No, Academy Award nominees don’t get paid if they win (but here’s how it boosts their career)

Winning an Oscar may not get a cash prize but it can pay off far more dividends for a recipient!
95th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room
95th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room / Rodin Eckenroth/GettyImages

Winning an Academy Award is a dream of any nominee but just how much does it pay off in the long run? The answer may be surprising!

Every year, the Oscars are the must-watch show for Hollywood with huge implications for the business. A victory can launch a performer’s star so much higher and that's not just the case for the actors either. Writers, directors, even the technical folks all benefit from being able to boast “Academy Award winner” on their resume. And with that clout comes some big dividends. 

It’s one thing when it’s a veteran who finally gets their due and is already established in Hollywood. For example, Leonardo DiCaprio was already pulling $25 million in paydays for his movies, so winning the Oscar for The Revenant didn’t do as much to boost him. 

It’s something else when it’s a little known actor who gets a victory. A great example is Adrian Brody who wasn’t much of a name when he won Best Actor in 2003. Instantly, he was getting major offers and his asking price went up. Ditto for Marion Cotillard, who was barely known outside her native France in 2008. After winning Best Actress, Hollywood was pouring in with big-budget studio offers. A more recent example would be Oliva Colman who went from just supporting roles in the U.K. to appearing in MCU TV series.

Writers and directors can be the same as an Oscar win means your scripts get a lot more attention. Even the technical folks or costume designers get more attention and more in demand once they can boast a statue.

So no, winners aren’t given any cash prize, and the statue itself isn’t worth as much as the gold covering appears to be. Still, an Oscar win is a huge bonus for an actor but just how much does it truly pay out?

What is the payment an Oscar winner can earn?

According to a 2016 Forbes story, “the Oscar Effect” has existed for almost as long as the Oscars themselves. Traditionally, an Oscar win automatically adds 20% to an actor’s asking price while getting them more attention from studio heads. 

However, there are some differences as, sadly, there’s still a “gender gap” and men are paid more than women. Hilary Swank shared the story of how, despite winning two Oscars, she was once offered only $500,000 for a role while her male co-star was offered $10 million (she turned it down). There’s also a study hinting that Black performers don't always get the same huge perks. 

However, it can’t be denied that an Oscar win is a major bonus for an actor’s career. Halle Berry was paid $6,000 for Monster’s Ball, and after her historic Best Actress win, she was commanding at least $4 million per picture and $14 million for the infamous flop Catwoman. Jessica Chastain was paid $2.2 million for 2019’s It Chapter 2, but following her Best Actress win, she can command at least $5 million. 

There can be unique cases, such as Brendan Fraser, who hadn’t made a movie in years before being paid $12 million for The Whale. The win there, no doubt, will boost Fraser up more, yet he seems picky about his roles. Also, there’s a difference when an actor wins a second Oscar, as earning his second for The Father didn’t do too much to adjust Anthony Hopkins’ paychecks as he was already well established. 

These are just the actors as writers and directors can likewise see a boost in their salaries, not as much as the actors but still impressive. Of course, the biggest bonus of all is simply being able to put “Academy Award Winner” next to their name, an honor more rewarding than money could ever be. So, while the Oscars don’t give out cash prizes, the bonuses from a win pay dividends to those honored.

The 2024 Academy Awards air Sunday March 10 at 7/6c on ABC. 

Next. Every Best Picture winner at the Oscars in order so far. Every Best Picture winner at the Oscars in order so far. dark