the four Irish actors are in the top 5 of our list, led by Keoghan with $214,285 per minute of screen time. Condon comes second with estimated earnings of $130,434 per minute, followed by Gleeson ($85,714/minute), while Farrell is fifth with $43,478 per minute of being on screen. Fourth on the ranking is Brian Tyree Henry, who was nominated for his performance in Causeway and is believed to have been paid $1.5 million for the role, which amounts to $50,000 per minute.
Jamie Lee Curtis is 6th with a little over $29,400 per minute, followed by Angela Bassett and her $15,900 per minute, earned for the 22 minutes she is seen in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Michelle Williams comes in the 8th position with her performance in Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical film The Fabelmans. For her role as Sammy’s mother, Williams was reportedly paid $800,000, which translates to nearly $15,400 per minute.
Although his salary has not been made public, Judd Hirsch was probably paid less than $100,000 for the Fabelmans. Considering that he appears for only 8 minutes, his paycheck seems quite generous – for every minute we see Hirsch’s face in the movie, he was paid $12,500.
Top-Earning Actors Without an Oscar Nomination
Clearly, critically-acclaimed talent does not always equate huge paychecks. In fact, it is quite the opposite most of the time, as we can see from the top entry in the ranking. Tom Cruise, who reprised his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick, was not among the Oscar nominees this year. However, his reported salary for the film is extraordinary – he is believed to have received between $13 million and $20 million upfront, along with a portion of box office and home-entertainment sales. According to Variety, this has probably brought him at least $100 million, which means that for every minute his face is on screen, he gets $885,000.
Ranked second on this list is Jennifer Lawrence who is believed to have been paid $12 million for her role as Lynsey, a veteran from Afghanistan who returns to her hometown but struggles to adjust. With a screen time of an hour and ten minutes or so, her payment per minute equates to around $171,400.
For her performance in Avatar: The Way of Water, Kate Winslet was reportedly paid $6 million and although her exact screen time is unclear, it is certainly less than an hour. Here, we settled on 40 minutes – note that every second is counted for the screen time, even when the character is in the background. This means that Winslet gets $150,000 for every second being in frame – not that anyone would recognize her as a blue alien.
Jennifer Connelly ranks fourth with nearly $115,400 per minute of screen time for her job in Top Gun: Maverick. According to media reports, she was paid $3 million for her role – significantly less than the reported paycheck of her co-star Cruise. We must admit, though, that while Cruise is seen for an hour and 53 minutes of the movie, Connelly got only 26 minutes of screen time.
Following closely with $114,940 per minute is Sam Worthington, who returns as Jake Sully, the main protagonist in the Avatar films. His reported salary for the epic blockbuster is $10 million plus 5% of film profits. Worthington’s co-star Zoë Saldaña ranks 7th with a reported paycheck of $8 million or nearly $101,300 per minute of being on screen. Tom Hanks, in the 6th position, is also believed to have received $8 million for his performance in Elvis. Although he was not in the lead role, he was reportedly paid over ten times the salary of Austin Butler, the actor who actually played Elvis.
Rounding up the top 10 are Lupita Nyong’o, Miles Teller, and Seth Rogen with their respective earnings of around $87,000, $53,000, and $50,000 per minute of screen time in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Top Gun: Maverick, and The Fabelmans.
It is difficult to calculate how much a Hollywood star has earned per minute considering that most actors’ salaries are not made public. This is why we used information from news outlets and publications such as Variety and Showbiz Galore, which provide rough estimations. Note that in many cases, figures for an actor’s reported paycheck are based on nothing but rumours. For some of the entries in these rankings, we made assumptions about stars’ salaries based on the budget of the film.
For the other essential piece of information, the screen time, we looked at two sources, namely the Screen Time Central website and the YouTube channel Screen Time Data.