Declaring whether or not an actor or actress is overpaid is generally subjective. If you aren’t a fan of science fiction films or his antics in the gossip columns, you might state that Tom Cruise is a terrible actor and based on that alone, is overpaid. This is more based on one’s own personal opinions rather than an actual critical knowledge of the acting craft. It also doesn’t consider if a Cruise film made money or not.
The best way to determine if an actor is overpaid is on a role by role and movie to movie basis, as Forbes did at the end of last year. This way, you can look at the number of dollars the movie made, versus the number of dollars an actor or actress was paid. Some are starting to argue that a movie can do extremely well without relying heavily on star-power. For instance, when the first Hunger Games film hit the movie theaters, Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t the household name she has become since the film’s release. The movie went on to see a huge return on the initial budget. Meanwhile, Johnny Depp, an actor that has the kind of star power that at one time could sell a movie ticket with the attachment of his name alone, has experienced a recent slew of big budget, box office bombs; most notably Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger, and Transcendence.
It would appear that today’s audiences aren’t as apt to see a film because of who stars in it as they once used to be. A name is no longer a guarantee that a film will make huge profits. That’s why it’s now prudent to wonder if some of these A-list actors and actresses are worth their big paychecks. Let’s take a look at some instances where the pay-out didn’t justify the actor or actress’ paycheck. It really makes one wonder if the days of the movie-star are coming to an end.
Johnny Depp – Net Worth $350 Million
Depp has had some bad luck in recent years. His last three big headlining films performed abysmally at the box office, and he is still earning an average of $20 million per film. The Lone Ranger became a notorious box-office failure, one of the five biggest of all time, losing somewhere between $95 million and $120 million. Dark Shadows was only saved after overseas ticket sales. Transcendence may have only had a fraction of the budget of The Lone Ranger, but the studio has said they stand to lose at least $30 million dollars on the film.
Ryan Reynolds – Net Worth $45 Million
Like Depp, Reynolds has experienced a healthy string of box office busts. It all started with The Green Lantern, a film that DC Comics and Warner Bros. practically assumed was going to be an instant hit. The world-wide earnings just clipped the budget, and that doesn’t factor in marketing. The film lost roughly $90 million. The animated film Turbo followed, which wasn’t the hit that was expected, and then came R.I.P.D., which ranks as one of the top five biggest box office bombs.
According to Forbes, studios see an average return of about $10.70 for every dollar Reynolds is paid. That’s nowhere near the worst, but it certainly isn’t good.
Jennifer Aniston – Net Worth $150 Million
Jennifer Aniston is only yielding a $10.60 return on every dollar paid according to Forbes. That’s a surprising figure as Aniston has managed to be “America’s Sweetheart” for quite some time now. It’s more than likely for that reason she can demand such a high salary per film. You would think that more people were flocking to see her in starring roles. Unfortunately, Aniston tends to shine in supporting roles in comedies, but not so much in her starring vehicles.
Denzel Washington – Net Worth $190 Million
It’s strange to see that Denzel Washington movies haven’t been doing so well. It still seems like he’s held in a very high regard as an actor. On the other hand, he has made some interesting decisions with his roles, so fans don’t always know what to expect and they tend to either hit or miss without any real consistency.
Washington is one of the better returning stars on the list, with an $8.30 return on every dollar he is paid.
Nicolas Cage – Net Worth $18 Million
Nicolas Cage is one of those actors that seem to take most scripts that come his way. He’s always working, and despite what the Internet says, he’s really not a bad actor. It’s still hard to forget that the same man who has been in films like Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, and Adaptation is the same guy that does films like Ghost Rider, the remake of The Wicker Man, and the over-the-top Drive Angry. His film Trespass only grossed under $17,000 on its opening weekend. Yes, that’s “thousand”, not “million”.
Despite what happened with Trespass, Cage still somehow returns about $6 for every dollar he is paid.
Reese Witherspoon – Net Worth $80 Million
It’s surprising to see that as of last year, Reese Witherspoon was only seeing an average return of $3.90 on every dollar payed out to her, especially when you consider that she’s usually not in the kind of movies that demand huge budgets for effects and most of her films do make money. Witherspoon’s movies don’t seem to outright flop, but rather they perform below expectations.
Katherine Heigl – Net Worth $25 Million
This is a surprising addition as she still seems to be hanging on to the title of “it” girl when it comes to making a romantic comedy. It’s possible that in this era where just about anything a star says or does can come under intense scrutiny on the internet, it’s entirely possible that fans have been turned off by her reputation as a “not very nice” person. Heigl’s last big film One for the Money, didn’t even manage to break even, not to mention the underwhelming turnout for Killers, a romantic comedy she starred in alongside Ashton Kutcher.
Her average return on every dollar paid to her is only $3.50.
Adam Sandler – Net Worth $300 Million
It’s no surprise that Adam Sandler is one of the most overpaid actors in Hollywood after huge box office busts like That’s My Boy and Jack and Jill. That’s My Boy looked like it could have been Sandler getting back to his more raunchy roots so it was a little surprising that the film didn’t do very well. Jack and Jill wasn’t much of a surprise, as you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that actually wanted to see the gimmick of Sandler playing a brother and sister.
Last year, Sandler’s films returned about $3.40 per dollar paid, and he still commands a $15 million dollar per picture salary.
Eddie Murphy – Net Worth $85 Million
It’s been awhile since Murphy has had a starring role in a big Hollywood movie, and with good reason; Murphy was giving a return of only $2.70 for every dollar paid. This is largely due to films like A Thousand Words and Meet Dave, both of which lost money and hearkened back to the days of Pluto Nash. As of now he’s been doing his best work as more of a co-player in films like Shrek 4 and Tower Heist, but perhaps he can rekindle his leading-man star power once again with the re-launching of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise in 2016.
Drew Barrymore – Net Worth $125 Million
Drew’s career has always had its ups and downs, going all the way back to when she was a child-star. After escaping (just barely) the fate of many a child star, Drew saw a huge resurgence in her acting career after laying low for a number of years. Unfortunately, this was followed by another slump. At one point, Forbes reported that Barrymore’s starring films were only giving an average 40 cent return on every dollar she was paid.
This could be one of the reasons that Barrymore has seemed to focus more on producing than acting in recent years.