The Rock & Scarlett Johansson are the highest paid actors but there’s a wage gap

While writing about this year’s Razzie nominations, I was reminded that Baywatch got a Razzie in 2018. The Razzies folks created a new category just for it: “So Rotten You Loved It.” The Rock graciously played along and filmed an acceptance speech, which he posted on Instagram. (Like Hecate, I enjoyed the movie for what it was, not having high expectations going in, and I’ve watched it a few times now.) People love The Rock, and don’t seem to hold his bombs against him, probably in part because he’s not afraid to laugh at himself, and he takes everything in stride.

It’s not entirely surprising then, that he was just named 2019’s highest-paid actor. Scarlett Johansson, who was nominated for two Oscars this year, was named the highest-paid actress. (Scarlett is the 12th actor to receive two acting nominations in one year and the fifth of these to go home without an award.) Here’s what Forbes had to say about its lists:

Dwayne Johnson is the highest-paid actor in the world, having earned $89.4 million before taxes last year, Forbes reports in its 2019 list of the highest-paid actors.

The list tallies on-screen and off-screen earnings between June 1, 2018 and June 1, 2019.

Johnson, whose millions came in part from his $23.5 million upfront salary for “Jumanji” and the $700,000 he earns for every episode of HBO’s “Ballers,” made significantly more than the highest-paid actress: Scarlett Johansson, with $56 million in earnings.

Cumulatively, the top female earners took home $315 million before fees and taxes. “That’s up 69% since last year,” Forbes notes, “but still far less than the almost $600 million the top 10 leading men pulled in.”

Many actresses are taking the pay gap into their own hands by producing their own projects, including Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who produce and star in the hit HBO series “Big Little Lies.”

[From CNBC]

The article also notes that 7 of the 10 highest-paid actresses also produced their projects.

Here are the top-ten earners. (The amount of money earned is pre-tax):

10. Will Smith: $35 million
9. Paul Rudd: $41 million
8. Chris Evans: $43.5 million
7. Adam Sandler: $57 million (tie)
6. Bradley Cooper: $57 million (tie)
5. Jackie Chan: $58 million
4. Akshay Kumar: $65 million
3. Robert Downey Jr.: $66 million
2. Chris Hemsworth: $76.4 million
1. Dwayne Johnson: $89.4 million

10. Ellen Pompeo: $22 million
9. Charlize Theron: $23 million
8. Margot Robbie: $23.5 million
7. Elisabeth Moss: $24 million
6. Kaley Cuoco: $25 million
5. Jennifer Aniston: $28 million
4. Nicole Kidman: $34 million
3. Reese Witherspoon: $35 million
2. Sofia Vergara: $44.1 million
1. Scarlett Johansson: $56 million

It’s especially depressing to look at these numbers when you can see them right next to (or above and below) each other. While I’d still love Scarlett’s $56 million (as would most people), the $43.4 million gap between her and The Rock is frustrating to contemplate, as is the overall obvious disparity between the actors’ and actresses’ total paychecks. I’m reminded of what Lulu Wang said of female directors at the Independent Spirit Awards: “Just give them the freakin’ job. Give them the money.” This, across the board. Thank you, Lulu.

2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Los Angeles premiere of 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood'

photos credit: WENN

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64 Responses to “The Rock & Scarlett Johansson are the highest paid actors but there’s a wage gap”

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  1. SM says:

    Needless to say, compared to the real world they all are pretty lucky. But wow: Scarlet would have been number 8 in the male list. And Reese who works her but off to get multiple projects off the ground would have need with Smith at no 10. And what did he do this past year? Depressing.

    • Leigh says:

      What did Will Smith do this past year? Aladdin and Bad Boys 3 were both huge box office hits…. Agreed about the gender pay gap in general though.

