You wouldn’t be the first to wonder if baby actors actually receive remuneration for their roles in movies and shows.
The answer is yes; those cute little movie stars do indeed earn money for their tour de force performances in all your favorite flicks.
After all, giving them nothing for their appearance, especially if the production is a commercial success, would be something of a moral issue.
It’s already technically forced labor, so denying any sort of compensation would be taking things a step too far.
In many ways, it’s the ideal job. They don’t even know they’re at work, they nail the scene take after take, and they’re making cold hard cash in the process, but it’s not always as peachy as you’d imagine.
Baby actors aren’t exactly on the same pay grade as your Johnny Depps and Meril Streeps.
A role here and there isn’t going to pay for college or buy the parents an Aston Martin. The truth is, baby actors are paid very little for their theatrical skills.
These little bundles of joy earn such little bundles of cash no matter how much they goo goo or ga ga because they can’t technically speak and therefore only paid the rate of a non-speaking role.
Furthermore, no matter how pivotal their role is in the movie, they receive the same pay as an extra.
It doesn’t matter if they save the day or steal the entire show with an electric performance that outshines Al Pacino, they’re only going to earn the $126 day-rate allotted to background actors.
This figure might appreciate slightly from production to production, but a baby earning much more than $200 a day in a movie is a rarity.
With a shrewd agent or business savvy parent fighting the small thespian’s case, they may succeed in beefing that paycheck out to a sizable $737 a day, the amount offered to principal performers, but it's a risky gambit.
The thing about babies on screen is that they’re easy to replace.
Switch out one adorable little soul out for another and even if it’s midway through the season of a show, the viewer is unlikely to notice.
Hell, you could probably shoot half a movie with one baby and half with another, and we consumers would be none the wiser.
Casting agencies keep upward of 500 babies in their books, so finding one around the same size with similar hair color and style isn’t difficult.
In light of this, campaigning for more money for a baby movie star needs to be executed with a deft hand.
The director may just as well lose their patience and axe the sprog from the movie altogether, and then nobody’s getting paid.
Being that you have to be at least 14 years old in the U.S. to open a bank account, you have to also ask yourself where their paycheck actually ends up.
Well, as you’d imagine, the money is paid directly to the guardians of the child.
You’d hope that the majority of the baby’s hard-earned green would go into a high-interest savings account that they can use as an emergency resource when they grow older, but there are very few laws that stipulate that the money should be set aside.
So, in reality, those silver screen cherubs are only liable to see a very small fraction of their earnings. It mostly goes straight into their guardian’s pocket.
In America, the only thing stopping guardians from fully cashing in is the Coogan Act, named for the child star, Jackie Coogan, who appeared alongside Charlie Chaplin in several movies, earning millions of dollars in the process.
Unbeknownst to little Jackie, his parents had squandered almost every dime.
The Coogan Act stipulates that the legal guardian of a child or baby actor has to hold onto a small amount of their earnings for them when they come of age.
In the eyes of the law, this fractional amount (15%) is officially owned by the infant.
Despite being criminally underpaid for their roles in blockbuster hits, babies and their guardians are often treated with the utmost respect when the time comes to shoot their scenes.
Picked up in a hired car, they’re ferried to the set without ever having to lift a finger, and upon arrival, they’re allotted a chaperone to guide them effortlessly through the day.
The chaperones don’t just instruct them where to go and what to do, they’re one-stop on-set gurus.
They ensure that the showrunners and everyone involved in the production sticks to official licensing procedures, and if the parent(s) or baby needs anything, they can make it happen.
Essentially, they do everything in their power to create a welcoming, comfortable, and altogether positive experience for the child and their guardians. Pretty sweet, huh?