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“Why do I make less than male co-stars?” – Hollywood’s elite on gender pay gap

In an article on Lena Dunham's new site Lenny, actress Jennifer Lawrence has said she is done trying to find the "adorable" way to state her opinion on the gender pay gap – and she's not the only one.
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Leaked emails between Sony executives revealed that Lawrence was originally set to receive five per cent of box office takings, while Amy Adams would receive seven. All the male actors – Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and Christian Bale – were to receive nine per cent.

When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with d**ks, I didn’t get mad at Sony,” Lawrence wrote in a Lenny newsletter. “I got mad at myself.”

Although Lawrence does not cite the American Hustle title in her essay, it is obviously clear which movie she is referring to. She mentioned that her male co-stars “all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves,” while she failed as a negotiator because she gave up early.

She said: “I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled’. At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realised every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being perceived as such. I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical.

“This could be a young-person thing. It could be a personality thing. I’m sure it’s both. But this is an element of my personality that I’ve been working against for years, and based on the statistics, I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue. Are we socially conditioned to behave this way? We’ve only been able to vote for what, 90 years? Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?”

Read more about the gender pay gap:

She claimed that she was done trying to find the “adorable” way to state her opinion and still be likeable. Lawrence also referred to a leaked email where Sony executives called Angelina Jolie a “spoiled brat” – something Lawrence couldn’t picture someone saying about a man.

This was also echoed by Sandra Bullock, who said: “I never knew that there were limitations where I was looked at as less than until I was actually pretty deep in this business. I had a pretty unsettling moment, and I went ‘Oh my God, I’m being treated this way because I’m female’. I grew up to be exactly who I was supposed to be and have the opinions I wanted to have and didn’t think there were limitations to that. So I thought, politically, I was pretty open minded and could speak my mind and then I saw I wasn’t supposed to.”

Lawrence received much support from Cooper. In an E! News interview he claimed that if someone thought they deserved better pay, then it was all about sticking up for yourself the way that Sienna Miller did. The British actress had actually backed out of a play because she was being paid half the amount of her male co-star.

When it comes to taking action like Miller, Charlize Theron may not have walked out on a project, but she demanded equal pay to Chris Hemsworth for having done Snow White and the Huntsman. And she got it! 

Of course, she was in a solid negotiating position given that The Huntsman – a prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman – couldn’t have gone on without her. However, Theron’s acting credentials should have easily justified a higher salary. 

I have to give them credit because once I asked, they said yes,” she said. “They did not fight it. And maybe that’s the message: that we just need to put our foot down. This is a good time for us to bring this to a place of fairness, and girls need to know that being a feminist is a good thing. It doesn’t mean that you hate men. It means equal rights. If you’re doing the same job, you should be compensated and treated in the same way.

“When I found out what Lawrence and Adams were being paid on a set with guy actors who are their counterparts, it pissed me off! They’re just as good as any of the guys in the movie.”

But Lawrence and Theron are not the only actresses to have openly discussed the pay differences between the sexes. Gwyneth Paltrow told Variety, “It can be painful. Your salary is a way to quantify what you’re worth. If men are being paid a lot more for doing the same thing, it feels shi**y.”

She played Pepper Potts in the Iron Man films, alongside Robert Downey Jr, and although she claimed that his role was more crucial than hers, she wasn’t comfortable with the discrepancy between their remunerations.

“Look, nobody is worth the money that Robert Downey Jr is worth,” she said, “but if I told you the disparity, you would probably be surprised.”

Paltrow is the 12th highest-paid actress in the world, earning $9m (£5.85m), while Downey Jr – the highest-paid actor – made $80m (£52.02m). In comparison, Lawrence, who was the highest-paid actress, made $52m (£33.81m).

And then there’s Ted 2’s Amanda Seyfried, who revealed that on an unnamed film she earned just ten per cent of what her male co-star received.

She said: “A few years ago, on one of my big-budget films, I found I was being paid ten per cent of what my male co-star was getting, and we were pretty even in status. I think people think that just because I’m easy-going and game to do things I’ll just take as little as they offer.” 

Seyfried added that female actors in Hollywood “have to decide if [they’re] willing to walk away from something”.

The actress claimed that before each role, she would weigh up what it’ll do for both her reputation and her career long-term. If it doesn’t fit with her plan then she’s not afraid to turn it down.

“It’s not about how much you get, it’s about how fair it is,” she said.

Read on to find out the opinions of Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep.

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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