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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 Beneath — K-19, Hollywood Homicide, and Firewall — have disappointed.
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