Hollywood actor George Clooney has emerged as the highest paid actor in the world. Thanks to the up to $1 billion purchase of his Casamigos Tequila, Clooney scored a career high pretax paycheck of $239 million between June 1, 2017 and June 1, 2018.
The 57-year-old tops Forbes’ annual ranking of highest-paid actors, which tallies both onscreen and extracurricular earnings in our 12-month scoring frame. Last June, British liquor conglomerate Diageo announced it would purchase Casamigos for $700 million up front with the potential for an extra $300 million over the next decade. For Clooney, that meant an estimated $233 million pretax from Casamigos, plus additional earnings from endorsements and older movies.
“If you asked us four years ago if we had a billion-dollar company, I don’t think we would have said yes,” Clooney told CNBC when the deal was announced.
Casamigos was founded in 2013 by Clooney, nightlife entrepreneur Rande Gerber and real estate tycoon Mike Meldman. According to a source close to the business, the trio invested $600,000 apiece and owned equal stakes in the company prior to the acquisition.
Clooney’s tequila cash edges Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson, who banked $124 million pretax to rank No. 2 on the highest-paid actors list. He tallied the largest ever acting take-home from front-of-camera roles in Celebrity 100 history, thanks to giant upfront paychecks and a cut of profits on blockbusters including Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. A huge social following allows him to negotiate an extra seven figures atop his standard contract for promotion, helping nearly double his 2017 earnings.
“Social media has become the most critical element of marketing a movie for me,” Johnson told Forbes.“I have established a social media equity with an audience around the world that there’s a value in what I’m delivering to them.”
Rounding out the top three is Robert Downey Jr., who pocketed $81 million. Iron Man still negotiates with an iron fist, cashing an estimated $15 million up front for 2017’s limited-screen-time role in Spider-Man: Homecoming. He earned several times that amount for Avengers: Infinity War. His co-star, Chris Hemsworth (No. 4; $64.5 million), scored a career best thanks to his cut from Marvel movies such as Thor: Ragnarok.
Together, the world’s ten highest-paid actors tallied $748.5 million between June 1, 2017, and June 1, 2018, before fees and taxes. The salaries of top-earning male leads dwarf those of the world’s highest-paid actresses, who earned a cumulative $186 million in the same scoring period, or just one quarter of the men’s paydays.
Part of the discrepancy is down to a shortage of opportunities in long-running franchises or action movies that pay the big bucks both up front and on back end. But it also shows that even among millionaires, a gender pay gap persists. According to the 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, women earned 80.5 cents for every dollar men earned in 2016. That gulf deepens for African-American, Native American and Latina women.
International stars were also included, including Jackie Chan (No. 5; $45.5 million), who makes the cut as China’s top movie star. He appeared in six films released in 2017 and banks extra from a vast array of endorsements, producer credits and even his own line of movie theaters.
Among a slew of familiar faces, the only returnee to the ranking is Will Smith (No. 6; $42 million), whose turn in Netflix’s panned Bright earned him an estimated $20 million. A forthcoming role as Genie in Disney’s live action Aladdin adds to his bottom line.
Earnings estimates are based on data from Nielsen, ComScore, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with industry insiders. All figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted.