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Forbes’ Most Overpaid Actors: A Numerical Analysis

Forbes has come out with a list of Hollywood’s most overpaid actors for 2010. To do this they looked at the 36 highest-earning actors in the movie business and compared the actor’s pay with what their last three films made earned (with a cutoff date of June 1, 2010). The resulting number comes in the form of amount the studio has made for every dollar they paid the star (for example, for every dollar Will Ferrell was paid, his last three films returned an average $3.35). Click through for the top 10 and our slightly over-the-top analysis.

Ferrell in Land of the Lost. Forbes cites the film’s budget at $100 million, of which it only earned back $69 million at the global box office. Image via Imoovizine.

The list:
1. Will Ferrell – $3.35
2. Eddie Murphy – $4.45
3. Denzel Washington – $5.10
4. Seth Rogen – $6.75
5. Tom Cruise – $7.20
6. Drew Barrymore – $7.45
7. Matt Damon – $8.30
8. Vince Vaughn – $8.35
9. Adam Sandler – $8.45
10. Jim Carrey – $8.60

Denzel Washington in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. The remake made $150 million in theaters globally, but cost $100 million to produce.  Image via MSN.

By gender:
Male: 9
Female: 1

Jim Carrey starring with Tea Leoni in Fun with Dick & Jane. Image via Fanpop.

By race:
Black: 2
White: 8

Seth Rogen with Adam Sandler and Leslie Mann in Funny People, the primary reason the otherwise-successful Rogen made it on this list. Image via Toonzone.

By genre:
Comedy: 6
Action: 3
Drew Barrymores: 1

Matt Damon in Green Zone. Image via Celebrity Wonder.

By age:
Under 40: 2
40-45: 4
Over 45: 4

Some observations:

1. Comedians seem to be the riskiest investments, despite the genre’s generally lower production costs. As Forbes observes, this is most likely due to that fact that comedies, unlike action flicks, don’t translate well overseas. For example, Ferrell’s Other Guys (which did not make Forbes‘ June 1st deadline) made $119 million in the US but only $41 million abroad. By contrast Angelina Jolie-fronted Salt, which made a comparable $118 domestically, made an additional $172 millions overseas.

2. Since Forbes only looked at the actor’s past three movies before June 1, one bomb can put an actor high on this list (see: Land of the Lost).

3. Two of these actors (Sandler and Cruise) also made Forbes’ top 10 highest-paid actors over the same time period (June 2009 to June 2010).

4. The only female to make the list was Drew Barrymore, whose investment ratio was $7.45. The lack of women on the list may be a result of their lower pay in general. When Forbes ranked the top 10 highest-paid actors over the same time period, no women made the list.

5. In general the list is dominated by older actors. Again this makes sense when you consider the way Forbes compiled the list. An actor needs to have past success to warrant a big paycheck, which of course can lead to a low pay ratio in later, not-so-great films.

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