Most lists of “Top” whatever make me scratch my head and wonder, “Really? That’s number one?” However, for this particular list this number one is no headscratcher.
That’s because Eddie Murphy tops Forbes‘ list of the most overpaid actors, with the average estimate that for every dollar he is paid he only returns $2.30 at the box office. The list was calculated by looking at the box office results of an actor’s last three films over the last three years that opened in wide release (2000+ theaters). With the exception of the blockbuster animated Shrek films, Murphy hasn’t had a hit in five years. Last year’s Tower Heist was supposed to be a return-to-form and was tied to hosting duties at the Academy Awards, but he pulled out of the hosting gig when Brett Ratner, who directed Tower Heist and was set to direct the Oscars, stepped down amid a series of offensive comments. In the end, Tower Heist performed far below expectations.
Following Murphy on the list at #2 is the most overpaid actress, Katherine Heigl, who is estimated to bring in $3.40 for every dollar she is paid. Heigl had a string of popular romantic comedies, but the box office failure of her last film, One for the Money, pushed her to the top of the list.
Because this year’s list only focused on the past three years instead of the prior five years that previous lists had accounted for, last year’s #1, Drew Barrymore, didn’t make this year’s list (she hasn’t starred in at least three wide release films in the last three years).
Some of the names on the list are surprising (Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock are #3 and #4), so it’s important to remember that this is only based on three years of data and that one major bomb during that time could wipe out the money earned by two hits. Likewise, these actors could easily make it off the list next year with even a modest hit. Other names, however, are not so surprising (Nicolas Cage, I’m looking at you).
The rest of the top ten, including how much they “return” in box office per dollar paid:
3) Reese Witherspoon ($3.90)
4) Sandra Bullock ($5.00)
5) Jack Black ($5.20)
6) Nicolas Cage ($6.00)
7) Adam Sandler ($6.30)
Denzel Washington ($6.30)
9) Ben Stiller ($6.50)
10) Sarah Jessica Parker ($7.00)