American pop culture seems to permeate every aspect of society. From our news cycle to our Twitter feeds, Hollywood appears very much universal. But in fact, other countries across the world have their own pop cultural icons, followed in every way as obsessively as Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston are in America. Bollywood, Korean K-dramas, Nollywood in Nigeria, and Chinese and Japanese film all enjoy widespread popularity, and their stars are as widely followed and as well-paid as their Hollywood counterparts. China’s Angelababy, for example, has been described as the “Kim Kardashian of China.” Her wedding to Chinese actor Xiaoming Huang cost a reported $31 million. The ceremony was held at the Shanghai Exhibition Center and featured a holographic castle, a ten-foot carousel shaped cake, and extravagant goodie bags for their 2,000 some guests, including a mobile phone.
Some foreign stars, like Jackie Chan or Sofia Vergara, made their millions in Hollywood and have become as iconic in America as in their native countries. Other stars have reached the status of legends at home, but remain relatively unknown in other parts of the world. Behold the staggering wealth of 15 of the best paid foreign actors across the world.
15. Hyun Bin (South Korea)
Hyun Bin is an extremely popular young actor in the K-drama world and is estimated to be paid an impressive $83,900 per episode, which puts him securely in the very top bracket of highest paid K-drama actors. His accumulated net worth is estimated to be somewhere around the $2 million mark. K-dramas are South Korean television series, most often broadcast in a miniseries format. Hyun Bin is probably best known for his roles in the drama series My Name is Kim Sam-soon, which shot him to stardom in 2005, and Secret Garden in 2010. In 2011 he began serving his 21 months of compulsory military service and was discharged in 2012 with a citation for being an exemplary soldier. Hyun Bin has won various Popularity Awards in addition to winning the MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation) Top Excellence Award for My Name is Kim Sam-soon and the SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) Top Excellence Award for Secret Garden.
14. Ji-Hyun Jun (South Korea)
Ji-Hyun Jun, also known as Gianna Jun, is far and away one of the most popular Korean stars today. Her most iconic role was as “The Girl” in 2001’s My Sassy Girl, which was one of the highest-grossing Korean comedies of all time and incredibly well all over Asia. She started her career as a model for Ecole Magazine and made her film debut in 1999 in the film White Valentine, which was not a huge success in the box office. Though she is close to legendary in Korea, she made her Hollywood debut in 2009 as Saya, in the film Blood: The Last Vampire, and has acted in other English-language films, including Snow Flower and the Secret Fan with Li Bingbing. Today she is able to command one of the highest salaries in K-dramas, earning an approximate $83,500 per episode.
13. Kareena Kapoor Khan (India)
Kareena Kapoor, also known by her married name, Kareena Kapoor Khan, is one of the most highly sought after (and highly paid) actresses in Bollywood cinema. She was born in Bombay, Mumbai, in 1980 and is the younger sister of fellow Bollywood actress, Karisma Kapoor. She began her career in the 2000 film Refugee, set during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war, about a man who illegally transports refugees across the borders. The film won Kapoor critical acclaim and she continued to impress audiences and critics alike over the years. She became known for her roles in the films Asoka and the extremely well-received melodrama Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Her fame and success now allow her to charge around 8 crore rupees per film, which is equal to around $1.2 million. Her accumulated net worth is estimated to be around $6 million.
12. Deepika Padukone (India)
Thirty-year-old Deepika Padukone is known to be one of the most popular and attractive personalities in India, which explains the incredibly high fees she charges for appearing in films. The Indian actress was actually born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and raised in Bangalore. In her young life, she wanted to follow the footsteps of her father, who was a professional badminton player, and focused all of her energy on the game. Eventually, she decided to switch focus and become a fashion model when she was in the tenth grade. She first gained Bollywood fame with her starring role in the blockbuster film, Om Shanti Om in 2007. After a series of flops, Padukone’s career got a bit of a reboot in 2012 with the film Cocktail, which earned her glowing reviews. She’s been consistently lauded for her acting since then. Most estimates state that she currently earns around 8-9 crore rupees (or around $1.2 to $1.3 million) per film, but India Today recently reported that she’s upping her fee to 15 crore rupees, or $2.25 million, per film.
11. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (India)
Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful women in the world, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is one of Bollywood’s most well-known leading ladies, famous for her striking blue-green eyes. Born in Mangalore, India, to a traditional South Indian family, Rai got her start, as many young actresses do, as a model. She first became famous for a Pepsi ad in which her one line, “Hi, I’m Sanjana,” won her instant recognition. She began acting in films in 1997, but her big dramatic breakthrough came in 2000 with the film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. She is best known for the films Devdas, Bride and Prejudice, and Jodhaa Akbar and has worked in films outside of Bollywood, including Hollywood films like Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin. She has amassed a fortune of $35 million, and remains one of the highest paid and most significant Bollywood actresses of today.
10. Nicholas Tse (China)
Nicholas Tse is currently the third highest earning actor in China, with a fortune of an estimated $50 million. Tse was born in Hong Kong in 1980, but went to school in Vancouver, Canada, as well as for a short time in Phoenix, Arizona. He’s skilled in martial arts, which he first began learning for his on-screen work and continues to practice today. His career started in 1998 with the film Young and Dangerous: The Prequel, for which he won a Hong Kong Film Award for best new performer. He has been nominated for many Hong Kong Film Awards over the years and won the prestigious category of Best Actor for his role in the 2010 film, The Stool Pigeon. Part of his immense fortune comes from his special effects company, Post Production Office Limited, which he sold in 2014 for $28.4 million. Known as a prolific actor, Tse is also a singer, songwriter, and musician, as well as an entrepreneur.
9. Xiaoming Huang (China)
It honestly might be something of a miracle that Huang Xiaoming is even alive. In 2003, Huang was driving through a mountainous area when his car flipped. He impressed everyone with his professionalism by showing up to set a little later wearing a neck brace. He first rose to fame by portraying the protagonist Yuang Go in the Chinese series, The Return of the Condor Heroes. He’s also well known for the 2007 film Shanghai Bund. He’s something of an iconic figure in China and was the first Asian celebrity to model for Gucci when he signed with the brand in 2008. A graduate of the Beijing Film Academy, Huang is friends with fellow actors Wei Zhao and Kun Chen. His net worth is currently estimated to be at around $50 million and he is one of the top ranked names on Forbes’ China Celebrity 100 list.
8. Young Ae Lee (South Korea)
Young Ae Lee is perhaps the queen of Korean dramas, though she hasn’t been seen on screen in ten years. Her last project was the film Sympathy for Lady Vengeance in 2005. Prior to that she had a starring role in the immensely popular drama series, Jewel in the Palace, or Dae Jang Geum, The 2003 drama is the tenth-highest rated Korean drama of all time, with viewership ratings higher than 50% in Korea and was widely viewed throughout all of Asia. Lee is about to return to K-drama for the first time in over ten years this October, with the series Saimdang: Light’s Diary, a historical drama based around one of Korea’s most influential women. Because she’s so beloved and rarely accepts a project, Lee will reportedly be pulling in the enormous sum of $83,500 per episode.
7. Akshay Kumar (India)
Akshay Kumar acquired the nickname the “Indian Jackie Chan” due to the fact that, like the Chinese star, Kumar does all of his own stunts and is an accomplished martial artist. After obtaining a black belt in Taekwondo, he went to Bangkok, Thailand, to learn Muay Thai. Kumar started first as a model before transitioning into film. He began primarily as an action star, eventually moving on to act in romantic and comedic roles as well. He is known as one of Bollywood’s most consistently bankable stars and over the years the hundreds of films he has acted in have grossed more than $300 million. He brought in $31.5 million in earnings in 2015, making him one of the highest earning actors in the world, even more than household names like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. His breakout role is widely considered to be in the film Khiladi in 1988, which he landed after years of bit parts and uncredited roles.
6. Bingbing Fan (China)
Bingbing Fan made headlines in 2015 when Forbes revealed its annual list of the world’s highest paid actors and actresses and Americans were surprised to come across a name they’d never heard of before. Fan came in as the 4th highest earner globally, having brought in a cool $21 million; less than Jennifer Lawrence, but more than Jennifer Anniston. Americans might recognize Fan as Blink from X-Men: Days of Future Past, but she was famous in China way before X-Men. She first rose to prominence in China for her role on the popular TV series My Fair Princess, before she started taking over Hollywood and the international fashion world. She’s currently at the top of Forbes’ list of influential Chinese celebrities, way above the universally-known Jackie Chan. And she’s probably not going anywhere soon, as she’s also set to appear alongside Jason Statham for the upcoming film Meg, which is due to be released in 2018.
