Natalie Portman, Shia Labeouf, Kristen Stewart

AKM-GSI, Getty Images

Why do Shia LaBeouf and Kristen Stewart and Natalie Portman get credit for being so "bankable" when their giant franchise movies do most of the publicity work for them?
—Cholmondeley, Norwich, via Twitter

True: Vampire romances and movies about secret alien robots do kinda sell themselves regardless of who's starring. At least that's what I thought before I started researching your question. Turns out, people like K.Stew may deserve more credit than you think.

Along with Portman, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, Stewart and LaBeouf were recently crowned by Forbes as the most "bankable" names in Hollywood. Translation: For every buck they get paid, they offer the biggest return on a producer's investment. For example, Stewart yields $40.60 for every dollar she charges.

It's easy to suspect that Twilight, not K. Stew, is really responsible for that ROI. After all, the sappy vampire love series was a huge best-seller before it even became a movie; plenty of actresses could have been plugged into the Bella role and earned Summit its money back and then some.

But that's not the full story, I'm told.

Yes, the Twilight franchise is partially responsible for Stewart's bankability, just like the Transformers series helped make LaBeouf a megastar. But such movies didn't do all the work, Cricket Feet casting director Bonnie Gillespie tells me.

"You'd be surprised," she says, "at the number of actors who aren't smart enough to hire a good publicist, pick the right scripts—take all the momentum they get from their big break and and know how to run with it.

"But Kristen Stewart did, or her team did, and that's partly why she's on that list. After all, there are plenty of other actors in Twilight who haven't done what she's done. You have to wonder why."

Well, couldn't it just be because Stewart was the female lead in Twilight, so she enjoyed the hottest spotlight? Nope, I'm told.

"Think about someone like Rebel Wilson," Gillespie points out. "She hasn't been the lead in anything she's done yet, but she's hot hot hot. She had this tiny part in Bridesmaids, but she and everyone on her team were then able to leverage that into bigger and better roles. Bankability and popularity don't only happen to people in lead roles."

In other words, making this Forbes list isn't just because of giant franchises or plain old talent, but because of an actor's individual enterprise—whether they were able to take opportunity and run with it.

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