If money is power, these actresses are superheroes

Forbes’ lists of powerful women usually are fairly predictable, topped (in every sense) by Angelina Jolie.

But last week, Forbes published its annual list that reveals another side to power: ROI. And the top 10 actresses who provide the best return on a film company’s investment may surprise you.

At No. 1 is Australian actress Naomi Watts.

Watts’ most recent movie, The International, was a suspenseful thriller, to be sure, but it was only a modest box office success. Watts, however, gets less than $5 million a film — and earned the studio about $44 for every $1 she was paid on her last three major movies.

Second is Jennifer Connelly.

Although He’s Just Not That Into You was fairly cliché, IMO, the studio convinced its stars to take a pay cut to be in the movie. It made $177 million. Average that with Connelly’s roles in Blood Diamond and The Day the Earth Stood Still and she earns about $41 for every $1 she’s paid.

Rachel McAdams of The Time Traveler’s Wife is next, earning $30 for every $1 paid.

If December’s Sherlock Holmes is as good as I hope, McAdams may earn her way to No. 1.

Natalie Portman may be less of a surprise, since her Star Wars movies made a mint at the box office. But Portman herself does not command a high salary (yet) and earns $28 for every $1 she’s paid.

No. 5, Meryl Streep, draws a bigger paycheck than the other women on this list, but her movies are almost guaranteed to be hits. Mamma Mia made $610 million and Julie & Julia probably will make even more. The Mighty Meryl earns moviemakers $27 for every $1 she’s paid.

Rounding out the list:

Jennifer Aniston — $27/$1

Halle Berry — $23/$1

Cate Blanchett — $23/$1

Anne Hathaway — $23/$1

Hilary Swank — $23/$1

Happily, many of these women have played lesbian/bisexual roles — Watts in Mulholland Dr., Connelly in Higher Learning, Portman in Black Swan (if they keep the lesbian content), Streep in The Hours, Aniston on Dirt, Swank in Boys Don’t Cry — and all are LGBT friendly. And when gay friendly stars have successful careers, we get a little closer to being accepted by the rest of the world.

Now, if only I could figure out how to buy a share of Meryl.

What do you think of this list? What women deserve more money for their success at the box office? Who are you surprised not to see?

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