Can Actors Live From One Role?

Can Hollywood actors get royalties for the rest of their lives from only one role? Let's find out!

Man on stage

Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Melina Menezes


Many Hollywood professionals have achieved fame, but there are those who have given everything in the productions and, for different reasons, fell into oblivion. In some cases, a single role has been enough to be remembered forever.  Can actors sustain themselves for their whole lives with the royalties of only one role?

Before going fully into this topic and giving you an answer, it is worth briefly mentioning 3 interesting cases:

Macaulay Culkin and his eternal Kevin

His leading role in the Christmas saga movie "Home alone" playing Kevin, a nice boy and very naughty forgotten by his parents, awarded him worldwide fame. And significant royalties to this day!

It is true that the actor has played other captivating roles such as in the production "Richie Rich" and has received a good financial return for his participation. However, Kevin's relevance to his film career is inescapable.

Reece Thompson: the boy from Titanic

When he was 9 years old, Thompson gave life to a third-class passenger traveling on the ship Titanic with his mother and sister. Participation in just 3 scenes earned the actor not only the immediate payment of US$25,000, but also the sporadic collection of royalties. In fact, the amount he currently receives is infinitely less than the initial amount, however, according to Reeve in an interview for Business Insider, he considers the checks as extra money.

Today, Reece is 33 years old and works professionally as a director of digital marketing at a ski resort in Utah.

Millionaire royalties from the Friends series

The television show Friends has been one of the most successful series in history. Its popularity over the years has allowed the actors in the series to continue to earn millions.

At the start of production, in 1994, the actors earned an average of US$22,000. Thanks to the success, the salaries increased exponentially to the point of making them millionaries. 

According to USA Today in 2015, after ending the series and negotiating their contracts in 2012, each actor on the acclaimed series began earning royalties of approximately $20 million a year.

Alright, let's break down the situation

First off, while production success can contribute to the spread of fame, it's not synonymous with staying famous.

The movies "Home alone" and, above all, "Titanic" were blockbusters and extremely acclaimed by the public and propelled their artists to fame, however, they did not propel their actors to the top. 

In Renee's case, the young man became a marketing professional and treats his sudden fame as a fond memory from which he receives royalties to this day.

Regarding Friends, the explosion of the series promoted the recognition of its artists worldwide, so much so, that after premiering it they continued acting and accumulating roles and money. 

Also Read: We Predict The 2022 Oscar Winners

In relation to money, the royalties paid by the production companies by virtue of the reproduction of the works and for other aspects related to the image of the actors have ensured regular or sporadic amounts for the artists. The amounts are highly variable because they depend on the type of production, success over time, public preferences, among other factors. 

If the goal of the actor is to stay in the media and be considered a star, it is not advisable to play a single role, mainly because viewers have a short memory (remember that we are exposed to a huge flow of information and our brain is quite selective).

Only the minority reaches millions with a single role. As we said before, a great production can lead to short-lived fame or be just the beginning of a successful journey. It all depends on the versatility of the actor/actress and their willingness to reinvent themselves!

In sum, living off a single role can be risky, despite the possibility of generating royalties over a long period of time. Do you dare to reflect on what you would do if you were an actor/actress and fleeting fame knocked on your door?