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It’s hard to believe it now but just 10 years ago, Robert Downey Jr . was the equivalent of poison ivy in Hollywood — no one wanted to touch...

It’s hard to believe it now but just 10 years ago, Robert Downey Jr. was the equivalent of poison ivy in Hollywood — no one wanted to touch him. His struggles with drugs and alcohol had made him unreliable (and uninsurable )and most studios saw him as just too big of a risk.

Then in 2005 he starred in the little-seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang opposite Val Kilmer. Although the movie failed to make an impression at the box office (it only ever opened in eight theaters), the right people saw it. It showed that Downey had gotten well enough to anchor a film and that he still had all of the charm and wit that Hollywood had fallen in love with in the ’80s. Marvel soon decided to take a risk on Downey and cast him as Iron Man for its 2008 movie. The rest is history.

Marvel has been accused of being stingy when it comes to paying the stars of its blockbuster superhero movies. But the studio (owned by Disney) is plenty generous when it comes to Downey. As Iron Man, he's been the driving force behind four of Marvel's biggest hits, including "The Avengers" which is the third highest-grossing movie of all time. He played hard to get with the upcoming "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and was rewarded with a big pay hike. Most of Downey's money this year comes from the backend of "Iron Man 3" which was the highest-grossing movie of 2013 with $1.2 billion in box office revenue.
Robert Downey Jr. is the highest ranked actor on the Celebrity 100.
Marvel, now owned by Disney, has raked in almost $4 billion from movies featuring Iron Man. We estimate Downey earned $75 million between June 2013 and June 2014. He ranks 10th on our overall list, making him the most powerful actor on the Celebrity 100. Along with plenty of press mentions and a new social media presence, Downey is having a wider impact on Hollywood, using his fame to help get smaller movies made. Jon Favreau directed the first two Iron Man movies (and appears in all three). So when he wanted do the small, intensely personal film Chef, Downey agreed to a showy cameo and then happily helped promote the film. As a result, Chef is one of the best performing indies of the year. So far the film has grossed $17 million.

Full Coverage: The 100 Most Powerful Celebrities

The second highest-ranked actor on our list, in 23rd place, is Dwayne Johnson. The former wrestler built a reputation as a franchise saver by helping to turn around struggling series like Fast and Furious, Journey to the Center of the Earth and G.I. Joe. Now he’s proving himself as a headliner with this summer’s Hercules and the earthquake film San Andreas, which hits theaters next summer. Johnson is also expanding his TV universe with a second reality show, Wake Up Call, and a half hour comedy series, Ballers, for HBO.

Bradley Cooper is new to the Celebrity 100 but he ranks as the third most powerful actor this year in 48th place with an estimated $46 million in earnings. By combining a big popular comedy franchise, The Hangover, with small but profitable Oscar bait, Cooper is reeling it in at the box office. You’ll hear but not see him the upcoming Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy, where he voices the tough-talking Rocket Racoon.

Last year’s most powerful actor, Hugh Jackman, drops to the 63rd spot on our Celebrity 100 with $18 million in pay. Consider it a brief hiatus for Jackman. His latest movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, is the franchise’s biggest hit, bringing in $700 million so far. Jackman will get a nice share of the film’s profits applied to his earnings next year.
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