After examining actors of all genders in Hollywood, Forbes’ found that Hollywood’s most overpaid actors are, no surprise, men. What constitutes “overpaid” and how did Forbes compile this list? Each actor’s last three movies in which they had a major role and was shown on more than 2,000 screens before June 1, 2017 was taken into account, not including animated films. Then, to figure a return on investment for each film, estimated production budgets were subtracted from the global box office earnings, then divided by the actor’s earnings from the film.
The films that garner a significantly low return on investment are often mediocre blockbusters that cost a lot of money to produce and pay their stars a high salary—Mark Wahlberg's Patriots Day, about the Boston bombing, and Deepwater Horizon, his film about an oil spill, are cited as prime examples—they earn around 10% back of what was spent to make the film in the first place. They helped put Wahlberg at the top of Forbes’ list of overpaid actors, bringing in just $4.40 at the box office for every single dollar he makes. Deepwater Horizon was made for about $110 million, but earlier this year, Wahlberg received paychecks upfront for a reported $68 million pretax. If you're a man in Hollywood, it would appear that all you need to do is drum up enough popularity to appear in a string of box office flops and you will still be paid significantly more than the women starring in those very same films.
Wahlberg is followed by Christian Bale and Channing Tatum, then Denzel Washington and Brad Pitt, who brings in $11.50 for every $1 he makes for a film. Films are clearly expensive to make domestically, but when you think globally, they become even more costly as those profits must be split up by multiple international distribution studios and executives, and the global press tours for blockbusters can really add up in the millions.
It’s important to note that women were not excluded from this study. "Overpaid" actors like Mark Wahlberg are making more than twice as much as the highest paid actresses in the same field, and those women are starring in what are often considered to be much better films, critically speaking, or at least bringing in enough of a return on investment. Hollywood obviously does not invest in women the same way it invests in men—the reason there are no women on the list of overpaid actors is that women make so much less than their male counterparts in Hollywood, it becomes hard for them to be "overpaid" for even their flops. Emma Stone ranks at the top of the list of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, earning $26 million, followed by Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lawrence, who has famously addressed the gender pay gap in recent years.
Despite the fact that these women have appeared in some of the highest grossing films in Hollywood, they still tend to earn a significantly lower amount of money for their work than male actors. If Hollywood studios and executives were to appropriately compensate women who work in film, and not continue to overpay male actors who consistently star in mediocre box office flops, the expense of making big movies might not appear so daunting after all.
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