Hollywood A-Listers Are Way Overpaid, Study Says

Robert Downey Jr.—who earned $75 million in 2013—is ranked ninth on this new list

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Leon Neal / AFP / Getty Images

US actor Robert Downey Jr poses for picture on the red carpet as he arrives for the premier of his latest film "Iron Man 3" in Leicester Square in central London on April 18, 2013.

A-list actors and directors cash paychecks that perhaps they don’t deserve. A new study released Tuesday called the “Bankability Index” measures how much money Hollywood’s biggest names actually generate for their movies. And those who generate the highest money aren’t necessarily the most paid.

According to the Index — a three-year study that takes into account box-office revenues and video rentals per year for movies made by 65,000 Hollywood employees over their careers — Steven Spielberg generates the most money, with an average of $27.4 million per year and $13.7 million per movie. Samuel L. Jackson comes in second, with $24.4 million per year and $6.2 million per movie. Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise take the third and fourth spots.

But Forbesannual list of the industry’s highest-paid actors puts Robert Downey Jr. (pictured) at the top, earning an estimated $75 million in 2013, even though the Index rates him as Hollywood’s ninth-biggest revenue draw, generating $20.6 million per year for his movies. The next four highest-paid actors on Forbes‘ list — Channing Tatum ($60 million), Hugh Jackman ($55 million), Mark Wahlberg ($52 million) and Dwayne Johnson ($46 million) — don’t even crack the Index’s top 10.

But, as box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian told USA Today, several of these seemingly overpaid actors anchor major franchises: Downey is the center of two Marvel franchises, The Avengers and Iron Man; Tatum has played key roles in the Step Up, 21 Jump Street and G.I. Joe series; Jackman anchors the X-Men and Wolverine movies; Wahlberg is joining the Transformers franchise; and Johnson has been a key player in the last two (and the next) Fast and Furious films and has also joined the G.I. Joe franchise.

“The studios are making an investment in the future, largely based o personality,” Dergarabedian says. “And you really can’t put a price on that.”