Forbes Ultimate Star Payback List

When it comes to movie stars that are good deals, names like Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt immediately springs to mind. But according to Forbes magazine, while all four names mentioned above are indeed on their list of top movie stars that, on average, provides a nice return on investment in dollars, can you believe that at the very top of the list is one … Vince Vaughn? I do not kid you, sir. That’s what Forbes say, and their formula for coming up with Vaughn’s name is pretty, shall we say, convoluted.

Here’s how it works according to Forbes:

To find each star’s payback number, we looked at his or her last three films that opened wide–in at least 1,000 theaters–before Jan. 1, 2008. We eliminated animated movies, since star power isn’t usually what draws their audiences, and any movie in which the actor had a small or cameo role. We included the Ocean’s series, despite its huge casts, because its ensemble nature put its biggest stars on equal footing.

The three movies for each star had to have been made in the last five years. That’s why you don’t see Mike Myers on the list. He’s been missing in action since The Cat in the Hat in 2003, unless you count his voice work in the Shrek movies. We also required that each actor earn at least $5 million for one of his or her three films, to eliminate lesser stars. So up-and-comers like Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen didn’t make it.

To calculate our payback figures, we began by taking half of each film’s worldwide box office (to roughly approximate the studio’s cut of each ticket). Then we added the first three months of wholesale DVD revenues, all of which go to the studio, to derive the studio’s total revenue for each film. We next subtracted the budget (including upfront compensation for all actors except the actor in question) to derive the film’s gross income.

After that, the actor’s total compensation was divided into that gross income, to get the actor’s payback figure for the film. The payback for the last three movies for each actor was averaged to calculate his or her ultimate payback. We deliberately used gross income rather than net income in our analysis, because the latter figure is so easily manipulated by studio accountants, with marketing expenses treated differently for almost every film.

That’s a lot of words to say this: Vince Vaughn tops the list of Ultimate Star Payback because for every buck he makes in salary, he earns back his investors $14.73. Coming in at #2 was Tobey Maguire, who made investors back $13.44 buckaroos for every buck he made. The top female on the list was Julia Roberts with $13.19 bucks for every dollar she makes.

The Top 10 on the list (with their return on investment in parenthesis):

1. Vince Vaughn ($14.73)
2. Tobey Maguire ($13.44)
3. Julia Roberts ($13.19)
4. Brad Pitt ($12.73)
5. Naomi Watts ($12.16)
6. Matt Damon ($12.16)
7. George Clooney ($11.56)
8. Jennifer Aniston ($10.48)
9. Hugh Jackman ($9.90)
10. Ben Stiller ($9.50)


16. Denzel Washington ($7.95)
17. Angelina Jolie ($7.16)
18. Russell Crowe ($6.88)
20. Johnny Depp ($6.41)
21. Will Smith ($5.64)