6 Things We've Learnt From Forbes' Best Paid Actress List

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by Katie Rosseinsky | 17 08 2018

Forbes has released its annual list of the world’s best paid actresses, with Scarlett Johansson quadrupling her earnings to take the top spot from last year’s number one, Emma Stone (who has since dropped out of the top ten completely). What can the list tell us about Hollywood today? We’ve crunched the numbers…

1. Marvel is where the money is

Though she’s also had roles in the problematic Ghost in the Shell movie (in which she was cast in a role originally imagined as Asian) and in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, the majority of Scarlett Johansson’s $40.5 million will doubtless have come from her Avengers: Infinity War salary. She’ll reprise her role as Black Widow in next year’s follow-up.

2. Jennifer Aniston was the original multi-hyphenate

Long, long before we were being encouraged to fill our lives with side hustles, Jennifer was quietly supplementing her (also very lucrative) acting career with a handful of well chosen product endorsements. It’s a strategy that’s paid off: at third on the list, the majority of her $19.5 million comes from deals with Smartwater, Emirates airlines and Aveeno skincare.

3. Angelina Jolie cuts a good deal

Kudos to Angie (or kudos to Angie’s agent). The actress returned to the best paid list after reportedly being paid upfront by Disney for Maleficent 2, which she’s currently filming in London. Newcomer Gal Gadot has also benefitted from upfront pay: she appears on the list for the first time thanks for her pre-emptive salary for the Wonder Woman sequel.

4. The gender pay gap is still huge

Though Forbes are yet to release the male equivalent of this list, we can compare it to similar round-ups published in the last year. A ranking of Hollywood’s most ‘over paid’ actors (it wasn’t originally intended to be gender specific, but - surprise! - all of them were male anyway…) released in December ranked Mark Wahlberg at the top, with estimated earnings of $68 million - a sum that vastly outstrips the salary of top-ranking actress Scarlett Johansson ($40.5 million). The actor on that list that came closest to Scarlett’s pay was Tom Cruise, who ranked seventh with $43 million. Sigh. Clearly the TIme’s Up campaign still has a long way to go.

5. And Hollywood’s diversity problem is still very much in evidence

For the second year in a row, the top ten list exclusively features white women (in 2016, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing and Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone were included). That’s reflective of the industry as a whole: despite some positive moves forward, there are still very few women of colour being cast in lead (and therefore, well-paid) roles, despite there being so many talented actresses who could easily step up to the mark.

6. Expect to see Reese Witherspoon climb the rankings next year

Fifth place is certainly nothing to sniff at, but Reese’s earnings will surely jump even further next year. Not only has she re-negotiated her salary for Big Little Lies, she’ll also have another boost from her Apple show, for which she’ll receive $1.25 million per episode. Jennifer Aniston will be co-starring (and receiving similar pay), so expect her to move (even further) towards the top, too.

The best paid actresses in the world, according to Forbes

Scarlett Johansson, $40.5 million

Angelina Jolie, $28 million

Jennifer Aniston, $19.5 million

Jennifer Lawrence, $18 million

Reese Witherspoon, $16.5 million

Mila Kunis, $16 million

Julia Roberts, $13 million

Cate Blanchett, $12.5 million

Melissa McCarthy, $12 million

Gal Gadot, $10 million

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