Bankable ( Anglicism from the verb to bank ) is a term of cinematographic jargon which means, according to the occurrences, “who brings back money” or “which makes it possible to finance a film on his name”. It does not have exactly the same meaning according to whether we speak of American cinema or French cinema , which is explained by the differences between the financing systems of these cinematographies. This adjective, which initially applies to actors, can also qualify a director or even some elements of a film (history, characters …). Since the mid-1990s, the importance of having generic bankable players would strongly influence the distribution choices of films, both French and American, to the point of creating controversy: the artistic choices of filmmakers would be constrained and, in France, this system would paradoxically increase disproportionately the budgets of movies.

The word has gradually shifted to other areas than cinema, although it is often used in quotation marks. Thus, it is found today regularly in articles about book sales or sports. Little by little, he also passes into everyday language. Some people even think that this slippage of language induces the integration by the general public of the financial values ​​that govern the society in which we live.

Appearance of the term

Origins of the term

Bankable is related to the adjective of the bankable financial and commercial vocabulary , one of whose definitions mentions “a paper is said to be bankable when, for whatever reason, it is easily negotiable, imposes no involuntary immobilization, and does not entails no risk of recovery 1  ” . The Libre Belgique calls in January 2009 to add the cinematic sense of bankable to the meanings of the term “bankable”, but this idea has hardly been followed 2 . Nevertheless, we notice, at the end of 2012, in an interview with the daily Le Parisien , the job by Fabrice Leclerc, editor-in-chief of Studio Ciné Live magazine, the term “bankable”, without quotation marks, about actors 3 . This case, however, remains an exception.

According to semiologist Mariette Darrigrand, the word was imported in France by American actors talking about their career, then passing to French actors. It is also pronounced in the American way. Its success comes from the fact that it “is easy to integrate into French because one hears […]” bank “which is Latin and” able “, French suffix which means” possible “, behind the” able ” “English from” to be able “:” to be able to 4  ” . For La Libre Belgique , its meaning “comes directly from the figurative:” to be bankable “, to be a sure value. A “bankable” idea is an idea that is worth gold, tells us the English dictionary 2 , 5 . “.

If the word generally applies to an actor, it can also be used to talk about a director (for example, Libération speaks in 2003 of the “bankable” status of Steven Soderbergh 6 ), as well as to speak of a writer, story or even characters: in 2009 , when the Marvel was bought by The Walt Disney Company , it was read that this investment provided Disney “an armada of strong bankable fellows like Iron Man , Thor or Captain America 7  ” .

Integration of the word with the French language

The word seems to appear in French in the mid -1990s  : we thus find an occurrence in 1995 , when, in an interview, the actor Thierry Frémont explains that when he turned into great public successes, he will be “bankable” »And so we will offer him more movies 8 .

In 2003 , in the television show Tout le monde en parle , Marc-Olivier Fogiel asks Lambert Wilson if he is more “bankable” than before; the actor responds by spontaneously explaining the meaning of the word for the spectators 9 . The term is probably not yet very clear to the general public at that time but five years later, in 2008 , the magazine Télérama integrates it into its series of videos Password on its website that aims to ” “dissect” a word where an expression (one finds there terms like “people”, “fart a lead”, “doxa”, “cash” …) 4. In this video, a statement by Mathilde Seigner in the Women’s Supplement of the Sunday Journal in 2007 is taken as an example of the presence of this word in our language: “I was elected one of the most popular and most popular actresses. bankable of France 10 . ”

In 2009, La Libre Belgique devotes an article to this word. It begins with “Here is an English word that does not seem to translate into our language” and points out that it is still used in quotation marks 2 .

In 2012, Télérama , considering that this adjective was “adopted by the media” , argues that it “is hardly used by the profession” since then 11 .


This term is linked to the financial profitability of an actor (or sometimes a director), it does not have the same meaning according to whether we speak of an American or French actor. This is related to the differences in financing systems between these cinematographies.