    • Michael says:

      Will Smith started in a movie that made a billion dollars and has a very long track record of money making movies. Scarlett did star up in Endgame but was one of 15 people and not the driver for the audience to attend. She should make huge money for Black Widow and even larger money if it is a massive sucesss. You do not get too money for Oscar type movies you get them for huge box office returns

      • Tooby says:

        Will Smith has also diversified pretty heavily to reboot his career after falling down, with far more social media engagement and other ventures than most stars.

        This is how he can justify his quote nowadays: he brings together everyone who liked him in the past with newer, more Youtube-heavy fans with things like his Youtube channel.

        I’ve heard studio heads praise what he brings to the promotional tour. Scarlett is less proactive (she does the usual circuit) but even so I think when Black Widow comes out she’ll overtake Smith. She just couldn’t get paid as much of the backend as he did for Aladdin since he was the only star and Endgame was packed.

  2. Tiffany27 says:

    How is Sofia Vergara making so much money? No shade; genuine question.

    • Becks1 says:

      My guess was she probably has a high per-episode fee and then endorsements. I don’t think she does any movies, does she?

    • Um says:

      Modern Family is till on and in syndication plus she has a couple of commercial spots.

    • lucy2 says:

      She has a LOT of business deals, and still a pretty big payday from Modern Family. But she was smart and when the show was hot, she signed on to a bunch of companies and business deals.

    • Lisa says:

      Long running tv show and side deals that are very lucrative.

    • MJ says:

      It’s entirely due to the money she makes from Modern Family. They’ve been paying the main actors tons of money to keep coming back for another season.

      Hope Sofia Vergara holds onto her dollars. she will likely not have a career post-Modern Family. Not that she needs it w/those residuals 😂

  3. Janiet says:

    How is Chris Hemsworth making so much?? It can’t be just Avengers because Evans made significantly less. I must be missing something.

    • Maxie says:

      It has to be. He was only in two movies last year :
      – The Avengers : Endgame
      – Men in Black : Internation

      He can’t carry any non-franchise movie on his own. It’s quite curious indeed.

    • M.A.F. says:

      I thought he had endorsement deals?

    • SKF says:

      He has loads of side hustles. There’s Centr and then there’s his ambassador roles for Tag Heuer, Boss, Tourism Australia and probably more.

  4. Snowslow says:

    This list is… so random to me.

    • josephine says:

      It’s just a snapshot of a single year, which is always a little random. I think the list of how much each actor can demand per movie is more interesting, and shows even more of a disparity btw men and women.

  5. Becks1 says:

    Interesting that so many of the high female earners are on TV (and I’m sure a great deal of their money comes from endorsements as well). And I wonder how much side projects factor into this? Like, is Draper James accounted for with Reese? And does that include residuals or just new paychecks? (like, I’m assuming Will Smith’s paychecks weren’t for all new projects, but maybe they were?)

    That gap between ScarJo and the Rock is pretty appalling and very striking when you consider the kinds of movies she’s in – yes, Marriage Story probably wasn’t a huge pay day for her – but the Avengers franchise has certainly been huge for her. then you look at Hemsworth and RDJ and its even more striking/obvious.

    • Alissa says:

      The one thing that I will say about Scarlett is her projects where she’s the lead tend to either be indies that won’t make her much money, or attempts for blockbusters that don’t work out very well. yeah she’s in the avengers, but she’s only just getting her stand alone movie. Evans and Hemsworth have each had three standalone movies about their characters. so it makes sense that the rock would make more money because he does a lot more endorsements and is usually the lead or the lead of the ensemble in his movies. plus he’s the lead on a TV show.

      • Becks1 says:

        That’s a good point about her stand-alone movies (I don’t like her in general, but I cannot believe it took so long to get a standalone movie for Black Widow) – so it makes sense that Evans and Hemsworth would have higher annual earnings if we are factoring in money they get from those movies.

        And if the Rock is getting 700k per episode for Ballers, that’s going to help push him up the list fast, ha.

  6. Thanks says:

    I’m struggling to pay my bills so 🤷‍♀️.

