When we talk about money in Hollywood, we’re talking about money in a way that just doesn’t translate to real life. Actors, after all, are effectively freelancers — but they’re freelancers who don’t have to invoice, who definitely don’t have to spend months chasing that invoice, and who get paid millions of dollars for a project that realistically only takes up weeks of their time.
It’s not that being an actor is easy, necessarily; the hours are gruelling, the work itself is often as monotonous as any other job — if not more so, between multiple read throughs, takes, and reshoots. But, at the end of the day, the paycheck comes through — and, for some people, it really comes through.
With that in mind, a recent report by Variety gave us a list of Hollywood’s highest paid actors in 2019 thus far. And, while there are few surprises in the list — including the fact that, in 2019, we still have to get down to number seven before we even see a woman’s name — even some of the names that you’d expect to see still raise eyebrows about whether they really should be there at all.
Jason Statham: $13 million USD (Hobbs & Shaw)
It's always kind of a surprise to see Statham playing a major role in a true Hollywood blockbuster, let alone appearing in a list like this. It's not that Statham started his career in 1993, dancing in leopard print briefs in The Shamen's video for "Comin' On" – there's nothing wrong with that, inauspicious as it might be considered – but more that the British-born actor will always feel like something of a jobber, created to fill a certain role in a certain type of British film that needs a Jason Statham.
It turns out that American movies sometimes need a Jason Statham too, however, and – usually – that usually involves driving and fighting.
Will Smith: $17 million USD (Bad Boys For Life)
While it's fair to say that there have been some hiccups in Will Smith's acting career – not least of all 2013's lamentable After Earth – Smith has been pulling big-ticket movies out of the bag since 95-96 saw the doubleheader of Bad Boys and Independence Day. While 2019's Ang Lee-directed Gemini Man looks like another work of mediocre, well-trodden sci-fi action, it's still no surprise that one of the biggest TV stars of the 90s is pulling in big numbers as one of the biggest movie starts of the 2010s.
Robert Downey Jr.: $20 million USD (The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle)
The only real surprise with Downey Jr. appearing on this list as that his name doesn't rank higher. That being said, $20 million is only RDJ's base salary: the actor only took a $10 million USD paycheck for Avengers: Endgame, after all, but profit participation and other back-end deals are set to see him claim closer to $75 million USD when everything is said and done.
It's hard to imagine The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle bringing in anywhere near the same kind of cash that the climactic and box office destroying Endgame has, however.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: $20 million USD (Hobbs & Shaw)
In the early 2000s, The Rock was one of World Wrestling Entertainment's biggest stars, and in the late 2010s, Dwayne Johnson is one of Hollywood's biggest names, proving that the transition from sport to cinema isn't reserved for bit parts, cameos, or typecasting.
Johnson has come a long way as an actor since roles in 2001's The Mummy Returns, a reprised turn in The Scorpion King, and a surprisingly intense performance in 2005's Doom: nuanced, self-effacing, genuinely funny, and often emotionally compelling showings in films like The Other Guys, Moana, Pain and Gain, and Central Intelligence have seen the former athlete evolve significantly over the last two decades.
He may still be an action star at heart – and that's certainly where the big money comes from – but he's shown that he's capable of a whole lot more.
Ryan Reynolds: $27 million USD (Six Underground)
The thing about Ryan Reynolds is – and here me out here – he's basically Hugh Grant for the 2010s. Ryan Reynolds is great at playing Reynolds: he's played wisecracking but ultimately flawed Ryan Reynolds under various guises – from Van Wilder to Deadpool – even Detective Pikachu looks to be Reynolds in a fluffy CGI suit.
But, the thing is, Ryan Reynolds is really good at playing Ryan Reynolds: his charm and the hint of self-parody he brings to every role he inhabits (or, realistically, every role which inhabits the body and personality of Ryan Reynolds) is hard to replicate.
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