Every year a list is compiled of the top earning actors in Hollywood. Typically this information is released in the beginning or halfway through the year. The information tallied is based on film revenue from the second half of 2008, combined with any upfront pay for films in 2009. Every year certain actors earn a spot on Forbes Magazine’s annual list of highest earning actors and I can’t understand why. This year, I put on my thinking cap and did some investigating. Not only have we discovered the outlandish numbers, but we’ve found out the truth behind them.
If you’re a glutton for punishment and want to see who’s raking in the most loot, check out the Top Ten Highest Paid Actors of 2009 below.
1. Harrison Ford – Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (65 million dollars)
- Off the earnings of Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Harrison Ford could retire and live in the lap of luxury for the rest of his life without a worry in the world. In order to get the veteran actor to bring Indy out of retirement, he was given the same financial cushion as director and producer George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. He cut a deal with Paramount that split a good chunk of the film’s earnings between the three. The movie went on to gross 787 million dollars worldwide, and the best part for Ford is that he got his 65 million up front!
2. Adam Sandler – Bedtime Stories, Don’t Mess With the Zohan (55 million)
- For Adam Sandler to follow Ford’s massive payday, he had to have more than one film to fall back on. Family friendly movies are always a good way to go, especially if they’re released during the holiday season. Bedtime Stories debuted at number two, behind Marley and Me last Christmas, and went on to make over 200 million dollars worldwide. Making a huge profit from its original 80 million budget.
- Don’t Mess With the Zohan, was a PG-13 summer comedy that was produced for 90 million, and earned almost 200 million dollars worldwide. This doesn’t even include the cool 25 million the DVD sales brought in.
3. Will Smith – Hancock, Seven Pounds (45 million)
- Will Smith is never too far behind when it comes to paychecks and box office revenue. Last year the actor released the summer blockbuster Hancock and the indie drama Seven Pounds. Hancock capitalized off of Smith’s “Mr. 4th of July” status to bring in over 624 million dollars worldwide in ticket sales. Even amongst the negative reviews, the film still managed to become one of the highest grossing films of the summer.
- Seven Pounds was a passion project for Smith that didn’t fare well at the box office like Hancock, but still brought in a decent profit. The film was produced for 55 million dollars, and accumulated over 168 million internationally. Smith was not only the lead actor, but also one of the producers of the film, so he also received decent pay for his behind the scenes work.
4. Eddie Murphy – Meet Dave (40 million)
- I had to do a double take when I saw Mr. Murphy as a top five contender on this list. When was the last time he had a full fledged hit? Last year’s Meet Dave (11 million domestic) and this year’s Imagine That (16 million) both bombed at the box office, and were critically panned. Where is this money coming from? Murphy is aware of the uncertainty of his appeal, so he makes sure he gets his money upfront.
- After over 25 years in the business he’s considered to be one of the few actors whose asking price for a film starts at 20 million dollars. Meet Dave and Imagine That fulfilled that contractual obligation, therefore it was easy for the actor to get 40 million in the bank and the number four spot on this list.
5. Nicolas Cage – Bangkok Dangerous, Knowing (40 million)
- For the past two years, with the exception of National Treasure and Ghost Rider, Cage’s films have done horrible at the box office. When Bangkok Dangerous debuted in theaters last September it had one of the lowest box office figures for any film to earn the number one spot with less than 8 million dollars. It went on to globally earn 41 million dollars, which is 4 million short of its production budget.
- The DVD sales for this film is what saved it from becoming a total loss. Bangkok Dangerous brought in almost 15 million dollars in home entertainment sales. That’s almost the same amount as it’s domestic gross at the box office. “The tireless worker doesn’t earn the same size paychecks as people like Smith and Sandler, but he currently has six movies scheduled to hit theaters in the next two years, including a live-action version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
6. Tom Hanks – Angels & Demons (35 million)
- I expected more from Tom Hanks considering the rumored upfront pay he received for starring in Angels & Demons. Multiple sources had his paycheck coming in anywhere between 29 – 50 million dollars. Upon further investigation the film’s budget was 150 million, an amount the studio wouldn’t have been able to recoup if it wasn’t for their foreign ticket sales. The film only brought in 133 million domestically. Perhaps he didn’t get paid as much as we thought?
7. Tom Cruise – Valkyrie, Tropic Thunder (30 million)
- This may seem completely random, but Tom Cruise‘s career is on the mend. He’s not as bad off as some of us would like to think. He headlined the WWII film Valkyrie last December, which brought in over 200 million dollars worldwide to cushion its 85 million dollar budget.
- He also had a supporting role in the summer comedy Tropic Thunder, which co-starred Ben Stiller and Robert Downey, Jr. Here’s an interesting tidbit that nobody likes to talk about, Valkyrie actually made more money overall than Tropic Thunder in theaters. Thunder brought in a little over 188 million dollars globally at the box office, but was saved by its DVD sales that earned almost 50 million dollars to date.
8. Jim Carrey – Yes, Man (28 million)
- Jim Carrey is a man who’s comedic touch isn’t as strong as it used to be, but he still manages to produce number one films. Last year, Yes, Man debuted in the top spot earning over 18 million dollars at the box office. This may not appear to be a lot, but it went on to gross 223 million worldwide, and an extra 25 million dollars in DVD sales. Carrey’s 20 million dollar paycheck, with the addition of any gross percentage pay, easily gained him his number 8 spot.
9. Brad Pitt – The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (28 million)
- Brad Pitt is an Oscar nominated actor who earned critical acclaim for his portrayal of the backwards aging title character in the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Even though the film debuted at number three when it debuted during last year’s holiday season, it raked in over 332 million dollars at the global box office. Button came in behind Marley & Me, and Bedtime Stories during it’s opening weekend, but managed to earn over a hundred million dollars more than both films. When you take that amount and factor in Pitt’s upfront pay (20 million and up), plus the 40 million dollars in DVD sales you can confidently shout “he’s in the money!”
10. Johnny Depp – Public Enemies (27 million)
- After all the hoopla surrounding Johnny Depp‘s record breaking check for Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (between 61 to 75 million dollars), the majority of his pay for 2009 came from Public Enemies. The Michael Mann drama had all the makings of a hit, talented actors (Depp and Christian Bale), a historical backdrop, and decent marketing.
- “Depp is almost always well paid, but he earns a nice chunk of the profits off the Pirates Of The Caribbean series, which have earned a collective $2.6 billion at the worldwide box office.” Therefore, without the help of a mega hit this year, Depp has been living quite well off of his pirates booty.
My Biggest Observation:
- Where are the women on this thing? No estrogen in sight, not even Angelina Jolie could crack the top ten! One could speculate that female actors don’t have the pull to bring in the big bucks at the box office. But how can they when there is still such a gap in pay between men and women in the workplace, no matter what industry their in? The highest paid actress of 2009 would be Jolie, who brought in over 27 million with last year’s Wanted and her paycheck for the upcoming thriller Salt. So the highest paid actress makes the same as the lowest paid man in the top ten? Something about that doesn’t sit well with me.
Don’t get too hell bent on these numbers, because we still have time for the fall and winter movies to hit theaters. Hopefully, by next January they’ll be several changes made to this list including it’s all male counterparts.
Who do you think is the most overpaid of these actors? Were you surprised by any of the numbers?