    • lurry says:

      This is what I said!

    • (TheOG)jan90067 says:

      Frankly, the amount of money actors and athletes get paid for “pretending and playing” is obscene.

      • Elle says:

        @ TheOG

        They don’t get paid for pretending. They get paid for making money (box office dollars, network subscribers, product sales, etc.)

        Street mimes just pretend and they are broke.

      • Case says:

        Salaries are (or should, at least) be based on what you make for your company, though. So if studios believe Scarlett is a draw that will bring in more box office money, more merchandise sales, etc., she’ll get paid whatever they feel that’s worth.

  7. Um says:

    Jackie Chan is on the list?

  8. TIFFANY says:

    It seems these numbers are not from just acting gigs. Rock also has producer credits along with his side gigs. Sofia has a lot of eggs on the burner as well.

    Reece had to attempt several times before her production company got off the ground and became successful. She has a few more projects coming so her number can rise.

    While the gap is straight BS, they also read askew.

  9. smcollins says:

    None of their earnings is anything to sniff at, I’d kill for a fraction of what they make, but of course that’s not the point. Wage disparity is wage disparity, no matter how many zeros are at the end. And it’s also telling that out of the Marvel actors she placed 4th, which is an “interesting” detail considering that Black Widow is not only featured in The Avengers movies but first popped up in Iron Man 2 and was in 2 out of 3 Captain America movies. And speaking of Marvel, where’s Samuel L. Jackson on this list??

  10. Chickaletta says:

    Wow, glad to see two people of color at the top of this list!


  11. Michael says:

    I wonder why Gal Gadot is not on this list. She is single handedly holding up the DCEU. I hope she will get the same money that Robert Downey Jr. Got for Avengers because I could see her playing the same lynchpin role in that universe

  12. Mia4s says:

    I take no issue with Scarlett being well behind the Rock. You put his name on a movie you can sell it, you put Scarlett’s name on a non-Marvel movie….not so much. But her being so far behind Hemsworth? That’s a joke. He can’t open a door when he’s not with Marvel, let alone a movie. I still wonder when studios are going to figure that out!

    • Michael says:

      LOL!! Agree about Hemsworth but I think they gambled that he could carry Men in Black so he probably got a huge up front check. But now he will be Thor forever if he wants to stay in this list

    • Esp.Lumiere says:


      Johnson makes a ton of movies a year. He’s got volume AND success. Now Hemsworth, shocking.

      That said, I can’t believe Johnasson is the top female earner. Maybe I’m being unfair because I’m not a fan.

  13. lucy2 says:

    Chris Hemsworth made $76 million? Chris “I Can’t Open a Movie without the Word Marvel in it” Hemsworth???

    The numbers are bananas, but considering the money some of these franchises have made, the actors should get a big chunk. I just hope most of them do something good with some of it.

  14. Ameara says:

    I guess it’s better than that year Emma Stone was the best paid actress and she still made less money than all the male actors in the top 10?? Just kidding, it’s not better, it’s disgraceful!

  15. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Now go back, look at those lists and consider the talent. Pretty disgusting any way you slice it.

  16. ME says:

    Yeah but you have to remember Dwayne also did A LOT more movies than Scarlett in 2019. The dude does not stop working. Now if they said how much per movie each made, we could get a better grasp. But yeah male actors usually make more which sucks.

    • lucy2 says:

      He did 3 movies, plus some voice work and his TV series in 2019. Scarlett did 3 also.
      But 2 of his were big budget franchise movies, and only one of hers was, in a big cast.
      He does have some serious hustle, and does a LOT, so I’m not surprised to see him at the top of the list.

  17. Case says:

    Anyone who doubts the wage gap can just look at this. It’s undeniable. Even though these are extreme earnings, obviously, they’re still wildly disproportionate to one another.

  18. A says:

    This is probably the last time you’ll see Chris Evans on that list unless he gets another franchise.

