Natalie Portman is having a moment. Last weekend she won a Golden Globe for her performance in "Black Swan." She's the star to beat for the Best Actress Oscar. Her tiny film has earned an impressive $76 million and she's pregnant and engaged to her "Black Swan" co-star.Actress
But it's going to take more than awards and a baby bump to actually move Portman into the stratosphere of Hollywood's highest-paid actresses alongside Angelina Jolie (who earned $20 million last year) and Sandra Bullock (who brought in $56 million). Portman's future earnings power depends more on her two upcoming comedies than on her chances at next month's Oscars.
That's because Hollywood is littered with female award winners whose box office appeal doesn't rise to the level of their critical praise. Halle Berry won Best Actress in 2001 for "Monster's Ball." Her only box office hits since then have been "X2: X-Men United" and "X-Men: The Last Stand," in which she was part of a large ensemble cast. Hilary Swank won in 2004 for "Million Dollar Baby." Since then she's starred in only one money-maker, "P.S. I Love You."
Despite starring in the three most recent Star Wars films, Portman is not one of Hollywood's highest-paid stars. George Lucas was a bigger star on those films than Portman, Ewan McGregor or Hayden Christensen. Outside of the Star Wars movies, Portman, who took time out to attend Harvard, has stuck mostly to smaller films. Her highest-grossing non-Star Wars film at the global box office was 2006's "V for Vendetta," which brought in $132 million.
Awards are nice and it certainly helps to market a movie if you can say it stars Oscar winner so-and-so. But it doesn't deliver the kind of salary bump as a big hit movie.
That's why films like "No Strings Attached" (which hits theaters this weekend) and "Your Highness" will have a bigger impact on Portman's future earnings potential. "No Strings," which co-stars Ashton Kutcher, is a romantic comedy about a pair of friends who try to add sex to their relationship without becoming a couple. According to Exhibitor Relations, the film is expected to top the box office this weekend with $21 million.
"Your Highness" is an odd-looking Medieval stoner flick which co-stars James Franco and Danny McBride.
Both films are the kinds of R-rated comedies that have the potential to be breakout hits. (They also have the potential to flop horribly.) If Portman's current buzz brings people to those movies, she'll become a much pricier package in Hollywood, where it's all about the opening weekend. Her paycheck could climb north of $10 million.
If she can't help those films perform, she'll likely stay in the ranks of low-earning actresses who do great work. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Portman has benefitted from some of her oddball choices and her passion for "Black Swan" certainly helped the film get made and earn the kudos and box office cash that it has brought in so far.
Oscar nominations will be announced January 25. The award show is scheduled for February 27. In addition to the Golden Globe, Portman was nominated for Best Actress by the Screen Actors Guild.
Watch an exclusive interview with Natalie Portman and the cast of "No Strings Attached":