For the past five years, it seemed that Harrison Ford was happier out of the spotlight than on the silver screen. Since 2000, Ford has appeared in only four movies, none of which made much of an impression at the box office.
That all changed in 2008 when Ford strapped back on his trusty whip and went adventuring again in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” the fourth film in the Indiana Jones series. In order to lure Ford out of his semi-retirement, Paramount agreed to a lucrative deal that split almost all of the film’s earnings (after the studio made back its production and advertising costs) between Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
As a result of the deal, Ford earned $65 million between June 2008 and June 2009, making him the highest-paid actor on our annual Celebrity 100 list. (Even though the movie was released in May of 2008, Ford didn’t earn his money until several months later.)
In Pictures: Hollywood’s Top-Earning Actors >>
To figure out earnings, we talked to agents, managers, producers and lawyers to determine what the stars earned as upfront pay on movies they are currently shooting, as well as backend pay earned after a movie hit the theaters. We also looked at any money actors might have earned from doing ads for things like beer, banks and coffee.
Coming in behind Ford with $55 million is Adam Sandler. The funnyman had two successful movies last year, “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan” and “Bedtime Stories,” plus he earned a big paycheck for the upcoming Judd Apatow movie “Funny People,” in which he plays a comedian who thinks he might be dying.
In third is Will Smith, often considered in Hollywood to be the one person who can open any movie in the U.S. and abroad. Critics lambasted his two latest movies, “Hancock” and “Seven Pounds,” but they were both still hits — earning $800 million between them.
Eddie Murphy lands in fourth place on our list despite his disastrous film “Meet Dave.” The movie, which was made for an estimated $60 million, earned only $50 million at the worldwide box office.
Rounding out the top five is Nicolas Cage. The tireless worker doesn’t earn the same size paychecks as people like Smith and Sandler, but he currently has six movies scheduled to hit theaters in the next two years, including “G-Force,” about some very smart hamsters, and a live-action version of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
Conspicuously low on the list (10th place) is Johnny Depp, who last year ranked second with $72 million. This year he earned $27 million. The reason: no pirate movie. Depp is almost always well paid, but he earns a nice chunk of the profits of the Disney series “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which have earned a collective $2.6 billion at the worldwide box office.
Coming in at the bottom of our top 20 is Will Ferrell. The former “Saturday Night Live” star has seen a steady decline in box office revenue for his comedies. Things hit bottom this weekend when his remake of the TV show “Land of the Lost” earned just $18 million at the box office.