Hollywood stars like your Tom Cruises and your Samuel L Jacksons are ten-a-penny these days – you can’t leave the house without seeing their faces plastered on bus stops and the sides of buildings.
What of the actors who have achieved great success but receive no recognition for their work? Why, that bloke you were queing behind in Waitrose could have been one of these guys – the 10 highest-grossing movie stars you’ve never heard of…
Totals converted from domestic box-office figures
Total box-office: £4.46 billion
Welker isn’t just the highest-grossing movie star you’ve never heard of – he’s the highest-grossing movie star full stop. A man of a thousand voices – almost literally: he has 734 credits to his name and counting –Frank Welker has been creating character voices since 1969.
His first famous role was Fred in ‘Scooby-Doo’, but since then, Welker has also voiced Iceman, various Gremlins, The Joker, Barney Rubble, Dr Claw in ‘Inspector Gadget’, Totoro, Slimer, loads of Smurfs, Kermit the Frog (in ‘Muppet Babies’), Abu in ‘Aladdin’, Curious George, King Kong (completing a monkey hat-trick), Garfield, Nibbler in ‘Futurama’ and only the bloody anaconda in ‘Anaconda’.
He’s best known, however, for giving Megatron that shrill robotic voice that served him so well in the animated ‘Transformers’ series. Not bad, Frank. Not bad.
Total box-office: £3.25 billion
Bob Bergen has made a mint by being one of Disney’s most loved voiceover artists, combining with them on Pixar features including ‘WALL-E’, the ‘Toy Story’ movies and ‘Monsters, Inc.’. He’s also crossed the animation divide, voicing several Looney Tunes characters like Porky Pig.
As well as all that, Bergen had the honour of voicing Luke Skywalker in all associated ‘Star Wars’ videogame/merchandising spin-offs, but he’s most famous for providing the purrs and the growls of Gizmo in ‘Gremlins’ (in which he was incorrectly credited as ‘Bob Berger’).
Total box-office: £2.54 billion
Precious few Disney products have plopped off the production line without the input of Jack Angel – sounds like a no-nonsense London copper, actually he’s a voiceover artist who’s been rocking the mic for over 40 years.
He’s played Shark, Rocky and Chunk across the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy and was the voice of Teddy in Steven Spielberg’s ‘A.I. Artificial Intelligence’ opposite Haley Joel Osment. Not many people can say they’ve played Dennis the Menace and Nick Fury but Angel is one of them.
Most recently, Angel lent his voice to, er, a rock, in Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’, boosting his box-office total considerably.
Total box-office: £2.5 billion
Voiceover isn’t just a man’s game – Mickie McGowan has been putting words in women’s mouths for decades. A close association with Pixar has seen her box-office take grow over the years (she’s the 15th highest-grossing movie star ever, one spot behind Eddie Murphy) and you can hear her in the likes of ‘Monsters, Inc.’, ‘A Bug’s Life’, ‘Up’ and the ‘Toy Story’ movies.
When she provided additional voices for ‘Despicable Me 2’, it added a sweet £243 million to her total. Fascinating Mickey fact: she provided ADR for Steven Seagal’s seminal 1990 thriller, ‘Marked For Death’.
Total box-office: £1.75 billion
Heir to a pizza fortune? Not quite – Michael Papajohn trails Julia Roberts in the list of highest-grossing actors by just one million dollars and he got there all without the aid of easy-peasy voiceover work, too.
Would you recognise him in the queue for the loo? Probably not, but Papajohn – who could have been a Robert De Niro lookalike in another life – has played named roles in movies as diverse as ‘Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen’, Ben Kingsley drama ‘House Of Sand And Fog’ and Adam Sandler comedy ‘The Longest Yard’ (playing Guard Papajohn, which was surely no coincidence).
Want to know why his face is bugging you? He was the carjacker who shot dead Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy. There he is!
Total box-office: £1.68 billion
A little person’s work is never done in Hollywood – there’s no shortage (no pun intended) of offers for actors of Martin Klebba’s size.
His most high profile role was serving under Captain Jack Sparrow as Black Pearl crewmate Marty in the ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ trilogy, but he also popped up in ‘Movie 43’, ‘Van Helsing’, ‘Hancock’ and as a rebel munchkin in ‘Oz The Great And Powerful’.
Interestingly, he’s playing murderous doll Chucky in Seth MacFarlane’s forthcoming sequel to ‘Ted’, which knocks spots off one of his most recent credits: ‘Angry Little Person’ in ‘Project X’.
Total box-office: £1.66 billion
Clint Howard is an example of Hollywood nepotism in action. Though he’s an actor of no small repute, there’s little chance Clint Howard would be making this list were it not for the fortunes of his brother Ron Howard, who has used Clint in almost all of his movies (including ‘The Grinch’, ‘Apollo 13’ and ‘Frost/Nixon’) as a sort of good luck charm.
A child actor who was once surprised to find out first hand that Walt Disney knew his name, Howard graduated through Troma movies to go on to play a variety of oddballs, including ‘Johnson’ in the ‘Austin Powers’ movies. “Acting is a great gig,” says Howard. “It pays well, I get to meet some nice people and it allows me to play a lot of golf. I’m a real lucky guy.”
Total box-office: £1.62 billion
Ellis is a quintessential ‘that guy’ actor – a face but not a name you frequently see popping up in small roles in big movies.
He’s worked solidly since the 90s – maybe you remember him as J.T. In ‘My Cousin Vinny’ or as Grant in ‘Con Air’ – and has worked for directors including Michael Bay (‘Transformers’), Steven Spielberg (‘Catch Me If You Can’) and Christopher Nolan (‘The Dark Knight Rises’) – usually as a cop.
However, nothing can top ‘Crimson Tide’ for his most hilarious credit – ‘Additional Magician’.
Omotola Jalade Ekeinde
Total box-office: Unknown
We’ll wager not only have you not heard of Omotola Jalade Ekeinde – or ‘Omosexy’ as her fans call her – but we reckon you probably haven’t even heard of the industry she spearheads: Nollywood.
Yes, that’s Nigeria’s version Hollywood, in which Omosexy dominates – she has over 300 film credits to her name (although most go straight to video). In her homeland she’s like a cross between Oprah Winfrey and Kim Kardashian, with her own reality TV series following her and her family.
Though it’s nigh on impossible to determine what her box-office total is, given that the Nigerian film industry is mostly one that distributes through market stalls and street corners, it is estimated to be worth upwards of £320 million a year – and Omosexy is a Nollywood cornerstone.
Shah Rukh Khan
Total box-office: Unknown
Like Omosexy, Shah Rukh Khan has been making a killing in movies by routinely ignoring Hollywood – he’s one of Bollywood’s biggest stars and has amassed a personal fortune of almost £400 million, just behind Jerry Seinfeld on the rich list and just ahead of Tom Cruise.
Star of movies like ‘My Name Is Khan’, ‘Chennai Express’ and ‘Ra.One’, Khan is happy to keep doing things his way and isn’t interested in the bright lights of America: “I wouldn’t just get into an international film because it’s international. I am extremely happy making a Hindi film which God willing will be accepted by the whole world.”
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