By Dorothy Pomerantz
Robert Downey Jr. is a hit machine. He's starred in six movies that have each grossed over $500 million at the box office worldwide. Two of those films, "The Avengers" and "Iron Man 3," each earned over $1 billion. Every studio in town would love to cast him, and now they'll pay big bucks for the privilege. Downey tops Forbes' list of Hollywood's Highest-Paid Actors with an estimated $75 million in earnings between June 2012 and June 2013.
It's hard to remember that just a few years ago, Downey was box office poison, and regarded by the studios as damaged goods. 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 un-insurable. Directors like Robert Altman and Oliver Stone gave him work but for the most part, his career seemed to be a lost cause.
Downey turned that around with "Iron Man." The first film in the franchise earned $585 million at the global box office. Overall the franchise has brought in $2.4 billion.
And then there's "The Avengers." The 2012 movie is the third highest-grossing of all time with $1.5 billion at the box office. While the film was nominally an ensemble piece, there was no doubt about who was the real star of the show. As Tony Stark, Downey mixes arrogance, humor and a hint of vulnerability to create a modern-day superhero everyone loves. While it's probably possible to replace Chris Evans as Captain America, no one else could possibly play Tony Stark.
So Downey was able to secure a nice chunk of the film's profits for himself. He earned more than anyone else on the movie, including director Joss Whedon. And he'll get a huge upfront payday once the sequel starts filming in February.
To compile our list, we talked to agents, producers, managers and other people in-the-know to estimate earnings for each star between June 2012 and June 2013. We don't deduct for taxes, agent fees or any of the other costs of being a celebrity.
While Downey tops this list, he only ranked 20th on our Celebrity 100 list, which is based on earnings and fame. Here we're only looking at income. Downey ranked behind actor Hugh Jackman on the Celeb 100 because the Australian actor had a much higher social media ratings than Downey. Jackman boasts 2.7 million Twitter followers. Downey avoids social media, even though it would give him the opportunity to connect directly with the fans who are really his customers.
Jackman ranks third on our Highest-Paid Actors list with an estimated $55 million in earnings between June 2012 and June 2013. A lot of that money comes from his work as Wolverine in the X-Men films. Yet another X-Men movie (the sixth) hits theaters later this month. It's the second film to exclusively feature Jackman's Wolverine.
But the actor, who has also appeared on Broadway, showed that he's more than just an action star this year with "Les Misérables." The film was nominated for eight Oscars, including one for Jackman who starred as Jean Valjean. It also made money. "Les Mis" brought in $438 million on a $61 million budget.
Ranking second on our list between Downey and Jackman is Channing Tatum with an estimated $60 million in earnings. Tatum is often touted for his looks and his dance skills but he's also a super smart businessman. He and director Steven Soderbergh self-financed the movie "Magic Mike," which meant they didn't have to get notes from any studio bigwigs and they didn't have to share any of the film's sizable profits. The $7 million movie brought in $167 million at the global box office and is a growing business. A Broadway show is in the works as well as a line of bars and a sequel.
Mark Wahlberg ranks fourth with $52 million. His 2012 film "Ted" was the biggest surprise hit of the year. Directed by fellow Celebrity 100 member Seth MacFarlane, the film cost $50 million to make and earned $550 million at the global box office. That massive profit helped boost his earnings from $27 million last year.
Rounding out the top five is Dwayne Johnson. The former wrestler is now a bona fide movie star who had a film in the top 10 for 10 weeks in a row. His latest, "Fast & Furious 6," earned $695 million on a budget of $160 million. We estimate The Rock earned $46 million between June 2012 and June 2013.
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