Peak Earnings Years for Actors & Actresses?

Any guesses as to the peak earnings years for actors and actresses? On one hand the older they get the more experience they have, the greater reputation, the more connections… On the other hand their sex appeal peaks and then goes down, less audience interest in watching old people…

If you’re talking about all actors/actresses, the trend is for earnings to go up throughout their lifetimes. A lot of this has to do with knowing and meeting the right people. Many performers are happy to find anything that pays when they get started. But I’m talking all actors, from the little volunteer theater group on up into voice-overs, stage acting, commercials, TV, movies, etc. Once you have connections who can get you paying roles, they pretty much continue to get you paying roles.

Just an example of how the industry works: Mark Hamill has been paying his bills for years by doing voice-overs, including Joker from the animated Batman series. It’s not as glamorous as what many people think of for actors, but anything that can pay for a house in the Malibu hills is not chump change. While he no longer has the name/face recognition he would have had in the 80’s, he’s quite a bit more successful now

It probably is so specific for each individual actor as to be impossible to generalize about.

WAGs to follow- no data to back any of this up:

Bruce Dern in his 70s and Harry Dean Stanton in his 80s probably made more while on the show Big Love than at any other point in their successful careers.

Stockard Channing got plenty of work in her 20s and 30s but surely was at her earnings peak in her late 50s on The West Wing.

And even with no data to back it up, I’m sure the entire cast of The Golden Girls were at their peak earning during that show.

On the other end of the WAG spectrum:

I don’t think any of the cast of Friends ever expect to make as much money as they did when they were in their 20s and 30s.

Jaleel White has gotten plenty of work as an adult, looking at imdb he actually works quite a lot, but he was probably earning more during the later years of Family Matters than he can ever expect to earn again.

When promoting The Company, a small film she did with Robert Altman and very much a “labor of love”, I read an interview with Neve Campbell in which she said that one of the reasons why she did the Scream series was that she expected that she’d never again in her life have the chance to earn that kind of money such as to allow her to do small labor of love projects like the one she was promoting during the interview.

I agree, it’s a crap-shoot. Morgan Freeman didn’t start making big bucks until late in his career - he was Easy Reader until he was 40, making a name for himself in his 50s. Samuel L. Jackson was in his 40s still playing roles like “Gang Member” and “Black Guy” before Pulp Fiction (he’s 65 now). Jason Statham got his first movie role at 31, first starring role at 35 ($750k for The Transporter) and his riding his peak in his mid-40s. The entire point of the insane salaries is you never know when you’ll catch a break or when the ride is over. Then there are the guys with peaks and valley like John Travolta and Robert Downey Jr.

I suppose factor might be the general growth of the industry in revenues. I know back in the 1960s Rick Jason and Vic Morrow were getting $3500 an episode for “Combat!” starting in year 2 and $10,000 in year 5. In cast Kyrie Sedgwick was making some $235.000 an episode for “The Closer” a couple years ago.
I’d imagine a woman’s peak years are sooner and not as long. It’s an industry when men last longer

Try selling that to the agents of people like Patrick Stewart.

That actually strikes me as being about similar, adjusting for the time period. In each case, the actor was making about the cost of a modest home/episode.

It depends on what talents the career is based on. Meryl Streep and Kathy Bates haven’t based their careers on the same attributes as Jessica Alba and Jennifer Aniston. Early on, Jessica Alba was pretty vocal about seeing her looks as a handicap, an attitude that (imo) lead her to mismanage her career.

It isn’t the same thing when you look at inflation in general. $10,000 in 1967 is worth about $68,000 in 2012 so the difference is still large.

Let me think now…Shirley Temple was bringing in more money than anyone and she was …um…between four and eight??Wasn’t that it. And Micky Rooney was in his late teens and early 20s for his best earning years.

As it happened I read a piece about this very thing a week or so back. As it stands now an actresses earnings peak when they are 31, though there are outliers like Sandra Bullock who stands to make upwards of $70,000,000 from various revenue streams for Gravity.

On the other hand, actors earning peak when they are 53, according to the piece I read.

But if you want ot get specific, it comes down to an actors agents and lawyers. An actors ‘quoted price’ gets through around quite a lot, as in “Jim Carrey will be making $20,000,000 for Ace Ventura 3 Up the Elephants Butthole” but as Matt Damon talked about recently that’s really just something put out by publicists. He, Damon, though he has a ‘quoted price’ of between $10-18,000,000 per movie said he’s only actually gotten paid that much once, the rest of the time he takes less money. Of course then there’s stuff like points and executive producer stiff and tax writeoffs and merchandise points, but the bottom line is never believe someone’s quoted price, that’s nothing but a publicists talking point.