How to be one of the highest grossing actors in Hollywood

So you’ve seen the highest grossing actors list, dollar signs have fluttered like birds around your punch-drunk noggin, and you’ve realised that with your unique acting chops, winning charisma and burning lust for fame, you too could become a bona-fide Forbes listed gold magnet in Hollywood’s perpetually booming movie machine. Your parents always told you that anything was possible, and they were right, but here are a few pointers to keep in mind when you’re aiming to shoot for the stars:

Start out sporty and don’t ever give up on your six pack. Without a doubt, action heroes are the biggest money-makers, and revealing your innards like Thor doesn’t happen over night. Aside from vigorously hitting the gym, finding an exhilarating passion is probably a good idea: Chris Hemsworth has a lifetime love of surfing [1], Dwayne Johnson wrestled since childhood, rising to fame as WWE nutcase ‘The Rock’, and the late Paul Walker started every morning with a few hours of Brazilian jiu jitsu [2]. Even the oldies have athletic backgrounds; John Goodman won a football scholarship to university, Billy Crystal obsessed over baseball and Steve Carrell has always had a knack for ice hockey.

Have a flexible approach to the law. Nobody ever became somebody without breaking a few rules along the way. At least, that’s what you might believe with a glance over Robert Downey Jr.’s criminal record. Between 1996 and 2001 Downey was in and out of clinics and jail so many times celebrity magazines got tired of writing about it. Well, almost. It was a temporary little dent in his career arc but then his prospects and salary shot through the roof. Besides, everybody knows, when you’re a celebrity, you’re practically untouchable.

Be well rounded and don’t rule out extra-curricular hobbies. You should never take your acting career too seriously. Make sure you’ve got time for a few hobbies on the side; it might be the difference between Mark Sinclair Vincent and ‘Vin Diesel’. No, seriously, the big guy earned his name cracking skulls [3] as a bouncer. That might make him sound all tough but he’s a geek at heart, a well-documented fan of Dungeons and Dragons, even contributing a foreword to a 30th anniversary commemorative book on the subject. Paul Walker was a genuine car enthusiast with an extensive collection and look where that got him. (Obviously the Fast and Furious franchise, not the burning Porsche [4].) And if you’re after something a little more affordable than buying up sports cars, Sandra Bullock loves to remodel and renovate houses [5]…

Remember, a rebound from drugs is better than no drugs at all. Although Robert Downey Jr. saw jail time for his intimacy with narcotic substances, his bad boy turned good act has netted him the privilege of Hollywood’s highest-paid actor [6]. Meanwhile, John Goodman is a self-confessed alcoholic [7] whose triumphant return to sobriety has seen his career rebound and Dwayne Johnson has admitted pumping himself up a tad with anabolic steroids in his early days of college football [8], but still went on to take the crown for highest grossing actor this year [9].

Make friends with Marky Mark Wahlberg. Why not? I would. No Pain No Gain. [10] And the guy’s clearly well connected…

Keep your Saturday nights free for a booking from Saturday Night Live. A little screen time on the popular comedy sketch show didn’t do anybody any harm. On the contrary, it’s often a springboard, the Hollywood equivalent of Boris Johnson scoring a seat on Have I Got News For You. Billy Crystal was scheduled to perform on the very first episode ever back in 1975, and although his sketch was cut, he later joined the regular cast. Downey Jr was also recruited for the cast in 1985 but was soon replaced. Steve Carrell starred in 15 episodes of the show, and John Goodman has hosted it 13 times. Lately even Jennifer Lawrence has been getting in on the action, hosting an episode for the first time this year.

Think of the children (but not too much). Kids movies are a staple career choice of the top 10. Whether you’re flexing your vocal chords cavorting in animated adventures like Monsters University (Goodman and Crystal) or Despicable Me (Steve Carrell), or humiliating yourself with nappies and baby bottles in the name of ‘family fun’ like Vin Diesel (The Pacifier), the teeny boppers of today are the teenagers of tomorrow and they’ll flock to cinemas just because your name is on the bill. As evidence, the PG-13 rating bracket is the most profitable in cinema… [11]

Don’t retire early. There are two sexagenarians in the top ten, Billy Crystal, 65, and John Goodman, 61, definitive proof that miracles do happen it’s never too late. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Always plump for the franchise. When those scripts do start landing on your desk, sift through and dig out all the titles that might wind up with a number after their name. If it’s a comic adaptation, even better, whack it on your shortlist. Don’t be afraid to typecast yourself, it’s cool these days, all the high rollers are typecast: Chris Hemsworth – tank; Vin Diesel – tank; The Rock – tank; John Goodman – funny fat tank; Downey Jr – equivalent of a flying tank; you get the idea. Most films are sequels, so find yourself a high paying rut to get stuck in to.

It’s a man’s world, but not exclusively. Although your chances are better if you’re a bloke (8 out of the top 10 are), a shining starlet can make the cut too with the right starring vehicle. Jennifer Lawrence found setting herself on fire as Katniss in The Hunger Games drew enough attention, Sandra Bullock decided anti-gravity acrobatics with George Clooney was more her thing. Find what works for you.

Alternatively, you could get good at acting. At least four or five on the list have given serious acting a shot in the past, and those who haven’t have no doubt spent some time trying. Seeing what Hollywood relentlessly churns out though, maybe the immortal words of this year’s highest grossing Hollywood hunk, The Rock, are quite right: “It doesn’t matter”…! [12]