What actors earned playing taxi drivers, firefighters, spies, and other roles — and what people in those jobs actually make

DreamWorksWill Ferrell as ‘Anchorman.’
  • Actors regularly get paid far higher to play a profession than someone in that profession earns, from firefighters to doctors to retail clerks.
  • James Bond would make no more than $US95,000 in real life, but Daniel Craig reportedly earned $US25 million for “No Time to Die.”
  • Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada” would make an estimated $US2 million a year, but Meryl Streep was reportedly paid more than double to play her.
  • Mickey Rourke earned less than his character in “The Wrestler” would have made as a professional wrestler.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Actors often earn far more to play someone working in a certain profession than those jobs make in a year … or a lifetime.

Will Ferrell earned far more to play Ron Burgundy in “Anchorman” than Burgundy himself would have earned as a news anchor. Indiana Jones makes around $US62,410 a year, but Harrison Ford earned $US75 million to play him in the fourth movie in the franchise.

Here’s how much people in 17 professions are paid compared to how much the actors who’ve portrayed them made for the role.


Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver” would have made $US35,930 a year as a taxi driver — around the same amount Robert De Niro earned to play him.

Columbia PicturesRobert De Niro as Travis Bickle.

According to the New York Department of Labour, taxi drivers earn around around $US35,930 a year, a modest salary for New York City.

De Niro was paid about the same amount for the role, honouring a $US35,000 contract to star in the film, according to IMDb.


James Bond’s official title is Royal Navy Reserve Commander, a position that’s paid between $US81,319 and $US94,161. Daniel Craig was paid much, much more.

Universal PicturesDaniel Craig as James Bond.

According to the Armed Forces, that’s the average pay for a commander in the Royal Navy.

Daniel Craig, however, was paid much more than a spy’s salary. For “No Time To Die” he made $US25 million, according to GQ.


Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods would have made around $US120,000 a year working as a lawyer in the “Legally Blonde” franchise.

MGMReese Witherspoon as Elle Woods.

A lawyer earns a median salary of $US120,910, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics.

That pales in comparison to what Witherspoon earned. She was paid $US1 million for the first film and $US15 million for the sequel, according to Entertainment Weekly.


Indiana Jones would make around $US62,410 a year as an archaeologist, but Harrison Ford earned $US65 million to play him in just one movie.

ParamountHarrison Ford as Indiana Jones.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, that’s the average pay for an archaeologist.

To bring Jones out of retirement for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” Ford earned a whopping $US65 million, according to Forbes. A fifth movie is also in development.


Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada” would make an estimated $US2 million a year — Meryl Streep was reportedly paid more than double to play her.

ScenesMustafaFavs/YouTubeMeryl Streep as Miranda Priestly.

Priestly, the editor-in-chief at a fashion magazine, was based on Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, who made $US2 million a year, according to Business Insider.

After negotiating, Streep was paid $US5 million for the role, according to The Richest.


On “Stranger Things,” Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers would have earned $US24,340 a year as a retail clerk.

NetflixWinona Ryder as Joyce Byers.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, that’s the median salary for a retail clerk. Byers worked at Melvald’s General Store where she struggled as a single mum to provide for her two sons.

Ryder earns a more substantial paycheck, making $US350,000 an episode, according to Business Insider.


Tina Fey’s character on “30 Rock,” Liz Lemon, would have earned a salary of over $US1 million.

NBCTina Fey as Liz Lemon.

Business Insider previously reported Lemon could be expected to earn $US1,100,000 as a head writer.

Fey herself made a lot of money working on the show. Fey was paid more than $US300,000 an episode in the last season of “30 Rock,” according to Business Insider.


As a top male model, Derek Zoolander would have earned between $US265,000 and $US1.5 million, but Ben Stiller still made more playing him.

ParamountBen Stiller as Derek Zoolander in ‘Zoolander.’

According to GQ, that’s the pay range of the top male models in the world. Not a bad price to be “just really, really, really ridiculously good looking.”

To play the male model in 2001, Stiller earned $US2.5 million, according to The Richest.


Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy from “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” would make around $US64,600.

DreamWorksWill Ferrell as Ron Burgundy.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, that’s the median salary for a broadcast news analyst in radio and television.

Ferrell earned much more for the role, reportedly taking home $US7 million.


In “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” the titular character could likely make around $US25,000 a year as a publishing assistant.

Universal Studios and Studio Canal and Miramax Film Corp.Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones.

According to Glassdoor, publishing assistants in London make an average of $US25,000.

For the first film in the franchise, Zellweger earned $US3.5 million.


Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey would take home around $US491,364 a year as chief of general surgery on “Grey’s Anatomy” — Pompeo earns more than that per episode.

ABCEllen Pompeo as Meredith Grey.

According to Salary.com, that’s the median income for a chief of surgery in Washington.

Pompeo earns $US575,000 an episode and close to $US20 million a year, according to CNBC.


In the 1980s, Robin Ramzinski from “The Wrestler” could have made around $US182,000 a year as a professional wrestler. Mickey Rourke earned less to play him.

Protozoa PicturesMickey Rourke as Robin Ramzinski.

Former professional wrestler Jim Brunzell said he and fellow wrestlers were paid between $US2,500 and $US3,500 a week during the 1980s, according to Wrestling Inc. By the time of the film, Rourke’s Ramzinski is down on his luck and works part-time at a grocery store, which would earn him around $US22,646 a year, according to Glassdoor.

Rourke earned next to no money for the role but a chance to revitalize his career, according to The LA Times. The New Yorker reported that he took home $US100,000.


Steve Carell’s Michael Scott would have earned around $US131,490 a year as regional sales manager at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company on “The Office.”

Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo BankSteve Carell as Michael Scott.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, managing a paper company pays a decent salary, but Scott still would have been jealous of Carell’s earnings.

The actor was reportedly paid $US175,000 an episode starting in season three.


In “The Heat,” Melissa McCarthy’s Shannon Mullins would have earned around $US63,380 as a detective.

FoxMelissa McCarthy as Shannon Mullins.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, that’s the median salary for a detective.

McCarthy earned $US2.5 million for the role, according to The Hollywood Reporter.


In “Santa Clarita Diet,” Drew Barrymore’s Sheila Hammond would have earned around $US50,300 as a realtor. Barrymore earned nearly seven times that per episode.

NetflixDrew Barrymore as Shelia Hammond.

That’s the median salary for a realtor, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics.

But Barrymore earned $US350,000 an episode, according to Vanity Fair.


In “Gravity,” Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone would have earned around $US65,140 a year as an astronaut.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. PicturesSandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone.

According to NASA, their pay bracket is based upon both experience and academic accomplishments.

Bullock was paid $US20 million up front but earned as much as $US70 million from the film when factoring in box office percentage, according to Business Insider.


In “Ladder 49,” Joaquin Phoenix’s Jack Morrison would have earned around $US49,620 a year as a firefighter.

Buena Vista PicturesJoaquin Phoenix as Jack Morrison.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, that’s the median salary for firefighters.

For the role, the Oscar winner earned $US850,000, according to The Richest.

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