Times TV And Movie Actors Fought For Higher Salaries


Steve Carell left The Office after “somebody didn’t pay him enough” to stick around.


First, Neve Campbell recently walked away from appearing in the upcoming Scream 6 after she was presented a salary that didn’t equate to her value to the franchise. Neve has starred as Sidney Prescott since the first Scream movie in 1996. In a statement about the failed salary negotiation, Neve said, “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.”

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Jason Weaver, who is the singing voice for young Simba in The Lion King, revealed that he was originally offered $2 million for his work on the songs “Hakuna Matata” and “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” however his family turned down the deal. Jason’s mom negotiated with Disney and he got $100,000 up front in 1994 alongside a share of royalties. Now, he’s made more than $2 million for his work as of 2019.

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Before filming began on 21 Bridges, Sienna Miller tried to negotiate for a higher salary, but the studio backing the film refused to get the number she was asking for. So, Chadwick Boseman donated some of his salary to Sienna, so that she would reach the number she wanted. “He said that that was what I deserved to be paid,” Sienna recalled. “He said, ‘You’re getting paid what you deserve, and what you’re worth.’ It’s just unfathomable to imagine another man in that town behaving that graciously or respectfully.”

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Terrence Howard, who originally had a three-picture deal with Marvel — was replaced as Rhodey following Iron Man after he was only offered 12.5% of the salary he’d initially been promised. Speaking about having to walk away from the franchise, Terrence said, “It turns out that the person I helped become Iron Man…took the money that was supposed to go to me and pushed me out.”

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Scarlett Johansson was reportedly paid $15 million for Black Widow, which took years to fight for. On The Avengers, Scarlett was only paid a “low-seven figure salary” compared to Robert Downey Jr., who earned $50 million for the film. With the pay bump, Scarlett earned equal to what Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth were paid for their follow-up Marvel solo films Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok.

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Of course, Scarlett’s pay for Black Widow once again made headlines when she filed a lawsuit against Disney after they made the decision to release the film on Disney+ in conjunction with a theatrical release. The dual-release model reportedly cost her an estimated $50 million.


The Friends cast notably negotiated for higher salaries together. After the show was averaging 24.7 million viewers during Season 8, the cast fought with NBC to get paid $1 million per episode. In fact, David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston took pay cuts so that all of the main six cast members could be paid the same amount. For the final two seasons, all six of the actors made $1 million per episode, after making roughly $22,500 per episode in Season 1.

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In fact, the Friends cast paved the way for other TV ensembles to negotiate salary deals together. In 2015, The Big Bang Theory cast did a similar thing when the five original main cast members — Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar — successfully got $1 million per episode. Then, in 2017, when it came time for Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch to get new contracts, the original five decide to take pay cuts so they could all be paid equally.

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For Malcolm & Marie, Zendaya fought to make sure the crew on the film were given equal footing when it came to getting paid based on the film’s success. “[John David Washington and I] got to create this financial structure where all of our crew members also got points on it, so when it sold,” she explained, “they made money as well, so hopefully that will be a system that can continue. I think it’s important that we take care of our people.”

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After This Is Us Season 1, the main cast members — which included Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Chris Sullivan — successfully stood together to fight for equal salaries moving forward. For the remainder of the series, they were all paid the same amount. Series creator, Dan Fogelman, reportedly stepped in and helped the actors negotiate their raises, too.

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After The Office Season 7, Steve Carell departed the hit comedy series, and at the time everyone thought he wanted to leave. However, in the book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, several crew members revealed that NBC executives never made an offer to keep him around after his original contract ended. Casting director Allison Jones recalled, “Somebody didn’t pay him enough. It was absolutely asinine.”

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Teen Wolf star, Arden Cho, declined to return for the upcoming revival movie after reportedly being offered “half the per-episode salary proposed to her three counterparts,” who are white actors. Arden was the only actor of color among the four female series regular cast members. Shortly after this news broke, Dylan O’Brien hinted that one of his reasons for not appearing in the movie was Arden’s mistreatment.

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Meryl Streep notably pushed back after The Devil Wears Prada offered her less than what she deemed she was worth. “The offer was to my mind slightly, if not insulting, not perhaps reflective of my actual value to the project,” Meryl recalled in 2016. “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.”

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When Grey’s Anatomy began in 2005, Patrick Dempsey was making “almost double” what Ellen Pompeo was, despite Ellen literally playing the main character. This went on for two seasons before she was able to negotiate a higher pay. Then, in 2018, Ellen became the highest-paid actor on a TV drama by making $575,000 per episode for the last three seasons.

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Emmy Rossum publicly called out the Shameless producers for not paying her the same amount as William H. Macy in 2016. Up until Season 8, Emmy was getting paid much less than William, and she rightfully believed she should be paid more, considering Fiona really co-led the series. “One of the nicest things about the way it all went down is I felt so supported by Bill [Macy],” Emmy explained. Emmy’s negotiations halted the renewal of Season 8 until an agreement was eventually reached.

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Benicio Del Toro was originally director J.J. Abrams’s first choice to play Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, however, Benicio ended up walking away from the project after he wasn’t offered comparable pay. In the end, Khan was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2013 sequel.

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In 2018, Jessica Chastain stood up for Octavia Spencer while the duo was negotiating to star in an untitled holiday comedy together. Jessica brokered a “favored nations” deal, which bundled their salary and got the duo “five times” what they originally asked for. The move started after Octavia told Jessica how women of color are often paid even less than white women.

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Ahead of Stranger Things Season 3, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp, Caleb McLaughlin, Winona Ryder, and David Harbour all finalized pay increases. At the time, the child actors got the biggest bump going from earning $30,000 per episode to around $250,000. Winona and David, who were established actors before the series, saw an increase to $300,000 or more.

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Following The West Wing Season 4, Rob Lowe decided to leave the series, originally citing that his character of Sam Seaborn had become “useless” and he was looking for a change. However, insiders from the series revealed that the exit was partially due to Rob wanting a higher salary. At the time, Rob was one of the highest paid actors on the show next to Martin Sheen.

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Lauren Cohan, who has played Maggie on The Walking Dead since Season 2, left the series for a few seasons after a failed contract negotiation with AMC. Lauren was fighting for a pay equal to her male costars, Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus, for Season 9. Eventually, Lauren left the show to star on Whiskey Cavalier, but after that show’s cancellation, she returned to The Walking Dead for the final season following a “lengthy” negotiation process.

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Daniel Dae Kim, alongside Grace Park, failed to acquire pay parity between themselves and their fellow Hawaii Five-0 original cast members, Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan. After not reaching an agreement, both Daniel and Grace departed the show before Season 8. Daniel said that one thing that was not widely reported at the time was the “amount of [a] pay cut [he] took to do Hawaii Five-0 from Lost.”

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And finally, when it came time to film The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Charlize Theron made sure to speak up and get an equal salary to Chris Hemsworth. At first, Chris was set to make more than Charlize, even though they both co-headlined the first movie and were returning for the sequel. Charlize’s demand for equal pay was accepted and she made over $10 million for the movie, which was the same as Chris.

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