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Will Smith tops list of Hollywood's best-paid actors


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By Lacey Rose, Forbes.com


Tinseltown's leading ladies may generate more tabloid ink, but when it comes to blockbuster paychecks, Hollywood is still a man's town.

In an era where risk-averse studio executives have declared men the more reliable movie stars — and the more desirable moviegoers — perhaps it's no surprise that they are also the medium's top earners. The reality: Hollywood's 10 best-paid actors out-earned Hollywood's 10 best-paid actresses 2-to-1 over the course of the year.

Collectively, the big screen's leading men took home an estimated $487 million this year, compared with the leading ladies' haul of $244.5 million.

Will Smith leads the pack of Hollywood's best-paid actors, banking an estimated $80 million over the course of the year. Frequently called the hardest-working man in Hollywood, Smith has proved that no matter the genre — be it sci-fi thriller (Warner Bros.' I Am Legend) or sappy drama (Sony's The Pursuit of Happyness) — he can deliver an audience.

The former Fresh Prince of Bel Air star also set a theatrical record this year. Thanks to the commercial success of this summer's anti-superhero flick Hancock, Smith is the first actor in Hollywood history to have eight straight movies eclipse $100 million at the box office.

Coming in second on the list is Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp, an actor who is known to vacillate between commercial work and artier fare. He still managed to pull down $72 million this year.

In this case, the bold-faced star followed up his three turns as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's $2.76 billion Pirates franchise with the Stephen Sondheim serial-killer musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Flat Street. Though the latter hardly set box office records, it did earn Depp an Oscar nomination.

With $55 million, Eddie Murphy comes in third among Tinseltown's top earners, thanks to a slew of family-friendly hits. The long-reigning master of disguise continues to prove his range on-screen, playing notable roles in everything from animated flicks (DreamWorks' Shrek) to goofball comedies (DreamWorks' Norbit) to musical remakes (DreamWorks' Dreamgirls). The latter earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Then there's Austin Powers star Mike Myers, who is tied for third on this list with earnings of $55 million, due in large part to the success of the hit animated franchise Shrek.

But when it comes to live-action fare, the comedy chameleon's ride has been far less smooth in recent years. Despite a stellar cast (including Justin Timberlake and Jessica Alba) and plenty of promotion, Myers' summer comedy The Love Guru failed to deliver at the box office. To date, the Paramount flick has generated only $31.8 million domestically.

Titanic's Leonardo DiCaprio rounds out the top five, raking in $45 million during the year. He's the unique movie star who can get $20 million for work in R-rated adult dramas, which, because of viewer age restrictions, have limited ability to generate big box office numbers.

Though his flicks are rarely blockbusters, DiCaprio's work can create a sizable amount of Academy Award season buzz. In fact, three of his last five flicks —Gangs of New York, The Aviator and Departed— were nominated for Best Picture. The latter took home the Oscar.

© 2008 Forbes.com LLC. All Rights Reserved.



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Wouldn't the world be a better place if all the actors didn't get so much money, and that money cold go to starving people in like, africa or asia? Seriously, nobody deserves that much! It would be fine if he got like 1 or 2 million dollars for a movie, even if that's still a very high salary... ok, ok... I won't make this to a "save the starving"-thread, but, y'all know what I'm talking about... :sorry:

Anyway... Congrat's to Will! :shake:

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It's not surprising that Will's the highest paid actor. I Am Legend was a monster at the box-office and with his deal(believed to be $20 million + a percentage of the worldwide gross) it's not surprising he made $80 million.

It helps when you produce your own flicks. You get a bigger piece of the pie.


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I can't say i'm surprised either. I liked Wild Wild West better than his last 2 movies...but with them and WWW, he's has shown how he can make hits out of movies that had a few things lacking in them. It's amazing 2 think about growing up with his music, watching him on TV, and seeing his earlier films in theaters and seeing where he is now.

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I still can't believe there are some people who liked WWW more than I Am Legend or Hancock, but I guess we can chalk it up to eclectic taste...

In terms of Will making too much money... I think we should start with asking the production and big name companies to scale back on their incomes. While someone like Will seems to be making a lot of money, he's only making a small percentage of what he brings in for Sony or Columbia.

But really, why stop there? These movie companies spend 150 million, 185 million dollars to make movies... Why not send that money to a developing nation instead of creating Hancock or TDK? See, it's a slippery slope...

Here's what we can ask... we can urge these celebrities to support causes that we believe in, and do so not only in finance, but in deed.

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Agreed completely with Hero1 and MaxFly, Will can't be blamed for the amount of money he makes when he is the one who brings in all the money for the companies. I would much rather Will get it than them when he does the work to make the movies successful.

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