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Eli Wallach appears in Mystic River. Olivia Williams plays a role in X-Men: The Last Stand. However, neither of them (according to IMDb) is credited in the movie. These two instances are simply examples.

Why are some actors, who are oftentimes quite well known, not credited in certain features?

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5 Answers 5

The Screen Actor's Guild sets certain required pay scales for actors. In some cases actors will agree to pay adjustments or a lack of credit as a favor to a friend directing the film (Robin Williams in Baron Munchausen) or just to have the chance to cameo in the film for fun. In some cases an actor won't be billed so as not to spoil a surprise. Lately the Marvel films (Avengers, Iron Man, etc) have been not billing cameo actors for this reason.

Lastly, in some cases its a gross oversight. James Earl Jones had to wait decades for the digital reissue of Star Wars to get screen credit as the voice of Darth Vader.

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As an example of bucking the SAG rules (but not with a removed credit) In Ocean's 11 to keep the budget down because the actors believed in the film so much, Julia Roberts took, "and Introducing" credits which gave her scale rather than the 20(M) she was fetching per film at the time. –  Andrei Freeman Dec 10 '13 at 18:10
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@coleopterist ... SAG is a union. They have rules regarding pay to the actors in the Guild. For actors with a credit, SAG requires its actors to get paid a certain amount. When an actor does a cameo or a favor for a director or producer (as was already explained), they will not get credited so as to not cause a large production cost, which would otherwise be required by SAG to a credited actor in a production. Now it's probably as clear as mud. –  Paulster2 Dec 10 '13 at 22:06
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@coleopterist ... I'm sure there are more reasons than we could ever think of. Hopefully I didn't muddy the waters too much. –  Paulster2 Dec 11 '13 at 12:31
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I'm pretty sure that SAG doesn't care what someone gets paid as long as it's at or above the SAG scale for the project. What scale is depends on the project's type (feature, tv show, commercial etc...) and budget (is it a full-budget project or a low budget indie or a student film). You know who does care? Agents/managers. ANY actor can agree to take scale pay in any job. –  Catija Jan 31 at 8:40
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@AndreiFreeman As to Julia Roberts' "and introducing" credit... I'm pretty sure that was a joke. There's no scale requirement that correlates to what you're billed as and how much you make. Julia just had to CHOOSE to take less than her 20 mil. –  Catija Jan 31 at 20:01

Sorry to necro this but I had to toss my 2 cents in...

I haven't seen Mystic River, so I don't know how big Eli Wallach's role is and I don't recognize Olivia Williams enough to look for her in X-Men: First Class, so I can't speak to these two but, on the topic of Cameos:

The Wiki article for "Cameo appearance" pretty much does all of the answering.

These roles are generally small, many of them non-speaking ones, and are commonly either appearances in a work in which they hold some special significance (such as actors from an original movie appearing in its remake), or renowned people making uncredited appearances.

And why aren't they credited?

Cameos are generally not credited because of their brevity, or a perceived mismatch between the celebrity's stature and the film or TV show in which he or she is appearing. Many are publicity stunts.

Refusing Credit

Some performers opt not to take credit for a project. They will do this either for professional reasons (they don't want to be associated with a really bad film) or because the process of working on the film was unpleasant. For example, Don Cheadle in Ocean's Eleven refused to be listed in the credits:

KW: I’ve noticed that you sometimes appear uncredited in movies, like in Ocean’s 11 [sic] and Rush Hour 2. Why is that?

DC: For different reasons. I did Rush Hour 2 just as kind of a laugh, so I didn’t really need a credit. To me, it was fine if people recognized me. And if they didn’t, that was fine, too. With Ocean’s, there was some stuff that happened behind the scenes that I didn’t like how it went down, so I just said, “Take my name off it.”

The situation must have gotten better, though, as he came back for two more films, in which he was credited. With Rush Hour 2, I'm guessing that fits more into the cameo-type appearance.

Extras

There's another possible explanation... as hinted at above when they say non-speaking roles... if a performer doesn't say anything on screen they can be considered an extra and extras never get credited. Even when cast in a speaking role, if all of a performer's lines are out of the final edit, they may not get credit.

As to pay

Extras get paid very little in films, even if a film is shot in an area where SAG has extras jurisdiction (SAG extras currently make $157/day). If there's no SAG jurisdiction, they usually get paid minimum wage.

Speaking roles in SAG films get paid on a daily or weekly rate depending on the number of shooting days for their role. Bigger name performers can earn double or triple scale or, if they're big enough, can set their own salary. Sometimes, they will work out a no-quote rate with a lower budget project they just want to work on, which means they're taking less than usual on a project but it's in their contract that production can not divulge what the performer made. They will still get credit and will often say, "I'm taking a pay cut, give me a single or shared card at the beginning/end rather than just putting my name in the scroll"... and sometimes they'll get it.

SAG doesn't set rates for big name talent, their agents and managers do, so talent can take as little as they want provided it's, at minimum, SAG scale.

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An example, Swing Kids (1993)

As explained in IMDb:

Kenneth Branagh is reported to have refused any billing at all rather than be billed above Christian Bale and the other boys who he said were the stars of the film.

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Not only that but if a big name actor takes a cameo or small role it can effect future work they receive and so not to come up on recent acting jobs taken that producers check to see what roles and pay they have received, they take uncredited roles so only their major roles show up and not damage future roles

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Do you have anything to back up these suppositions? –  JohnP Apr 14 '14 at 20:02

Sometimes an actor, or actress, really sucks, and the only reason the final performance is any good is because of the director or the editing staff, who get all the credit.

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Sorry, but you can't refuse to give credit to someone who appears on screen. This isn't true at all. –  Catija Jan 31 at 8:42

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