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Hollywood's best-paid star -- the actor you never heard of

Tyler Perry has been named the highest paid entertainer in Hollywood -- even though most people have never heard of him.

The actor and film-maker has a fiercely loyal following in black America that has helped him earn $130m (¤93m) in the last year.

When Forbes magazine published its annual list of the highest-paid men in entertainment, Perry's name was in first place. He beat such luminaries as Steven Spielberg (3rd) Elton John (5th) and Simon Cowell (6th). Leonardo DiCaprio, the world's next-most-lucrative actor, came in at eighth.

In public, he can pass unnoticed. Unless, that is, he just happens to be carrying a handbag, and wearing a floral dress which is the size of a small marquee.

This disguise, completed by a wig, latex fat suit, and a layer of vampish make-up, transforms Perry (42) into a 70-something woman called Madea.


And she is at the unlikely centre of an empire that now straddles the worlds of film, TV, publishing and theatre like a colossus, measuring its value in the billions of dollars.

Perry's earnings were $20m more than his nearest competitor Jerry Bruckheimer, the film producer behind Pirates of the Caribbean.

And they dwarf the earnings of the world's most valuable sportsman Tiger Woods, who came 10th, scraping by with $75m.

If you're still wondering who Tyler Perry is, and how on earth he does it, then it's safe to make a couple of assumptions.

Firstly, that you don't live in the US, where his two sitcoms Meet The Browns and House Of Payne are broadcast on constant loop by the cable TV networks. And secondly that you don't follow the American box office charts.

In the past two years, Perry has cranked out five films, all of which have been break-out commercial hits, and two of which went straight to number one. He has directed, written, produced all of them, and starred in all but one. By the standards of Hollywood, they were all produced on tiny budgets, averaging around $15m each.

But together, have grossed just shy of $300m.

Most of Perry's titles have a similar shtick. They revolve around Madea, a grey-haired matriarch with a fierce tongue who carries a revolver in her handbag.

And they follow melodramatic plots that complete several somersaults before generally allowing a hapless female protagonist to be rewarded by finding a good man. The overall feel is Shakesperean comedy meets Carry On. His comedy is peppered with music, toilet-humour, and the occasional politically incorrect joke.