Casting movies is a complicated process. Casting directors are generally in charge of filling out the cast for a film, though writers and directors may have an idea about who could best play a role. Sometimes producers or the financiers of the movie may demand to choose the lead actors, and their choice is often based on bankability.
The past few years in Hollywood may be characterized as the age of record-breaking superhero blockbusters. A few actors have been cast in these massive productions and are now among the box office greats. Yet, a bigger group of actors who don’t necessarily star in franchise movies still draw the most people to theaters.
To determine the most bankable actor of the 21st century, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on average box office for roughly 8,000 actors. Actors were ranked based on the average domestic box office per film in which they received the lead star credit, according to credit data from the Internet Movie Database. Animated films, sequels and franchise films were excluded from the average box office calculation.
Nine of the most bankable actors on the finalist list are women, one of them only recently retired. Almost half the finalists have been cast as the lead in at least three motion pictures over the past decade that have grossed more than $100 million in the United States alone.
The actors on the finalist list are among the most popular names in the entertainment business right now. Their path to becoming one of the main reasons people pay for a ticket at a movie theater had to start somewhere.
In determining the most bankable actor, data on domestic box office came from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and film industry data site The Numbers.
The only actors considered had at least five lead acting roles throughout their careers and have starred in at least one movie since 2011 that grossed at least $100 million. Actors were also excluded from consideration if more than half of their lead film roles were in sequels to their own movies.
Only films with at least 25,000 reviews on IMDb were included in the analysis.
Leonardo DiCaprio is the most bankable star of the 21st century. Some details:
> Avg. domestic box office per film as lead actor: $129 million (total: $2.4 billion)
> Movies that grossed $100+ million as lead actor: four since 2011 (total movies as lead actor: 19)
> Avg. box office return per $1 invested in production: $1.40
> Film with highest dollar return per dollar spent as lead actor: “Titanic” (1997) ($3.30)
> Film with lowest dollar return per dollar spent as lead actor: “Revolutionary Road” (2008) ($0.51)
> Highest grossing film as lead actor: “Titanic” (1997) ($659,363,944)
> Lowest grossing film: “The Basketball Diaries” (1995) ($2,420,000)
> Avg. IMDB rating of movies as lead actor: 7.6 out of 10
> Most recent film as lead actor: “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” (2019)