Definition of “bankable” applied to American cinema

When talking about American cinema, a bankable actor or director is an actor, or director, profitable, which allows a good return on investment. The Forbes magazine publishes annually a ranking of the actors who offer the best profitability per dollar spent 12 (“Hollywood’s Best Actors For The Buck 13  “) ranking taken by other English-speaking sites in the United States and the United Kingdom who use then, to talk about these actors, the word bankable . Thus The Huffington Post title late 2012 “Natalie Portman: Forbes’ Most Bankable Star 14  ” that can be translated by”Natalie Portman: the most bankable star for Forbes” . Or the website of the English daily The Guardian at the end of 2011: “Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson top Forbes’ most bankable list 15  ” , which can be translated as “Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson at the top of Forbes list of the most bankable players . ” 16 This ranking is also included in the French newspapers and magazines who also renamed the” ranking of the most bankable actors 17 . ”

Forbes’ ranking takes into account the last three films of each actor or actress as the lead role. The analysis compares incomes of movie stars  (in) , budgets spent on movies and their performance at the box office 18 . In the 2012 12 Natalie Portman would be the most bankable actress in the world, yielding $ 42.70 for every dollar invested on her, followed by Kristen Stewartwho would bring in $ 40.60 for every dollar spent, then Shia LaBeouf ( 35, $ 80 for a dollar spent) andRobert Pattinson ( $ 31.70 for a spent).

An American actor (or director) becomes (or becomes) bankable by making a success. If an actor plays in a film that works, it is assumed that his other films have a good chance of success. Thus the film Baby-Sittor , with Vin Diesel , bringing back more than 100 million dollars of recipes to the United States has according to the site replaced “illico the actor on the short list of the stars” bankable “(which report under, in producer slang) 19 . ” Conversely, we consider that if a film has no bankable actor in its generic, it may explain a possible commercial failure: ” Among the reasons for the most lukewarm reception reserved by the American publicJohn Carter , experts cite the lack of star “bankable” (monetizable), both leading roles are played by Canadian actor Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins 20 . ”

Definition of “bankable” applied to French cinema

The definition of the term is a little different when it is applied to French cinema, because of the specific financing system of the latter. In fact, it relies heavily on the obligation of television channels to co-produce films and broadcast them later. Gold chains tend to see a film with stars represents “a better guarantee of hearing 21 . ”

Olivier Bomsel, professor of industrial economics at Mines ParisTech , explains it as follows: “If TF1 faces 20 channels and the Internet , it can not take the risk of making a movie in the evening. Unless it’s an event, carried by an actor who has somehow a captive audience. This is what makes inflation and said the overvaluation of bankable actors and actresses: a clear chainwill put 10 million euros into a film to have exclusive and impose key actors 22 . “The cinema on television suffers not only from competition between the channels and that of the Internet: certain television programs and television series often make better audiences. “The cinema is recording poor performances on television. Without the legal obligations arising from our public finance system, it long ago that CSI and Star Academy would have nullified the boxes “Cinema” TV channels 23 . ”

Well known actors, loved by the public, will allow a film to “distinguish itself in the mass” as written in the newspaper Les Echos 24  : from the shooting, sometimes even before, when the names of actors are announced, we can get articles in the press and on the internet. As a result, the film is “expected” and can hope for good media coverage at its release in theaters. In addition, it would be easier to promote a film with stars: according to Camille Trumer, president of the agency CinéArt (agent actors such as Gérard Lanvin or Aïssa Maïga )”Known names open the doors of promotion (…). Thanks to them, no need to pick up his phone at the time of the release in the room to do the television news of 20 hours, Le Grand Journal on Canal +, or an interview in the press 24 . ”

And since the television channels have to wait a legal period of two years before being able to broadcast a film that they have pre-purchased, they rely on the impact of the theatrical release to ensure the broadcast audience 25  : “The challenge for us is that the film arrives on the air with the aura of the cinema ” , recognizes a large broadcaster quoted by Les Échos 24 . Thus “the logic of the audience of the chains which ends up prevailing on the accounting of the entries 26  “: the essential thing is not that the film makes entries, but that it has a sufficient promotion , thanks to its bankable stars, to ensure a good audience during his appearance on television.

A bankable player is therefore, in the financing system of French cinema, an actor whose producer knows, that, on his own name, “he can raise the money necessary to make his film” with television channels 24 . ”


The fact of being in financing systems that need bankable actors to be able to produce films has given rise to several controversies.

