Forbes: The World’s Highest-Paid Actresses 2015
Jennifer Lawrence may have been made famous by The Hunger Games, but she’s certainly not short of bread: The 25-year-old banked $52 million pre-tax over 12 months to be the best paid actress–$16.5 million more than second-ranked Scarlett Johansson, who earned $35.5 million.
For the first time ever, the ranking examined the world’s highest-paid leading ladies to create a truly global list of actress earnings. Despite the broader valuations, only one non-American made the list: Chinese actress Bingbing Fan, who ranked No. 4 with a $21 million haul. Fan, who joins the ranking thanks to roles in movies such as The White-Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom and endorsements with Chopard and L’Oreal, is likely best-known to U.S. cinema-goers for her role in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Melissa McCarthy, ranked third with $23 million, is the only other actress to bank over $20 million in our scoring period. The Bridesmaids star has proven her ability to carry movies solo–Spy and Tammy grossed a combined $335 million worldwide–and now she’s turning to fashion, launching an all-sizes clothing line.
“I started to think if I could do anything to build women up rather than the constant tear down I’m going to do it,” says McCarthy of her designs, which aim to break down the size barriers within women’s fashion.
The World’s 18 Highest-Paid Actresses earned a combined $281 million before taxes and fees–$660 million less than the 34 World’s Highest-Paid Actors, who banked a cumulative $941 million. Only four actresses made north of $20 million, while 21 actors banked $20 million-plus. We included actresses who earned over $6 million and up, while the male barrier for entry was far higher, at $13 million.
Though these elite actresses are still well remunerated, the Hollywood pay gap has been well publicized. Lawrence made headlines this year when Wikileaks revealed she and her female American Hustle costar received a lower cut of profits than their male counterparts. The leaked Sony correspondence relayed Lawrence’s representatives complaining that male actors (Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner) received a 9% cut of profits, while Lawrence and Amy Adams pocketed just 7%.
Top women can earn between $10 million to $20 million a film with the option to negotiate a share of the movie’s profits, but Lawrence’s Hunger Games is one of few major movies with a woman as its main character. In fact, a recent study found that just 21 of the 100 top-grossing films of 2014 featured a female lead or co-lead, while only 28.1% of characters in 100 top-grossing films were female, period. This means it’s much rarer for women to get the sort of blockbuster role which would warrant the massive backend deals many male counterparts demand (Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible or Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, for example).
“The really top [female] stars get paid the same thing as their male counterparts, the problem is the averages don’t work because there are not enough parts for women to star in for them to get paid,” explained Sony’s former co-chair Amy Pascal, then one of two female studio heads with Universal’s Donna Langley, in a 2013 interview with FORBES’ Dorothy Pomerantz.
As the ranking shows, the movie pay gap is even more pronounced overseas. In Bollywood, a top male star might earn the equivalent of $4.7 million per movie, while prominent Indian actresses rarely receive one sixth of that – the equivalent of some $780,000. This year, five Bollywood actors made the Highest-Paid Actors ranking – not a single Bollywood actress made the Highest-Paid Actresses list.
Last year’s top-earning actress, Sandra Bullock, saw her payday drop to $8 million from $51 million after a quiet 12 months. Other big stars, such as Emma Stone (tied at No. 16; $6.5 million) and Kristen Stewart (No. 9; $12 million), this year received critical acclaim for indie films over major box office successes.
Many of the names on the list are mainstays who make fewer movies but still earn from endorsements. Case in point: Jennifer Aniston ($16.5 million) whose two films in our scoring period grossed just $108.6 million but makes bank shilling for Aveeno, SmartWater and Living Proof. Gwyneth Paltrow makes the majority of her $9 million paycheck from Max Factor and Hugo Boss contracts, while Julia Roberts returns to the ranking with a $16 million haul thanks largely to deals with Lancome, Givenchy and Calzedonia.
Another actress returning to the ranking: Wild star Reese Witherspoon, who banked $15 million from a slew of new production and acting credits to rejoin the list since dropping off in 2011. Amanda Seyfried, tied for No. 13 with Meryl Streep at $8 million, is the only other newcomer besides Fan. Seyfried joins the elite club with roles in Ted 2 and Pan, plus Givenchy and Clé de Peau Beauté endorsements.
Our list measures earnings before subtracting management fees and taxes; figures are based on data from Nielsen, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with agents, managers, lawyers—and stars themselves. It only examines women – a separate list of highest-paid actors was published earlier in the month.
8. Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon has had a phenomenal run of late, cop comedy flop Hot Pursuit not withstanding. Frustrated by a shortage of rich roles for women, Witherspoon formed a production company with producer Bruna Papadena to buy the rights to novels with strong female leads. First up was 2013’s Gone Girl ($368 million worldwide gross), which the duo co-produced, and the two-time Oscar nominated Wild ($52 million worldwide gross), which Witherspoon produced and starred in. A slew of new production and acting credits help her rejoin the list since dropping off in 2011.