There are two reasons any actor gets a gig in a film. First, their ability. Fit for the role, compatibility, believability, etc. But more importantly, they get the job for the draw.
The Draw can be defined as how much attention and publicity attaching a name to a film would get. This usually means that paying for a big name would translate into making the studio a big pile of cash. Usually that pays off. But the premier financial publication Forbes has taken a closer look and ranked the Top 10 Overpaid Actors in Hollywood
To calculate our payback figures, we took half of each film’s worldwide box office (to roughly approximate the studio’s cut of each ticket). Then we added the first three months of DVD revenues and subtracted the budget to derive the film’s gross income. After that, the actor’s total compensation (upfront pay plus any money earned from sharing in the film’s profits) was divided into the gross income to get the actor’s payback figure for the film. The payback for the last three movies for each actor was averaged to calculate ultimate payback. We deliberately used gross income rather than net income in our analysis because the latter figure is so easily manipulated by studio accountants, with marketing expenses treated differently for almost every film.
For every dollar paid…
Nicole Kidman’s movies averaged $1 of gross income
Jennifer Garner’s movies averaged $3.60 of gross income.
Tom Cruise’s movies averaged $4 of gross income
Cameron Diaz’s movies averaged $4 of gross income.
Jennifer Lopez’s movies averaged $4.10 of gross income.
Jim Carrey’s movies averaged $4.11 of gross income
Nicolas Cage’s movies averaged $4.16 of gross income.
Drew Barrymore’s movies averaged $4.38 of gross income.
Will Ferrell’s movies averaged $4.67 of gross income
Cate Blanchett’s movies averaged $4.97 of gross income
Forbes is clearly more about “the now” as they tend to investigate trends. I am sure if the sampling was deeper than 3 films this list might be quite different. For instance, Cate Blanchett’s numbers would be skewed if you compared her paycheque for Lord of the Rings compared to how much money it made. But this wasn’t included.
However this does bring to light current trends which is important to the future of some of these actors. When your pricetag is higher than the studios figure you are worth, they would sooner find someone lower on the “star power” scale that will simply give them a better return. They often don’t care how good you USED to be, as much as they care about what you mean to them now. And the mighty dollar is gospel in Hollywood.
Now if they were talking about an opinion list, I am sure our good friend Chris Tucker might top that list as the most overpaid star in Hollywood, but if you were to just look at the numbers, Tucker’s last three films were all Rush Hour, and started out drawing around $100 per pay dollar, so that makes him better than Kidman (statistically only) even in spite of his increasingly silly demands and declining boxoffice draw.