How many ‘great’ actors can you name, and just what criteria do you use to justify your selections? Some actors are universally praised by critics and public alike for the talent they display in performing in certain roles, some by critics only which would imply that the film, or TV or theatre play isn’t necessarily popular with audiences, and vice versa. Some films apparently become popular because a certain ‘great’ actor appears in them, which suggests that the box-office is perhaps the defining criteria of who is ‘great’ and, conversely, who is not – consistent success or failure of an actor in drawing audiences is therefore perhaps the best criteria, regardless of the quality of the film score. Recent analysis of box-office takings may tend to confirm this view, but not necessarily, as these top and bottom lists demonstrate: past performance is no guarantee of commercial success.
Salaries vary considerably, depending on established or assumed ‘star value’ and, yes – gender; it’s now common knowledge that, for example, Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than male co-stars Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper for “American Hustle”, but who is it that appears in this list!? Several stars including Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep and Patricia Arquette (in her Oscar acceptance speech) plus Lawrence herself in print, have made known in no uncertain terms their dissatisfaction with this situation, and have demanded equality now, which is certainly deserved. Further, stars are now encouraged to take a cut of the box office profits rather than be paid a fixed, sometimes large amount up-front – a gamble maybe, but often worth taking the risk.
THE TOP 10 ACTORS
Following are the top 10 actors to June 2015 based on earnings from involvement in their three most recent films against cost of production and salary – they may not be who you would have expected to shine:
At number one is American Chris Evans, who earned $181.80 for every $1 spent on securing him for the role, resulting largely from the success of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.
Ukrainian-born Mila Kunis is at number two, from starring in “Oz the Great and Powerful” in particular, with an overall return of $87.30 for every $1 spent on her salary, despite “Jupiter Ascending” failing at the box office.
Nr.3 Scarlet Johansson
Scarlett Johansson ($84.90 per $1) is at number three on the list – $20m for “Avengers: Age of Ultron” implies that she was relatively expensive, but then her other movies include “Lucy”, which made $463 million worldwide on a budget of only $40 million.
Nr.4 Gwyneth Paltrow
Although still only 43, seemingly perennial star Gwyneth Paltrow ($82.90 per $1) is at number four thanks to “Iron Man 3” and “Mortdecai”, an actress who always delivers value for money, at least to the audience and obviously to the studio.
Nr.5 Emma Stone
Emma Stone rounds out the top five, worth $54 per $1, after being number one the previous year, but slipping after the critical box office failure of the supposedly romantic comedy “Aloha”.
Nr.6 Chris Hemsworth
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth ($42.10 per $1) comes in at number six, boosted considerably by his successful title role as” Thor”, and his part in “Avengers – Age of Ultron”.
Nr.7 Vin Diesel
The $40.30 per $1 earned by Vin Diesel in the trilogy “Riddick” and his other starring trilogy in “Fast and Furious” – including an MTV Movie Award – bring him in at number seven.
Nr.8 Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence ($39.10 per $1) is still at number eight, apparently none the worse for her protestations at unequal salaries, securing good returns for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” Parts 1 and 2, as well the title role in “Joy”.
Nr.9 Mark Wahlberg
Number nine Mark Wahlberg ($37.90 per $1) played a big part – literally – in the commercial success of “Lone Survivor”, also receiving critical acclaim, as well as starring in “The Gambler”, a reprise of the 70s film starring James Caan.
Nr.10 Dwayne Johnson
Former wrestler Dwayne Johnson ($28.10 per $1) at number 10 hasn’t repeated his number one berth of 2013, but is still ‘bringing them in’ to films including “Shazam” and “San Andreas”, a particular commercial hit grossing $470 million on a budget of $110 million.
THE BOTTOM 10 ACTORS
The following bottom 10 list – the most overpaid actors – is compiled in exactly the same way, however, sources point out that the ‘percentage of profit’ salary method means that in several cases the end result isn’t as bad as it might have been, although the stars still appear considerably overpaid when assessed against box-office returns! Also, only films released into cinemas are surveyed, not Netflix, the box office effect of which can’t be calculated. Again, there are some surprising inclusions, and exclusions, including that not one is a woman! Perhaps number one is the most surprising of all:
Nr.1 Johnny Depp
Yes, Johnny Depp ($1.20 per $1) is the number one ‘most overpaid’ actor, only just ‘in the black’ – and a long way behind number two – despite the successes of ‘”Pirates of the Caribbean”, because of the red all over “Mortdecai”, “Transcendence” and “The Lone Ranger”, the latter alone losing over $150 million for the Disney studio.
Nr.2 Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington ($6.50 per $1) is at number two – even very good, respected actors can’t always live up to their billing, as the size of his pay cheque would appear to be the problem since “Flight”, “2 Guns” and “The Equalizer” all at least broke even at the box office.
Nr.3 Will Ferrell
Number three Will Ferrell ($6.80 per $1) would seem to be no mistake, as he has figured regularly in this list over the last five years. Recent involvement in “Anchorman 2” and “The Internship” seem not to have done him any favours, although “The Lego Movie” did well. Even so,quite why his rewards remain so high is a question the studios may well consider asking themselves, soon.
Nr.4 Liam Neeson
Irish actor Liam Neeson ($7.80 per $1) comes in at number four; “Non-stop”, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and “A Walk Among the Tombstones” don’t readily spring to mind as being blockbusters, so again, previous successes, awards and nominations are no guarantee of a continued, automatic draw at the box office.
Nr.5 Will Smith
Despite being nominated as ‘the most powerful actor in Hollywood’ – eight years ago now – Will Smith ($8.60 per $1) makes the list at number five, with the size of his pay packets clearly a drag on the subsequent bottom line as regards profits from recent films, which were…?
Nr.6 Christian Bale
Welsh-born actor Christian Bale (9.20 per $1) ranks at number six, so clearly Batman and The Dark Knight are distant memories. Although “American Hustler” did well at the box office, not so prominent were “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and “Knight of Cups”.
Nr.7 Channing Tatum
Channing Tatum ($10.80 per $1) at number seven was badly let down by the colossal failure of “Jupiter Ascending”, hardly mentioned in his CV, an indication of how a star with a large salary can effect the business of making a film which turns out to be a flop.
Nr.8 Brad Pitt
Number eight Brad Pitt ($12.00 per $1) is another surprise, but given that he has produced as well as acted in many recent films, one can only conclude that he is paying himself too much, since “12 Years a Slave” and “Fury” did relatively well at the box office, as well as receiving critical acclaim.
Nr.9 Ben Affleck
Multi-award winner Ben Affleck ($12.30 per $1) makes the list at number nine, with “Runner, Runner” weighing down the balance on the negative side, although directing, producing and acting obviously still gives the star an inflated impression of his real worth.
Nr.10 Tom Cruise
Finally, unfortunately perennial star Tom Cruise ($13.60 per $1) is at number 10, although pulling-in over 13 times at the box office what was spent on productions isn’t exactly a failure. Tom is reputed to be one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, however, worldwide his starring roles have helped 22 films earn more than $200 million at the box office, so maybe the studios aren’t doing so badly from his performances, and the occasional ‘not so good’ can be forgiven.