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

Will Ferrell as

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Will Ferrell as “Anchorman.”
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DreamWorks
  • 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 $95,000 in real life, but Daniel Craig reportedly earned $25 million for “No Time to Die.”
  • Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada” would make an estimated $2 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 $62,410 a year, but Harrison Ford earned $75 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 $35,930 a year as a taxi driver — around the same amount Robert De Niro earned to play him.

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Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle.
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Columbia Pictures

According to the New York Department of Labor, taxi drivers earn around around $35,930 a year, a modest salary for New York City.

De Niro was paid about the same amount for the role, honoring a $35,000 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 $81,319 and $94,161. Daniel Craig was paid much, much more.

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Daniel Craig as James Bond.
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Universal Pictures

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 $25 million, according to GQ.


Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods would have made around $120,000 a year working as a lawyer in the “Legally Blonde” franchise.

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Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods.
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MGM

A lawyer earns a median salary of $120,910, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That pales in comparison to what Witherspoon earned. She was paid $1 million for the first film and $15 million for the sequel, according to Entertainment Weekly.


Indiana Jones would make around $62,410 a year as an archaeologist, but Harrison Ford earned $65 million to play him in just one movie.

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Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.
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Paramount

According to the US Bureau of Labor 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 $65 million, according to Forbes. A fifth movie is also in development.


Miranda Priestly from “The Devil Wears Prada” would make an estimated $2 million a year — Meryl Streep was reportedly paid more than double to play her.

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Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly.
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ScenesMustafaFavs/YouTube

Priestly, the editor-in-chief at a fashion magazine, was based on Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, who made $2 million a year, according to Business Insider.

After negotiating, Streep was paid $5 million for the role, according to The Richest.


On “Stranger Things,” Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers would have earned $24,340 a year as a retail clerk.

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Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers.
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Netflix

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

Ryder earns a more substantial paycheck, making $350,000 an episode, according to Business Insider.


Tina Fey’s character on “30 Rock,” Liz Lemon, would have earned a salary of over $1 million.

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Tina Fey as Liz Lemon.
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NBC

Business Insider previously reported Lemon could be expected to earn $1,100,000 as a head writer.

Fey herself made a lot of money working on the show. Fey was paid more than $300,000 an episode in the last season of “30 Rock,” according to Business Insider.


As a top male model, Derek Zoolander would have earned between $265,000 and $1.5 million, but Ben Stiller still made more playing him.

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Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in “Zoolander.”
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Paramount

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 $2.5 million, according to The Richest.


Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy from “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” would make around $64,600.

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Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy.
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DreamWorks

According to the US Bureau of Labor 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 $7 million.


In “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” the titular character could likely make around $25,000 a year as a publishing assistant.

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

According to Glassdoor, publishing assistants in London make an average of $25,000.

For the first film in the franchise, Zellweger earned $3.5 million.


Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey would take home around $491,364 a year as chief of general surgery on “Grey’s Anatomy” — Pompeo earns more than that per episode.

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Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey.
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ABC

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

Pompeo earns $575,000 an episode and close to $20 million a year, according to CNBC.


In the 1980s, Robin Ramzinski from “The Wrestler” could have made around $182,000 a year as a professional wrestler. Mickey Rourke earned less to play him.

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Mickey Rourke as Robin Ramzinski.
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Protozoa Pictures

Former professional wrestler Jim Brunzell said he and fellow wrestlers were paid between $2,500 and $3,500 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 $22,646 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 $100,000.


Steve Carell’s Michael Scott would have earned around $131,490 a year as regional sales manager at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company on “The Office.”

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Steve Carell as Michael Scott.
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Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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

The actor was reportedly paid $175,000 an episode starting in season three.


In “The Heat,” Melissa McCarthy’s Shannon Mullins would have earned around $63,380 as a detective.

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Melissa McCarthy as Shannon Mullins.
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Fox

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

McCarthy earned $2.5 million for the role, according to The Hollywood Reporter.


In “Santa Clarita Diet,” Drew Barrymore’s Sheila Hammond would have earned around $50,300 as a realtor. Barrymore earned nearly seven times that per episode.

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Drew Barrymore as Shelia Hammond.
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Netflix

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

But Barrymore earned $350,000 an episode, according to Vanity Fair.


In “Gravity,” Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone would have earned around $65,140 a year as an astronaut.

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Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone.
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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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

Bullock was paid $20 million up front but earned as much as $70 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 $49,620 a year as a firefighter.

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Joaquin Phoenix as Jack Morrison.
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Buena Vista Pictures

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

For the role, the Oscar winner earned $850,000, according to The Richest.