The Most Shocking Gender Pay Gaps in Hollywood
It’s common knowledge that the gender pay gap in America is still holding firm after first being pinpointed as a political issue in the 1860s. Women are, on average, paid less money than men, making about $.82 for every dollar a man makes. While women are paid less than men in nearly every occupation, the film industry is one of the most glaring examples of the gender pay gap. Particularly because the gap can be so large. After all, when you see a lead actress in a film make $1 million, while her lead male co-star makes $20 million, you don’t have to be a math genius to recognize the pay difference.
2022 has been rife with some absolutely outrageous pay gaps, both confirmed and alleged. For example, Bryce Dallas Howard recently opened up about making significantly less than Chris Pratt for the Jurassic World trilogy. Reports had initially suggested she received $2 million less than Pratt, but she later clarified that it was a bigger gap than even that. Meanwhile, because they had her sign a contract in the beginning, accepting the outlined amount, she couldn’t negotiate to make more off the later films, even when they went on to make billions at the box office.
Additionally, there are unconfirmed reports that Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) stars, Elizabeth Olsen and Natalie Portman, received much lower salaries than their male co-stars. Since it is sometimes difficult to confirm an actor or actress’s salary, there are likely dozens of more unknown examples of infuriating pay gaps in Hollywood that didn’t make it to the news. But in case anyone still has any doubts about the existence of the pay gap, here are 8 of the biggest confirmed Hollywood gender pay gaps of all time.
House of Cards: Robin Wright & Kevin Spacey
House of Cards is a political drama that premiered on Netflix in 2013. It is an adaption of the 1990 BBC series of the same name—which was based on a novel by Michael Dobbs. The series follows Congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), who seeks revenge on the White House and rises to power with the help of his equally conniving wife, Claire (Robin Wright).
While House of Cards achieved high critical acclaim, and while Wright and Spacey hold equal roles in the series, Wright was paid less than Spacey. Reports estimate that Wright was paid around $80,000 less than Spacey per episode. Wright, meanwhile, went to the producers of the show and demanded to be paid equal to Spacey. She even did her research and found that her character boasted higher popularity than Spacey’s character. The studio told Wright she would get a raise, but by 2017 she was still waiting for them to keep their word.
No Strings Attached: Natalie Portman & Ashton Kutcher
No Strings Attached is a 2011 romcom starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. Kutcher and Portman portray two friends who decide to have a “no strings attached” kind of relationship, without falling in love. Portman has since spoken out about how she was paid 3 times less than her co-star Kutcher. She accepted it because the executive gave her some spiel about “quotes” in Hollywood. For those wondering what that means, a quote is basically what the actors/actresses were paid for a prior gig. Of course, with a notable history of gender pay gaps, this doesn’t seem like the best way to determine one’s salary.
Meanwhile, in the same year this film premiered, Portman received her first Academy Award for Black Swan. While Kutcher is a talented and very well-recognized actor, he certainly doesn’t boast the same prestigious accolades that Portman does. In reference to the pay discrepancy on No Strings Attached, Portman told The Guardian:
I knew and I went along with it because there’s this thing with ‘quotes’ in Hollywood. His [quote] was three times higher than mine, so they said he should get three times more. I wasn’t as pissed as I should have been. I mean, we get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy. Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar. In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”
All the Money in the World: Michelle Williams & Mark Wahlberg
All the Money in the World premiered in 2017 and is a crime thriller starring Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg. The film was inspired by the true story of John Paul Getty III, the grandson of J. Paul Getty, a multi-billionaire oil tycoon. When Getty III was kidnapped and held for ransom, Getty didn’t want to spend any of his money to get Getty III back and eventually conceded to pay just over $2 million for his grandson’s release. In All the Money in the World, Williams portrayed Getty III’s mother, while Wahlberg portrayed Getty’s security advisor.
All the Money in the World proved that pay gaps aren’t reserved for just upfront salaries, but even extend to reshoots. When Charles Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey as Getty, both Williams and Wahlberg did reshoots over the course of 8 days. Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for the reshoots, while Williams was paid less than $1,000. Both traveled back to the studio and put in the same work reshooting over 8 days, so it’s hard to see how such a pay discrepancy could arise. While initial reports said Williams made $1,000, she actually only made $80 per day, adding up to a meager $640 as opposed to Wahlberg’s $1.5 million. When Wahlberg learned of the discrepancy, he donated his $1.5 million to charity in Williams’ name.
