(Because Rachel has the cutest dimples)
LOS ANGELES -- In the old Hollywood, it was all about the quote: what an actress could demand as an upfront paycheck. Nowadays, strapped studios are just as interested in what kind of return on investment they can get for their money when hiring a leading lady. Sure, Angelina Jolie brings instant press attention to a project, but is she worth upward of $10 million?
Based on our latest estimations of the actresses in Hollywood who offer studios the best return on investment, there are plenty who offer more bang for the buck than Jolie. The women who came out on the top of our list tend to be lower-profile stars who are happy earning paychecks of around $5 million and under.
Top-ranked Naomi Watts is a perfect example. The actress has yet to be involved in any kind of high-profile scandal and she usually shares equal screen time with a male lead, like in last year's The International, which also featured Clive Owen.
Watts' paychecks are relatively small (by Hollywood standards), which helps her return on investment number, especially when she stars in a movie that turns into a major hit, like 2005's King Kong, which earned $550 million at the box office worldwide. For every dollar Watts was paid on her last three major films, the movies earned an average of $44.
In order to create our list, we looked at the 100 biggest stars in Hollywood. To qualify, each actress had to have starred in at least three movies in the past five years that opened in more than 500 theaters. (In Watts' case we didn't count her 2008 film Funny Games because it only played on 288 screens.)
We didn't include animated films because the actresses aren't really the draw, and they tend to take pay cuts for voice work.
For past lists we have required that actresses earn at least $5 million per movie, but we decided to waive that this time around. We calculated each star's estimated earnings on each film (including upfront pay and any earnings from the film's box office receipts, DVD and TV sales). We then looked at each movie's estimated budget (not including marketing costs, which are susceptible to accounting chicanery) and box office, DVD and television earnings to figure out an operating income for each film.
We added up each star's compensation on her last three films and the operating income on those films and divided total operating income by the star's total compensation to come up with each return on investment number.
One thing most of the actresses on this list have in common is that they did not carry the films on their own. In Hollywood, it's still rare for a woman to be the main star. For the most part, women are co-stars or they appear in ensemble films like He's Just Not That Into You, which was a surprise hit in February, earning $177 million at the box office worldwide.
That film's success helped Jennifer Connelly take second place on our list. For every dollar Connelly was paid, her films earned an average of $41.
In third place is Rachel McAdams. The young actress is one of the few to really carry a movie, 2005's Red Eye, which also featured Cillian Murphy. McAdams has scored by appearing in relatively low-budget movies (like Red Eye and 2004's The Notebook) that have done well at the box office, though none have been massive hits. For every dollar McAdams was paid, her films earned an average of $30.
Edited to add the actresses names.
2. Jennifer Connelly
3. Rachel McAdams
4. Natalie Portman
5. Meryl Streep
7. Hallie Barry
10. Hilary Swank