Is Nicole Kidman Really Overpaid?

This may sound like an absurd statement, but it's kind of tough being Nicole Kidman.

Last week, Forbes named her the most overpaid celebrity in Hollywood (click here to see the formula), citing her inability to draw big crowds to flops like Invasion and The Golden Compass. It's hard to argue with the math, but I do take issue with Kidman being saddled with this title. Personally, I think Heidi Montag being paid any money for her alleged "talents" makes her a million times more overpaid than Kidman.

It never seems fair to simplify the value of an artist or entertainer into mere mathematical terms. The films that have the biggest impact on our culture aren't always the ones that make the biggest bucks at the box office. And although Nicole Kidman's films don't make tons of money, many of them wouldn't be expected to -- if it weren't for the fact that Nicole Kidman was in them.

For the past eight years, Kidman's celebrity status has earned her paychecks that are in complete disproportion to the types of roles she has played. Before her divorce from Tom Cruise, Kidman seemed happy to remain the less famous half of that super-couple. She often favored roles in smaller, edgier fare like To Die For, staying out of the spotlight while her hubby basked in his superstardom. But then their surprise split in 2001 made her the object of the world's sympathy. Nicole was suddenly the most famous woman in the world, whether she wanted to be or not.

It's not shocking, then, that two of her biggest commercial successes, Moulin Rouge and The Others, came in the summer of 2001, immediately following the divorce. Both of these films were critically acclaimed, but Kidman was the biggest star in them. It's hard to believe that either the extravagant, offbeat musical or the creepy, intelligent thriller would've drawn such big crowds if Kidman hadn't been such an object of public fascination at the time of their release.

Following her big year in 2001, Kidman achieved the dream of every Hollywood actor. She began to earn blockbuster money for films that challenged her inner thespian. She won an Oscar for playing Virginia Woolf in The Hours, a highbrow literary adaptation that bored mainstream audiences.

But soon after, more sensational tabloid darlings like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan began to emerge, and the public lost interest in the former Mrs. Tom Cruise. (Apparently, she didn't need our sympathy anymore after marrying hunky country singer Keith Urban). She made a few commercial flops like Bewitched and The Stepford Wives, but remained in the good graces of critics with strong performances in movies like Margot at the Wedding. Unfortunately, the good people at Forbes caught on to the fact that something wasn't lining up right between her paychecks and her box office returns.

I kind of wish they'd let her get away with it. Kidman's film choices show she is an actress first, and a celebrity second (notice how there wasn't a photo spread of her new baby in People?) and you can't say that about many of the other stars who make the kind of money she earns. I'd love for Australia, her reunion with Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann, to be a big enough hit to restore everyone's confidence in Nicole Kidman.

Forbes may call her overpaid, but I still think she works hard for the money.