Get Back and Lord of the Rings director made an estimated $580m last year, topping annual list that also features Bruce Springsteen, Dwayne Johnson and Kanye West
Peter Jackson tops the Forbes magazine rich list as highest paid entertainer of 2021 Photograph: Anthony Harvey/AFP/Getty Images
The Guardian-Sian Cain
The Lord of the Rings and Get Back director, Peter Jackson, has topped the Forbes magazine rich list as the highest paid entertainer of 2021.
Jackson made US$580m (A$809m, £428m) last year, primarily through the sale of part of his visual effects business Weta Digital to Unity Software, for $1.6bn. Forbes estimates Jackson personally made about $600m in cash and $375m in stock from the deal, making him the third person in history to become a billionaire from making films, after Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
The top 10 entertainers on the list are all male, with only three women making the top 20. The musicians Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen all made the top 10 from selling their back catalogues, with the latter coming in at No 2 after selling his music to Sony Music for an estimated $500m.
South Park’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, came in at No 6 with $210m, having signed a six-year $900m deal with Paramount+ to make several films.
The musicians Kanye West, Jay-Z and the actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson also made the top 10 – from films and music sales but also from lucrative commercial deals selling sneakers, champagne and tequila, respectively.
Reese Witherspoon was the top-earning woman last year at No 12, having made $115m through her production company Hello Sunshine, which focuses on female-led stories, and a reported $20m payday for her role in Apple TV’s drama The Morning Show.
Television features heavily, with the creator of Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, Chuck Lorre, ranking 13th with $100m; Law & Order’s creator, Dick Wolf, coming in at 15th with $86m; Friends co-creators Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane making $82m to jointly rank 17th; and the Bridgerton producer and Grey’s Anatomy creator, Shonda Rimes, following in 18th spot with $81m.
Other musical acts that made the list include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, in at No 11 after selling their back catalogue to the music investment fund Hipgnosis; Mötley Crüe, who ranked 22nd with $72m after selling nine of their albums to the music rights holder BMG; and the Beach Boys, with $64m after they sold their music to the entertainment executive Irving Azoff.
“There has never been a better time to be a sellout – especially if you’re a superstar holding the rights to decades of hits,” wrote Forbes’ Lysette Voytko.