Influence of this notion on artistic choices

Monica Bellucci in 2009

Being bankable is independent of talent. To say of an actor that he is bankable does not mean that he has talent, nor that he does not have any. For example, in the words of Robert De Niro , Libération wrote in 2001  : “Strangely, things are changing, and at nearly 60, the actor associated with semi-bides become classics ( 1900 , Raging Bull , the King of Comedy , once Upon a time in America ) has suddenly become a bankable actor in the eyes of the industry 27 . ” The term can even be considered simplistic. So, the actress and director Marina de Vanshe declares when promoting the DVD of her film Do not look back with Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci  : “What bothers me […] is that we confuse and reduce Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci to icons of beauty that would have no other value than their power of seduction and their financial value, bankable . Which is terribly insulting when you consider their talents as actresses. We deprive ourselves of their talents by lowering the rank of Barbie dolls that bring millions 28  ” .

And of course, if the fact of being bankable has nothing to do with the talent of an actor, the fact of having bankable actors in the credits does not ensure the quality of the film either: “Is it necessary to call him back? Posterity movies and actors is not a matter of economics, and it’s happy 29 . ”

Clint Eastwood at the Berlin Film Festival during the presentation of Iwo Jima’s Letters .

However, if some still manage to produce films with actors who are not bankable, we find that it is much more difficult than engaging actors who are. If the star Clint Eastwood , with many successes as an actor and as a director, estimated in 2008 not to have known too much this kind of pressure 30 for other directors the absence of bankable actors can obfuscate the possibility of realizing such-and-such movie. For example, on the website Critikat, about the withdrawal of Brad Pitt on the film The Fountain “No need to explain how the withdrawal of one of the most bankable Hollywood actors could cause Aronofskysome financial worries, enough anyway to be delayed for at least three years in production 31 . ” The problem may be the same in France: ” When you arrive with a project, chains ask you who you’re thinking for the lead role. Regularly, they say “we will go” if it is a known name, and “we will see” if it is not the case, “says Fabrice Goldstein manager of Karé Productions 24 . ” And conversely, the interest of a bankable actor for a project can help make it viable. “On their own name, the Dujardin, Cotillard or Tautou raise money to shoot a film24 . ” Jean Dujardinwas able to cause the film The Unfaithful withGilles Lellouche :”  The infidels are likely to remain one of the highlights of my career, happy, free, different, shared with some friends who have talent. (…) We are often told, Gilles and I, “bankable”, so much that it serves 32 . ”

Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche, at the origin of the film The Infidels  : “We are often told, Gilles and me,” bankable “, so much that it serves. “

Actors who are not bankable seem to have more and more trouble turning. “” The gap between the actors that revolve taking windfall prices and those who do not work at all, “do you regret in a large cinema group 24 . ” The actor Ged Marlon sums it up in 2008: ” today, one is “bankable” or one watches the dishes 33 . ” This in France and the United States: the site Critikat writing example about the movie Mr. Brooks , with William Hurt , Demi Moore and Kevin Costner “This film has the merit to reflect on the status of players in 1980 that, after a certain age, are forced to be content with thankless roles to pay their bills, if not” bankable 34 . ”

As a result, some directors do not consider themselves free to compose the casting they want. Marina de Van explains that she can no longer play in her own films: “I’m not bankable precisely! It’s tragic cinema. It is not the director who chooses his casting. Neither for the main roles, nor for the secondary , because the financial authorities have other choices or necessities, which leave no room for the exploitation of talents even confirmed, but not enough bankable, not in the narrow list of those who potentially will bring in admissions and money. The only filmmakers who manage to manage non-bankable actors make choral films. For my part, I usually do films centered on two or three characters. Even one. It does not lend itself to it 28 . ”

The bankable actors do not guarantee the success of a film

If the presence of bankable actors in the credits allows the financing of a film, it does not guarantee its success in cinemas. Fabrice Leclerc, editor-in-chief of Studio Ciné Live underlines in an interview with the Parisian about the underperformance of French theatrical cinema in 2012: ”  A perfect plan , with Dany Boon and Diane Kruger , did not work very well. Do Not Disturb , Yvan Attal’s film with François Cluzet , is a big failure. Capital , with Gad Elmaleh , the same. And on the other side of the ringstarted moderately, despite the presence of Omar Sy . Today, the name of a star in the credits is no longer the guarantee of success 3 . ”

