Back to IndieWire

Michael Shannon Speaks Out Against Indie Actors Working for Free

We're all lonely, but we shouldn't all be underpaid.

Michael Shannon has proven especially adept at balancing high-profile roles with low-key passion projects, with movies like “Man of Steel” and “Midnight Special” introducing his nonpareil screen presence to wider audiences than the likes of “99 Homes” and “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?” The latter category often comes with significantly smaller paydays, of course, and Shannon spoke out yesterday about actors taking pay cuts for appearing in prestige fare. “I’ve come to the point where I’m gonna start putting my foot down,” he said to Variety from the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

READ MORE: Michael Shannon Performs Pixies’ ‘Here Comes Your Man’ On Spike’s ‘Lip Sync Battle’—Watch

Shannon is in the Czech Republic with Joshua Marston’s “Complete Unknown,” which he called “basically like a volunteer effort. That why you gotta take advantage of these film festivals. This is kind of your reward for making the movie. Stay in a nice old hotel.” (One can only hope that Shannon was well compensated for his underrated turn in last year’s “The Night Before,” a standard bro comedy enlivened by his F. Scott Fitzgerald–loving drug dealer Mr. Green.) “I think as a group actors need to stop enabling this behavior. There’s no reason it should be that way. If somebody’s got a good script and you want to put good actors in it then everybody should be taken care of.

READ MORE: Michael Shannon Is “Profoundly, Utterly Unconcerned” About The Outcome Of The Title Fight In ‘Batman v Superman’

“We’re not asking for millions and millions of dollars,” he added. “It’s gone too far in the other direction really. If it was just me I wouldn’t care. I probably would do it for free. But I have a family.” Shannon will next be seen in Jeff Nichols’ “Loving,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: News and tagged , ,



So how about just not taking the job is you aren’t satisfied with the pay?
Who’s forcing you?

Gregor Barclay

“I probably would do it for free. But I have a family.” Dude’s worth $8 million. Unless his kids number in the hundreds, he’s fine.


If box office megastar Michael Shannon was drawing in huge crowds to films like 99 Homes, he might have a leg to stand on. But he doesn’t. If he doesn’t like the pay, he doesn’t have to take the job; I’m sure one major studio production per year is more than enough to support himself and his family.


Good, take your one-note bullshit and fuck off to TV world where the hacks live. Guy can only really make one face so why it’s worth more than a handful of quarters thrown at him from a moving auto?

voice of reason

The nerve of this guy. His Man of Steel payday alone could support his family for ever if he invested it properly or lived in a modest home and drove modest cars.

Enrique Godinez

Lol please you are worth 8 million dollars.

Eric D. Wilkinson

As a producer of independent films in the $200,000 – $300,000 range, there’s just not a lot of breathing room to get a Michael Shannon (or an actor of his caliber) with an offer remotely near their quote. 99% of the time the agents don’t even take the offer to their clients. When Shannon says “If somebody’s got a good script and you want to put good actors in it then everybody should be taken care of”, well that’s all fine and good but many of us are scraping together the budgets to get these movies made. As filmmakers we would LOVE to get the actors we want and pay them more but were not all backed by major studios, big production companies or rich hedge funds with deep pockets so we do what we can with what we have and offer the most we can (along with back end participation) out of the budgets we are working with. Believe me, if one of my films has a bigger budget, I’d be happy to offer someone like a Michael Shannon more money to be in our independent films. The truth is, we’re offering everything we have and if by chance we hit the “movie lottery” and our indie film is success, the actors get taken care of, first and foremost. At the end of the day, we do what we can with what we have. I’ve been turned down my many “Michael Shannons” in my career (most recently in casting “The Man From Earth II”, but we didn’t let it keep us from making our film. We just go to the next actor who believes in the material and the story we are trying to tell and understands that we are offering the most we can afford. My advice to you Mr. Shannon. Take your big paychecks from WB, Paramount, Sony, Fox, Comcast / Universal and Lionsgate and then maybe do one for the little guy.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *