Back in 2014, while Asylum Pictures was developing Sharknado 3, Ian Ziering reportedly refused to return to the “franchise” without a pay raise. At the time, he was being paid a whopping $400,000 a picture, and even conceded that he took the role in the first picture only because he needed it to maintain his SAG membership and the health insurance that came with it.
Apparently, Ziering was awarded that raise. The Hollywood Reporter has a lot of fun behind-the-scenes intel about the Sharknado series — including the fact that now President Donald Trump threatened to shut down Sharknado 3 because he was replaced by Mark Cuban — but one that sticks out is the fact that Ziering is now paid $500,000 per film.
To put that in context, the film cost around $3 million to make, which means that one-sixth of the entire budget goes to a C-list star best known as the 5th billed series regular of a 1990s teen soap opera. Sharknado 4 was seen by 2.7 million people, so Ziering gets paid about twenty cents for every live viewer, which clearly means that Ziering is a loss leader for the franchise.
To put it another way, as Vox points out, Ziering also earns more for a Sharknado film than Gal Gadot earned for Wonder Woman. Gadot made $300,000 for that film, which went on to make nearly $800 million worldwide. Granted, that’s typical for the first installment of a superhero franchise: Chris Evans earned the same for Captain America, while Robert Downey Jr. earned $500,000 for the first Iron Man or the same amount as Ian Ziering. I am guessing that no one ever said to RDJ, “Good for you! You’re finally earning Ian Ziering money now!”
The discrepancy between what Ziering earns per Sharknado film and what Gadot earned for Wonder Woman is not a pay gap issue, necessarily. However, the difference between what Ziering earns and what Tara Reid earns for the Sharknado films certainly seems to be. Reid earns a quarter of what Ziering makes (or about $125,000 per film), and when she complained, SyFy threatened to kill off her character, although they contend the two issues were totally unrelated.
She protested the disparity during the filming of Sharknado 3. Syfy later asked fans whether or not to kill off her character — but the network flatly denies that the two incidents are related. (Fans voted to let her live.) “I think Sharknado cares more about their ‘extra of the day’ than they do about their own cast,” Reid says, clearly weary of the franchise. “You work at something for five years and you don’t get treated as well as someone who shows up for a single day?”
Reid, nevertheless, not only continues to make Sharknado films, but she also stars in Trailer Park Shark with Mr. Belding and that guy from the American Pie movies. It airs on SyFy the night before Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.
Of course, both Reid and Ziering are paid considerably more than the D-list stars that turn up in the Sharknado films for cameos. They’re all paid the exact same amount — from Anthony Weiner to Clay Aiken to Fabio — and that amount apparently would not even pay for a beat-up Ford truck “that would be at the junkyard a week later.” But the boost to the careers of these C-listers is, uh, priceless? After all, Steve Guttenberg landed a regular role in this season of HBO’s Ballers after appearing in Sharknado 4, and that can’t just be a coincidence, can it?
Sharknado 5: Global Swarming debuts Sunday night on SyFy.