Thespians traditionally didn’t hold high status in society. In Shakespeare’s time, only a handful graced the stage as household names, and it wasn’t until the late 19th century that cinema and performance became sophisticated enough to grow into a mega industry capable of transforming talent into royalty. But Hollywood Boulevard is still littered with broken dreams; if anything, the lows have only gotten lower – but the highs, well…
The wealthiest actors come from all walks of Hollywood and even Bollywood life — comedy kings, action hunks and of course Oscar darlings — and they can all afford at least several jetliners. Curiously, what they can’t do is give birth. Somehow no female actor, not even 18-time Oscar nominee Meryl Streep, commands a ranking salary. Sexism in movie land? You don’t say.
But whether you love them, hate them or you’ve never even heard of them, these 10 fortunes are a testament to the staggering evolution of the art form since Thespis himself took the stage at the Ancient Greek Dionysus Theatre in 534 B.C. Have a look at the top-ten accounts on the acting world’s A-list.
10. Adam Sandler: $300 million
Sandler founded the hugely profitable Happy Madison Productions film company after The Wedding Singer and The Water Boy both grossed over $1 billion in 1998. From a critical standpoint the company has mostly struck out; only two out of its more than thirty productions – most starring Sandler – have earned a passing grade on Rotten Tomatoes. But considering last year’s Grown Ups 2 raked in nearly $250 million dollars from an $80 million budget, the critics probably don’t faze this comedy tycoon much.
9. Bill Cosby: $350 million
The 76-year-old Hollywood veteran has one of the longest comedy careers in history. From The Bill Cosby Show—America’s number one show for five straight years—to Fat Albert, to his 7 Grammy-winning comedy albums, Cosby’s influence on the laugh trade can hardly be overstated. But as far as that $350 million fortune goes, he can also thank White Owl cigars, Coca-Cola, Texas Instruments, Kodak, the 1990 US Census, and of course, Jell-O pudding as a frequent spokesperson in their ad campaigns.
8. Tom Hanks: $350 million
It must be tough appearing on screen with Tom Hanks when the chances of him stealing the show seem to be about 50-50. Big, Sleepless in Seattle, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, The Green Mile, Cast Away, Toy Story—the two-time Oscar winner’s films have earned over $4.2 billion solely in the US and more than double that worldwide. He remains one of the highest-grossing actors in film history, and he’s still one of the warmest personalities in Hollywood.
7. Johnny Depp: $350 million
Depp is known as a chameleon, a sex symbol, an enigma and an iconic performer of his generation. His performances as a drugged out journalist, a drunken pirate, the Mad Hatter and Willie Wonka among others have netted the actor over $7.6 billion worldwide at the box office, and a 2012 Guinness World Record as the highest paid actor at one time. Considering he initially set out to make a career in music, he’s done pretty alright with his fall back plan.
6. Clint Eastwood: $375 million
The king of spaghetti westerns, Eastwood has been at it since the 1950s with a $375 million net worth to show for it. Whether it’s the squinty eyes, that rasp in his voice that puts Christian Bale’s Batman to shame, or the deadpan delivery with which he coined half of Hollywood’s most infectious catch-lines, Eastwood has enshrined his place as a living Hollywood legend and the 9th richest actor alive today. His most recent acting triumph was 2008’s Gran Torino where, by kicking more ass as an old man than the rest of Hollywood in their prime, he crossed his record-best $270 million.
5. Jack Nicholson: $400 million
Few if any can live up to Jack Nicholson’s legacy of psychopathic characters. He practically derived the formula for twisting humour and aloofness into straight-up derangement; a combination of his drawn-out wheeze, inebriated demeanour, and sharp, instantly recognizable smirk. Nicholson’s 12 nominations remain the all-time most for a male actor, and with 3 wins, he sits in a four-way tie for second with Meryl Streep, Walter Brennan and Daniel Day-Lewis.
4. Tyler Perry: $400 million
This actor-director-screenwriter-producer-author-songwriter has only been at it since 1992, and Forbes already once named him the highest paid man in entertainment. From 2010-2011 alone Perry earned a year’s salary of $130 million, and since signing an exclusive partnership with Oprah Winfrey will no doubt ensure Perry-projects continue making it onto prime time programming. Not bad for a high school dropout.
3. Tom Cruise: $500 million
Tom Cruise instantly springs to mind when you think action. His name—a step removed from ditching explosions, freeway chases, barrel rolls out of failing helicopters and everything in between—graces over twenty movies that grossed excesses of $200 million dollars. Throw in a slew of standout roles in memorable rom-coms and less traditional dramas like Eyes Wide Shut and Rain Man, and you can bet Cruise is one of the safest casting choices in Hollywood, and the richest purely-dramatic American actor today.
2. Shahrukh Khan: $600 million
Who is this dashing Bollywood heartthrob who makes more bank than Tom Cruise? That would be the Indian Tom Cruise — Khan or “King Khan” as fans call him. He’s appeared in more than 50 hit Hindi films spanning romance, action and comedy and basically been crowned the king of Bollywood, which becomes a much bigger deal when you appreciate just how big Bollywood is not just in India, but globally. The only thing more impressive than Khan’s $600 million fortune is his fan base which is said to number in the billions (with a b), and his philanthropy and humanitarian work which once landed him on Newsweek’s 50 most powerful people in the world.
1. Jerry Seinfeld: $800 million
It can be easy to forget Jerry Seinfeld is essentially the most successful television project in human history. This man actually refused $5 million per 22-minute episode to make a tenth season, and once brought in $267 million in a single year — two thirds of what Clint Eastwood or Jack Nicholson have so far made in their entire careers — mostly through this well-loved show about nothing. Different trades and different specialties of course, but if Seinfeld knows anything other than comedy, it’s money. His stand-up appearances, syndication deals and ad appearances have paid him equally engorging sums in the tens of millions — but $800 million? Well, aren’t you still watching Seinfeld reruns?