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In Hollywood, big-name stars are paid tens of millions of dollars per movie, in the hopes that their name and face alone will sell tickets. When that investment doesn't pay off, those stars end up on Forbes' list of Hollywood's Most Overpaid Actors. This year, that list includes Reese Witherspoon, Matt Damon and Jennifer Aniston. Surprised?
Just because these stars are on the Forbes list doesn't mean their careers are plummeting. Witherspoon, for example, is No. 3 on the list. She did have a couple recent flops (Water for Elephants, This Means War), but she's now in the middle of what Forbes calls a career reinvention. She's transitioning out of romantic comedies and costume dramas, and into more complicated roles, like the starring role in an adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's hiking memoir, Wild. She's also becoming a powerful producer, acquiring great books like Gone Girl to make into films. For Witherspoon, a place on this list means that she will need to pay herself less for the films she produces herself. That's not such a big deal; George Clooney has been doing it for years. Witherspoon has an excellent chance of coming out on top.
The other two actors at the top of the list, Adam Sandler (No. 1) and Katherine Heigl (No. 2), are a different story. Sandler is still a star that people will line up to see, but in the past few years, he's had more bombs (Jack and Jill, That's My Boy) than hits (Grown Ups 2). It's possible that audiences are getting tired of Sandler's schtick; his place on this list may be a sign that he should switch gears a little.
Heigl's situation may be even worse. After Knocked Up, the Grey's Anatomy star was poised to become the next major romantic comedy star. But she hasn't had a hit since The Ugly Truth in 2009. In her case, a lot of the problem may be her diva reputation; her Grey's departure and the unkind things she said about Knocked Up alienated a lot of fans. Maybe she's perfectly nice and it's all a misunderstanding, but clearly, she's going to need to find a way to win her audience back. Another TV show, perhaps?
Speaking of TV shows, that might be a good direction for Jennifer Aniston. It's been said that the former Friends star, who is No. 8 on the list, can sell magazines, but not movie tickets. That's not entirely fair; her comedies We're the Millers and Horrible Bosses both did quite well. But Wanderlust and The Switch proved that she's not a reliable ticket seller. We're thinking that a really good television show could ratchet her selling power back up. But then, maybe a really good movie could, too.
Basically, Hollywood stardom is constantly in flux. No one can be popular all the time, and the most successful stars are willing to stick it out and change with the times. Just look at the current highest-paid star, Robert Downey Jr. Remember when he couldn't even hold down a recurring role on Ally McBeal? The stars on the Forbes' "Most Overpaid" list are only there in the first place because they had massive hits, and started commanding huge salaries. Matt Damon, for example, may never be as profitable as he was in the Bourne films. But that's okay -- we still love him. We also still love Steve Carell (No. 7), Denzel Washington (No. 6) and Ryan Reynolds (No. 10). Keep hanging in there, guys -- there are worse things than being overpaid!