34-year-old in the upper half of our list.
Morgan Freeman: With more than 80 film and television credits to his name, Morgan Freeman is one of Tinseltown’s most revered and marketable talents. In addition to garnering four Oscar nominations, he won an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his performance in Million Dollar Baby, the 2005 Clint Eastwood film that also won an Oscar for best picture. Known for his acting prowess, Freeman has gained a reputation as a perennial box-office draw. When The Bucket List, the film in which he co-stars with Jack Nicholson, gained wide release in January, it opened No. 1 at the box office and earned $19.4 million its first weekend. Expect Freeman to score more kudos and big returns at the box office with upcoming projects such as The Code with Antonio Banderas and the next installment in the Batman series, The Dark Knight.
Chris Tucker: Funnyman Chris Tucker’s first major turn at the multiplex was alongside Ice Cube in the 1995 cult classic Friday. Tucker, however, is best known as Detective James Carter in New Line Cinema’s Rush Hour franchise. The first two films hit screens in 1998 and 2001 and grossed more than $591 million in box office receipts worldwide. And though it took the Atlanta native six years, last summer he returned to the silver screen with a vengeance. Tucker’s return engagement with co-star Jackie Chan in Rush Hour 3 earned him a reported $25 million paycheck plus a percentage of the back end for his work in the action-comedy movie. The film, budgeted at $140 million, opened No. 1 at the box office with $49.1 million and went on to gross more than $250 million worldwide.
Djimon Hounsou: Hailing from the Wes
t African country of Benin, Djimon Hounsou jump-started his big-screen career in the role of the dignified, rebellious slave Cinque in 1998’s Amistad, directed by Hollywood icon Steven Spielberg, for which the former Thierry Mugler model earned a Golden Globe nomination. Since then, Hounsou has garnered more high-powered roles and critical acclaim. In 2004 he earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor for In America and a second Oscar nomination in 2007 for best supporting actor for his role as a Mende fisherman in Blood Diamond. Hounsou was named the new Calvin Klein underwear model last year, and his upcoming movie projects include Never Back Down and Push.
Forest Whitaker: Forest Whitaker has royal talent. His role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland earned him numerous awards, including a Golden Globe and an Oscar for best actor in 2007, making him one of four black men to capture the prize in the Academy’s 80-year history. The film, produced on a shoestring budget of $6 million, generated $48 million worldwide. Although most of his films are not blockbusters, the prolific Whittaker is often selected, even invited, to work on top-caliber projects across genres and mediums.
Byron Allen: Byron Allen remains a steady player in the entertainment industry.