It’s Really Expensive to Be a Star

It’s Really Expensive to Be a Star

When Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney told The Hollywood Reporter in a July 27 cover story that, despite her fame, money is still tight, the internet was quickly divided over whether the appropriate response was scrutiny or sympathy. Or, as one headline put it: “Is Sydney Sweeney Out of Touch or Being Honest?”

It’s easy to understand how reports of multimillion-dollar paydays might imply most actors are flush with cash, but money managers say the nondiscretionary costs add up. And, as the White Lotus actress noted, it impacts their career choices.

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“If I wanted to take a six-month break, I don’t have income to cover that,” Sweeney told THR. “I take deals because I have to.”

The following is a look at how those costs break down in 2022.


While some reps will break rank and charge an hourly fee for their work — specifically some business managers and talent lawyers — the long-standing “industry standard” percentages still reign. That’s 10 percent each to a star’s agent and talent manager, and 5 percent each to their lawyer and business manager. Some talent may opt to skip a personal lawyer in favor of an agency’s in-house business development team or only hire an accountant to do tax work, but generally 30 percent of an actor’s pay goes to various reps — and it’s not always tax-deductible. Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 went into effect, only those with loan-out companies reap tax benefits on commission.


The rates for publicists vary pretty dramatically based on how busy the talent is, and many will take a hiatus from their rep when work is slow. But when Sweeney said, “I have to pay my publicist every month, and that’s more than my mortgage,” that’s in line with what others pay. It’s generally a flat fee ranging anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000 a month.


Not every star has a personal assistant, and some have multiple. The going rate is anywhere from $50,000 to about $150,000 a year — with some, typically those in chief-of-staff roles, making even more than that. Stars also could shoulder the costs for travel for their own personal assistants during a press tour.


This is the most complicated area — and one of the many ways business managers earn that 5 percent fee — so there’s huge variation in what one actually pays the IRS or state tax agency. The highest income tax rate is 37 percent of the net after business expenses for federal taxes and 13.3 percent for California.


For A-plus talent with leverage, a network or studio often will cover the cost of hair, makeup and styling for press events and premieres. But that’s not always the case. For full glam, actresses are looking at $1,500 to $2,500 per event, while stylists could charge $2,000 to $3,500 for their services and the use of designer clothes. All told, some A-list stars will easily pay $100,000 to $500,000 a year to look their best and never repeat outfits on red carpets, magazine covers and talk show couches.


Protecting yourself and your property is often a necessary expense. Rates can start at around $5,000 for a basic security assessment. For the highest-profile stars or someone with, say, a valuable art collection that needs top notch protection, 24/7 security teams can cost millions each year.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.