Trying to determine the highest paid actor in Hollywood is a dicey proposition. Actors' contracts are famous for their complex incentives, and a comparison is made all the more difficult by the notoriously pliable financial agreements of the movie industry. And let's face it, what rich guy likes to open up his checkbook to show you his current balance?
We also have to take into account that many stars, including Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Tyler Perry, Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller, do other well-paying jobs such as producing, writing and directing. But for now, we'll focus on acting earnings only.
According to Vanity Fair, the highest paid actor in 2009 was Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, with $41 million in earnings. The face of the biggest franchise in movie history was reportedly paid $20 million for each of the last two Potter films (the first one is due out later this year).
Stiller came in second place, with $37 million for his work in the upcoming Meet the Parents sequel Little Fockers, as well as his starring roles in Greenberg, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, and the animated Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.
Hanks, pocketed $36 million for Angels & Demons and for his voice-over work in Toy Story 3 .
But those three actors combined didn't earn as much as Hollywood's top dollar man in 2009 director Michael Bay. He reportedly earned $125 million from producing and directing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, including his share of the DVD and toy revenue for that movie franchise.
As for the early speculation over who will win highest-paid honors for 2010, Johnny Depp is the clear favorite. It has been reported he will earn as much as $56 million to reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
But as stratospheric as that number is, it's far from an all-time record .
Harrison Ford took home $65 million for putting on the fedora again in 2008 for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And Keanu Reeves blew that out of the water by reportedly earning $194 million from the movies of the The Matrix trilogy.
Why so much?
The actor known for playing air-headed roles early in his career was smart enough to cut a deal guaranteeing him a piece of the profits from that enormously popular film series .
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