  19. BANANIE says:

    I completely believe there’s a wage gap, but it’s hard to break down because how much they make for each movie, what other side deals they have going on, etc., aren’t transparent. And I do think so much depends on the kind of projects they attach themselves to.

  20. Valiantly Varnished says:

    This list isn’t just based on Hollywood film earnings. It’s based on ALL income earned in the year. Hence why Sofia Vergara is number 2. The Rock has about 4 different companies along with multiple brand deals so the gap isnt actually all that surprising.

    What shocks me more is that ScarJo is on the list at all. Real talk. Sorry not sorry.

  21. Busy Bee says:

    The Rock’s films make more money ergo he makes more money.

  22. schmootc says:

    As we know, ScarJo is the worst. But c’mon, the wage gap is REAL. What bullshit.

  23. WendyWoo says:

    You mean $33 million?

  24. Fleur says:

    The crazy thing is that the tax man probably gets one third of these totals off the top, and then lawyers, agent fees and management fees probably eat up half of what’s leftover, so these actors probably only pocket a third of these totals. I mean…I know, don’t cry for me Argentina if hr only takes home 30 mil instead of 90, but I bet the before and after difference is pretty steep.

  25. DB says:

    I’m can’t believe no one mentioned the appalling lack of diversity on the women’s list. This reminds me of when everyone was giving Jessica Chastain props for helping Octavia Spencer get a wage increase. For reference, Jessica has 2 Oscar nominations (0 wins) and Octavia has 3 Oscars nominations and 1win.

  26. Calibration says:

    The Rock has a lot of business deals on the side too. They should split up the numbers to reflect that.

  27. Mia says:

    Tbh these lists spell out something completely different for me. On the mens list, I see at least 4 people of a different race taking up spots. On the women’s list I see none. People may argue that Sofia Vergara is of a different race (because the US has ‘interesting’ concepts around race) but back home in Colombia she white (her background is majority Italian and Spanish). So again, what this list points out for me and reaffirms time and again is that affirmative action really does give white women the leg up and help them more than women of other races and even men of color in Hollywood and out there in the real world (I see it at my work all the time).

    The wage gap is always an interesting topic to me because it is framed predominantly around white men and women like they are the default. It mostly ignores that white women are making more than woc and also that they often make more than moc. As an example, on average black men make 69.7 cents on every dollar white men earn and black women make 60.8 cents etc. White women in comparison earn 78 cents on every dollar white men earn. So while gender is part of the problem it is not all of it. Let us not forget the whiteness factor in these discussions and how it helps women. The lowest paid white actress on the list is still making more than woc actresses. The highest paid white actress is still making more than the lowest moc actor.

    I find it interesting that even though Will Smith sneaks in at number 10, some still have to question what he did to ‘earn’ that spot. Will Smith has worked hard for his long career too.

    • Veronica says:

      It’s telling me that the numbers for talented non-white actresses must be absolutely infuriating.

  28. Mew says:

    Well, Reese got it right. She didn’t just start producing to get bigger pay check herself. She actually started producing to make interesting movies about women, to hire women, to empower women. A lot of her movies are based on books written by women. She has it. She doesn’t stand whining and waiting for some man to give it to her, she takes steps to make it happen. And this I would want to see much more in other business and by other groups as well.

  29. Uli says:


  30. Uli says:

    No just no. THEY ARE ALL WAY OVERPAID AND OVERRATED. Society needs to change – it’s ridiculous that you get millions for an interesting and fulfilling job while others earn minimum wage while almost killing themselves working their depressing jobs, being degraded by their bosses just struggling to survive…

  31. Rtms says:

    How does Brie Larson not make the list? She had two billion dollar movies last year, either she had terrible side deals or someone stole her money. Or she got taken advantage of.

  32. NYC Rich says:

    Pay all actors, male and female a small percentage of the gross. If the film does well so do they.