Who Are Hollywood's Highest Paid Actors? And How Did They Get There?

Congratulations, Tom Cruise. Despite the inexplicably bad Rock of Ages, the 50 year old actor remains the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, out-earning his closest rival by two-to-one. But looking at the list as a whole, you may start to wonder: What are we paying these people for?

Here's the top 10 (well, 11, but that's because there are ties) highest-paid actors in the movie industry right now (as well as their estimated income between May 2011 and May 2012), according to Forbes Magazine:

Tom Cruise $75 millionLeonardo DiCaprio $37 millionAdam Sandler $37 millionDwayne Johnson $36 millionBen Stiller $33 millionSacha Baron Cohen $30 millionJohnny Depp $30 millionWill Smith $30 millionMark Wahlberg $27 millionTaylor Lautner $26.5 millionRobert Pattinson $26.5 million

Firstly: Well, apparently the Twilight movies pay really, really well… but it's depressing to see Kristen Stewart apparently making less money than her male co-stars, considering she's arguably the lead character of the series and all.

Secondly: I'm not the only person who looked at that top of that list and wondered whether people were being paid on how their movies had performed five years or so ago, right…? Cruise and DiCaprio, I can understand; one brings the audiences - as long as it's an action flick - and the other brings a certain amount of prestige, especially considering the directors who love to work with him, but Adam Sandler? Ben Stiller? Really?

The arcane math that makes up actors' salaries is a continually confusing system that I've long given up trying to work out, but the fact that Sasha Baron Cohen earned the same as Johnny Depp seems strange to me considering their respective statures - I know Borat was a massive hit, but he hardly had a track record beyond that, in terms of box office, and The Dictator didn't really set the world alight in terms of success when it came out a couple of months ago - never mind the fact that the artist formerly known as The Rock out-earns both of them. And Will Smith! Shouldn't Will Smith be further up that list…?

Ultimately, I guess, the one thing that the list makes extremely obvious - Outside of the misogyny of the movie industry because, come on, there's not one woman in the top 10 highest-paid actors? Seriously? - is the importance of agents and good negotiation in the entertainment industry. That Hollywood isn't a meritocracy is hardly breaking news, but this list ably demonstrates that it's not even success that's being rewarded, or else the Twilight stars would be far, far higher than they are. Clearly, the way to success in the movies isn't by making good films, or even selling out and making movies that you know the audience wants to see; it's by choosing one of those routes and then making sure that you surround yourself with really, really smart people who can take as much advantage of what you've achieved as possible.

Then again, maybe everyone should just follow Tom Cruise's example and start running a lot in movies, just in case that's some kind of secret lucky charm that can work for everyone. I mean, how else to explain his dramatic success?

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