Iron Man Is Stacking Paper: Robert Downey Jr. Tops Forbes’ List of Highest Paid Actors

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

Robert Downey Jr. isn't really Tony Stark. But with Forbes magazine declaring his fame and wealth to the world, he has a good idea of how it feels to be Iron Man.

Forbes, the leading business and finance journal, released their annual rundown of the highest paid actors in Hollywood on Tuesday, and RDJ easily tops the list, having raked in an estimated $75 million between June 2012 and June 2013, thanks to his share of the billion dollar successes of "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3." Downey beats the No. 2 name on the list, Channing Tatum, by a healthy $15 million, and, as Forbes reporter Dorothy Pomerantz points out, it's an especially sweet victory for Downey given the shaky status of his career prior to "Iron Man" in 2008.

"It's hard to remember that just a few years ago, Downey was box office poison, and regarded by the studios as damaged goods," Pomerantz writes. "The promising young actor burst onto the scene in the late '80s with movies like 'The Pick-Up Artist' and 'Less Than Zero.' But drugs quickly dragged him down until he became all but uninsurable. Directors like Robert Altman and Oliver Stone gave him work but, for the most part, his career seemed to be a lost cause."

[Related: Robert Downey Jr. Back for Two More 'Avengers' Movies]

However, after a cleaned up and focused Downey clicked in "Iron Man," the actor and his team demanded a bigger cut of the action for his work in future Marvel movie projects. Marvel agreed, and, as a result, Downey made more from "The Avengers" than writer/director Joss Whedon or anyone else in the cast. Maybe that's not a Tony Stark level of business acumen, but it's impressive nonetheless.

Similarly, Channing Tatum's smarts had a lot to do with his No. 2 slot on the list, having earned $60 million in the past year. While "The Vow" and "21 Jump Street" fared well at the box office, it was "Magic Mike" that earned him serious bank. Tatum and director Steven Soderbergh financed the movie themselves, keeping the budget down to a modest $7 million. When it became a surprise hit, the star and director walked home with a healthy share of the profits.

Coming in third on the list is Hugh Jackman at $55 million. Jackman helped turn the musical "Les Miserables" into a global smash hit, and he earned a big up-front payday for the next "X-Men" adventure, "The Wolverine," opening in theaters on July 26. Sitting pretty in 4th place is Mark Wahlberg, who took home $52 million for his work in "Ted" and "Pain & Gain," among others. And Wahlberg's "Pain & Gain" co-star Dwayne Johnson rounds out the top five with $46 million. After all, he's the man who keeps your franchise profitable, having lent his talents to "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," and "Fast and Furious 6."

In addition to the list of best-paid actors, Forbes compiled a list of 10 "Power Actors," with Jackman edging out RDJ for the top spot, largely because of his stronger presence in social media and his entrepreneurial ventures. Will Smith and Adam Sandler will be relieved to know that they're both still ranked as "Power Actors," even though Forbes acknowledges that they've been attached to some major flops in the past year.

[Related: Women Dominate the Top 10 on Forbes's 2013 List of Most Powerful Celebrities]

And a look at Forbes' "Celebrity 100" list of entertainment and sports figures that wield both money and influence suggests that the upper level of the movie business is still a boys club. Oprah Winfrey predictably tops the list, but the highest ranked woman whose career is primarily devoted to movies is Angelina Jolie, who comes in at a respectable but hardly earth-shaking 41. Jennifer Lawrence is ranked at 49 on the strength of "The Hunger Games" and "Silver Linings Playbook," the iconic Meryl Streep comes in at 73, and, thanks to "Identity Thief" and "The Heat," funny lady Melissa McCarthy makes her first appearance in the Celebrity 100 at 98.

Given his new status at Forbes, perhaps Downey could talk to their editors on behalf of his "Iron Man" co-star Gwyneth Paltrow, who was ranked at just 71 on the Celebrity 100 chart. Then again, since Downey himself is ranked surprisingly low at 20, maybe even Iron Man can't impress everyone.

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