Hollywood careers are built on smart (and not always obvious) choices. The two men who top our list of Hollywood’s highest-earning actors are living proof of that. While Johnny Depp topped our list last year with $75 million, Leonardo DiCaprio jumps from fifth to first place to beat Depp for the first time. Over the past year Depp earned $50 million to DiCaprio’s $77 million. Both actors have achieved wealth and fame by making some unusual choices with their careers.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio
$77 million Between Shutter Island and Inception, DiCaprio had an excellent 2010. Lately he’s mostly been in the press for dating Blake Lively. But later this year he’ll star in J. Edgar, a film about the famous FBI director. Clint Eastwood directs which means the film is already getting Oscar buzz.
2. Johnny Depp
$50 million Depp puts his own spin on every role and whether he’s voicing a chameleon or lurching around as Captain Jack Sparrow, his movies bring in the big bucks. Up next for Depp: a film version of the cult television show Dark Shadows directed by Tim Burton.
3. Adam Sandler
$40 million Sandler is one of the surest things in Hollywood. His films might not get a lot of love from critics but the ticket-buying public love him. His most recent film, Just Go With It gets an 18 on Rotten Tomatoes but earned $214 million at the global box office.
4. Will Smith
$36 million Lately, Smith has put his own career on the back burner in order to focus on his budding star children. He produced The Karate Kid which starred Jaden and is developing a remake of Annie for his daughter Willow. Smith will next star in Men in Black III slated for a May 2012 release.
5. Tom Hanks
$35 million Hanks’ latest film, Larry Crowne, was a bona fide flop earning less that $100 million. But the actor still pulls in plenty of money from voicing Woody in Toy Story. The third film was the highest-grossing animated movie of all time. Hanks will next star opposite Sandra Bullock in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
6. Ben Stiller
$34 million Stiller earns big bucks from franchises like Meet the Parents and Night at the Museum. His next film will be Tower Heist which features an ensemble cast that includes Eddie Murphy and Matthew Broderick. The film is about a bunch of ripped-off employees trying to rob a Bernie Madoff type.
7. Robert Downey Jr.
$31 million Thanks to huge hits like the Iron Man movies and Sherlock Holmes, Downey has officially left his troubled past behind to become a big movie star. The first Sherlock Holmes film earned an amazing $525 million. The sequel, which hits theaters this Christmas, could do even better.
8. Mark Wahlberg
$28 million The former underpants model isn’t just a movie star. He also produces a slew of popular television shows like Entourage, How to Make it in America and Boardwalk Empire. Entourage, which is in its final season, is now poised to become a movie. The show is loosely based on Wahlberg’s life in Hollywood.
9. Tim Allen
$22 million Allen makes our list this year mostly thanks to his work as the voice of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 3. But he also still earns from Home Improvement. Allen has a new show in the works called The Last Days of Man about “a married father of three trying to maintain his manliness in a world increasingly dominated by women.”
10. Tom Cruise
$22 million Cruise isn’t the movie star he once was but he still earns more than almost anyone else in Hollywood. A lot of that comes from residuals off of his older hits like Jerry McGuire and War of the Worlds but he also got a nice upfront payday for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol which hits theaters this winter.
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