On Wednesday, Forbes released its annual list of highest-paid actors and, for the first time,
News reports were breathless -- not least of which the report from Forbes itself, which touted his success as a coup of sorts. "It's hard to remember that just a few years ago, Downey was box office poison, and regarded by the studios as damaged goods." Now, the magazine said, "he's a hit machine."
Well, Marvel is the hit machine -- Downey has struggled outside it -- but that's a separate post. But there's a bigger point in the Downey crowning: though he may be earning more than ever, he's not necessarily doing his best work.
Even ardent Downey fans would be hard-pressed to call his two movies over the highest-paid period superlative, or enduring. “
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What’s interesting is that when you look at past holders of the Forbes title, Downey is hardly an exception. The list is filled with strong performers who did their best work years or even decades before they drove the biggest Brinks truck. Last year it was
Unfortunately, what he made during the June 2011 to June 2012 period wasn't close to these movies: “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” and “
The trend follows down the line: a 2011-era
The problem with the money metric is that, with just a few exceptions, by the time the actors are getting the big bucks, they've already long finished with their great work and are now in their payday period. And the biggest paydays these days are for long-in-the-tooth franchises for which studios desperately need the original star, which only exacerbates the problem.
You could argue that landing atop the list is a harbinger of good things to come. After all, once an actor is that financially secure, he should have the freedom to do the kinds of films that best capitalize on his talent, without regard for box office or pocketbook.
But unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Johnny Depp topped the list in 2010. He then took all that moola and freedom it bought and made...
It’s all well and good to look at a list like Forbes to determine who studios value at a given moment. But top-earning potential is hardly synonymous with quality. In fact, too often it indicates that the quality has begun to fade.
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