Hollywood is increasingly in the business of making movies with disposable actors — performers who are almost interchangeable and easily replaced. The special effects and bombastic action sequences required for the modern blockbuster cost many millions of dollars. Any money studios can save by casting less-famous actors is money that can go to the bottom line. And if those actors can be easily swapped out in sequels, all the better. A disposable actor doesn’t really have the leverage to demand a big pay hike.
If there’s one actor who has proved himself in-disposable, it’s Robert Downey Jr. The actor has made millions playing Iron Man and for the second year in a row, he tops FORBES’ list of the Top Earning Actors. We estimate that Downey earned $75 million between June 2013 and June 2014, the same amount as he earned last year.
With ensemble movies like "G.I. Joe" and "Fast and Furious," Johnson has transcended his wrestling days to become a true movie star. Now he's graduated to leading man. With "Hercules" and 2015's earthquake disaster film "San Andreas," The Rock is carrying movies on his sizable shoulders. A smart businessman, he's also branching out into TV. "The Hero" was his first stab at reality TV. Now he's moving up to the big leagues with the HBO comedy "Ballers." Johnson is executive producing and starring in the comedy about a group of football players.
Cooper's ability to balance large and small movies lands him on our Celebrity 100 for the first time this year. His work in the lucrative "Hangover" franchise has given him the ability to take risks with smaller films like "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle." Both movies earned him Oscar nominations (though he has yet to win a gold statue) and plenty of money with their healthy profit margins. Cooper also lent his voice to Rocket Raccoon for the Marvel movie "Guardians of the Galaxy."
It's hard to imagine now, but "The Wolf of Wall Street" was a risk for DiCaprio. The actor had to agree to cut his upfront fee in order to get the Martin Scorsese film made. Five Oscar nominations (including for Best Actor) and $395 million later, it looks like "Wolf" was yet another good bet for the actor. DiCaprio excels at turning adult movies into box office hits. His other triumph this year was "The Great Gatsby." A surprise hit, "Gatsby" earned $351 million at the global box office.
The actor category is one of the toughest on the Celebrity 100 and despite earning millions, Hemsworth just failed to make the cut. The "Thor" star isn't resting on his Marvel laurels. Look for him in movies like the upcoming "Cyber" about high-level hacking.
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