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Star salaries: Who makes what -- and do they earn it?

Star salaries: Who’s overpriced? Who’s a good deal? EW examines the box office worth of Hollywood’s biggest celebs

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Jolie: Jon Kopaloff/Filmmagic.com; Smith: Jason Merritt/Filmmagaic.com; Depp: Steve Granitz/Wireimage.com; Diaz: Jeffrey Mayer/Wireimage.com

In most parts of the world, it’s considered rude to ask people how much money they make. In Hollywood, you might actually offend someone if you don’t already know. This is a town where stars are regarded as commodities and their salaries quietly obsessed over like stock prices (Tom Cruise and Will Smith: Buy! Buy! Harrison Ford and J. Lo: Sell! Sell!). After decades of seemingly unlimited star paydays, studios are fretting over declining audiences and rising production costs, and taking a hard new look at those eye-popping price tags — so we thought it would be a good time to do the same. Pinning down exact salary figures is trickier than ever these days, given the back-end points, producing fees, and DVD proceeds that increasingly pump up an actor’s compensation. (In most cases, the numbers listed here represent the star’s basic salary for a major studio film.) But we’ve canvassed the industry, spoken with agents, managers, execs, and producers, pored over all the available reporting, and come up with our own estimates to determine who is making how much and separate Hollywood’s bargains from its money pits.

Click continue to see our findings. (And for a special, in-depth report about Tom Cruise’s bankability, click here.)

Image credit: Will Smith: JSSImages/BEImages

WILL SMITH

$25 MILLION

Almost everybody in Hollywood agrees that the Fresh Prince offers the biggest bang for the buck today. He’s one of the few stars who consistently fills seats — Hitch hit $178 million despite so-so reviews — and he isn’t shy about promoting his movies. A bargain, even at this price.

Image credit: Reese Witherspoon: Matt Baron/BEImages

REESE WITHERSPOON

$15 MILLION

She’s the only actress today pulling in droves of young female moviegoers (for films like Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama, if not Just Like Heaven) while also winning an Oscar for the more grown-up hit Walk the Line.

Image credit: Ben Stiller: Dan Steinberg/BEImages

BEN STILLER

$20 MILLION

His track record in ’04 (Meet the Fockers, Dodgeball, Starsky & Hutch, Along Came Polly) is virtually unrivaled, and his films’ $185 million average global take is impressive for a comic. Studios should keep paying him top dollar…and just hope it’s not for another Envy.

Image credit: Johnny Depp: Tony Barson/WireImage.com

JOHNNY DEPP

$17 MILLION

Pirates of the Caribbean boosted him into the upper tier, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory showed his broad appeal. That rep could take a hit if more Libertines come along, but Pirates 2 should help keep his price tag high.

Image credit: Matt Damon: Alex Berliner/BEImages

MATT DAMON

$15 MILLION

He braved several post-Good Will Hunting flops (e.g., All the Pretty Horses) and emerged as a solid, dependable draw with the Bourne and Ocean’s series. Still a little iffy, though, on non-franchise fare like The Brothers Grimm and Stuck on You.

Image credit: Angelina Jolie: Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEImages

ANGELINA JOLIE

$12 MILLION

Any film she does these days is assured heaps of free publicity because of her hook-up with Mr. Pitt. And that’s good news, because before Mr. & Mrs. Smith — which benefited from said huge buzz — she had more tattoos than hits.

Image credit: Will Ferrell: Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEImages

WILL FERRELL

$20 MILLION

After his too-quick induction into the $20 mil league for the upcoming Talladega Nights, Bewitched and Kicking & Screaming whiffed. And studios can’t recoup costs overseas: Comedy usually doesn’t travel (Elf made $173 mil here but $47 mil abroad).

Image credit: Cameron Diaz: Alex Berliner/BEImages

CAMERON DIAZ

$15 MILLION

She may be a big draw in franchise ensemble pics like Charlie’s Angels, but nobody seems interested in her other films (In Her Shoes, The Sweetest Thing, etc.). She’s no longer hearing offers like the reported $20 million she got for 2003’s Charlie’s 2.

Image credit: Harrison Ford: Icon Pictures/BigAustralia/BEImages

HARRISON FORD

$15 MILLION

Being one of the biggest-grossing stars of all time virtually guarantees Ford a hefty salary. But lately, the Force hasn’t been with him: His three films since 2000’s What Lies BeneathK-19, Hollywood Homicide, and Firewall — have disappointed.

Image credit: Jennifer Lopez: Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEImages

JENNIFER LOPEZ

$12 MILLION

Monster-in-Law did well — a fact many attributed to costar Jane Fonda — but the fast disappearance of An Unfinished Life spoke volumes about her audience appeal.

— ”Are They Worth It?” reporting by Jennifer Armstrong, Will Bottinick, Scott Brown, Raymond Fiore, Dade Hayes, Jeff Labrecque, Sean O’Heir, Joshua Rich, Missy Schwartz, and Alice Lee Tebo