If you’re sitting there right now and thinking to yourself “what are the chances that I will become a famous actor?”, then you are certainly not the only one.
It is the dream of thousands, if not millions of people around the world. Even those who have never acted in their lives have often dreamed of becoming the next A-List Oscar winner.
Of course, if you have no acting experience, the chances of becoming a famous actor are minuscule.
But what about those of you who act regularly and work hard on performances?
Well, although there are no concrete statistics informing us on how many actors actually “make it”, there are other ways to find out an estimate.
Mathematician Samuel Arbesman performed a study for Wired magazine in 2013 to find out the chances of becoming famous.
This is in regards to actors, musicians, athletes, etc. You can see the full article here. If you’re an actor reading this, you may not like the answer very much.
However, you probably already know that very few actors become famous but that isn’t to say it is impossible.
Samuel Arbesman’s study noted the number of actor’s entries in Facebook’s category “living people.” At the time of his research (January 15, 2013) this number was 604,174.
He then divided this result by the world population which was 7,059837,187 at the time. Arbesman concluded that .000086 of the world’s population or around 1 in 10,000 are famous.
Regarding actors, it is very difficult to pinpoint the exact number there are in the world and how many become famous.
We could look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the number of actors working in the United States.
According to these stats, there were 13,560 acting jobs in the US in 2017.
However, these statistics can be somewhat unreliable as Actors Equity Association stated that there were over 51,000 members at the same time.
The entertainment industry is quite fluid in terms of statistics as pay can differ from one person to the next.
The BLS’s statistics may be a little off as they only count those who have acting jobs.
In reality, most actors are unemployed. If we were to take BLS’s stats and multiply them by 10, the real number of actors was probably around 135,600 in the US.
If we were to take this number and multiply it by .00041 (around 0.04%), then Arbesman’s estimate of English-speaking actors who become famous is only around 56 out of 135,600.
Many other factors have an impact on the chances of stardom too such as age, acting qualifications, and, of course, luck.
The good news is, once you know the odds, at least you have a clearer outlook on the reality of your chances.
What percentage of actors actually get big?
Thousands of aspiring actors flock to Hollywood every year in pursuit of their dreams.
Whether it is to get a break on a new sitcom or become the leading lady in a blockbuster, many of these actors do not understand the percentage of people who actually get big.
“Making it big” may mean something different to you than to another actor.
However, most of us think of people such as Leonardo Di Caprio or Angelina Jolie when imagining a famous actor.
These are the A-List of the thespian world and, as you can guess, they are part of a very illustrious yet small group of successful actors.
The general consensus is that a very small percentage of actors make it big.
This number remains close to Samuel Arbesman’s calculations in which only 0.04% of the overall acting population become famous. In reality, it could be even less.
Currently, A-Listers make up about 0.0002% of SAG-AFTRA members. This is the union of movie and TV actors.
If we included actors who make a reasonable living from their profession, the percentage could be a fraction higher but this doesn’t include those who are “big.”
However, just to become a SAG-AFTRA member, an actor requires certain credentials already such as three days as a background artist or one day in a SAG-AFTRA production.
If all of the actors who do not qualify for this union or do not have an agent are included too, then the proportion of those who make it big becomes even smaller.
Although Arbesman’s findings were quite accurate, there are some drawbacks to his study.
He only focused on famous actors who had a Facebook page and this is rather a low number.
For most people, fame doesn’t come into their equations. Most individuals who work as doctors, dentists, or supermarket check-out clerks simply aim to maintain their jobs and then retire.
Therefore, the number of people in the general population who can become famous as an actor is close to zero.
As for English-speaking actors whose goal is to become famous and work towards this every day, Arbesman’s findings could significantly underrepresent the total number who succeed.