As we read in Les Echos  : “The time was ripe, when the public rushed with their eyes closed to see the last Belmondo . ” The public gets information before going to see a movie, especially on the Internet, by reading the comments of other Internet users. “Now, success is based on a much more subtle alchemy based on the script, the director and the actors. ” And it seems that one of the things that matter most to the success of a film is its script 24 . Fabrice Leclerc also denounces it: “Unlike the Americans, many French directors do not work hard enough on their screenplay. Take for example York , the sequel toAll that glitters , with the same actors. Géraldine Nakache and Hervé Mimran have a lot of talent, but their scenario was not sufficiently worked. Now people expect to be offered the original films 3 . “Conversely, of course, films without bankable actors can be a success. The film Vilaine , released in 2008 at the time whenMarilou Berrywas still little known to the public made 1 million entries and was forM6, the day of its broadcast, the best audience of the evening with 4.37 millions of viewers 24. Finally, it is not because an actor has been successful that he will continue to know it: “Betting on the inevitably uncertain future of an actor in view of his golden past is not far from what one recently observed in the economic-financial field: cinematographic bubbles can burst as surely as real estate bubbles 29 . ”

Inflation budgets in French cinema

In the financing system of American cinema, a bankable player is profitable, so often cheaper than others. Natalie Portman, the most bankable American actress in 2012 is not even in the top 10 best paid actresses 35 released by Forbes in June 2012. Kristen Stewart , first of this ranking female best-paid stars, is also the second of the mixed bankable stars ranking, but his remuneration per film ($ 34.5 million) would rank it fifth best paid star if we compare his remuneration to that of men (behind Tom Cruise , Leonardo DiCaprio , Adam Sandler and Dwayne Johnson 36). She is the only woman in the two rankings (best paid and most bankable actresses) and only three male actors are in this case: Dwayne Johnson, Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson .

The most bankable American actors are generally younger and less internationally known than the best paid actors (among which we find for example Meryl Streep , Julia Roberts or Johnny Depp ) which is basically normal: if an actor is more expensive that everyone in Hollywood, how to consider it as a profitable investment 12  ? Serge Kaganski analyzes this way in Les Inrockuptibles  :”The best paid are not necessarily the most profitable. It may seem paradoxical, but it makes sense. The more expensive you are, the more you strike the financial balance of a movie. This sometimes results in this gulf between the “bankable” and the “net banking”, also due to the inevitable temporal shifts between the highs and lows of the career of an actor 29 . ”

But in France, where the word “bankable” signals the ability to finance a film by a chain, things are different. Since an actor can allow a film to be financed, he is in a position to negotiate a better salary. The share of wages of bankable stars on the total budget of a film can therefore reach very high levels, and their seals to be negotiated before either set the total budget of the film 37 . Vincent Maraval, producer and distributor takes the example of Vincent Cassel , turning the American film Black Swan for 226 000 euros and the French diptych Mesrine 38 for 1.5 million euros:”It touches the fruit of its reputation on the television market 23 . ” Some distributors (which are paid on the box office) are beginning to be wary of” big castings “: ” They know they can double flop pay more to be in the film, while running the risk of a failure in the room, “says Camille Trumer, who has long held this job at Paramount 24 . ”

At the end of 2012-beginning of 2013 the controversy is lively 39 following the text of Vincent Maraval entitled “The French actors are paid too much 23  ! “Where he denounces the salaries he deems excessive of certain actors as a result of the financing of films by television channels. Some accuse it of risking to weaken the financing system of the French cinema 40 , others consider that it is time to reform the system of financing of the French cinema (the obligations of financing of the cinema by the television channels date from 1984 ) and possibly cap players’ salaries if the films are financed by money from public channels 22 .

Use of the word in domains other than cinema

There are many examples of the passage of this term in areas other than cinema.


In a ticket of 2011 Inrockuptibles , are qualified as bankable the authors of the best sales of books 2010 , invited to the Bristol restaurant  : Stéphane Hessel , Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt , Katherine Pancol , Amelie Nothomb , William Musso , Jean d’Ormesson , Maylis of Kerangal and Patrick Lapeyre are quoted 41 . In 2011 the business paper La Tribune publishes a ranking of the most profitable books of the year:«Based on the number of copies sold in stores and the recommended price for each book by the publishing houses, La Tribune calculated the average turnover of each book, which (…) made it possible to realize this ranking of the books that brought the most money in 2011 42  ” The article begins with these words: ” Stéphane Hessel, No. 1 book sales in 2011, has something to be indignant. Even with an advance of more than one million copies sold on his direct pursuer, five writers were more “bankable” than him in 2011. ”

But the application of the term to writers is a little older. This phenomenon is analyzed in an article published on the site of L’Express in 2005 . He begins with these words: “Before, it was simple: there were great writers and others. Today, it’s just as simple, but more trivial: there are “bankable” authors and others. Bankable? Anglicism is hideous, but it reflects reality. A bankable author sells a lot, earns a lot and earns even more. ” So a bankable author is a writer who” reported “to his publisher and is able to negotiate his contract. He has the faculty of being ”  opeable Which means that the publishers will try to make it pass in their publishing house by proposing to him a contract more important than that where it is. It is also about an author who will obtain substantial amounts of money 43 .

