Oscar Worthy Salaries

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While Hollywood’s finest all rake in the big bucks off camera, their on-screen portrayals don’t earn nearly as much. This year’s Academy Award nominees portrayed a variety of working people – from hit men and attorneys to barbers and royalty, their salaries ran the gamut.
With the Oscars just a few days away, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of this year’s nominees to see what their characters would make in real life. Here’s a look at what the people portrayed in Oscar-nominated roles would earn in present day America. ****
  • Nominee: George Clooney, best actor, “Michael Clayton”

Character: Michael Clayton, an attorney known as “the fixer” at a corporate law firm in New York.
Character’s salary: A corporate attorney in New York would make $98,700.*

  • Nominee: Saoirse Ronan, supporting actress, “Atonement”

Character: Briony Tallis, a 13-year-old writer who accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he didn’t commit.
Character’s salary: Writers and authors earn $58,080. **

  • Nominee: Daniel Day-Lewis, best actor, “There Will Be Blood”

Character: Daniel Plainview, a silver miner who strikes it rich when he finds oil.
Character’s salary: Metal ore miners earn $22.08 per hour, while oil extractors make $21.40. **

  • Nominee: Laura Linney, best actress, “The Savages”

Character: Wendy Savage, an aspiring playwright working as a temp in New York City who needs to care for her ailing father.
Character’s salary: Temporary office clerks earn an average of $11.40 per hour**, while playwrights in New York City make $62,639. *

  • Nominee: Johnny Depp, best actor, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

Character: Benjamin Barker, a.k.a. Sweeney Todd, a barber (and serial killer) who goes on a murderous rampage in London.
Character’s salary: Barbers bring in $26,540. **

  • Nominee: Marion Cotillard, best actress, “La Vie en Rose”

Character: Edith Piaf, the famous French singer.
Character’s salary: Median hourly earnings of wage-and-salary musicians and singers are $19.73. **

  • Nominee: Tommy Lee Jones, best actor, “In the Valley of Elah”

Character: Hank Deerfield, a retired military sergeant trying to uncover the truth behind his son’s death after his tour in Iraq.
Character’s salary: In April 2007, an Army staff sergeant with more than 20 years experience earned $3,064.50 per month.

  • Nominee: Tilda Swinton, supporting actress, “Michael Clayton”

Character: Karen Crowder, a malpracticing company director for the law firm.
Character’s salary: The national average for a legal director is $158,832. *

  • Nominee: Viggo Mortensen, best actor, “Eastern Promises”

Character: Nikolai Luzhin, a driver for a boss in the Russian Mafia.
Character’s salary: Taxi drivers and chauffeurs gross $22,080 annually. **

  • Nominee: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, supporting actor, “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Character: Gust Avrakotos, a division chief for the CIA.
Character’s salary: A mid-level (step five) CIA division chief earns between $63,481 and $89,202. Salaries vary. ****
* US National Average, unless noted for a specific city, provided by SalaryExpert.com
** Average salary from May 2006, Bureau of Labor Statistics
*** Based on 2008 general pay scale provided by FedJobs.com
**** Not all Oscar nominees are listed.
8 Comments
  1. I just wanted to point out that the military pay you quoted was for active duty. If Thommy Lee Jones’ character was retired, his pay would ba about 1/2 of that amount.

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