Forbes' "most bankable" actors puts ladies on top

Dec 27, 2012 at 11:35 a.m. ET

Forbes' "most bankable" actors list is a lesson on returned investment. Yes, it's math, but it's pretty interesting.

Natalie Portman for Dior

Ever wonder how those multimillion-dollar salaries pan out for movie companies? According to Forbes, it's all about which actors you're paying. The money-centric magazine crunched some numbers and came up with a list of actors and actresses who bring the biggest returns on a movie company's investment.

Natalie Portman is the most bankable actor in Hollywood. Based on some crazy equation involving the money she earned in comparison to the money spent to make her movies and the money those movies make at the box office, Portman's name earns movie companies a whopping $42.70 for every dollar they originally paid to Natalie Portman.

In the most basic translation, that means if they paid Portman only $1 million, the movie would still be likely to make almost $43 million.

That's the kind of math that leads to the perpetual overpaying of actors. Take, for instance, Eddie Murphy. Twenty or so years ago, Eddie was a big name with a big salary who earned gigantic returns. These days, Eddie isn't quite so famous, yet he still demands a large paycheck. For every dollar a company shells out to get his name on the cast list, he only brings in $2.30.

But enough about the undesirability of Eddie Murphy. On to the rest of the list!

The second most bankable actor was another young lady, one we all hate to love. According to Forbes, Kristen Stewart is a worthy investment. For every dollar Kristen Stewart is paid, she returns $40.60.Kristen and Rob at Breaking Dawn premiere

Stewart is in a rather unique situation, though. While Natalie Portman still makes a modest salary, Kristen Stewart is one of the highest-paid actresses this year.

For Kristen Stewart to be so bankable, her movies have to be really, really big hits. And they were... especially in the case of Twilight. According to Forbes, Stewart earned $25 million for her role in the last two Twilight movies. The films have grossed $3.3 billion and counting.

Rounding out the rest of the list are Shia LaBeouf (who earns $35.80 for every dollar he's paid), Robert Pattinson, who pulls in $31.70 per dollar paid, and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) who rakes in $30.50 for each dollar he makes.

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