12 Times Actors Demanded To Be Paid What They're Worth, And 6 Times They Just Walked Away From Embarrassingly Low Offers
·13 min read
1.Fought for more: the Stranger Things cast
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the hit show started with the main child actors making around $20,000 per episode while David Harbour earned $80,000 and Winona Ryder made about $100,000.
Following the major success of the first two seasons, the cast negotiated for raises before Season 3. Winona and David's pay increased to $350,000 per episode. Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Noah Schnapp – the four main boys – saw a jump to $250,000 per episode.
Millie Bobby Brown's pay was not confirmed, but it was likely increased to somewhere between the figures of the other child actors and the established adults. Some sources suggested the amount to be around $300,000 per episode.
2.Fought for more: Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer
During a 2018 Sundance Film Festival panel, Octavia recalled a phone call with Jessica Chastain, who was pushing for pay equity between men and women. Octavia informed her that women of color make far less than white women, so they need to be brought into the conversation, too.
With a comedy project involving both actors on the horizon, Jessica proposed the two tie themselves in negotiations to ensure they got a better deal together. Octavia ended up with a salary five times higher than she would have originally gotten.
In a later tweet, Octavia wrote, "I don't know what or if it cost her anything as far as her rate, I just know she stood with me, and am eternally grateful."
@akstanwyck this is correct except I should clarify that I am making 5x my salary bc Jessica stood with me. I don’t know what or if it cost her anything as far as her rate, I just know she stood with me, and am eternally grateful. https://t.co/JH8QRUIVJc
After seven seasons of Hawaii Five-0, Daniel and Grace fought for pay equity with costars Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan. They could not reach a deal with the studio, so both actors decided to move on from the show.
In a Facebook post, Daniel wrote, "I will not be returning to Hawaii Five-0 when production starts next week. Though I made myself available to come back, CBS and I weren’t able to agree to terms on a new contract, so I made the difficult choice not to continue. As sad as it feels to say goodbye, what I feel most is gratitude. I am so deeply thankful to our crew, writers, and everyone associated with the show — and especially the cast, who have been nothing but supportive through this entire process."
4.Fought for more: Meryl Streep
During a 2016 interview with Variety, the actor shared that she nearly walked away from the iconic role as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. "The offer was to my mind slightly, if not insulting, not perhaps reflective of my actual value to the project," she revealed.
"There was my 'goodbye moment,' and then they doubled the offer. I was 55, and I had just learned, at a very late date, how to deal on my own behalf," she concluded.
5.Fought for more: Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Big Bang Theory actors Mayim and Melissa made $175,000 per episode while Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, and Kaley Cuoco earned $1 million per episode. Mayim and Melissa sought pay equity with their costars.
After the original five actors agreed to take a $100,000 per episode pay cut in support of their friends, Mayim and Melissa closed a deal for over $425,000 per episode.
6.Turned it down: Neve Campbell
Last month, the actor announced she would not be reprising her role as Sidney Prescott in Scream 6. "As a woman, I have had to work extremely hard in my career to establish my value, especially when it comes to Scream," she said in a statement. "I felt the offer that was presented to me did not equate to the value I have brought to the franchise."
"It’s been a very difficult decision to move on. To all my Scream fans, I love you. You’ve always been so incredibly supportive to me. I’m forever grateful to you and to what this franchise has given me over the past 25 years," she concluded.
7.Fought for more: Emmy Rossum
For the first seven seasons of Shameless, Emmy was paid less than her costar, William H. Macy, despite having a much larger role in the show. According to The Hollywood Reporter, she sought a salary equal to — or even higher than — his for Season 8.
She ended up with an offer for the same pay as William. She told IndieWire, "The first step to anything is having an awareness of it before you can change the fundamental systemic problems that created and support it. Before my renegotiation was up, I had to be willing to walk away to get what I felt was right — and we went through obviously a long period of negotiation that was private, and then at a certain point it kind of became public."
"When you love your show and you love the people you work with, obviously you want to keep doing it. And when the business side of what you do becomes public in that way, it really doesn’t feel great. It’s embarrassing. But something brilliant came from that: We won, and so many people were empowered because of it. I stand with all the women who are fighting for pay equity and everything that they deserve — and that goes not just in our very little insular industry, that goes for government and doctors and nurses and teachers and farm workers."
8.Fought for more: the cast of This Is Us
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, and Justin Hartley — the five main actors — started the show with different salaries. Milo made $115,000 per episode, Justin earned $75,000, and Chrissy — who only had 81 cents in her bank account when she landed the role — made $40,000.
Before Season 3, they banded together to fight for raises and pay equity. They negotiated $250,000 per episode for all five of them.
9.Turned it down: Arden Cho
The actor played Kira in the popular MTV show, Teen Wolf. First appearing in Season 3 — which built much of its plot around Asian mythology — Kira was a kitsune who went to become a central character and fan favorite.
