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Study: Film stars are overpaid

NEW YORK, April 8 -- A new study released Monday shows that many of Hollywood's top-salary male stars are grossly overpaid when the box- office pull of their films is taken into account. A comparison by Entertainment Weekly magazine of what 80 of the nation's most prominent film actors and actresses are paid per picture against the actual earnings of their films indicates there is only one actor who is actually worth the $15 million to $20 million he makes for a picture. He is Tom Hanks, whose performances in 'Apollo 13,' 'Forrest Gump' and 'Philadelphia' raked in big bucks both domestically and abroad. The survey listed the average grosses of a Hanks film as $166 million in the United States and $182 million overseas. On the other hand, Sylvester Stallone now gets $20 million per film while his films have average grosses of only $49 million at home and $86 million abroad, according to the survey which noted Stallone's recent films, 'Assassins' and 'Judge Dredd,' were box-office bombs. Using a formula based on domestic and foreign grosses of films and certain intangibles such as Oscars earned, career longevity and loyalty of audiences, Entertainment Weekly estimates that Stallone should be earning only $8.2 million per film. If Stallone is the most overpaid Hollywood star, then Morgan Freeman is the most underpaid. Despite his acclaimed performances in 'Seven' and 'Unforgiven,' Freeman earns only $6 million per movie, whereas he should be earning at least $11.4 million according to the survey's formula.

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Gene Hackman is another underpaid actor, the survey asserts, earning $6 million a film whereas his true box-office value is $10.8 million. 'Hackman survives bad films and makes good ones even better,' the magazine said. There are plenty of other actors with inflated salaries that aren't worth their pay, most of them getting as much as $20 million per film when their true box-office worth is $11 million to $13 million. Entertainment Weekly said 'never before has Hollywood paid so much to so many for so little' in listing such 'overpaid stars' as Tom Cruise, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Jim Carrey, Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas. But it added that the upcoming 'Mission Impossible' might go a long way in extending Cruise's run of hits and perhaps make him worth what he is paid. Robin Williams, currently riding high as the star of 'The Birdcage,' comes close to paying off the studios, earning $15 million per film against a box office worth of $14.2 million, the survey said. By contrast, the box office receipts for films starring Sean Connery show that he would earn only half of the $13 million he gets for a film, based on the grosses. Demi Moore, who got $12.5 million for her upcoming 'Striptease,' is Hollywood's highest paid actress, but the average gross of her films domestically is $65 million and abroad $125 million, which according to the survey's formula would drop her wages per picture to $10.8 million if they were box-office based. The survey said Moore's bankability could take a dive if 'Striptease' fails in ticket sales. Most actresses, however, are underpaid with the exception of Michelle Pfeiffer, who pulls in about $9 million a movie and matches that exactly in box office bucks. Jodie Foster also gets $9 million per picture but should be earning $10.8 million, according to the survey. Emma Thompson gets only $3 million per movie even though her box-office grosses should make her worth $6.2 million. The survey reported that veteran actress Meryl Streep still earns only $4 milion to $5 million a film when she should be getting $7 million. Holly Hunter gets $3.8 million a picture but is worth $7.2 million. Jennifer Jason Leigh, a $1 million-a-picture actress, should be earning $3.8 million. Other women taking in about half their worth include Susan Sarandon, Andie MacDowell, Angela Bassett and Jessica Lange. Entertainment Weekly said film insiders insist inflated salaries for stars can't continue. Paramount's recent refusal to meet Nicolas Cage's demand for $9 million to appear in 'Face Off' was cited as a tightening of the purse strings. Cage settled for $6 million. New Line Cinema also turned down Julia Roberts when she asked $12 million to appear in 'In Love and War.' It cast Sandra Bullock instead for $10.5 million.

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