The man who this year posts the highest earnings we’ve ever seen from an individual on the Top 50 Entertainers:Hugh Jackman.
In early April, American actor Brian Guest posted a short video on US comedy website Funny or Die. It opens with a young American actor hearing bad news from his agent – the part he was trying out for has been given to an Australian.
“An Australian? Again? They book every role,” says Guest’s character.
“You’re doing great work,” replies his unseen agent. “You’re just not Australian.”
The video was made after the traditional US “pilot season” saw an invasion of Aussie actors, from former members of BRW’s Top 50 Entertainers list such as Anthony LaPaglia and Melissa George, through to an army of rising stars trained on Australia’s soaps, such as Chris Egan and Lincoln Lewis.
That the visibility of Australian actors would become a Hollywood in-joke – albeit one apparently told through the gritted teeth of locals – indicates how well many of them did during the recent pilot season.
But the wider success of Australian actors is best highlighted by their dominance of the 2013 BRW Top 50 Entertainers list.
A stunning 24 actors appear on the list this year, compared with 18 last year; of this group, four make their first appearance on the list. And while names like Alex O’Loughlin, Yvonne Strahovski and Ryan Kwanten wouldn’t necessarily be considered well-known back home, their success in the world’s most important – and best paying – entertainment market has helped them post gross earnings of at least $1 million in the past 12 months.
Top of the list
Of course, that sort of money pales into insignificance when you consider the earnings of the undisputed leader of Australia’s Hollywood contingent and the man who this year posts the highest earnings we’ve ever seen from an individual on the Top 50 Entertainers:Hugh Jackman.
In an incredible 12-month period, Jackman posted estimated gross earnings of $46.8 million, more than double the second-placed member of the list, the children’s group The Wiggles, and well in front of Cate Blanchett, who takes third place on the list with earnings of $17.2 million.
Jackman’s earnings have increased almost five-fold since BRW’s 2012 list, where he made $9.8 million.
Not only does that make him a dominant force on the Top 50 Entertainers list, but it also makes him one of the best paid actors in the world.
In June, Forbes magazine named Jackman the third-highest paid male actor in the world, putting his earnings at $US55 million, just behind Robert Downey Jnr in first place with gross earnings of $US75 million.
It’s the sort of money that must be beyond the wildest dreams of an actor who started out on Australian television and didn’t really crack the big time of Hollywood until his first turn as the Wolverine back in 2000. But the cash has apparently left Jackman feeling a little squeamish.
“I’m a little embarrassed by it, and a little uncomfortable with it,” he told British publication The Times in September.
“But I struggle with it, and with what effect it will have on my kids, growing up in this situation. What is necessary? When does it become gluttony? And is there a point when you say: ‘That’s enough! Give the rest away!’”
Like the Forbes valuation, BRW’s more conservative earnings figure is based on Jackman’s work on three films: The Wolverine, and latest instalment of the X-Men series (where he also plays the Wolverine) and the newly released drama Prisoners. While Jackman’s action films bring in the really big pay cheques and box office dollars, it was last year’s Les Miserables that highlighted why Jackman is one of Hollywood’s most versatile and bankable stars.
The film, which cost $US61 million to make, earned $US438 million at the global box office, showed Jackman as the all-singing, all-dancing, all-acting “triple threat” who can carry any type of film or work on stage. The Oscar nomination for best actor was the icing on an impressive cake.
Unlike some stars, Jackman hasn’t filled his wallet with a multitude of endorsements; deals in the past few years include an ongoing relationship with German car maker Audi and a global advertising campaign for Lipton’s ice tea range.
But Hamish Pringle, a British marketing expert and the author of the book Celebrity Sells, says it’s Jackman’s versatility that makes him attractive to brands.
“Like David Beckham, who covers football, family and fashion, Jackman is a multi-talented individual and this flexibility means he can appeal to a wide range of brands.
“He would be particularly attractive to marketers if they were seeking to add his brand values to theirs.
“The most obvious of these are related to his Wolverine persona, so great for macho products like sports cars. But he’s also a top-level singer and dancer, and has played romantic leads as well as a superhero.”
Being Australian doesn’t hurt either, according to Pringle.
“Clearly it makes him a shoo-in for local brands, but his global reach could be of great value to those of them with international markets in their sights.”
Jackman is clearly a man who carefully manages his brand.
He’s legendary for his nice-guy persona, regularly hosts charitable events – the latest, a gala performance of his one-man show on his 45th birthday raised $US1.85 million for the Motion Picture & Television Fund – and even has a coffee company called Laughing Man which donates its profits to charity.
Pringle says it’s a smart strategy.
“Because consumers are cynical and, rightly, know that stars give endorsements for the money, it’s essential that Jackman does nothing to devalue his personal brand by associating himself with a product or service brand where there’s no real fit.”
“A big consideration for Jackman in choosing which brands to link with is the direction he wants to go professionally. Does he want to do more singing and dancing? Should he try comedy? Or is action the main chance? Having decided his management can go looking for the right brand to partner with.”
Just don’t expect Jackman to be seen to chasing deals too aggressively. When asked by The Times whether he’s reached the point of having too much money he replied: “Oh, I’ve got more than I need, for sure. There’s no doubt.”