Hollywood can make actors and actresses very, very rich. Or it can make them very well respected. But it usually doesn't do both at the same time.
Consider Forbes' list of the world's best-paid actors and actresses: The 23 stars on our list collectively earned $553 million over the course of a year. But only two have a chance of winning a statue at this year's Oscars, which will air Feb 25. on Disney's ABC. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which annually doles out the coveted awards, has nominated Will Smith for his performance in Sony's "The Pursuit of Happyness" and Leonardo DiCaprio for his role in Time Warner-owned Warner Brothers' "Blood Diamond." Though neither is a first time nominee — Smith nabbed a nod for his title role in Ali and DiCaprio snagged two for "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "The Aviator" — a win would mark the first time either took home a statuette.
Only eight of the actors on this year's list have ever won an Oscar. Among them: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster, each of whom scored two. Hanks' came for "Philadelphia" and "Forrest Gump;" Washington's for "Glory" and "Training Day;" and Foster's for "The Accused" and "The Silence of the Lambs."
And only 14 have ever received a nomination. Hanks and Washington each have five nods, while Foster trails with four. Tom Cruise has garnered three nominations thanks to roles in "Born on the Fourth of July," "Jerry Maguire" and "Magnolia," but has no gold men to show for it.
The reality: The big coin that has landed many of the stars on our list typically comes from pictures that generate big money at the box office, but few, if any, accolades come award season. Consider Johnny Depp's 2006 blockbuster Pirates of the "Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," which grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, or Tom Hanks' "The Da Vinci Code," which raked in nearly $800 million. Neither earned Oscar nods for its acting.
"The franchises and tent poles that each studio has are just out there to make money," opines Jonathan Kuntz, a film historian at the University of California Los Angeles' department of film, TV and digital media. "But nobody takes these blockbusters, which have become more and more almost comic-bookie, seriously as great films."
Though exceptions exist — "New Line's Lord of the Rings" franchise won several Oscars a few years back — nominations are typically awarded to the smaller budget, often artistic films, aptly dubbed Oscar bait, from the studio's specialty divisions (Paramount's Vantage or 20th Century Fox's Fox Searchlight, among others). To put it in perspective: This year's best picture contenders collectively raked in only some $280 million at the U.S. box office ($130.7 million of which came from Warner Bros.' "The Departed").
But this wasn’t always the case, says Kuntz. "You can point back to the classics era and see that in those days some of the big films with the major stars were also great pictures and won Oscars, with Casablanca being the most classic example," he says. "We just don’t seem to have many films filling that slot nowadays."
To determine which actors and actresses made the most money during the 12-month period, we turned to the 2006 edition of the Forbes' Celebrity 100 list, which ranks the most powerful actors, athletes, chefs and directors based on their media exposure (magazine covers and TV and radio mentions), Web presence (number of Google hits) and earnings.