Movie Characters Who Couldn’t Possibly Afford Their Lifestyles
The lifestyles of these characters are pure Hollywood magic!
Watching a movie whisks us away into another life, another world, another reality, and we happily kick back, suspend disbelief and wait to see where the story goes. But after the credits roll, it gets a lot easier to take a closer look at just how realistic the situation was in the fantasy we just watched.
Is that big life the movie makers created just a little too big? Could that character have afforded that apartment on that salary in real life? Let’s take a look at some onscreen characters whose finances don’t quite add up offscreen.
Josh Baskin, ‘Big’
After making a wish “to be big” on a Zoltar fortune telling machine, 12-year-old Josh Baskin wakes up the next morning in his bedroom in New Jersey in the body of a full-grown man, delightfully played by Tom Hanks. He runs to the city to hide and, despite having no experience or education, lands a job as a product tester at a toy company just by acting like a kid.
Flooded with cash, Josh moves into a Soho loft and loads the vast space up with every expensive thing a boy could want, including a trampoline. If — and this is a big if, since product testing jobs start at around $12 an hour nowadays, though engineers can earn good salaries — he really could have afforded it on his salary in the late ’80s, a real-life Baskin would be kicking himself now for not hanging on to both adulthood and the property, which sold for $9.75 million last year.
Ike Graham, ‘Runaway Bride’
Richard Gere’s character in “Runaway Bride” must have the best-paying newspaper column ever — and he foolishly tosses it to the curb when he throws together a partially fabricated, poorly reported story about Maggie Carpenter (played by Julia Roberts), a woman who left some grooms at the altar.
Things turn out just fine for Ike and Maggie in the end, but Ike should hang onto this gig for dear life. His Central Park West apartment, with its stunning yet understated balcony view, is in a building that has current Zillow estimates at $1.3 million for the smallest space in the building. Even a writer with a rare higher-paying columnist job ($78,000 a year in 2012) couldn’t afford the place.
Jane Nichols, ’27 Dresses’
Jane Nichols, Katherine Heigl’s character in the 2008 rom-com “27 Dresses,” is such a good bestie that she’s a bridesmaid in pretty much everyone’s wedding (and helps plan them, too). What Jane should really do, however, is turn her mad organizational skills into a more profitable career.
Jane works at a nonprofit in New York as an assistant to George, the director — whom she is secretly in love with. So how does a single woman who works at a nonprofit afford to be in 27 weddings — and pay the rent on her Manhattan apartment that’s big enough to have a closet just for all of her bridesmaid dresses? It doesn’t add up. The average nonprofit executive assistant salary is $55,800; the average price of a condo where Jane lives, in the East Village, last year was $1.16 million; and the average cost of being a bridesmaid in 2017 was $1,200 per wedding.
That’s the story her love interest, played by James Marsden, should really get to the bottom of!
Mary Fiore, ‘The Wedding Planner’
Jennifer Lopez’s character Mary Fiore seems to be driving most of the business at the wedding planning firm she works at in San Francisco. (This is realistic: Who wouldn’t want J. Lo to plan their wedding?!?) She’s experienced and she’s bringing in clients, so she’s probably making a salary that’s on the high end of what a wedding planner can make — $120,000.
San Francisco consistently ranks as one of America’s most expensive cities to live in, so Mary’s solid salary wouldn’t go nearly as far here, especially since she’s single and doesn’t have a roommate contributing to her rent or mortgage. That didn’t stop filmmakers from giving Mary a gorgeous home, even if it’s not realistic. AMC estimated that by square footage, Mary’s pretty apartment near Telegraph Hill would’ve cost $4 million.
Lois Lane, ‘Superman’
Here’s another career-focused movie character with an outlandishly swanky apartment. In the original “Superman” from 1978, our hero glides to a landing on the terrace of Lois Lane’s apartment and … yes, she’s a newspaper reporter with an apartment with a terrace.
There’s no way to check on the cost of living or rent prices back in 1978 in Metropolis since it doesn’t exist. But we can take a look at what apartments in Central Park South (the filming location for Lois’ apartment) go for right now, and whether a newspaper reporter could afford any of them. Short answer: no.
One of the less expensive options is an 850-square-foot studio for $3,150 a month — and that’s without a terrace for a superhero to depart from to take you on a flight around the city.
Mia Dolan, ‘La La Land’
We can all agree on one thing: Even if we love them, the most unrealistic thing about musicals is that folks don’t just burst into song and dance in the middle of a conversation, or in a traffic jam on the freeway.
But when it comes to “La La Land,” some critics noted something else about the flick that wasn’t realistic: how Mia manages to afford her cute apartment (even with roomies) and her Prius with only a job at a coffee shop.
A new Prius will run you $24,000–$30,000. The average salary for a barista in Los Angeles is $13.39 an hour, or $27,851 annually. And what about those cute dresses? Perhaps she was deep in debt … good thing she ended up making it in Hollywood!
Sara Melas, ‘Hitch’
The 2005 Will Smith movie “Hitch” is another one of those rom-coms in which love blossoms against the backdrop of picturesque locations in New York City — including an apartment our female protagonist could not afford with her job. Hitch’s love interest Sara, played by Eva Mendes, is a gossip columnist who is always one step ahead of him, so maybe she was one step ahead of the Soho housing market, too?
A scene in the movie shows Sara’s spacious living room, a room wrapped in windows (it’s a corner unit!). Downstairs at the entryway, though, it turns out she’s living at 80 Greene St., a building that doesn’t have corner units. And according to City Realty, the apartments in this building range from $1.4 million to $7 million. The average price per square foot in this building is $946. Could Sara afford that on her gossip columnist salary? Sources close to this writer say nope, not even with a side hustle.
Dana Barrett, ‘Ghostbusters’
We ain’t afraid of no ghosts, but we are very, very afraid of the rent on Dana Barrett’s apartment. At big-city symphonies, career musicians have base salaries just over six figures nowadays. So yes, the New York cellist with the gatekeeper of Gozer living in her refrigerator probably could have afforded a comfortable slice of the city on her philharmonic wages.
But Manhattan? Dana’s apartment with a view at 55 Central Park West? A 900-square-foot apartment in the building sold for $1,250,000 in 2017. It’s unlikely we’re in a single symphony member’s price range. (Why couldn’t Zuul be a successful hedge fund manager?) Here’s a fun factoid about her address: The “corner penthouse of spook central,” a duplex at the top of the building, was up for sale in 2012 at an asking price of $35 million.