Update: An actor’s value still kind of questionable

December 7, 2011 16:26:16 Posted at December 7, 2011 16:26:16
Sarah Posted by Sarah

Last year I questioned the Forbes list of the “best value” actors because they had some folks on there who make sh*t movies (Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Aniston—though to be fair to Aniston, the upcoming Wanderlust looks really funny).  This year my question is less about qualitative value and more about quantitative. All of those people I objected to last year are off the list this year—justice!—but Daniel Radcliffe and Anne Hathaway still made it and this year’s number 1 is Kristen Stewart which is…not right. I love Stewart, you all know this. She’s #1 with me in a lot of things, but right now she doesn’t this particular #1 ranking. Like DanRad and Harry Potter, we don’t actually know what KStew is worth outside of Twilight.

Forbes’ math was tweaked a little this year; they’ve added some values to their algorithm. This year the formula is: previous three films over three years minus animation and limited releases. So only the mainstream stuff counts. Then, the operating budgets—production and marketing costs—of the films are added together and divided by the total compensation—upfront pay and backend bonuses—for those films. I think this formula is an improvement over last year’s, which included home video revenues and did not account for total operating costs. It gives a much clearer picture of what kind of value an actor is delivering, which is probably why people like Aniston, Cage and Parker were cut.

But we’ve still got to figure out a way to account for some qualitative factors, like who is actually carrying a movie. Take Hathaway—as I pointed out last year, she’s only on this list because of Alice in Wonderland. But would anyone really say that that was her movie? And for the next few years she’ll benefit from 2012’s inevitable Batman Box Office Bonanza, but does anyone actually think Hathaway will carry The Dark Knight Rises? Based on the Forbes criteria, it looks like they ignored Valentine’s Day for Hathaway’s record, probably because it was a large ensemble film. They should exercise the same judgment with Alice and Batman. Yes, Hathaway is in them, but can she really be credited for their box office success?

As for Stewart and Radcliffe, I think they’ll both eventually earn a spot on this list for films outside of the franchises that made them famous, but they’re not there yet. DanRad comes in at #4 for the last three HP movies. (The only reason he doesn’t rank higher is because his earnings put a dent in the gross.) But we don’t know what he’s worth to an audience outside of HP, and we likely won’t for a while yet. His next movie is the independent The Woman in Black, which won’t count for Forbes’ purposes. Stewart, however, has a huge test next summer with Snow White and the Huntsman, after which we’ll have a better idea of what mainstream audiences really think of her.

If you’re wondering why I’m quibbling with Stewart but not Robert Pattinson, who is #3, it’s because of the three films Forbes used, only one was a Twilight movie. They averaged Eclipse, Water for Elephants and Remember Me together and determined that for every $1 Pattinson is paid, he earns the studio $39.43. Because there’s only one franchise flick in the mix for him, I think that’s a more honest representation of what he’s worth than the figures for Stewart and Radcliffe, who benefit at least as much from their franchise’s name as they do from their own.

What bodes well for Stewart’s future on this list is that outside of Twilight, her salary demands are not extravagant. In fact, looking at the Forbes list, you can see a generation gap between the top and the bottom of the register. Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, RDJ—they’re all on here but they also come from a generation to which the $20 million paycheck was a regular thing. Those days are over, though, and younger actors like Stewart, Hathaway and Pattinson don’t make nearly the kind of demands their more senior counterparts do. With lower salaries, the younger actors will likely continue to dominate this list since they’re going to be better buys for studios as spending continues to come down.

From last year to this, Forbes came up with a more comprehensive formula to determine an actor’s value. Now if we could just get them to consider that Anne Hathaway didn’t carry Alice in Wonderland, we’ll really get somewhere with this.

See Forbes’ complete list here.

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