Some of Hollywood's most popular actors and actresses are not only charismatic and gifted screen stars, but savvy business people as well. Many of these stars understand that they are brands with an uncertain shelf life and that there are other ways to maximize their earnings. As a result, many of today's stars have contracts that allow them to earn extra money for their additional roles as producers or writers. Other stars simply capitalize on their fame to market various products or make wise investments in other industries.
Jack Gets the Last Laugh
When Jack Nicholson accepted the role of the Joker in 1989's "Batman" for $6 million instead of his then-average salary of $10 million, part of the deal was that Nicholson would earn a percentage of the film's total earnings, including merchandise sales. "Batman" was an overwhelming success, grossing $411 million worldwide (or just over $500 million domestically after adjusting for inflation), and Nicholson ended up earning more than $50 million for the role.
Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump
Like Nicholson, Hanks agreed to star in 1994's "Forrest Gump" in exchange for a portion of the box office earnings. It was an inspired move by the actor, as "Forrest Gump" took in over $680 million worldwide (a little more than $620 million domestically when adjusting for inflation) and Hanks earned over $60 million for his part. The role not only earned Hanks a large amount of money, but also the 1994 Academy Award for Best Actor.
Tom Cruise earned an impressive $75 million for his role as a producer and actor in 2000's "Mission: Impossible II," thanks to a deal that gave him 30% of the film's gross sales. In 2012, Cruise topped Forbes 100 Most Powerful Actors list after making $75 million between May 2011 and May 2012, partly due to his role as an actor and producer in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol." Cruise also produced and starred in the other two films in the franchise. The series has earned around $2 billion worldwide at the box office.
Cruise earned 30% of the profits to star in "Vanilla Sky" in addition to his $20 million salary as an actor. The film grossed over $200 million worldwide. He has also earned a percentage of the profits for "The Last Samurai" and "Knight and Day."
Will Smith has also entered the producing game. The box-office powerhouse earned $5.5 million for producing, plus a share of DVD and pay-TV revenue for 2010's "The Karate Kid," starring his son, Jaden.
Smith has also profited a great deal from sequels, earning 10% and 20% of the gross profits for "Men in Black II" and "Bad Boys II," respectively. The two films combined took in over $700 million worldwide.
Adam Sandler and Happy Madison
Some critics may call his movies "juvenile" or "offensive," but Adam Sandler delivers at the box office. His estimated 2011 earnings were around $40 million and he made almost the same amount of money in 2010. Sandler also earned 25% of the box office gross, plus his usual salary, to produce and star in "Anger Management."
In the late 1990s, Sandler started his own production company, Happy Madison, ensuring that he would be paid as both an actor and producer.
In 2011, Sandler made $25 million for producing and starring in "Just Go With It," and $20 million for producing and starring in "Jack and Jill."
Happy Madison also produces the TV show "Rules of Engagement," starring David Spade and Patrick Warburton. In addition, Sandler received $4.5 million for producing both "The Zookeeper" and "Bucky Larson" in 2011. Sandler's estimated 2012 net worth is $300 million.
Pitt's New Production Company
Brad Pitt aptly named his production company Plan B, just in case his super-stardom around the world waned. Some notable films by this production house, now owned solely by Pitt, include "Eat, Pray, Love," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "The Departed" and "A Mighty Heart."
Jennifer Lopez is not only a successful singer and actress, she's also a shrewd businesswoman. In 2011, Lopez topped Forbes' list of the 100 most powerful celebrities in the world. Her clothing line at Kohl's, a collection of fragrances and her $20 million salary as a judge on American Idol helped her earn $52 million in 2011.
In addition to his successful acting career, Kutcher is also an investor in technology companies. The film and television star invested in the buy-in stage of Skype, only to see his investment grow exponentially. Some of his tech investments include Foursquare, Milk, Spotify, Airbnb and Fab.com.
For "The Sixth Sense," Willis was paid his usual $20 million salary, earned a percentage of the home video sales and received 17% of the film's gross revenue. The film pulled in nearly $700 million worldwide at the box office.
The Bottom Line
It's difficult to make a name for yourself in Hollywood and it's even more difficult to become a box-office star, but the above actors and actresses have gone one step further by becoming successful producers and business people. Some of the bigger stars in Hollywood now wear many hats, so to speak, in order to have more creative control over their projects and earn greater returns for their contributions.