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Kristen Stewart tops list of highest-paid actresses

By Dorothy Pomerantz
Forbes

Studios are notoriously stingy when it comes to paying young actors for the first film in a planned franchise. Forget about the $10 million they would have had to shell out to get a big name -- an up-and-comer is lucky to get $800,000.

That changes dramatically when it comes to the third and fourth films in a series. Suddenly, the star becomes indispensable and the studio has to pay up. And that's why Kristen Stewart has vaulted to the top of our annual list of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood.

Bing: 'Snow White and the Huntsman' sequel in the works

At this point, could anyone else play Bella Swan in "Twilight"? Probably not; if the studio tried to switch in another actress, fans would revolt. So for the last two "Twilight" films, Stewart has been able to demand an estimated $12.5 million per film, plus a share of the profits.

Her two co-stars, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, get paid the same, but Stewart earned more than them this year because of "Snow White and the Huntsman." Stewart's earnings between May 2011 and May 2012 totaled $34.5 million, helping her rank 43rd on our Celebrity 100 list. (The list measures a combination of money and fame.)

Women are still paid less than men in the movie business. The 10 actresses who make up our list earned a total $200 million compared to the $361 million brought in by our top 10 men.

See the full list: Hollywood's Top-Earning Actresses

To determine who the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood are, we considered upfront pay, profit participation, residuals, endorsements and advertising work. We talked to manager, agents, lawyers and other in-the-know folks to come up with our estimates. We did not deduct for things like agent fees or the expenses related to being a celebrity.

Ranking second on our list is Cameron Diaz. Her recent comedy "Bad Teacher" was a surprise hit, bringing in $216 million at the global box office. That's a decent haul under any circumstance but an especially good result for "Bad Teacher," which cost only $20 million to make. Diaz had a deal to take home a nice chunk of the film's profits, which were substantial.

More: James Franco raves about Kristen Stewart in online essay

Add that to her earnings for films like "What to Expect" and "The Green Hornet," and we estimate Diaz earned $34 million between May 2011 and May 2012.

That puts her $9 million above our third-place actress, Sandra Bullock. Since her turn in the massive 2009 hit "The Blind Side" (for which she won an Oscar), the actress has mostly stayed off of the silver screen, taking time to raise her new son, Louis. She returned last Christmas for the Oscar-nominated "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close." The film earned only $48 million compared to "The Blind Side" bringing in $310 million. Bullock earned $25 million during our time frame thanks to money she still brings home from "The Blind Side" and the upcoming big-budget sci-fi flick, "Gravity."

Because our Celebrity 100 measures a combination of fame and money, sometimes an actress can earn more than some of her peers and still not make the list because she didn't have enough fame. That's what happened with Kristen Wiig. She failed to rank on the Celebrity 100 but ties for eighth place on our highest-paid list with $12 million. Wiig's big bucks come from her final season on "Saturday Night Live" as well as from her hit movie "Bridesmaids," which earned $288 million on a $33 million budget. She has her first co-starring role in a big-budget film with the upcoming "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," in which she'll appear alongside Ben Stiller.

Tell us on Facebook: Does Kristen Stewart deserve to be the highest-paid actress?

More on Forbes.com:
The World's Highest-Paid Athletes
The World's Highest-Paid Models
The World's Most Powerful Musicians
Homes Of The World's Most Powerful Celebrities

33Comments
Jun 19, 2012 10:36AM
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Not only do ticket buyers think she is worth the money to watch-- the studios are making money from her work-- so yes, she is worth it.
Jun 19, 2012 2:05PM
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kristen stewart has worked her **** off trying to become the best she can, she was only what, like 19 when she was picked for bella.  i think she is a beautiful girl who makes a wonderful bella and robert pattinson, well ****, anybody would fall in love with him on the set.  they are perfect together as bella and edward and i don't care what people say, if you don't like her acting abilities don't go see the movies she's in.  she is growing into herself and trying to do the best she can.  i love snow white and the huntsman.  give the girl a break, she's young and just finding herself.  creeps.
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Wow. I would've thought the top-paid actress, with single-year earnings topping $34,500,000, would be able, to, oh, I don't know, ACT.

Most people would say a wage of $100,000 per year for an executive head of a company is excessive. And she earns as much in one year as three hundred and forty five of those hypothetical executives? That's $94,520.55 every day of the year. $3938.35 every hour.  $65.64 for every minute of her existence. Does any human on the planet think this woman is worth one dollar per heartbeat?

How much do you make per year? How much does that work out per heartbeat for YOU?  Do you think Kristen Stewart has that much inherent value compared to yours? Hollywoodland needs to get in step with the rest of the planet.

Jun 20, 2012 4:38AM
Jun 19, 2012 11:46AM
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"Actress" is actually a misnomer in the case of Kristen Stewart. She is the highest paid "person who can recite words in the most awkward, unrealistic and painful way possible."  Her lack of talent is only exceeded by the even less-talented Robert Pattinson. It will be great when the teenaged angst of the Twilight fans finally fades and we can get back to the actors who are cast for their talent and understanding of the craft.
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