Will, Tom, Drew, Denzel, Matt: Who's the Most Overpaid Star?

Ferrell tops the list of actors who provide the lowest returns on their paychecks for the second year in a row; Damon, Washington, Cruise, Barrymore also among overpaid stars

By Gina Serpe Nov 05, 2010 2:44 PMTags
Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, Tom CruiseJohn Sciulli/Wireimage; Lester Cohen/Getty Images; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Determining which actors in Hollywood are overpaid is the easy part (hint: all of them). Determining which actors in Hollywood are the most overpaid is a little bit harder.

Luckily for you, unluckily for a swarm of angry agents, the ever enumerating number crunchers over at Forbes magazine have done all the dirty work, figuring out which stars provide the lowest returns on their exorbitant paychecks.

Let's just say, after scrolling through this list, hiring Mel Gibson may not seem like such a bad casting decision after all.

Will Ferrell proves (once again, incidentally) that there are some lists you don't want to find yourself on top of. Just like he did last year, the funnyman tops Forbes' list of actors who return the least amount of bang for their buck, bringing in studios $3.35 for every $1 they pay him. Not a terrible loss…until you realize he earned $15 million for the flop that was Land of the Lost. Costing $100 million to make, it only earned $69 million at the box office.

However, Ferrell's misfortune could be chalked up to a bit of bad timing. The Other Guys from earlier this year was a hit, though fell just outside the range of the time period that Forbes analyzed for their list. Plus, Megamind opens this weekend and is probably gonna be huge—not that it would impress the magazine much: they don't factor animated features into actor's box office haul, since they're not the real draw. Spoil sports.

Turns out, Ferrell and his funny buddies may be laughing all the way to the bank, but the studios aren't.

Eddie Murphy is number two on the list, pulling in $4.45 for every $1 he gets paid (which still seems like too much to us), thanks to recent flops Meet Dave and Imagine That, which grossed just $22 million.

Seth Rogen was fourth, earning $6.75 for every buck he pockets, and probably wouldn't have made the list at all had Funny People done a little better at the box office. Don't cry for him too much, though: The Green Hornet is on its way to a theater near you.

Funny People also made a dent in Adam Sandler's earning power, who placed ninth on the list, though he still brings the studio $8.45 for every dollar paid, and Grown Ups, his not-huge-but-respectable summer hit, fell just outside the period analyzed.

Jim Carrey, who rounded out the overpaid brigade, has The Number 23 and Fun With Dick and Jane to blame for his placement, as not even the success of Yes Man could help their box office. They brought down his average intake to $8.60 for every $1 he earned.

But it's not just comedians that were the clunkers last year.

Coming in at No. 3 on the list is Denzel Washington, whose films returned an average of $5.45 for every dollar spent on him. Unstoppable, coming out this month, will probably change that.

And the surprises just kept coming from there. His biggest role of the past year was undoubtedly that of Suri's doting papa, but unfortunately, that didn't do much for Tom Cruise's career, as he came in at No. 5. On the big screen, Valkyrie and Night & Day did Cruise no favors at the box office (at least compared to his golden past), meaning he earned the studios just $7.20 for every dollar pocketed. Cruise doesn't stay down for long, though, and his latest comeback, the next installment in the always-blockbuster Mission: Impossible series, is already in the works.

Drew Barrymore has the unflattering distinction of being the only woman on the cut (not because women are always so successful at the box office—Sex and the City 2 disproved that—but because they have yet to regularly pull down paychecks as big as men, thus making their losses less noticeable). Going the Distance did fine enough, but Lucky You and Everybody's Fine, well, didn't. Every buck spent on Drew yielded $7.45.

One of the more surprising entries on the list is perpetual golden boy Matt Damon, who just a few years ago, had the honor of providing the biggest box office bang for his buck. But that was before Green Zone, Invictus and The Informant were released in a blaze of underperforming glory and he landed at No. 7 on the list. And what with him suddenly out of the Bourne films…well, we can't be the only ones crossing our fingers for Good Will Hunting 2. He returns an average of $8.30 on every dollar.

Now, this one's interesting. Vince Vaughn came in at No. 8, and that's before the trailer for his upcoming film The Dilemma decided to offend and alienate half his possible audience. Someone should've told him he could use all the goodwill the public is willing to muster as Four Christmases and Fred Clause yielded a less than merry $8.35 per $1 paid out.