Earlier this year, it was announced that Teen Wolf would return as a movie for Paramount+. However, Deadline reported that Arden — the only woman of color out of the four main female actors — was offered just half the salary of the other women, leading her to turn down the role.
10.Fought for more: Charlize Theron
The actor discovered that she was being paid significantly less for her role in The Huntsman than her costar, Chris Hemsworth. During negotiations for the sequel, she fought for pay equity and won.
During an interview with Elle UK, Charlize said, "I have to give them credit because once I asked, they said yes. They did not fight it. And maybe that’s the message: That we just need to put our foot down. This is a good time for us to bring this to a place of fairness, and girls need to know that being a feminist is a good thing. It doesn’t mean that you hate men. It means equal rights. If you’re doing the same job, you should be compensated and treated in the same way."
11.Fought for more: the cast of Friends
When the show began, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, and Matt LeBlanc — the six main actors — made $22,500 each. During the second season, Jennifer and David began earning more as the main couple.
Prior to Season 3, David suggested they start negotiating as a team and demand pay equity. All six actors ended up with a $75,000 per episode salary for the season. This collective bargaining style of negotiation paved the way for them to eventually earn $1 million per episode for the final two seasons.
12.Turned it down: Terrance Howard
For the first Iron Man movie, Terrance was paid more than any other actor, including Robert Downey Jr. During an interview on Watch What Happens Live, he claimed that the studio drastically decreased their original salary offer for the sequel and planned to give that money to Robert instead.
"We did a three-picture deal, so that means that you did the deal ahead of time," he said. "It was going to be a certain amount for the first one, a certain amount for the second one, a certain amount for the third. They came to me with the second and said, 'Look, we will pay you one-eighth of what we contractually had for you, because we think the second one will be successful with or without you.' And I called my friend — that I helped get the first job — and he didn't call me back for three months."
13.Turned it down: Sienna Miller
The actor declined an offer to star in a Broadway show when she found out her male counterpart would make twice her pay. During an interview with Vogue, she recalled, "It was a play with just two of us on stage, and I was offered less than half of what he was going to be paid. If it was two men, it wouldn't probably happen. Sad, but I walked away."
14.Fought for more: Robin Wright
Once the House of Cards actor discovered she was being paid $80,000 less per episode than her male costar, she demanded equal pay.
"I was looking at the statistics and Claire Underwood's character was more popular than [Frank's] for a period of time. So I capitalized on it. I was like, 'You better pay me, or I’m going to go public.' And they did."
15.Fought for more: the cast of Modern Family
After tense negotiations, a lawsuit, and a canceled table read, the cast scored major raises prior to Season 4, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, and Sofia Vergara jumped from about $65,000 per episode to around $170,000, including bonuses. Ed O’Neill's salary increased from about $105,000 per episode to around the same as the other adult actors' pay, but he enjoyed a larger cut of the show’s back-end profits than the rest of them. These negotiations set the stage for all six actors to make $500,000 per episode for the final season.
According to Deadline, Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould, and Rico Rodriguez — the main child actors — tripled their salary and ended up with $70,000 per episode. Sarah made slightly more than the others in previous seasons, but the group earned the same moving forward.
16.Turned it down: Julianna Margulies
During an interview with Deadline, the Good Wife star revealed that she was asked to reprise her role as Alicia Floreck in the third season of the spinoff series, The Good Fight. However, "CBS wouldn’t pay me," she said.
She said that she asked for a fee similar to what she'd made on The Good Wife, but the studio wanted to pay her as a guest star instead. "I’m not a guest star; I started the whole thing with The Good Wife. I wanted to be paid my worth and stand up for equal pay. If Jon Hamm came back for a Mad Men spinoff or Kiefer Sutherland wanted to do a 24 spinoff, they would be paid."
17.Fought for more: Rachel Brosnahan
For the first two seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the actor made around $100,000 per episode. Since she wasn't as famous as some of her costars, the studio paid her less than them.
According to Deadline, she negotiated a big pay increase before Season 3. Rachel landed $300,000 per episode plus some of the show's back-end profits.
18.Fought for more: the cast of Westworld
When the show started, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, and Thandiwe Newton reportedly made different amounts, between $100,000 and $150,000 per episode.
Six months before their salary negotiations for Season 3, HBO announced pay equity for Westworld's male and female actors. All four of them ended up with about $250,000 per episode.
During an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Thandiwe noted that HBO's move to pay equity was informed by the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. "Let’s face it, it’s not a new movement. It’s been going on since suffragettes," she said. "[But] for me, it was just a relief to actually get to a point where I wasn’t having to ask and I wasn’t having to fight for what should be a rightful gift from someone who values and appreciates you."
While speaking with Vanity Fair, she vowed to never again accept a future project where she's not offered pay equity. "I wouldn’t do anything if it didn’t. Definitely not. Fuck that."