I’ve posted this on westudyfilm, too, but its very pertinent to our recent discussions on how the film industry works.
Will Ferrell has earned an average of $3.29 for each $1 he was paid for his run of recent badly received flop films. I’ve never quite understood why anybody would pay him anything or indeed pay to see him in anything, but what do I know?
His salary would have been based on his previously successful career, but he now badly needs a hit, because he’s been called to account with this list, which also includes Ewan McGregor, Eddie Murphy, Ice Cube (Who?), Drew Barrymore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sam Jackson, Jim Carrey and Tom Cruise.
Some of those names are BIG names, and they all appear to be more of a financial liability than a lure for the audience. I can’t argue with the idea that they’re all overpaid (and therefore overrated), because I personally don’t really rate any of them that much. WIth Samuel L Jackson, for example, his reputation has been entirely based on great scripts provided by great screenwriters like Shane Black. On his own? He’s just an actor.
As I said in class, another screenwriter, William Goldman, famously said that, in Hollywood, “Nobody knows” what works. There’s no magic formula, and the overpayment of actors is just one symptom of this. I can’t believe that people are still employing Drew Barrymore, for example.
At the other end of the scale, the best-value actress is Naomi Watts, who has earned $44 for every $1 she was paid in recent films. Of course, this doesn’t mean that studios should be throwing money at Ms Watts. The point is, as ever, that nobody knows, and Ms Watts’ and any other actor’s earning potential is dependent on too many variables: fashion, quality of script, competition, the weather…