Who Are Hollywood’s Most Overpaid Actors?

Do Hollywood's finest truly deliver enough bang for their buck? Not all of them.

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Drew Barrymore may be America's sweetheart, but she hasn't been a box-office draw as of late.

Forbes magazine has devoted an incredible amount of time to figuring out which of your favorite film stars is delivering the least amount of bang for the studios’ buck.

Before we dish the dirt, here comes the math: Forbes analyzed the last three non-animated movies each actor has appeared in over the past three years. They added the star’s upfront and backend pay to find a final compensation number. By adding the operating income of these movies, they got a total operating income number and then divided total operating income by total compensation. Finally, every return on investment number shows how much the studio is paid for every dollar invested in the talent. And if you’re still with us, you deserve a seven-figure sum.

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In first place comes Drew Barrymore, because for every $1 she’s paid, her films return a risible average of 40 cents. Playing devil’s advocate, one could argue that it’s because she made the studios so happy with films such as Charlie’s Angels that she has since been handsomely compensated. What’s more, Whip It was a lovely movie, but when nobody buys tickets, you wind up on lists like this. And she couldn’t catch a break in the eyes of Forbes: they ranked Everybody’s Fine and Lucky You, which only earned $16 million and $8 million globally, but not He’s Just Not That Into You. And despite producing and appeared in the $180 million global hit, Forbes didn’t count it because she wasn’t deemed the star of the film.

The runner-up was Eddie Murphy. For every buck he makes, his movies return an average of $2.70. When the list comes out again next year, Murphy may not fare so badly, as Tower Heist could well be a smash hit, and his hosting of the Oscars should thrust him firmly back into the limelight.

Another comedian, and fellow Saturday Night Live alum, follows in the form of Will Ferrell ($1 = $3.50). If he cares about lists of this nature, he’ll be annoyed that animation doesn’t count, because he was the lead voice actor in Megamind. But Forbes was more interested in flops such as Everything Must Go. Still, let’s look at the silver lining: thanks to him and Mark Wahlberg’s The Other Guys, which grossed an impressive $170 million, he’s in a slightly worse position compared to year’s list.

Fourth and fifth place go to the more serious acting talent that is Reese Witherspoon ($1 = $3.55) and Denzel Washington ($1 = $4.25). Witherspoon had a shocker with How Do You Know, which clearly spent so much on her salary, the title couldn’t even afford a question mark. And a question mark must hang over Washington’s Unstoppable. Despite making $168 million on a budget of $100, Denzel’s dollars (somewhere in the region of $12 million) are the reason he finds himself in such a lofty position. Check out the full list for yourself here.

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Glen Levy is an executive producer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @glenjl. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

1 comments
Zimm4
Zimm4

Who is the most overpaid at Forbes magazine?  That is what I want to know.  I hate articles like these that embarrass people.  All actors go through good times and bad.