Which movie star is the best investment?

Matt_lLeave it to the number-crunchers at Forbes to determine which movie stars offer the biggest bang for the buck. According to the magazine’s new "Ultimate Star Payback List," the best return on investment comes from Matt Damon (pictured), whose last three films (before The Bourne Ultimatum) grossed an average of $29 (factoring in worldwide box office and domestic DVD sales) for every dollar of his salary. Using that formula, Brad Pitt comes in at No. 2 (because of his widespread overseas appeal), Johnny Depp and Vince Vaughn tie for third (Depp for the huge gross of the Pirates movies, Vaughn for how much films like The Break-Up have grossed, relative to their low cost and his modest salary), and no. 5 is… Jennifer Aniston?

Uh, okay, I guess she deserves credit, along with Vaughn, for the success of The Break-Up, and her salary is modest by A-list leading-lady standards, but is that enough to make up for her string of flops and her inability to open a film on her own? By Forbes‘ logic, shouldn’t Pirates‘ Keira Knightley be the top actress? How useful is any list that ranks Aniston well above Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, and Will Smith? Granted, those three actors star in big-budget movies and take big back-end cuts. In the end, though, if you’re a studio exec, you’re still not going to cut Hanks’ or Smith’s pay, and you’re going to think twice about giving Aniston a raise. Forbes‘ math could be right, could be wrong, but it’s oftencounterintuitive to what the stars are perceived to be worth, which iswhat really matters.

Similarly, shouldn’t Tobin Bell, who plays Jigsaw in the Saw movies, be Forbes‘ top actor? After all, his movies cost next to nothing and earn huge returns on their investment. Then again, the major studios aren’t in the business ofgetting the best rate of return; they’re in the business of generating the highest possible grosses. They’d rather spend $200 million togross $800 million than spend $10 million to gross $100 million. To the extent that the Forbes list bucks Hollywood’sconventional wisdom about who’s being paid what they’re worth and what kind of grosses its movies should generate, it’sgoing to be shrugged off in the executive suites.

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  • GeeMoney

    Will Smith is the only one who hasn’t made a box office flop ever since he became big from making “Independence Day”. “Wild Wild West” was a bad movie, and it STILL made money! He should be the #1 investment on the list.
    Jennifer Aniston shouldn’t even be on that list. She can’t box office draw on her own, and the only reason why she got half of those roles is because she was married to Brad Pitt. Now that she isn’t married to him anymore, nobody gives a good g** damn about her (and you people can disagree with me ALL you want, but I AM correct)!

  • mike

    Thank You, Angelina. Does this mean Matt doesn’t have the massive Cruise ego that he has to make mega millions on a huge blockbuster everytime starring himself. He’s even appears in ensemble casts and supporting roles. I don’t see Tom taking scale to do The Good Shepherd.

  • chippy

    Matt Damon is a fine and very nice looking young actor..and ditto for Brad Pitt,but I must admit that Johnny Depp is my favorite…as Keira Knightly supposedly put it..he is real “eye candy”…I have absolutely no use for the likes of Tom Cruise.

  • jordan

    As long as Harrison Ford sticks with the action/adventure movies, he’ll always be a sure bet with grossing money. (Hint: don’t do any more dumb movies with Josh Hartnett)

  • nathan

    Damon’s really put together a great career over the last few years, he doesn’t stick to one genre and no movie’s too big or too small for him, the way it should be.

  • Stephanie T.

    I have to say that Matt Damon is smart for doing action films. With comedies he can only be in an ensemble cast or with his friend Ben. I can’t see him going solo in a comedy or a romantic comedy. Plus with the “Bourne” trilogy, he is pulling away from the “Good Will Hunting” genre which started with “School Ties”.

  • Cornelia

    Jennifer Aniston? There’s no way. She must have the best PR/agent in town that she ends up on so many lists. A b-list, former tv, not a lot of range, can’t open a film without a big comic costar??!! Are they talking about the same Jennifer Aniston that me and all my friends find blah and can’t be bothered to watch open an envelope, let alone a movie???!! There’s no way!!

  • ChaCha

    Everytime I see Jennifer Aniston’s name on any honorary list I figure there is a mistake. Who the heck keeps rehiring this below-average actress? Agree, if wasn’t for once being Mrs. Pitt, she would be as powerful in Hollywood as say.. Courtenay Cox or Lisa Kudrow.

  • Jimmy

    Are you kidding, Jennifer A? *shaking head in disbelief*. There are tons more actresses in her age group that I’d pay to see before her. Hollywood execs are delusional if they think she can act or open a flick. I tired of this Friend a long, long, long time ago. And at 40, she’s pretty past her prime considering her small range.

  • Looey

    Simply put, Jennifer Anniston cannot act. Sabatoging the “art” of the movie for her name appeal is just wrong.

  • Stephanie T.

    Jennifer Aniston is just as limited as Marissa Tomei and Meg Ryan, sorry.

  • FLGrl

    I love Jen Aniston. I’ve seen all her movies.
    The suggestion of Jigsaw is ludicrous as Bell is not a “movie star.” Cult film weirdo.
    Though it is quite true that studios are looking for highest possible gross figures. The Forbes list is just a different way for us lay-people to look at it.

  • FLGrl

    Love me some Matt Damon!

  • Chris

    That’s Academy Award Winner Marissa Tomei!

  • Sally

    Normally, I believe those Forbes stats but by adding Jen Anniston to the mix, they just lost my confidence in their numbers crunchers. And by the way, excuse me, but hasn’t Jennifer Lopez had a lot of hit movies in the $100Mil range (Mother-in-law, Maid in Manhattan, the Weddning Planner, Anaconda, Selena; forget about Gigli). Girlfriend has a lot of movie mileage and you would think she would be above Anniston…you think?

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