How Much Did Ed O’Neill Make Playing Al Bundy On ‘Married With Children’?

O’Neill had a lot of leverage over the studio.

When most people talk about modern acting legends, it is names like Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sally Field, and Tom Cruise that tend to be discussed. While all of those people deserve their hallowed places in Hollywood history, there are lots of other actors that deserve the same legendary status. For example, a lot of people don’t give TV stars like Ed O’Neill enough credit for their accomplishments.

Currently best known as one of the stars of Modern Family, it could be argued that a long-lasting sitcom wouldn’t have enjoyed as much success without Ed O’Neill involved. After all, by the time Modern Family debuted on television, O’Neill already was a TV legend due to his status as one of the stars of Married with Children.

In addition to Married with Children earning Ed O’Neill loads of fans, many of whom became avid Modern Family watchers, the actor earned a healthy salary for his work on the show. Of course, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. However, some of O’Neill’s fans may be surprised to learn exactly how much he was paid to star in Married with Children.

Modern Money

When it came time for Ed O’Neill to negotiate his Modern Family contract, it was pretty obvious that the show’s producers were aware of his years starring in Married with Children. After all, Married with Children is a legendary show and it was even referenced on Modern Family once. With that in mind, it makes sense that from the very start, O’Neill was being paid a healthy amount of money to star in Modern Family.

According to celebritynetworth.com, during the early seasons of Modern Family, Ed O’Neill was paid $100,000-$150,000 for each episode of the show. From there, O’Neill was able to negotiate a new deal that called for him to make $200,000 per episode for the 2014-2018 seasons. Finally, O’Neill was paid $500,000 per episode from 2018 until the show’s 2020 finale.

An Incredible Salary

Back in 1997, the LA Times posted an article all about the decision to cancel Married with Children after the conclusion of the show’s eleventh season. During the aforementioned article, it was estimated that Married with Children’s reruns had already earned Fox between $400 million and $500 million by that point. Considering Married with Children reruns have been a mainstay of television ever since, it is mind-boggling to imagine how much money the studio has made from the show.

Considering how popular Married with Children was, it makes perfect sense that Ed O’Neill was able to make a fortune starring in the show’s final three seasons. According to the aforementioned LA Times article, that certainly was the case as O’Neill was paid $500,000 per episode for Married with Children’s final three seasons. Keep in mind, that was in late-90s dollars and when you factor in inflation, that number is even more impressive.

A Hilarious Negotiation

Over the years, many TV stars have gotten into highly contentious negotiations with the powers that be. For example, when Shameless’ Emmy Rossum fought to get paid the same amount as her co-star William H Macy, her battle went public and seemed pretty difficult at times. On the other end of the spectrum, when Ed O’Neill negotiated his final Married with Children contract, things played out hilariously.

While talking to Page Six in late-2020, Ed O’Neill revealed that by the time he signed his final Married with Children contract, all of his co-stars had already agreed to their deals. As the only Married with Children star who had yet to sign on to the show, O’Neill had a lot of leverage over the studio. Fully aware of that fact, O’Neill’s manager during the ‘90s seemed to have a lot of fun getting his client an impressive deal.

According to Ed O’Neill, his boss at that time, Gary Lieberthal, initially offered him a huge amount of money to remain a part of Married with Children. Still, O’Neill and his then-agent, Bernie Brillstein, thought they could get more so they turned down the offer which sent Lieberthal into a rage. In fact, according to O’Neill, Lieberthal bellowed “What the f—k are you talking about?” three times when he learned that Ed hadn’t agreed to his offer. Evidently, at that point negotiations continued and they resulted in O’Neill earning $500,000 per episode.

Still not through, Ed O’Neill’s agent Bernie Brillstein saw the opportunity to get one more thing for his client and he got the job done. According to O’Neill, Brillstein told him all about how he got Gary Lieberthal to buy Ed a brand new and highly expensive car. Evidently, the conversation went like this; “You know the kid drives a Mustang, it’s not even a convertible. The number one guy on your number one show in a f–king Mustang in your parking lot? Looks bad.”

“Gary said, ‘What does he want, a Corvette?’ Bernie said, ‘I think he likes German cars. They got that Porsche dealership on Burbank, you know where it is. There’s a black Porsche coupe with wire wheels, they were a Carrera 4, they were brand new. It was 95,000 then. It’s on the showroom floor. Hey, take him over there on Monday. Have him come in early, drive him over, get him that car. Be that guy, Gary, be that f–king guy.’” After interviewing Ed O’Neill, Page Six asked Gary Lieberthal about the negotiation and he told them; “I had almost as much fun negotiating with Ed O’Neill and Fox as the audience had watching the show.”

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