Dorothy Pomerantz, Forbes Staff
Kristen Stewart Tops Our List Of The Highest-Paid Actresses
Studios are notoriously stingy when it comes to paying young actors for the first film in a planned franchise. Forget about the $10 million they would have had to shell out to get a big name — an up-and-comer is lucky to get $800,000.
That changes dramatically when it comes to the third and fourth films in a series. Suddenly, the star becomes indispensable and the studio has to pay up. That’s why Kristen Stewart has vaulted to the top of our annual list of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood.
At this point, could anyone else play Bella Swan in Twilight? Probably not; if the studio tried to switch in another actress, fans would revolt. So for the last two Twilight films, Stewart has been able to demand an estimated $12.5 million per film, plus a share of the profits.
Her two co-stars, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, get paid the same, but Stewart earned more than them this year because of Snow White and the Huntsman. Stewart’s earnings between May 2011 and May 2012 totaled $34.5 million, helping her rank 43rd on our Celebrity 100 list. (The list measures a combination of money and fame.)
At 22, Stewart is the youngest woman on our list by 16 years. The next youngest is Kristen Wiig who is 38. Last year Stewart ranked 5th on our list of the Highest-Paid Actresses tied with Julia Roberts. This year Roberts ranked 6th.
Women are still paid less than men in the movie business. The 10 actresses who make up our list earned a total $200 million compared to the $361 million brought in by our top 10 men.
To determine who the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood are, we considered upfront pay, profit participation, residuals, endorsements and advertising work. We talked to manager, agents, lawyers and other in-the-know folks to come up with our estimates. We did not deduct for things like agent fees or the expenses related to being a celebrity.
Ranking second on our list is Cameron Diaz. Her recent comedy Bad Teacher was a surprise hit, bringing in $216 million at the global box office. That’s a decent haul under any circumstance but an especially good result for Bad Teacher, which cost only $20 million to make. Diaz had a deal to take home a nice chunk of the film’s profits, which were substantial.
Add that to her earnings for films like What to Expect When You’re Expecting and The Green Hornet, and we estimate Diaz earned $34 million between May 2011 and May 2012.
That puts her $9 million above our third-place actress, Sandra Bullock. Since her turn in the massive 2009 hit The Blind Side (for which she won an Oscar), the actress has mostly stayed off of the silver screen, taking time to raise her new son, Louis. She returned last Christmas for the Oscar-nominated Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. The film earned only $48 million compared to The Blind Side‘s $310 million. Bullock earned $25 million during our time frame thanks to money she still brings home from The Blind Side and the upcoming big-budget sci-fi flick, Gravity.
Because our Celebrity 10o measures a combination of fame and money, sometimes an actress can earn more than some of her peers and still not make the list because she didn’t have enough fame. That’s what happened with Kristen Wiig. She failed to rank on the Celebrity 100 but ties for eighth place on our highest-paid list with $12 million. Wiig’s big bucks come from her final season on Saturday Night Live as well as from her hit movie Bridesmaids, which earned $288 million on a $33 million budget. She has her first co-starring role in a big-budget film with the upcoming The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, in which she’ll appear alongside Ben Stiller.
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