Bill Cosby, the star of TVs No. 1 show, makes $10 million a year. Tom Selleck, the man Cosby nearly bumped out of prime time, is still able to command $6 million, which includes presumed future income from Magnum, PIs syndication. Miami Vice star Don Johnson recently signed a new deal that will bring him at least $1.5 million this season. Michael J. Fox, who became a movie star in Back to the Future, got a $1 million bonus just to continue working in his television series, Family Ties. And Patrick Duffy scored a $1 million bonus to change his mind about returning to Dallas.
The numbers are substantial, staggering. And - say many executives - they may signal that TV spending has reached a peak. Salaries are out of control says one Untied Artists executive. Everybody is in the same boat, and its rocking.
Gary David Goldberg, executive producer of NBCs Family Ties says Networks are not willing to pay for big stars any more, because TV makes its own stars. Stars are going to have to be willing to take less up front, and wait to see if the show is a success.
We are in a transition period, says Jay producer of CBSs Mickey Spillanes Mike Hammer. People who get greedy will lose.
Actors and agents bristle when producers predict an end to this era. Why should they cut back, they contend, when producers make millions And Goldberg himself acknowledges that producers can become very rich I thought the total pot on Family Ties would be $60 million, tops. Now I realize its going to be closer to $200 million.
Have salaries peaked The recent payoffs to Cosby, Selleck, Fox, Duffy, and Johnson suggest that they havent, and that the conflict between actors and producers over a shoes profits will continue to heat up.
And salaries themselves are only part of the jackpot. How stars also demand and command smart and sophisticated contracts, including retroactive increases, perks, and syndication deals.
Indeed, its largely fear of leaks about salaries - that might prompt other stars to jealously demand comparable sums - that leads networks and studios to treat star salaries like star secrets. The stars themselves are particularly shy on this subject. I refuse to tell you how much I make, Dallass Larry Hagman told us. Nevertheless, we were able to learn Hagmans salary (at least $125,000 per episode) and others in confidential interviews with actors, agents, producers and other insiders in a position to know whos making how much. The figures quoted, then, represent that consensus among informed people in the business who were willing to talk only on condition that their names not be used.
Beginning at the lower end of the scale, with actors who turn up as guest stars in other actors series, the average guest shot roll pays only $2500. But there are exceptions. Murder She Wrote pays some actors as much as $15,000. The Love Boat has paid as high as $50,000 for guest appearances on special two-hour episodes filmed abroad. Hotels guest accommodations vary: Debbie Reynolds got $15,000, Duncan Tegehr $20,000, and Elizabeth Taylor $100,000. Surely the record-breaking guest-star salary would have gone to Laurence Olivier: Hotels producers tried to book him for $250,000; then when he turned them down, they offered $75,000 to James Mason, The role eventually went to Stewart Granger at a bargain price of $10,000.
Another source of judge paychecks for series stars and others is the miniseries and TV-movie - if you have enough appeal in Europe, where these American television products are often sold as the article features. A major name is worth as much as $125,000 an hour to a network for a miniseries, says Harry Sloan, co-chairman of New World Pictures, which co-produces Sins. Joan Collins is worth more than that to us because she has proven she can carry a seven-hour miniseries. Collins, indeed, is worth more that that. When she does a miniseries she gets at least $1 million, which presumably relegates their $65,000 and-episode paycheck from Dynasty to pocket money.
There is a short list of superstars in a position to make such super demands, particularly in a series TV. Success in one series, however, does not guarantee success in another; a famous name is no guarantee either. For instance, Stefanie Powers, Margot Kidder, Ava Gardner and Tony Curtis were among those whose series projects didnt make it onto the fall schedule. So if you are in a hit, you demand whatever you can get right now. If Larry Hagman walked off Dallas, there would be no Dallas. Joan Collins can get what she wants because her character, Alexis, is so essential to Dynasty. Hagman and Collins clearly are on the short list of highest-paid stars. here (in descending order) are some top performers salaries in TV series, TV-movies and miniseries:
John Forsythe- $85,000 an episode (his contract states that no one else on the series may earn more than him.)
Joan Collins- $65,000 an episode, $1 million a miniseries.
Linda Evans- $65,000 and episode.