Film News

Witherspoon is Hollywood's highest-paid actress

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When Cameron Diaz signed on to lend her voice to Princess Fiona in 2001’s animated fairy tale “Shrek,” she earned a modest six figures for the work. But after the third installment of the Paramount/DreamWorks Animation franchise earned more than $320 million domestically, Diaz saw her paycheck balloon to more than $30 million, thanks to her generous share of the film’s profits.

Reese Witherspoon poses as she attends the premiere of her latest movie "Rendition" at the Rome International Film Festival October 21, 2007. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli

But even though actress salaries seem to be bigger than ever, the news this year is not how large the paychecks of Hollywood’s hottest female stars have become, it is how low they are prepared to go to fill in their schedules.

While Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon are now asking for $15 million-$20 million per movie, they frequently agree to “no-quote deals” -- deals in which the studios actually pay them far less than their usual fee.

Jolie, who is believed to have made more than $20 million (including profits) for pictures like 2005’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” earned around $8 million for her latest release, “Beowulf” -- the reason being that she played a supporting role in Paramount’s picture, involving only a few weeks of work. Similarly, Witherspoon took a major pay cut to star in New Line’s “Rendition,” but asks for -- and gets -- more than $15 million per picture when she headlines a comedy. (Sources strenuously denied reports that Witherspoon is being paid as much as $29 million for her next movie, Universal’s “Our Family Trouble.”)

While Hollywood’s list of the 10 highest-earning actresses includes only names that have dominated the screen for several years, a few promising stars are climbing up the pay scale, including Katherine Heigl, Rachel McAdams and Jennifer Garner.

What follows is our annual breakdown of the 10 highest-paid actresses in Hollywood.


America’s sweetheart is returning to her romantic comedy -- and box office green -- roots with the slated Christmas 2008 release of New Line’s “Four Christmases,” which Witherspoon is also producing. Her upcoming schedule remains active with the horror flick “Our Family Trouble,” produced by her own Type A Films, but the hardworking actress and producer recently took a hit with the flop of New Line’s “Rendition,” which received more action from its behind-the-scenes romance rumors than at the box office.


While 2005’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” was a smash for Jolie, her reunion with partner Brad Pitt proved not so prosperous this year with the Pitt-produced “A Mighty Heart,” from Paramount Vantage. But she went on to lend her voice to Paramount’s 3-D take on the epic poem “Beowulf,” which netted Jolie around $8 million for five weeks of work and opened at No. 1. On deck, Jolie will return to animation with DreamWorks’ “Kung Fu Panda,” which pairs her with an all-star cast on her first family-oriented film since 2004’s “Shark Tale.” Jolie will also appear in Universal’s upcoming “Wanted,” based on Mark Miller’s graphic novel with Morgan Freeman and James McAvoy, and Universal’s mystery “The Changeling,” with John Malkovich.


Diaz might have cashed in on her biggest payday to date this year courtesy of franchise cash cow “Shrek the Third,” which brought her more than $30 million. And while a paycheck like that could weigh down any girl’s handbag, it probably didn’t break the bank for the studio, which has grossed almost $800 million worldwide from the third “Shrek” installment. Diaz will join the franchise for a fourth outing in 2010. In the near future, she will continue to tickle audiences’ funny bones with Fox’s “What Happens in Vegas ... ,” co-starring Ashton Kutcher, and she will take a stab at the horror genre in the Weinstein Co.’s “The Box.”


Oscar’s golden girl hit another rough patch this year with Warner Bros.’ “Invasion” -- Kidman’s largest check ever, cashing in at $15 million-$16 million -- underperforming at the boxoffice, while Noah Baumbach’s “Margot at the Wedding,” from Paramount Vantage, failed to awe audiences. Kidman will look to put an end to the downward spiral with the December 7 release of New Line’s “The Golden Compass,” which reteams her with Daniel Craig. Looking ahead, Kidman could return to Oscar’s podium sooner than she thought when she joins director Baz Luhrmann again for the pre-World War II drama “Australia” and later stars opposite Ralph Fiennes in MGM’s postwar romantic drama “The Reader.”


With paydays of $15 million apiece for 2004’s “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” and 2005’s “Cinderella Man,” the buzz surrounding Zellweger was helped this year with the success of Paramount/DreamWorks Animation’s “Bee Movie.” Next, she will appear alongside George Clooney in Universal’s football-centric romantic comedy “Leatherheads” (the sports movie thing worked before for Zellweger), followed by Paramount’s thriller “Case 39.”


Bullock proved her boxoffice pull with the first installments of the “Speed” and “Miss Congeniality” franchises, allowing her to tackle juicier roles like the reclusive Harper Lee in last year’s “Infamous.” While she carried this year’s moderately well-received thriller “Premonition,” from MGM, she hasn’t forgotten why audiences love her: She’s taking her humor and fun-loving snort back to the big screen in Fox’s “All About Steve,” pairing her with Thomas Haden Church.


A couple of years back, Roberts’ bankability was unarguable, but then she took some time away from the spotlight to be a mom. This Christmas she’s back to reclaim her throne as one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses with Universal’s “Charlie Wilson’s War,” reuniting Roberts with director Mike Nichols. Later, Roberts hooks back up with Clive Owen in Tony Gilroy’s provocative thriller “Duplicity,” from Universal, and tackles the family drama “Fireflies in the Garden.”


Barrymore returned to the romantic-comedy genre this year with two Warner Bros. outings after audiences failed to catch “Fever Pitch” in 2005: She flexed her vocal cords alongside Hugh Grant in Warner Bros.’ “Music and Lyrics,” but failed to get lucky with audiences in Warners’ “Lucky You.” Dynasties will collide when the Barrymore progeny takes on the Kennedy’s Camelot in HBO Films’ “Grey Gardens,” following the lives of Jackie O.’s aunt and cousin. Later, Barrymore will return to comedy in Disney’s animated “South of the Border.” But don’t let that giggle fool you, the girl also commands the big bucks with her smart producing choices, including New Line’s upcoming “He’s Just Not That Into You,” based on the best-selling book.


Foster is swinging back into the top moneymakers category with Warner Bros.’ surprise hit “The Brave One,” which performed better than expected at the box office and brought the actress home around $10 million-$12 million for both her acting and executive producing duties. A look at Foster’s call sheet reveals she’s been taking on projects at a rate of just one per year, though that’s not a reflection of her fans being silenced -- they’ve packed the theaters for recent hits like 2006’s “Inside Man” and 2005’s “Flightplan.”


While many didn’t turn out to see it, Berry reminded a small audience why she has an Oscar on her mantel with her performance in Paramount’s “Things We Lost in the Fire.” She’s set to reteam with “Monster’s Ball” co-star Billy Bob Thorton for Lionsgate’s crime drama “Tulia.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter