Sandra Bullock and the incredible, shrinking star salary
Lost in the endless coverage of Forbes magazine’s annual list of the best paid celebrity this week is a small, but nonetheless important point: very few of the actresses in the magazine’s top ten have actually enjoyed a particularly lucrative year.
These things are relative, of course, but by the (admittedly outrageous) standards of Hollywood, most of the star salaries featured in the top ten, which I’ve cut-and-pasted below, amount to little more than chicken feed.
Only a few years back even a relatively minor lead actress would refuse to get out of bed to appear in a movie less than a “20-20” – agent speak for a deal that gives you $20 million up front, and a 20 percent cut of profits. People like Nicole Kidman and Cameron Diaz were pulling $25m a film.
That, however, was before the tightening of the credit markets, which have made it harder to get finance for new projects. It also pre-dated the industry-wide decline in the performance of movies which can be broadly termed “star vehicles.”
Now Diaz has to make do with a $32 million a year. Kidman isn’t even on the list (which you can see in full here). People like Kristen Stewart, whose $12 million wouldn’t have even put her in the top thirty a few years back, are now sneaking in at number ten.
Even Sandra Bullock, who is said to have made $56 million last year, generate the lion’s share of that figure through “back-end” payments rather than a straightforward paycheque: for her Oscar-winning role in The Blind Side (she’s pictured accepting her gong, above), she agreed to forego a huge advance in return for getting a share of the movie’s eventual profits.
That eventually proved to be a good bet, since the film made $300m worldwide. But other actresses haven’t been so lucky. Meryl Streep, generally considered to be the most beloved leading lady of her generation, could only make $13m, which represents a drop in earnings of around 50 percent.
These people are hardly on their uppers, of course. But their shrinking earnings are nonetheless a measure of the changing nature of the movie business’s finances. And shows how agents, managers, and other members of the industry who survive off scraps of their wealth are currently living in interesting times.
Forbes Top Ten Highest Paid Actresses in $U.S. :
1. Sandra Bullock ($56million)
2. Reese Witherspoon ($32million)
3. Cameron Diaz ($32million)
4. Jennifer Aniston ($27million)
5. Sarah Jessica Parker ($25million)
6. Julia Roberts ($20million)
7. Angelina Jolie ($20million)
8. Drew Barrymore ($15million)
9. Meryl Streep ($13million)
10. Kristen Stewart ($12million)Tagged in: cameron diaz, film, forbes, kristen stewart, meryl streep, nicole kidman, sandra bullock
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