The Highest-Paid Oscar Nominee

This year's Oscar nominees have all earned prestige, but some of them already have plenty of cash, as well

Denzel Washington.
Denzel Washington.

Five of the stars nominated in the acting categories have appeared on FORBES' rankings of highest-paid entertainers. Together, they have earned a combined $640 million pretax.

Leading the pack is Denzel Washington, who is nominated for Best Actor in the August Wilson play-adaptation Fences. Washington has banked more than $290 million pretax since FORBES first tallied his earnings in 2003, thanks to action movies such as American Gangster, Man on Fire and The Equalizer. When leading man paychecks--around $20 million a flick for Washington--for movies dating back to the 90s are considered, Washington's career payday is far higher.

“As a custodian of August Wilson’s estate, in terms of his plays, it’s important for me to promote Fences to the hilt,” Washington told the New York Times. “Not for me to win an award, but for it to be as successful on every level so that we can make the rest of them, you know? No business, no show.”

The 62-year-old actor is a rare example of a sustained career filled with movies that have pleased critics and audiences alike. His films have grossed over $3.7 billion at the global box office, but he has also nabbed eight Oscar nominations--and won two awards.

His earnings haul is nearly double the next closest: Nicole Kidman, who has pocketed more than $150 million pretax since 2002 from movies such as The Stepford Wives, The Golden Compass and Australia. She has not appeared on our list of top-earning actresses since 2010, when her earnings dropped below the cutoff for the ranking. But if her paychecks since then are included, her career cash inches up even more.

Kidman, 49, is nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role with Lion, marking her fourth Oscar nomination. She took home a statuette in 2002 for The Hours.

To compile data on the top-earning Oscar nominees, we looked at historical pretax figures previously published by Forbes. We only considered nominees in the four acting categories; directors and producers were not eligible. Actors for whom we have yet to compile earnings estimates, such as Casey Affleck and Octavia Spencer, were not included.

Meryl Streep is already the most-nominated actor ever at the Oscars, with 20 nods to her name. If she wins this year for Florence Foster Jenkins, Streep will tie Katharine Hepburn's tally of four wins--the most by an actress.

If she doesn't take home the award, she will hardly be empty handed. In the years since Forbes began counting her pennies, Streep, 67, has earned $110 million pretax; the overall haul from her lengthy career is even more.

Among the younger nominees, Natalie Portman, 35, comes out on top with more than $50 million in earnings since 2011, when movies such as Black Swan and Thor boosted her upfront pay.

Still, considering that movies she has starred in have grossed $4.7 billion worldwide according to Box Office Mojo, her career cumulative is modest. That is due, in part, to the pay disparity that plagues Hollywood.

Portman told Mare Claire that she was paid three times less than co-star Ashton Kutcher for 2011 rom-com No Strings Attached. "I knew and I went along with it because there’s this thing with 'quotes' in Hollywood… His [quote] was three times higher than mine so they said he should get three times more," she explained. "We get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy."

Considering that on No Strings Attached she likely earned below $2 million on a $25 million budget movie that grossed $149.3 million, one can see her point.

Her total still edges Emma Stone, who has made more than $40 million pretax since 2012 by balancing artful indies such as Birdman with commercial fare like The Amazing Spider-Man. It's an impressive total for the 28-year-old, who is nominated for Best Actress with movie musical La La Land. The nomination marks her second nod from the Academy; she was previously recognized for Best Supporting Actress in Birdman, but did not win.

It remains to be seen who will take home the gold statuettes, but these nominees are smiling all the way to the bank.

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