Ferrell Tops List of Hollywood’s Most Overpaid Stars

Dorothy Pomerantz
Movie Talk
Will Ferrell Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.com
Will Ferrell Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.com

When you're a top star, you earn a lot of money--but along

with that bigger paycheck comes bigger expectations. You're supposed to be able

to "open" a movie--meaning you can guarantee a decent opening weekend

box office draw.

If you're a star and your movie flops, it looks that much

worse when you're earning a paycheck north of $15 million.

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That's what happened to Will Ferrell with Land of the

Lost. The big-budget film based on the '70s kiddies cartoon was supposed to

be a big hit. But with an estimated $100 million budget, it earned only $69

million total at the global box office. That flop puts Ferrell at the top of

our list of Hollywood's

Most Overpaid Actors. For every $1 Ferrell was paid, his films returned an

average $3.35.

This is the second year Ferrell has topped our list, but things could

turn around for the funny man next year. His last film, The Other Guys, hit

theaters well after our June 1 deadline for this list, so we didn't include it

in our calculations. But the movie did pretty well at the box office, earning

$160 million on an estimated budget of $100 million.

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And this weekend Ferrell's newest

movie, Megamind, topped the box office with $48 million. Ferrell's star power

definitely helped the DreamWorks Animation film open strong but it won't help

him in future over paid lists. We don't count animated features, since stars

tend to take pay cuts and are not the real draw.

To create our list we looked at the 36 highest-earning

actors in Hollywood. To qualify, each had to have starred in at least three movies in the past five years that opened in more than 500 theaters. Movies that opened after June 1 of

this year are not counted.

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We used data gathered for our annual Celebrity 100 list to

calculate each star's estimated earnings on each film (including up-front pay

and any earnings from the movie'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 his or 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 a

return-on-investment number. The final number represents an average of how much

a studio earns for every dollar paid.

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Comedians fare particularly badly on this list because it's

very hard to translate humor overseas. Ferrell's The Other Guys earned

$119 million in the U.S.

and only $41 million abroad. Compare that to a movie like Angelina Jolie's recent

thriller Salt: That film also earned $118 million in the U.S.

but brought in an additional $173 million overseas. There's no language barrier

when it comes to kicking butt.

Our list features six actors who are best known for their

work in comedies. Eddie Murphy ranks second with a $4.45 return for every $1 he

gets paid. The comedian once seemed like a sure thing in family-friendly flicks

like Doctor Dolittle and Daddy Day Care. But his more recent

films have been real flops. In 2008 Meet Dave brought in only $51

million at the global box office. The next year Imagine That did even

worse, earning just $22 million.

Don't cry for Eddie Murphy, though. Thanks to his voice work

as Donkey in the Shrek films, he'll be raking in the dough for years to

come. But his pay day on live-action flicks is sure to take a hit.

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Funny man Seth Rogen ranks fourth with $6.75. The actor, who

still doesn't earn anywhere near the Eddie Murphys and Will Ferrells of the

world, takes a hit on our list because of a movie called Funny People.

Films from producer Judd Apatow are usually catnip for Hollywood, because they

don't cost much to make and usually earn gobs of money at the box office. Funny

People was an exception to the rule. It cost an estimated $75 million to

produce and earned only $71 million at the global box office. (Only about 28%

of that box office came from overseas.) That hurt Rogen and his high-paid

costar Adam Sandler, who ranks ninth on our list. For every $1 Sandler was

paid, his films earned an average $8.45.

Sandler is sure to crawl off of our list next year thanks to

the movie Grown Ups, which came out after our deadline. The comedy

starred Sandler and all of his (lower-priced) funny best friends, including

fellow Saturday Night Live alums David Spade and Chris Rock. It cost an

estimated $80 million to make, but earned a healthy $270 million at the box

office.

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Rogen might have a tougher time in the coming year. His next

big film is the superhero movie The Green Hornet. The film was

originally scheduled for a Christmas release but has since been pushed back to

Jan. 14 (never a good sign). Sony is also working to convert the film into 3-D,

which could be a problem. A bad conversion could hurt box office revenue, and

if Sony decides the 3-D isn't good enough and then opts to release the movie in

2-D only--as Warner Bros. just did with the newest Harry Potter

movie--the extra expense will put even more pressure on the film to do well.