5. Soo Hyun Kim (South Korea)
He may not be a household name in the States, but 28-year-old Kim Soo Hyun is the heartthrob everybody’s talking about in South Korea. Consistently named as one of Forbes’ list of 30 Under 30 Asian Influencers, Kim is one of the most popular stars in K-drama at the moment, commanding an income of $83,900 per episode. And that’s not even counting the income he receives through product endorsements, which has been reported to be as high as $83 million. He first rose to national fame with his role in the drama series Dream High in 2011 and cemented his popularity with the award-winning film Moon Embracing the Sun, in which he played King Lee Hwon. After his starring role in hit K-drama My Love From the Star, he was approached to be the face of so many products that he set a new record that year, advertising everything from suits to cosmetics to pizza to fabric softener.
4. Aamir Khan (India)
Aamir Khan is another one of Bollywood’s most reliable box-office draws, starring in some of the highest grossing Bollywood films in history. His films Ghajini, 3 Idiots, Dhoom 3, and PK all broke records for being the highest grossing Bollywood film of all time. Khan was born in Mumbai in 1965 and has been acting in films since he was a child. His first role was a minor part in the very popular musical film Yaadon Ki Baaraat. He worked on student and experimental films while in school, making his professional debut as an actor in the experimental film Holi in 1984. While that film did not garner him commercial success, his next film, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, did and launched him to stardom. Throughout his career he has acted in dozens of films and he has also seen some success as a director. The 2007 film Taare Zameen Par marked his directorial debut, which was well received by fans and critics alike. According to Forbes, Khan brought in 42.5 crore rupees, or $6.3 million, in 2013.
3. Salman Khan (India)
Salman Khan is another household name in India, with a devoted following all over India and Asia. He is one of Bollywood’s most commercially successful actors and, according to Forbes, brought in over $21 million in 2015, which is an extremely decent year. His most recently released film, Sultan, grossed over $45 million in its first nine days in the box office. Khan’s breakthrough role came in 1989 with the film Maine Pyar Kiya. These days, he’s perhaps best known for the box office smash action film, Dabangg, produced by Khan’s younger brother, Arbaaz Khan. Among his other awards and accolades, People magazine dubbed Khan the seventh best looking man in the world in 2004, which is perhaps a dubious honor. Khan is something of a tabloid darling and his relationships and personal life have been well followed by the media throughout the years, including one relationship with Aishwarya Rai that ended quite badly in 2002.
2. Shah Rukh Kahn (India)
Perhaps the most famous of all Bollywood stars is Shahrukh Khan, referred to in the media by a number of fawning nicknames, including “Baadshah of Bollywood,” “King of Bollywood,” and “King Khan.” In terms of audience size and income, Shahrukh Khan enjoys one of the most successful film careers in history. Khan got his big break in Bollywood in 1992 with the film Deewana and since then has built an incredibly impressive career. Many of his films focus on Indian national identity. He has been awarded the Padma Shri by the government of India, as well as the French Ordre des Artes et des Lettres and the Légion d’honneur. He is regularly cited as one of India’s most influential people and was named one of Newsweek’s 50 most influential people in 2008. Throughout all of this he has amassed a fortune of over $600 million, making him one of the wealthiest entertainers in the world. In 2015 he earned $33 million.
1. Jackie Chan (China)
Jackie Chan is as beloved in the United States as he is in China, or perhaps even more so. Over a 50-odd year career, Chan has acted in over 150 films and amassed a net worth of a reported $350 million. He is famous for doing his own stunt work and actually began his career as a stunt actor in the Bruce Lee film Fists of Fury, before transitioning into an acting career of his own. He eventually came into his own as an action-comedy star and his first commercial Hollywood success was in the film Rumble in the Bronx, which earned him a cult following. He achieved major blockbuster success with the classic Rush Hour in 1998, opposite Chris Tucker. While he has become an iconic figure in American pop culture, he continues to act and choreograph in Chinese films and has been nominated for 23 Hong Kong Film Awards. He is among the highest earning actors in the world today, bringing in an unbelievable $61 million in 2016.
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