Producing : A - List Actor Fees by Geoff Harris

Geoff Harris

A - List Actor Fees

Hello Fellow Producers,

I'm a producer based in London UK, I'm setting up a film to shoot in Canada later this year, medium budget - $15m, and I want to offer the two leads to A- list American actors but I've no idea how much money to offer.

I'm thinking of people like Zac Efron, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara. I know whatever I offer, the agent will ask for more but I don't want to offer too little, or indeed, too much!

So I'd be really grateful for any guidance as to what would be a good initial offer.

Many thanks


Erik A. Jacobson

When you're film is a definite "go", contact a reputable casting director. Most casting directors work together as a sort of loosely-based sorority, providing each other upon request with the current asking fees of in-demand actors. This will help give you a ball-park estimate of what you need to budget for your project.

Shadow Dragu-Mihai

Geoff Harris I get asked by potential funders all the time at the range of $5m to $15m - "do you have anyone in the A list attached?" And my response is something like "Do you have $40m instead of $5m to invest?" When dealing with A-list talent reps, you should already have your money in hand, or otherwise committed in concrete. You are likely to have to make a "pay or play" offer with an immediate signing bonus - ie. they get paid regardless of whether the project goes ahead. And 15M is rather low for an A-lister. Check out the latest paydays of your short list - some of them could take 3/4 of your budget and there is very little incentive for them to lower their rate as it just means people will come at them with lower offers in the future. Also be ready to discuss and negotiate the following as A-list actors often come with things like: approval over director; approval over script; approval over publicity images and copy; top billing; added crew entourage (ie. they often have their own dedicated hair, MUA, assistant, et al), star package covering additional living expenses and higher per diem for them and their entourage; first-class travel and accommodation; dedicated driver... The list goes one so you need to consider which of these the production can afford, and balance that with the additional box office that any "A-list" name is likely to guarantee. They are not all worth the same, or necessarily anything at all, depending on the film and it's market.

Kacee DeMasi

Geoff Harris Congrats on your upcoming project, I have contacted agents who always want a script first, and when they read the script they will decide if they want to proceed In addition most agents I have encountered if the series or film is not yet listed in the trades or on IMDB they will not even respond. At the point when they are interested everything is negotiable. - Best

Rutger Oosterhoff

On the verge of A: Mickey Sumner - "Frances Ha" and Snowpiercer series- net worth 1,5 mil.

Karen "Kay" Ross

You could look up your top choices on IMDb Pro for how much they are used to making and what they may have made on previous films with a similar budget. Also, consider hiring a casting director to help you navigate this choice so you can have someone looking for alternatives. Sometimes just shy of the mainstream is a good choice, too.

Doug Nelson

A $15M budget and two A-listers; it's gonna be tough. Why do you need A-listers? I know why you want 'em, but do you really need 'em? If your script/story is all that strong why not downrange to less expensive actors and help them become A-listers?

Lyter Daniel

Doug - right on! Geoff I’ll do it for the cost of my mediocre Cop salary : ^ )’

John Ellis

A casting director is the way to go - they'll know book rates, and know alternative actor that can deliver the role for less.

Too, if you have the funding in place, find a sales agent to start setting up distro. A sales agent will tell you exactly who to cast to get the most bang for the buck.

Erik A. Jacobson

Karen "Kay" Ross - IMDB Pro lists movie budgets but not individual actor salaries. For those (see above) its possible to get a friendly casting director to contact the casting director of an actor's last film to get their current rate.

Shane Stanley

Remember, hiring actors is like buying a used car. There's the asking price, what you're willing to pay, and what they'll accept. Usually, there's a huge difference between these. Of course, if you're going for a major player, the rate could be $20M. You're not looking there so you'll probably hunt for those who get 2-5M per show. Offer a half-million to get the agents to respond and submit the offer and rate to their client and go from there. Just don't overpay. I see a lot of producers hire who they think are major players for mid-to-high six figures and could have gotten them for a fraction of the rate. Just because they're a household name doesn't make them valuable. Do your research and see what they're drawing abroad and don't look too far in the past. Someone's value 6 years ago can be largely diminished now vs. then. You can negotiate everything and actors' rates should be at the top of your list! You've got this. Go get 'em!

