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Angelina Jolie, a less conventional Forbes chart-topper

August 01, 2013|By Mark Olsen
  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrive at the red carpet for the "World War Z" German premiere in Berlin.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrive at the red carpet for the "World… (Andreas Rentz )

In case you were unaware, Angelina Jolie is famous. Like, really famous. So in one sense it's perfectly logical that she would top the most recent Forbes list for highest-paid actresses, with earnings of $33 million over the last year, according to a report from the magazine earlier this week.

The Guardian broke down that number to include a $10-million contract with Louis Vuitton and a $15-million salary for her upcoming role as the evil stepmother in a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty tale, “Maleficent,” scheduled for release next year.

But Jolie is also different from many of the popular performers who top that list, having not appeared in a film since 2010’s “The Tourist.” Jolie hasn’t exactly been doing the things a movie star is expected to do. Like star in movies.

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Jolie seems determined to forge her own path, which makes her one of the least conventional actresses to top the earners list in a long while.

Much of her time, after all, is spent doing work on behalf of the United Nations. When she does turn to movies, she's increasingly focused on directing projects. Following her 2011 feature debut, the Bosnian War drama “In the Land of Blood and Honey” – nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of best foreign language film – she will next be directing “Unbroken,” the story of Olympic runner and World War II POW Louis Zamperini, from a screenplay adapted by Joel And Ethan Coen.

By comparison, Jennifer Lawrence, No. 2 on the Forbes list with $26 million, has recently acted in  both the “Hunger Games” and “X-Men” franchises and picked up an Oscar for “The Silver Linings Playbook.” Kristen Stewart, No. 3 with $22 million, saw the “Twilight” series wrap up. Jennifer Aniston, Jolie's foil in tabloid narratives, earned $20 million while Emma Stone brought in an estimated $16 million, each acting in a plethora of movies over the last few years.

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On the male side, Robert Downey Jr., named to the top spot a few weeks ago, has regularly had a big springtime movie -- "The Avengers" last year, "Iron Man 3" this year, "The Avengers 2" next year.

Jolie? She's best known in 2013 for a very different kind of role--as a poster child for preventive surgery, after her headline-grabbing announcement that she had undergone a double mastectomy as a means of heading off breast cancer. 

In some ways the career Jolie’s might currently be most similar to is that of her partner Brad Pitt, who does a lot of humanitarian work as well and also seems increasingly interested in recent years in a role behind the camera, as a producer. (Though Pitt does often act in a couple of movies each year. The actor, incidentally, did not make Forbes’ recent list of top 10 earning actors, which means he made less than No. 10 Liam Neeson’s $32 million. Slacker.)

Since Jolie and Pitt became one of the world’s most famous couples in the wake of the blockbuster success of 2005’s “Mr. And Mrs. Smith” – an action-movie satire that’s also a sharp treatise on modern marriage – the two have seemed determined and increasingly savvy in using their outsized celebrity to their own ends. It hasn't stopped them from raking it in, Forbes-style. But what’s the point in being mega-famous and super-rich if you can’t do what you want? 


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Follow Mark Olsen on Twitter: @IndieFocus


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