How do you rank the most popular actors in the world? Do we base it on the average box office gross of all his movies? The result may be skewed if we use that as basis because there may have been films in which the actor did not necessarily carry the movie as he merely played a supporting role. Jack Nicholson made a cameo appearance in Argo; should that count into his average?
Instead, let us base it on the amount of money that the studio is willing to pay an actor. This will include the upfront pay, profit participation, endorsements and advertising work, and residuals. The rationale for this is that the fact that the producers are willing to pay such huge sums of money to them means that they are considered popular enough to carry the movie to box office highs. After all, you would not pay someone if you cannot recoup your investment on the person.
So having said that, let us now look at the top ten most popular actors.
1. Tom Cruise – $75 million
He started his career in 1981 when he appeared in the movie Taps. He shot into the limelight with his air guitar performance to the Bob Seger hit Old Time Rock and Roll while in his underwear. He became a superstar after he starred in the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun. After that, almost everything he appeared in seemed to top the box office. Rain Man, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, The Last Samurai, The Mission Impossible series, Collateral, War of the Worlds…his list of movies seems like a parade of blockbusters. He has had some issues, mostly involving his involvement with the Church of Scientology. But there is no denying that Tom Cruise is the most popular actor in the world.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio – $37 million
He started out in minor roles in television series like Growing Pains and Santa Barbara. But even at a young age, DiCaprio was already being recognized by critics, particularly in the film This Boy’s Life, which he did when he was just 19. Then came Titanic in 1997, and DiCaprio was on the way to worldwide stardom. Since then, he has been in blockbusters like Catch Me If You Can, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Blood Diamond, The Departed, Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island and Inception. The last two were two of his biggest success, aside from Titanic. He has gotten several nominations along the way. And he has dated some of the most sought after supermodels.
3. Adam Sandler – $37 million
Adam Sandler started out as a cast member of Saturday Night Live, the show that has produced several great comedians in the industry. Sandler proved that he is equal to the task, as he has starred in several blockbuster comedies, like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates. He has stumbled recently, though, with a near flop in Jack and Jill. The movie also garnered awards as the worst movie of the year, with Sandler getting worst acting honors as well.
4. Dwayne Johnson – $36 million
He is known as The Rock, and he achieved fame as a professional wrestler in World Wrestling Entertainment. He made his acting debut, not counting the acting he did while in the WWE, in 2002 in The Scorpion King. He earned $5.5 million for that film, a record for an actor in his first starring role. He has also appeared in other blockbusters like Get Smart, Tooth Fairy and Fast Five.
5. Ben Stiller – $33 million
The actor director made his debut in the big screen in the Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder movie called Reality Bites. He has appeared in several box office hits in movies like Zoolander, There’s Something About Mary, Meet the Parents, Dodgeball, Tropic Thunder, and Night at the Museum. A recent movie entitled Tower Heist did not do as well as expected, but Stiller is definitely one of the more popular actors around.
6. Sacha Baron Cohen – $30 million
You know an actor is popular when he can make a movie with an unwieldy title like Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan a box office hit. He has also appeared in other weird roles like Bruno and The Dictator. Cohen is known for staying in character even after the movie has finished shooting. The British stand-up comedian has definitely cemented his popularity with off beat characters.
7. Johnny Depp – $30 million
He started out as a teen idol in the 1980s in the television series 21 Jump Street. He did not get satisfaction in the boob tube, so he turned to the big screen, where he has appeared in such blockbusters like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Edward Scissor hands Alice in Wonderland, Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood, Blow, Donnie Brasco, and Public Enemies. Depp has been nominated several times and has garnered acting recognition from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild.
8. Will Smith – $30 million
He started out as a rapper and television star in the series Fresh Prince of Bel Air. From Independence Day to Ali to The Pursuit of Happiness Smith has got a magic touch. He has the distinction of having eight consecutive films opening in the top spot. Out of 19 movies, 14 have had earnings of more than a hundred million dollars. Four broke the $500 million mark.
9. Mark Wahlberg – $30 million
He used to be a rapper, headlining the group called Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. He crossed over to the film industry, where he appeared in blockbusters like Boogie Nights, Three Kings, Rock Star, The Italian Job, The Departed, The Fighter and Planet of the Apes. He is also the creator of TV shows like Entourage and Boardwalk Empire.
10. Robert Pattinson – $26.5 million
He first appeared in one of the Harry Potter movies as Cedric Diggory. The character died, however, but not Pattinson’s career. He returned as a vampire in the Twilight series. Twilight gave him five blockbusters, thereby cementing his popularity.