Other artistic fields

  • A blog from the site of the newspaper Les Echos uses the term bankable in 2012 about the art market and the FIAC  : ”  Picasso is the safe bet. The recognizable artist and so prolix. The different eras. The genius … Bankable 44 . “
  • In 2013, the newspaper Libération uses it in speaking of the Music Industry  : “In a Darwinian impulse, the Universal , Warner and other Sony Music have digitized their catalogs, dismissed en masse, fired hundreds of non- bankable artists , invented the concert business at 100 euros instead of 45 . “


The term has also existed for several years in the articles on sport. For example, in this article on the end of career of Sébastien Chabal  : “the most bankable French rugby club does not intend to hang up. He reflects on his “last step”. Where it lands – Japan, Southern Hemisphere, Lyon, Toulon? – he will undoubtedly sell tickets and jerseys 46 . ” Regarding football, the website sees Karim Benzema the ” only footballer tricolor bankable after the scandal of the World Cup football 2010  : he still has a contract with Adidasthat allows him to get 1.5 million euros per year and his agent says: “Last year, our goal was primarily sports. Karim took the opportunity to build his reputation in Real . We can now develop his image. The potential is enormous … Since late 2011 , I relaunched the companies that had approached us 47 . ” Finally, the monthly economic Site Capital , in 2013 , said that Armstrong was ” long considered one of the most “bankable athletes” World 48  ” in an article that explains how his confession doping may cost him financially.

There are several examples of boxing. The team explains in 2008 that the boxer Oscar De La Hoya after Mayweather had asked too much money to fight against him was forced to find “another boxer bankable  ” during his farewell tour 49 . The term is often linked to television boxing audience and the possibilities of mounting a fight, such as when Libération writes, about Vernon Forrest’s death that he was “very popular and bankable” in the United States , where the fighting is in payment at the meeting 50 . “Similarly, regarding Mayweather: “As soon as the American, undefeated in 42 fights, puts his mark at the bottom of a contract, it is the insurance for developers to binge with the pay per view and attract the big crowd. (…) He therefore agreed to take a few pounds to reach the limit of super welterweight (69 kilos) and meet (…) the Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto , another boxer very “bankable” pay TV 51 . ”

And, just like in cinema, the fact of being bankable in boxing is independent of the talent of the boxer, if one believes this sentence of an article of Liberation on Brahim Asloum  : “One is not ignorant that the scholarships of the boxers have nothing to do with their merit. We knew a French boxer become world champion abroad for 15 000 euros because he was little media and not bankable . The moral, if one can say this story is that in boxing as in any business, the value of a product is the price at which you come to sell the 52 . ”

Current language

There are examples of the use of this adjective in everyday language.

It is found in 2007 in a chat on the site of the newspaper Liberation with the president of an association of victims on the fifth anniversary of the explosion of the plant AZF Toulouse  : “at the time of the explosion, the inhabitants of some residences a little standing on the neighborhood were informed, accompanied, evacuated, and all that in a very civilized way. At Mirail , the CRS evacuated. There were double standards, depending on whether one was bankable or not. The most forgotten people, it is the patients of the psychiatric hospital, which is located 300 meters from the site of the explosion 53 . ”

In July 2012 , Séverine Tessier , from the Anticor association , was asked if, in dealing with many subjects, the Commission on the Renovation and Deontology of Public Life would not neglect it, replied: “the risk is indeed treat only what is “bankable”, which is the most popular in public opinion 54 . ”

According to the semiotologist Mariette Darrigrand, questioned about this term by Télérama 4 , at a time when “the individual has become a completely marketable value” and where “we are integrating the financial values ​​that govern the whole world” it is interesting to ask if “this word is not going to end up pointing us ourselves. ”

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