You may recognize actor, Jackie Coogan, as the guy who played Uncle Fester, in The Addams Family. But he is also the reason the Coogan Law exists. He started out as a child actor in silent films, but never saw any of his earnings from his work, because his parents squandered it all. This led to the Coogan Law (AKA The California Child Actor’s Bill), which requires that a percentage of the money that child actors make, be put in a special trust, where it will be safe until they reach adulthood.
Many child actors these days have the potential to be just as famous and just as rich as their adult co-stars, but they obviously don’t have the experience or maturity to know what to do with all that money. Imagine being a millionaire before you even turn 18. The following former (and some current) child actors earn more money in a single pay cheque than most people do over several years, making them some of the richest child stars in recent memory.
She recently turned 18, but Abigail Breslin started acting when she was only 3 years old. Her role in Little Miss Sunshine earned her an Oscar nomination at the age of 10, so it’s no surprise that her salary shot up from there. When she was 15, she voiced a character in the animated film Zambezia, and reportedly made $65,000 for 4 hours of work. Also, she recently co-starred alongside Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County, and her contract included a stipulation that if she won an Oscar, she would get a $50,000 bonus.
As Manny on Modern Family, 15-year-old Rico Rodriguez is part of the ensemble cast of one of the biggest hit comedies on TV right now. There have been a lot of contract negotiations throughout the entire cast, and the child actors on the show didn’t get left behind when their adult cast mates got pay increases. According to TMZ, Rodriquez will be making $95,000 per episode in the sixth season of the show. And if they make it to season eight, he will be raking in $115,000 per episode. Don’t worry about the other kids either. Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould, and Sarah Hyland are all making just as much.
Dylan & Cole Sprouse
The Olsen twins may be the richest twins in the world, but the Sprouse twins have followed closely in their footsteps, since starring opposite Adam Sandler in Big Daddy. They went on to star in their own shows on Disney, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and then The Suite Life on Deck. They are 21 now, but in 2007 (at age 14) they were the highest paid teenage Disney actors on TV, making $40,000 (combined) per episode. The twins also launched their own merchandise, including clothing and a magazine, through the Olsen twins company, Dualstar Entertainment. Currently, they are both focusing on school, rather than their acting careers.
Macaulay Culkin (AKA Kevin McCallister) started acting when he was 3 years old, but he rose to international fame for his starring role in Home Alone and its sequels. For his first film, Uncle Buck, he made a modest $40,000. For Home Alone, he made $100,000, but after the film’s runaway success, he was able to demand more money for his next project, and he did. 1991’s My Girl, earned him an unprecedented salary of $1 million. His salary rose again to $8 million for 1994’s Richie Rich, before his acting career started to fade off. He hasn’t done anything high profile since his child star days.
When the hit family comedy, Malcolm in the Middle first started, Frankie Muniz (as Malcolm) was earning $30,000 per episode. But as the show’s popularity grew, and he earned an Emmy and a Golden Globe nomination, so did his salary. By the final season, Muniz was collecting $120,000 per episode. His attempts at a film career included Agent Cody Banks, and its sequel, for which he made $2 million, and $5 million, respectively. He may not have been able to transition from child star to successful movie star, but he made enough money during his run to make up for it.
Most of the child stars on this list started out on TV, but the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith didn’t have to start at the bottom. He appeared opposite his dad in the Oscar-nominated film, The Pursuit of Happyness when he was 8-years old. He went on to star in the remake of The Karate Kid, for which he reportedly made $1 million up front, and then an additional $2 million after the film grossed over $150 million worldwide. That salary has made him the highest paid child actor in Hollywood right now. He is also working on a rap career. Like father, like son.
Chandler Riggs is only 15-years-old, but it didn’t take him long to land his first big role. He plays Carl Grimes on AMC’s most popular show to date, The Walking Dead. He was cast when he was 10, and has received multiple award nominations for Young Actors. The show’s star, Andrew Lincoln, who plays Carl’s father, Rick, currently makes $90,000 an episode, but the entire cast is reportedly looking for a pay increase going into season 5. You can bet Riggs will be an integral part of that negotiation. The only problem is, if the producers don’t want to pay, it wouldn’t be so far-fetched for a zombie to wander in and kill off the greediest cast member.
At age 12, Daniel Radcliffe, an unknown actor, was cast as Harry Potter, and after making it through the six-film franchise, he is rich enough to do whatever film he wants. Or never work again a day in his life. Although it was his first real film role, according to IMDB Radcliffe made $1 million for the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and $33 million for the franchise finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. He was 22 when the franchise ended, but by then he was already making more per film than some established adult actors in Hollywood.
A child star Nickelodeon has made rich is the now 21-year-old star of iCarly, Miranda Cosgrove. Her first big role was in the Jack Black film, School of Rock when she was 10. But her hit TV series is where she really started bringing in the cash. The series debuted in 2007, and by 2010, Cosgrove was making $180,000 per episode, making her the second highest paid child star on TV, at the time. She was listed as the highest paid child actress in the 2012 edition of The Guinness Book of World Records. Currently, she is attending the University of Southern California, and continuing to work on her film and music career.
Angus T. Jones
Two and a Half Men will be starting its twelfth season in the fall, and has been through its share of casting shakeups. The role of Jake Harper, was played by Angus T. Jones for ten seasons, from when he was 10, until he was 20, after which he decided to leave the show. In his last two seasons, he reportedly made $350,000 per episode, making him the highest paid teenager on TV. His role has been downgraded to a recurring character, but he didn’t appear on a single episode in season 11. He is now attending college, but hopes to return to acting some time in the future.