So who makes more money?
Using estimates from an October story in The Hollywood Reporter and public records, here are some rough comparisons.
Robert Downey Jr.: $75 million per year, according to Forbes
President Obama: $477,383 (combined income with Michelle, per federal tax returns)
Obama is president of these United States, and RDJ was the highest-paid actor in 2014. These two are the top in their fields. Downey wins out, though. In an age of disposable stars, he's an exception, starring in three of the top grossing movies OF ALL TIME ("The Avengers," "Avengers: Age of Ultron," and "Iron Man 3"), so he can command big paydays. But Obama's salary doesn't take into account the fact that he doesn't have to pay for a mortgage, car or gas. And then there's the fact that he has his own plane, and once he's out of the White House, he's got the inevitable book deal and speaking fees that can make him very rich. (See: Clinton, Bill)
Average Screen Actors Guild member: $52,000
State lawmaker: $0-$97,197
Most actors aren't high-paid action heroes, and most politicians aren't in Congress; they're often hardworking part-time legislators who have to pull two jobs. There's the stereotypical actor paying his or her bills working as a server until their big break, and lawmakers in states with part-time, nonprofessional legislatures are politicians in addition to their day jobs. The average SAG member makes $52,000 a year while state lawmaker pay varies by state. In Virginia, senators make $18,000, while New Mexico pays nothing, Texas pays $7,200, and California pays $97,197, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Hollywood agent: Senior agents make about $200,000, but salaries have been known to go up to as much as $10 million
Romney 2012 political director Rich Beeson: $214,375, per a Washington Post review
When your salary depends on your clients, big stars equals big bucks. Talent agencies in the entertainment industry like CAA, WME, UTA, Gersh, ICM and Paradigm will overpay if an agent has clients they want, while in politics, you can make more working for a presidential candidate than a freshman U.S. House one. Romney 2012 political director Rich Beeson, who now works for Marco Rubio's campaign, made a compatible amount as senior agents make, but talent agents have also been known to make millions of dollars.
Film director: $250,000-$20 million
Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina: $172,345
There used to be a "middle range" for directors, but that's no more, one studio executive told THR. You're either making a couple hundred thousand, or you just up into the millions for big directors like Christopher Nolan or if it's for a tentpole film. Directing an election-winning presidential campaign, though? Doesn't pay as well.
Most influential behind-the-scenes
Motion picture studio executives: $7 million-$20 million
They might not be household names, but studio executives and Washington lobbyists are among the most influential people in their industry. A common salary for studio execs starts with a base of $.5 million, in addition to performance bonuses and stock options, according to Vulture. The median salary for lobbyists is estimated by the Sunlight Foundation to be $179,667.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) communications director: $117,635
Hollywood publicists start below what you can make on the Hill, but they can also can end up earning a lot more. Among Kentucky congressional delegation, then-freshman Rep. Andy Barr's (R) communications director made $63,750 in the 2014 fiscal year, while McConnell's communications director made six figures. In entertainment, the ones checking clipboards at parties can make $27,000, but partners at large firms make 14 times that.
Extra: $148 a day
Campaign volunteer/White House intern: Nothing
Without extras, volunteers, and interns, where would we even be? Movies would feel empty, doors would go un-knocked. But how do we repay them? In Hollywood, you can make $148 per day plus extra for working overtime, in wet or smoky conditions, or wearing hairpieces or body makeup. But for campaign volunteers and White House interns, all they get is a lousy line on their resume.