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Denzel Washington Is One of Hollywood’s Most Overpaid Stars, According to Forbes

Denzel Washington Is One of Hollywood's Most Overpaid Stars, According to Forbes

I’m not sure just how useful these Forbes lists really are (and there are many of them every year), but we certainly are entertained by them – at least, I am.

This time around, we’re presented with a list of the 10 most overpaid Hollywood stars. To create the list, Forbes says that it looked at the 100 biggest stars in Hollywood. To qualify, each actor had to have starred in at least three movies that opened in more than 500 theaters, over the last five years.

They then calculated a return-on-investment number for each star by dividing total income on the three films by the star’s total compensation, including up-front salaries and earnings from DVD and TV sales. I’m no accountant, but, as I understand it, essentially, it comes down to how much the film grossed minus how much it cost, divided by how much each star got paid.

Suffice it to say that, this is one list that you won’t find a lot of black actors on. Why? Well, if only due to the fact that there aren’t exactly a lot of black actors carrying Hollywood studio-backed movies, earning huge paychecks. You could probably count them all on one hand. 

Black actors aren’t given much by way of opportunities to be “underpaid,” much less “overpaid.” And when studios do back films starring black actors (unless it’s an A-lister like Denzel Washington or Will Smith), their budgets are minuscule (relative to average Hollywood movie budgets), which means the stars of those films aren’t receiving huge upfront checks, and definitely not back-end participation. And those movies typically do, not only earn back their costs, but, in many cases, return a decent profit. For example, the average Tyler Perry movie cost less than $20 million, but the average domestic box office gross of a Tyler Perry movie is around $55 million. And that doesn’t include ancillary returns – DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, digital rentals and sales.

All that said, this year’s list does include one black actor: Denzel Washington. Although he’s listed in the 8th position, ahead of only Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck. According to Forbes, Mr Washington: “Returns $6.90 for every $1 paid. Washington can demand a huge salary so his films have to hit it out of the ballpark for him to offer a good return. Lately, his films have done fine but not outstanding.”

Justification, maybe, for the producer, whose email to Sony was leaked, arguing that Denzel’s tepid box office overseas suggests he should not be cast in big-budget movies – or, at least, be paid less. 

However, the same could be said for the rest of the actors on this list, especially those who are returning even less for every dollar paid, compared to Denzel’s $6.90. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be any conversation about the prospects (domestic or international) for those actors. 

For example, Adam Sandler is at the top of the list (again), returning, according to Forbes, $3.20 for every $1 paid. I suppose, maybe when a black actor is *allowed* to continue to work in Hollywood, with stats like that, we can say that we’ve achieved something that looks like parity?

Also on the list are Johnny Depp, Ben Stiller, Ryan Reynolds, Tom Hanks (although “Cloud Atlas,” which was a box office miss, really weighed down his averages), Will Ferrell (he’s been on the list before as well), and Channing Tatum.

Of note, there was a time when Eddie Murphy was a constant on the list – during his box office slump days, when he starred in duds like “Meet Dave” and “Imagine That.” 

So, what does this all mean for each actor? I dunno. Probably nothing, if past list and what’s happened to each actor since then, are any indication. Adam Sandler tops the list again; Will Ferrell is also a regular; but yet, both actors are still in demand, and fully employed. I don’t think Hollywood studio execs are looking at this list and making casting, or budget decisions.

Or are they?

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