Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Does Angelina Jolie Justify Being the Highest-Paid Actress on the Planet?

I've just been getting around to this but earlier this month Forbes released an updated list of Hollywood's highest-paid actresses, and there are a couple of surprises. As well as the usual group of renowned A-list stars from the past five years and beyond (in some cases, way beyond), there are three former TV stars and a woman barely over twenty.

It isn't really surprising to learn that Angelina Jolie tops this list, earning a staggering $30m a film. Everything she's touched lately -- from animated blockbusters to Summer action movies to period dramas -- has turned to gold. Even her 2007 biographical indie, "A Mighty Heart," a film that's heavy and relatively unforgiving, managed to make a slim profit. It's somewhat more surprising that Jolie shares first-place with Sex and the City's lead Sarah Jessica Parker, whose two TV-to-cinema projects made New Line a ton of money. To me this seems a somewhat inflated figure for an Actress who has made just eight films in the last nine years (two are scheduled for late 2011) but I suppose this represents her as someone presently sought after.

So too of-the-moment is Kristen Stewart, in the midst of filming the massively popular Twilight series, but a proven draw on the Independent circuit as well as the mainstream Tween scene. Rom-com 'Queens' Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl are also in the ten, while the rest of the list largely comprises of women we've seen there before; Nineties babes Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock still command $15+m a movie, while 62 year-old Meryl Streep is commendably able to cling to the top ten, arguably as popular now as she was twenty-five years ago.

Official Top Ten Highest-Paid Actresses

  1. Angelina Jolie - $30 million p/m
  2. Sarah Jessica Parker – $30 million p/m
  3. Jennifer Aniston – $28 million p/m
  4. Reese Witherspoon – $28 million p/m
  5. Julia Roberts – $20 million p/m
  6. Kristen Stewart – $20 million p/m
  7. Katherine Heigl – $19 million p/m
  8. Cameron Diaz – $18 million p/m
  9. Sandra Bullock – $15 million p/m
  10. Meryl Streep – $10 million p/m

I'm not really a fan of this list, so I decided to play around a little and figure out some statistics in order to get a better gauge on who might be doing better with the "limitations" of their salary. I calculated the average worldwide box-office total of their movies (based on the last six released theatrically) and used their salaries to gain a VFM (Value-for-money) percentage. This represents the average amount of money they received versus the average amount of gross their films earned.

Interestingly -- but perhaps not surprisingly -- Meryl Streep offers the best value for money, receiving just 5.4% of the profit her films eventually earn. Considering her salary is three times less than Jolie's this suggests that this figure be representative of the vast inflation afforded to the top four women compared to the rest of the ten. Still, Jolie's films have tended to earn at least $100m more than the others, and so she comes in third place at a tasty-looking 8%. Aniston offers the least value for money at 27.2%, her films mainly romantic comedies with modest (but not exceptional) success.

Ranking By VFM Percentage (Based on last six movies up to July '11)

  1. Meryl Streep – 5.4% ($186.5m)
  2. Cameron Diaz – 7.0% ($256m)
  3. Angelina Jolie - 8.0% ($375.8m)
  4. Kristen Stewart – 8.4% ($238.4m)
  5. Sandra Bullock – 10.4% ($144.7m)
  6. Katherine Heigl – 13.8% ($138m)
  7. Julia Roberts – 14.7% ($136.3m)
  8. Sarah Jessica Parker – 19.4% ($154.7m)
  9. Reese Witherspoon – 22.2% ($126.3m)
  10. Jennifer Aniston – 27.2% ($103m)

I then decided to calculate the average Metacritic score of these films to target which actresses are making more acclaimed films for their lofty salaries. Julia Roberts scrapes a victory here, while Streep and Jolie also figure highly. It should come as a shock to pretty much nobody that Aniston's, Heigl's, and Sarah Jessica Parker's recent filmographies leave a lot to be desired.

Ranking By Average Metacritic Score
(Based on last six movies up to July '11)

  1. Julia Roberts - 63/100
  2. Meryl Streep - 62/100
  3. Angelina Jolie - 61.5/100
  4. Kristen Stewart - 59.1/100
  5. Reese Witherspoon - 49.7/100
  6. Cameron Diaz - 48/100
  7. Sandra Bullock - 44.5/100
  8. Jennifer Aniston - 40.5/100
  9. Katherine Heigl - 40.5/100
  10. Sarah Jessica Parker - 38.5/100

As this list changes throughout the next couple of years it's difficult to see Kristen Stewart not making inroads, considering she has two Twilight movies within the next year and also the anticipated forthcoming adaptation of Snow White. Sandra Bullock has Stephen Daldry's Oscar-tipped "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" landing at the end of 2011 and a sci-fi film with George Clooney next year, while Cameron Diaz has a celeb-packed ensemble comedy and a heist caper with Colin Firth released next year. Those two look like safe bets to return.

I don't anticipate many women entering this list; Rooney Mara looks like she's going to become very hot property, and the "Dragon Tattoo" remake will likely be successful, Marion Cotillard is working with Steven Soderbergh and Chris Nolan, and future-Catwoman Anne Hathaway has "One Day" poised to shellshock audiences next month. Beyond these, I'm not sure. Suggestions?


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

And yet I can't think of anyone that could conceivably replace them. I like Jolie, although I wish she did more A MIGHTY HEART / THE GOOD SHEPHERD and less THE TOURIST. I'd add Nicole Kidman, but I know her films don't really "make money".

Paolo said...

Julia Roberts has the highest Metacritic rating? That Oscar win is still doing her wonders. Hope the same will be said about Bullock some day, no matter how ambivalent I am of the latter.