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Small Screen, Big Bucks: Movie Stars Flock to TV for Huge Paydays

Call it movie star inflation. The influx of marquee names flocking to TV series — particularly limited series projects — has raised the bar for A-list TV salaries.

Limited series have become catnip for many stars. They offer the chance to appear in high-end projects with Emmy potential but with a one-shot commitment with time parameters defined from the start. Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman are nabbing an estimated $350,000 apiece per episode for HBO’s “Big Little Lies” seven-episode limited series penned by David E. Kelley.

Daniel Craig is grabbing a minimum of $250,000 per episode (some estimates are higher) for a 20-episode commitment to the Showtime drama “Purity.”

Dwayne Johnson has added more heat to his already-molten status by proving his comedy chops in the HBO half-hour series “Ballers.” He earns an estimated $400,000 per episode for the sports-themed series, which lenses 10 episodes a season.

Netflix’s voracious appetite for content has been a stimulus package for Hollywood’s 1%. Drew Barrymore is commanding an estimated $350,000 per episode for her upcoming comedy series “The Santa Clarita Diet.” Emma Stone and Jonah Hall are pulling down an estimated $350,000 apiece for another new Netflix half-hour, “Maniac.” Netflix, of course, has to pay higher salaries upfront to compensate for the lack of syndication and international revenue flowing down the road, given its worldwide service.

The mania for reboots and sequels has also been a windfall for actors who find themselves in once-in-a-lifetime positions to command huge paydays. You can’t do a “Gilmore Girls” revival without Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, which helped the pair snag $750,000 apiece for the four 90-minute segments of Netflix’s upcoming “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.”

Read Variety‘s TV talent salary survey for more revelations on who makes what in TV.

(Pictured: Drew Barrymore, Reese Witherspoon, Dwayne Johnson)

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