Q: With "Gravity" scoring $55 million in its opening weekend (a record for an October release), is Sandra Bullock officially the most bankable actress on the planet right now?
A: Well, technically, according to industry experts, and current conventional wisdom, there are a few other actresses who...
Oh, forget it: Let's crown Sandra, already.
If you're talking biggest box office for least money down, Natalie Portman and Kristen Stewart are, as of the last Forbes "Bankability" list, still the reigning queens of bang-for-one's-buck. K. Stew, for example, took only about 9 percent of the total earnings of her last film, mega-blockbuster "Breaking Dawn: Part 2."
Will Bullock top the new list? Quite possibly. She's already outpacing the two stars at the top of another list, the Ulmer Scale, which measures star bankability.
"Sandra has been riding an almost unprecedented spike in global star power, thanks to strong role choices and great pairing with other stars," James Ulmer tells me. "She has actually just surpassed Cameron Diaz in her global bankability, and has surged ahead of Julia Roberts, who suffers from not having enough recent films in her portfolio, although 'August: Osage County' will be a test to see if she can bounce back at all."
Just how good of an investment is Bullock these days? Well "The Heat," her comedy with Melissa McCarthy, has grossed about $225 million so far, and, by my reckoning, Bullock charged only 4.4 percent of that for her work.
It's unclear what Bullock charged for "Gravity," but it's likely under $20 million; that was the salary that Angelina Jolie reportedly wanted for the role, leading the filmmakers to pass on her at least partially for that reason. Let's suppose that, worldwide, "Gravity" does better than "The Heat" but not as well as a giant franchise film — somewhere around $350 mil. If Bullock charged what she commanded for "The Heat" — $10 million — then Sandy will have gotten only 2.8 percent of planetwide gross. Now that's an investment.
All this of course could all change in an hour. By the end of the month, Hailee Steinfeld will have offered us the latest unnecessary remake of "Romeo and Juliet"; ditto with Chloü Grace Moretz and her re-imagining of "Carrie." It's hard to fathom either of those movies overtaking the success of a flick that also features both George Clooney and a near-death experience in outer space. Then again, no one expected the locust-like rampage triggered by the "Twilight" franchise, either.
We also have to remember the imminent unleashing of Jennifer Lawrence in the sequel to "The Hunger Games"; "Catching Fire" comes out in November, and it'll likely be bigger than Panem itself. Lawrence was paid a reported $10 million for that sequel gig, but if it grosses anywhere close to the nearly $700 million that "The Hunger Games" has raked in worldwide, we may need to revisit this conversation rather soon.