NEW YORK, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Eddie Murphy was once among Hollywood's top box office draws, but he now has the dubious honor of being crowned its most overpaid actor, according to Forbes magazine.
In its annual list, determined by the misalignment between star salaries and their films' box office take, Murphy, once a one-man gold mine with 1980s hits such as "Trading Places" and "Beverly Hills Cop", displaced Drew Barrymore for the top spot.
"Murphy's career has just collapsed," Forbes said, citing such recent box office bombs as "Imagine That", "A Thousand Words" and "Meet Dave".
Weighing box office receipts against paychecks, Forbes calculated that for every dollar Murphy was paid for his last three films, they returned an average of just $2.30 at the box office. Murphy placed second on the list a year ago.
Popular actresses such as Katherine Heigl, and Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock, made the top five, with "returns" ranging from $3.40 to $5.
Forbes took issue with Witherspoon's "questionable" choices such as the star-laden, James L. Brooks romantic comedy "How Do You Know", which was one of 2010's worst-performing films. It cost $120 million, much of which went toward star salaries, but grossed a paltry $49 million.
The cast included two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington, as well as actors generally considered solid at the box office such as Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller.
"Washington's films do fine at the box office but he can demand an outsized paycheck on those movies," Forbes noted. His current hit "Flight" was not included for this year's list.
Washington's return was the same $6.30 calculated for Sandler, whose comedies Forbes said were consistent performers -- except when they're not, such as the disappointing "Jack and Jill".
It was the same with Stiller, whom Forbes said "earns so much money per film that one miss can make him seem overpaid. That's what happened with "Tower Heist", in which the actor co-starred with -- Eddie Murphy.
Will Ferrell, who topped the list for two of the last four years and came in third a year ago, didn't place.
The full list can be found at www.forbes.com/overpaidactors.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney and Andrew Hay)