Hollywood’s Highest Paid Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio

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Actor Leonardo DiCaprio appears at an 'Inception' press tour in Tokyo.

We’ll always think of him as the penniless Jack Dawson of Titanic fame. But DiCaprio won’t be riding steerage class anytime soon.

As the star of two major hit films in 2010, he’s been crowned the most profitable actor in Hollywood this year. Forbes crunched the numbers from May 2010 to May 2011, placing DiCaprio at the top of their highest-earning actors list with an estimated $77 million salary. He pulled in the profits not from a slew of movies, but from just two hit films last year. DiCaprio starred in both Shutter Island and Inception, films that earned a combined $1.2 billion at the box office. And by all (bank) accounts, DiCaprio was adequately compensated for his work.

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DiCaprio, who found himself fifth in Forbes’ 2010 survey, leaped over last year’s champ Johnny Depp, this year’s second-place earner with $50 million. The top five highest-earning actors were:

  1. Leonardo DiCaprio – $77 million
  2. Johnny Depp – $50 million
  3. Adam Sandler – $40 million
  4. Will Smith – $36 million
  5. Tom Hanks – $35 million

The list certainly fluctuates on an annual basis, dictated by the leading roles of the year and padded by box office returns. But DiCaprio has managed to keep himself in the top tier of salary supremacy by making blockbuster films with celebrated directors. And his work is noticed not just in the payroll department: he’s received Best Actor Oscar nods for his roles in The Aviator and Blood Diamond.

And we don’t expect DiCaprio to be bumped down anytime soon. His plate is full of undoubtedly lucrative projects: he’ll be on screen as J. Edgar Hoover later this year in a Clint Eastwood-directed biopic, and we’ll see him in 2012 as the title character in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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