Who's making millions in Hollywood - and why a monkey can earn more than an actor

Los Angeles - Hollywood is a business powered by stars - not only famous actors but also star animals.

And a successful performing animal can take home more money than an average human actor, says The Hollywood Reporter in a survey of salaries across the industry. Crystal the Monkey, a star of movies such as The Hangover Part II (2011) and Night At The Museum (2006), made US$108,000 (S$138,000) in 2012 for appearing in nine episodes of the comedy Animal Practice, for example.

It is twice the pay of an average member of the Screen Actors Guild, who earns US$52,000 a year, according to the latest data of the organisation. Most animals make US$5,000 to US$10,000 a year, while most actors are paid peanuts - less than US$1,000 a year.

Salaries are dropping in Hollywood but at the top of the food chain, film stars, directors, agents, producers, writers, stuntmen, studio chiefs, television hosts, television actors, commercial voice actors and network presidents can make millions, says the report that appears in the Oct 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

The top-earning film star of the past year is Robert Downey Jr, with US$75 million (from his 7 per cent cut of the earnings of his hit movie Iron Man 3 and his US$12 million endorsement deal with Taiwanese phone maker HTC).

Other highest-paid actors, named by both The Hollywood Reporter and Forbes.com, include Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (US$52 million), Sandra Bullock (US$51 million), Bradley Cooper (US$46 million), Leonardo DiCaprio (US$39 million), Liam Neeson (US$36 million) and Jennifer Lawrence (US$34 million).

Mid-level stars are doing less well, however. Mickey Rourke, for instance, was reportedly offered only US$250,000 to act opposite Downey in Iron Man 2 (2010), says The Hollywood Reporter.

It might be why some film stars are moving to TV.

Halle Berry, Katherine Heigl and Tea Leoni, who headline the respective shows Extant, State Of Affairs and Madam Secretary, are making US$150,000 an episode, says the report. For a season that spans 22 episodes, they may earn as much as US$3.3 million.

TV stars can make even more. On the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting have tripled their salaries to US$1 million an episode.

Reality stars have huge pay cheques, if their last name is Kardashian. Kourtney and Kim Kardashian have a reported US$40 million, three-year deal with the network E!, for example.

Top-earning TV hosts include The Daily Show's Jon Stewart (US$25 million to US$30 million every year), The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon (a little less than US$15 million) and Jeopardy!'s Alex Trebeck (US$10 million), says the report.

Then there are stars such as Morgan Freeman and Tim Allen, who can make more than US$1 million by lending their voices to TV or radio commercials.

In the movie business, Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips, 2013) and Ridley Scott (Prometheus, 2012) are among the top directors earning between US$7 million and US$10 million a project, says the report. Christopher Nolan, the director of the Dark Knight hit films, is reported to be making at least US$20 million for his new movie Interstellar.

Top talent agents can earn US$10 million every year, and actor Johnny Depp's agent, Tracey Jacobs, is reported to be making more than US$9 million.

Top producers such as Jerry Bruckheimer (the Pirates Of The Caribbean films), Scott Rudin (The Social Network, 2010), Brian Grazer (Rush, 2013) and Neal H. Moritz (the Fast & Furious movies) earn more than US$2 million a project, says the report. Actor Adam Sandler is reported to have made US$5 million by producing the 2013 film Grown Ups 2.

Top screenwriters such as Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (they wrote the Star Trek films) earn US$5 million annually, says The Hollywood Reporter.

Top stuntmen such as Tom McComas (the Dark Knight and Mission: Impossible films) make about US$500,000 annually, though Hong Kong action master Yuen Woo Ping (The Matrix, 1999 and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000) is reported to have taken home US$1 million at his peak.

The salaries of studio chiefs such as The Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn and Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey start at about US$5 million, more than those of the heads of entertainment divisions of TV networks (US$2 million), says the report.

In the TV business, showrunners can make US$30,000 to US$100,000 an episode, which adds up to US$660,000 to US$2.2 million a season. Matthew Weiner, the creator of the hit show Mad Men, is reported to have earned US$30 million for the past three years.

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