Dan MaxXx

"Vox Lux" starred Natalie Portman, Jude Law, and Narrated by William Dafoe. (Are they A-List actors?)

"Moonlight" starred mostly unknowns at the time (Mahershala Ali star appeal was rising).

"Get Out" cast was relatively unknown at the time.

"Whiplash" starred JK Simmons. First time feature director.

"Hereditary" starred Toni Collette. First time feature director.

"Fruitvale Station" starred Michael B Jordan. First time feature director.

All these movies starred up and coming/established actors and were done for way less than $15M. Plus, the crews were up-and-coming rockstars in their fields.

Shadow Dragu-Mihai

Dan MaxXx True for some... Vox Lux has never officially released their budget and did dismal at the box office (maybe that's why). But the others are very unusual exceptions each with their own peculiar circumstances, which prove the rule. (is JK Simmons in A-List? I think B) Another "exception" is Sky Captain And The World of Tomorrow, with Jude Law, Gwynneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie... which at the time was said by the lead producer to be done for just over $6m (I have the interviews)... but now the budget is officially $70m+ (I guess after all the participation and deferrals were in). Essentially, someone took over the project...

Geoff Harris

Thanks so much everyone for taking the time to respond to my post. My first I think since joining a couple of years ago. I always thought Stage 32 was primarily for up and coming writers, but here are many hugely experienced producers. If I may I wanted to ask a couple of follow-ups and another idea. If you're bored with this thread now, it's ok not to respond! So, when dealing with agents I sometimes feel like I'm ignored because I'm unknown and in the UK, I thought having an LA production company on the project would give it more weight but most that I've approached haven't responded. Do you think this would help, or be important to pursue?

Erik A. Jacobson I'd love to hire a casting director but don't have the development funds to do so. I worked with one once who charged a hefty up-front fee with obviously no guarantees, so unfortunately I can't do that for the moment.

Shadow Dragu-Mihai Seems a common thought that $15m is a bit low for an A- Lister, if in negotiations I had to agree to a high price, I guess I could raise the budget accordingly? Also, you mention to check out the latest paydays of my shortlist, where can I find that info?

Doug Nelson About 30% + of the budget will be raised through pre-sales so I need some names to allow for that

John Ellis I've been in touch with a couple of sales agents who've advised on the sales potential of people I have in mind, but haven't asked if they know their rates, maybe I should!

Shane Stanley Thanks for all your tips and encouragement. Interesting that you suggest going in at half a million, I recently offered $750k expecting to pay around $1.5m for a well known actor who won an Oscar some time ago. They passed, though I don't know if the agent passed or if the actor read it. I was concerned I offered too little.

Dan MaxXx You're right, but you never know which lo budgies are going to do well and which not!

Geoff Harris

Kacee DeMasi How interesting that you. mention having projects on IMDB. A while ago I posted on another forum wondering about the value of posting projects on IMDB, as you often see projects there that have been in development for many years and that's not good PR, so I didn't want to be one of them. However, I posted my projects on IMDB as I saw a lot of very established producers and production companies had everything posted, even at 'Announced' stage!

Erik A. Jacobson

Geoff Harris An IMDB pro announcement listing means nothing unless you're a well-known, major player in the industry. For others, it's nothing but a wish list. To be honest, it's really premature to speculate on casting until you've got a solid script to offer and have put together a decent development fund. Best wishes on your project.

Doug Nelson

I recall that Tim cast Ed Norton, Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss and Keri Russell for his direct to dvd titled Leaves of Grass. It wasn't a big budget production but I don't recall the cost.

Shadow Dragu-Mihai

Geoff Harris Cast paydays require research. Try imdb pro at first, but find the last few titles for the talent, then search the trades. Often their fees are published when they sign on to a project...

Tasha Lewis

Geoff Harris contact their agent if they have one or conduct research on normal rates for them. Stage 32 may have a webinar or seminar on it.

Karen "Kay" Ross

Shane Stanley That was some epic knowledge you just dropped, sir! mic drop LOL!

Ken Korba

If you have a casting director on board they should be able to provide some guidance.

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