American Hustle: Jennifer Lawrence & Jeremy Renner
American Hustle premiered in 2013 and is an American black comedy starring Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner. The film follows con artist partners, Irving Rosenfield (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams), who get tangled up with the FBI and embark on a sting operation involving corrupt politicians. The film received high critical acclaim, bringing in a staggering 10 Academy Award nominations.
However, both Lawrence and Adams, reportedly, only received 7% of the film’s profits while all the male stars—Bale, Cooper, and Renner—were paid 9% of the film’s profits. Meanwhile, at this point, Lawrence was a well-established actress, proven to be a big box office draw. Yet, she was paid less than all of the male stars. Not only that but all of the lead male stars were paid equally despite having varying levels of fame and recognition in Hollywood at the time.
Grey’s Anatomy: Ellen Pompeo & Patrick Dempsey
Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama that premiered on ABC in 2005. Ellen Pompeo has been the show’s lead star, Meredith Grey, for 18 seasons. Grey’s Anatomy follows Grey’s career from her internship all the way to her becoming chief of general surgery. The show also follows her fellow doctors at the hospital, including Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) who is Grey’s love interest in the series.
Despite Grey being the show’s lead star (and the character who the series is named after), Dempsey was paid a higher salary than Pompeo. In fact, he was paid twice as much as her—and she didn’t even find this out until 3 seasons into the show. Just like with Portman in No String Attached, the studio used Dempsey’s quote as an explanation for the pay discrepancy. However, this doesn’t explain why, when Pompeo tried to renegotiate to make $5,000 more than Dempsey, her request was refused.
The Martian: Jessica Chastain & Matt Damon
The Martian is a science fiction film that premiered in 2015 and stars Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain. The film follows Dr. Mark Watney, an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars during a mission with the Ares III crew. While Watney fights for survival on Mars, his team, including the Ares III mission commander, Melissa Lewis (Chastain), work tirelessly to bring him back home. While Damon was undoubtedly the main star of the film, Chastain still did portray a very strong supporting character.
However, she was paid only around $1.75 million, which is a lot less than Damon was paid. While Damon’s salary wasn’t confirmed, some reports estimated he was paid $25 million. These same reports initially also estimated Chastain made $7 million. In response to them, she clarified that her pay was actually a lot lower and was only a quarter of what was being reported. Hence, the pay gap between her and Damon was a lot bigger than initially thought.
Jurassic World: Bryce Dallas Howard & Chris Pratt
The Jurassic World trilogy, which served as a sequel to the Jurassic Park films, first kicked off in 2015. Jurassic World sees a dinosaur theme park become a reality, but things quickly go awry when the dinosaurs escape from their enclosures. Former Jurassic World manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), and Raptor trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), fight for survival together and later try to find a location that can contain the dinosaurs.
While Howard and Pratt are equally big stars in Hollywood and certainly pull equal weight in all three films, Howard was paid much less than Pratt. Initial reports suggested that Howard made $8 million, while Pratt made $10 million. However, Howard clarified that the gap was much bigger than those reports stated. She didn’t specify the amounts, but what is certain is that Pratt got paid well over $2 million more than Dallas did. Pratt did try to remedy the situation, though, by ensuring Howard made the same amount as him for appearances in the franchise outside the films, such as for video games or amusement park rides.
Something’s Gotta Give: Diane Keaton & Jack Nicholson
Something’s Gotta Give is a romcom starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson that premiered in 2003. The film follows Erica, a divorced 56-year-old playwright, and Harry, a 63-year-old playboy socialite who refuses to date women who are over 30 years old. However, when unforeseen circumstances force Erica and Harry to keep each other company for a few days, the two find themselves slowly falling for each other.
While Keaton had a bigger role in the film, she was paid less than Nicholson. She explained in her memoir that this was because Nicholson had been given a back-end deal, while Keaton had not. This meant that Nicholson accepted a lower salary, but then got a percentage of box office earnings. Since Something’s Gotta Give ended up grossing $266.7 million, Nicholson ended up earning significantly more than Keaton. When Nicholson found out about this, he sent Keaton a check of half of his earnings. Still, it is quite infuriating how men in Hollywood seem to get the best deals, while the same negotiations aren’t made for women.
(featured image: Sony)
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