Do actors get extra pay for toys?

Star Wars and other movies have toys based on the characters. Do the actors get extra pay when the toys sell or is that all included in the contract they sign? I assume they cannot endorse the toys on their own.

Sports people get extra money to endorse shoes, jerseys , equipment, etc. so that’s a similar situation . And those deals have been around for a long time.

I read that when DVDs of TV shows started to sell at first actors did not get any extra money for those sales. In fact the Seinfeld actors did not want to promote the DVDs since they were not getting paid. They signed a deal to get paid so they agreed to promote them.

I think there’s a standard percentage of some sort, but I assume it applies only to the toys where the actor’s image appears. (I say “think” because the only time I have heard about it is in a discussion with professional wrestlers, where they discover that they get far less of a percentage for wrestling merchandise than the “normal” value.)

Some actors may get more; in this case, it’s definitely something that is negotiated.

Didn’t George Lucas get a sizable percentage of the original Star Wars merchandise proceeds for some reason? I think it was because that originally it was expected to be a flop and the studio thought it would be cheaper than paying him more in cash.

I have no solid info about this. But nonetheless, I feel quite confident that just like all other aspects of life, almost everything is negotiable and actors with savvy agents will get more than actors with agents who are less savvy.

The studios (or whoever usually gets the lion’s share of the money) can tell all the actors they have a “firm policy” and actors do not get more than some fixed amount. But if the studio wants a particular actor and their agent knows they want this actor, the agent can get whatever they can negotiate.

Doesn’t that seem right to you?

I think Lucas got all the toy money from the originals. Back then I don’t think there were many movies with a lot of toys tied in. There were TV shows such as Batman and Star Trek they had toys. Some of the Star Trek people thought that Shatner was trying to influence stories to tie into toy sales since he got a big chunk of the toy money.

It does depend on the deal. Carrie Fisher once said in an interview that the main cast’s deal on image rights was so bad every time she looked in a mirror she had to send Lucas a quarter.

I feel certain it’s different this time out.

Also there might be union rules/contracts that apply. I remember it took a while for Star Wars to come out on VHS tapes and because of that there were a lot of bootleg copies since that was the only way to get a copy for home.

Whenever there is new technology it can take at least a little while for the law and contracts to catch up.

Actors get their cut of the pie. Not a huge check but a nice amount to keep them going between jobs.


Part of how Lucas got the original film financed was by agreeing to do it essentially for free, with him maintaining just the merchandising rights. Which, of course, proved to be vastly more lucrative than the actual films, something nobody at 20th Century Fox anticipated, because it was almost entirely unprecedented. Sure, there had been movie and TV merchandising before, but never on this scale. Kenner was so overwhelmed by demand that they actually sold empty boxes with a voucher for a toy that would be mailed later, once their manufacturing caught up.

Ever since Star Wars, merchandising rights have been a standard part in negotiations. Big names can negotiate for a piece of the merch rights, smaller fish usually sign theirs away when they get cast.

My father-in-law was an executive for a toy company at the time. They turned down a contract to make original Star Wars toys because they couldn’t see it turning out profitable.

“Goddammi, those were toys we were looking for.”

I have heard of actors getting some percentage of the money from action figures and other merchandise that bore their likeness. I don’t know any details, but I remember this being mentioned with regard to the stars of '90s action shows like Hercules and Xena. Around the time Enchanted came out I also read something about how there was an issue with merchandising because the bulk of the movie is live action and the actors would be entitled to payment for the use of their likenesses. (There’s a little about this on Wikipedia.)

I would guess that in cases where the merchandise depicts a character but not the actor’s face (either because the character is wholly animated or is masked like Darth Vader) then the actor would get little if anything.

Something I presume—I think I remember reading about it, at the time, but I’m not sure—happened with the Terminator: Salvation toys a few years back. Either they couldn’t afford the rights to Christian Bale’s (John Connor) face, or they were just too cheap. So the John Connor figures they sold looked like this.

Not, as I recall, a getup he wore during the film, at least not for any length of time. I guess a paper bag or an Elephant Man Sack™ would have been too obvious.

Probably a similar deal for the actors in Star Trek, and all the paperback books the franchise generates.

From the title, I somehow thought this thread would be porn-related.

This is actually what the problem was with Leonard Nimoy appearing in the Star Trek movies was all about. He was supposed to get residuals for the usage of his likeness, but he noticed they all stopped about the same time Star Trek became popular in syndication. They had to pay up before he would agree to come on.

It was also why they gave him a death scene in the second movie and why he was able to direct the next two. Not that this was direct compensation–that was squared away before the first movie–but because he remained much more reluctant than the others, and they knew they needed him.

(Though he revealed in his book that they greatly overestimated his reluctance–he just used it to his advantage.)

When you sign up for something that will generate merchandise, usually your likeness is part of the deal (and I am sure you get paid for it).

You can also negotiate things like getting approval on it. I know the Star Trek actors all have that. If a book cover image of Picard is not to Patrick Stewart’s liking he can veto it.

While contracts for use of likeness are common, actually collecting the full amount from them is rare. Several lawsuits over misuse of likeness have ensued and that’s usually for the bigger stars.

E.g., some of the Happy Days cast won a lawsuit over this. In 2012. For a show that went off the air in 1984.

It takes a lot of persistence and lawyers to fight against the studios.

David Cassidy said back in the Partridge Family days they used his likeness on lunch boxes, etc. and he got nothing.

I remember Ernest Borgnine talking about how he never got residual money for McHale’s Navy. Residuals did not become a standard thing until the late 60s from what he said .

I assume we are talking about current days. It’s true in the past people got screwed because no one thought to ask for such things. For example for decades Audrey Meadows was the only person to get acting residuals for Honeymooners reruns because in the 50s her agent was the only one to have the foresight to ask for it. But now that would be negotiated in advance. Kind of like how Music frights messed up DVD releases and now Streaming deals because those things weren’t included but now are standard.