“Stranger Things” has always been a pricy series, with the most recent season last year reportedly totaling a $30 million budget per episode. And although filming for the fifth and final installment has yet to happen, that number will probably increase, thanks in part to the cast’s salaries.
According to a new report from Puck News — a media startup founded by former reporters at outlets like The Hollywood Reporter, CNN, and The Atlantic — the cast of “Stranger Things” closed their deals for the salaries of the fifth and final season. And while the total salaries of the cast for the season aren’t clear, it’s hovering comfortably around the $80 million mark.
According to the Puck report, the cast (consisting of roughly 20 actors who receive starring billing) went into negotiations together, with the exception of Millie Bobby Brown, who did not take part in discussions due to her existing overall deal with Netflix that spawned the “Enola Holmes” films and her starring role in the Russo Brother’s upcoming film “The Electric State.” Netflix then divided the cast into “tiers,” with the actors receiving the same salary for the season as the others in their tier.
According to the report, adult stars Winona Ryder and David Harbour are on the first tier, mainly because Ryder was far and away the biggest name on the show before it launched and made stars out of the rest of the cast. They will receive a $9.5 million paycheck for the season, a substantial hike from their $2.8 million salaries in Season 3.
The second tier consists of the four actors who served as the initial leads of the show: Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, and Finn Wolfhard, along with Sadie Sink, whose status as the breakout star of the show’s most recent fourth season presumably gave her the clout necessary to lobby for the tier. They will receive salaries of a little over $7 million. In the first season, the kids — then roughly 12 to 13 — received $25,000 per episode, for a total of $200,000 for the entire season.
The third tier consists of the actors playing the young adults and older teens, including Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, and Maya Hawke, who will receive a little over $6 million for the season. The fourth tier consists of the rest of the cast — including Brett Gelman, Priah Ferguson, Jamie Campbell Bower, and Cara Buono — whose salaries were not included in the Puck report but are apparently “much less” than the cast members in the other tiers.
Of course, “Stranger Things” isn’t by any means the most expensive cast that’s ever been on TV. For “Game of Thrones” Season 8 in 2019, the show’s five leading stars — Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau — received a reported $1.2 million per episode for the eight-episode season, for a total $9.6 million. Going further back, in 2003 and 2004, the six principal cast members of “Friends” received $22 million each for their work on the 10th and final season, at a rate of $1 million per episode.
According to the Puck report, part of the reason for the significant increase in salaries was due to the negotiating teams arguing that Netflix didn’t have the original stars under contract because deals for the show from 2015 violated California’s seven-year rule, which prohibits personal services contracts from lasting beyond seven years. All previous renegotiations reportedly added to the initial deals rather than resulting in new contracts. Netflix disputed the argument but gave a significant increase in offers.
Although Season 5 will consist of eight episodes, the “Stranger Things” actor’s contracts reportedly pay them for 10 episodes, so the per-episode fee comes down and allows the company wiggle room in negotiations for the per-episode fees of other shows. In addition, it acts as a cushion if the season again goes extremely long on episodes; part of the payments for the season is reportedly in compensation for the long shoots of Season 4, which aired several episodes hovering around the 90-minute mark and a 150-minute finale.