10 Controversial Pay Disparities In Hollywood Surrounding Gender And Race
Last year’s #MeToo movement and the induction of the Time’s Up organization have empowered Hollywood stars and industry players to finally speak up and demand what they deserve. And while it’s only just begun—and the fight is far from over—it’s great to see changes.
No longer are these women afraid to ask for what they want—and boldly so. There were actresses who were well aware of the pay gap and were just forced to accept it and those with shocking revelations that led them to actively campaign for pay equality. Here are significant incidents in Hollywood’s surprising revelations on pay disparities:
1. Adele Lim and Crazy Rich Asians
Earlier this month, Crazy Rich Asians co-writer Adele Lim decided to withdraw from the project’s upcoming sequels, after learning that her wage would only be an eighth of what her co-writer, Peter Chiarelli, would receive.
In a vain attempt to find another Asian writer to replace her, the studio eventually came back to Lim with a higher offer. Chiarelli also offered to split his fee with Lim, yet the latter still declined. “Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer,” Lim tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Both Lim and Chiarelli are veteran screenwriters.
“Being evaluated that way can't help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions,” she adds, citing that she thinks her contributions and that of women and people of color in general are regarded as “soy sauce”—a mere dressing to add on cultural flavor to a project.
2. Michelle Williams
At the recently concluded 71st Emmy Awards, Michelle Williams gave an acceptance speech with a strong message on Hollywood’s pay disparity surrounding gender and race. She thanked her studio and her bosses and the people who have graciously supported her in the project, FX’s Fosse/Verdon. “Because they understood when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value. And then where do they put that value—they put that value into their work,” she says.
Williams received a standing ovation.
Not long ago, Williams made headlines after it was revealed that she was paid less than a thousand dollars to reshoot additional scenes for All The Money In The World, while her co-star Mark Wahlberg received $1.5 million. In short, Williams earned less than one percent of Walberg’s fee, which is quite baffling as both actors are represented by the same agency.
When this was revealed, Williams said “no one cared” and the lack of reaction was “no surprise to her.” Actress Jessica Chastain, who has long been vocal about closing the gap in pay disparities, tweeted about Williams to let the issue be heard. It caused a public outcry, which even led Walberg to donate $2 million to the Time’s Up Defense Fund.
After the outrage, Williams revealed that she could tell there was ‘a shift in her workplace’ and in the way she was treated. “On the job I just completed two weeks ago, I have to tell you, I was paid equally with my male co-star,” she revealed. This project was Fosse/Verdon, where she played legendary dancer Gwen Verdon and won that Emmy.
3. Jessica Chastain, The Martian, and Octavia Spencer
Jessica Chastain’s fight for equal pay goes way back. In 2015, it was reported that Chastain made about $7 million in The Martian movie, while co-star Matt Damon reportedly received at least $15 to $25 million. However, Chastain soon revealed that it was “misinformation” and that she made even less of a quarter than what was purported—an estimate of only $1.75 million. It was a pay discrepancy that did not justify the actors’ screen time.
Since then, Chastain has long been actively campaigning for equal pay in gender and race. Recently, it was also revealed that Chastain helped her co-star Octavia Spencer, an Oscar-awarded actress of color, get paid five times more for a project together, after learning that Hollywood actresses of color are at a greater disadvantage by the wage gap.
4. Ellen Pompeo and Grey’s Anatomy
Ellen Pompeo, who plays Meredith Grey on Grey’s Anatomy, was once paid less than Patrick Dempsey, her love interest on the show. Dempsey was reportedly earning nearly twice as her.
Pompeo once even had to ask for a raise—only to be rejected. “I asked for $5,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is 'Grey's Anatomy' and I'm Meredith Grey,” she shares.
It was Dempsey’s departure from the show in 2015 that was a turning point for Pompeo, because for the longest time, Dempsey was used as leverage against her—“We don’t need you; we have Patrick,” the actress reveals in The Hollywood Reporter.
She credits producer Shonda Rhimes for empowering her to finally ask for what she deserves and help get her to her financial status. In 2018, she was became the highest-paid actress on television.
5. Claire Foy and The Crown
Speaking of television, the queen in Netflix’s The Crown was apparently paid less than her husband. Claire Foy, who plays the titular role Queen Elizabeth II reportedly received £10,000 less than Matt Smith, who plays the queen’s husband Prince Philip on the show.
Left Bank Pictures, the producers of The Crown, offered to pay Foy £200,000 in back pay, yet later reports quote the actress saying that it was never mentioned and that she never received the said sum.
Foy went on to win a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her performance in The Crown.
6. Emma Stone and her male co-stars taking salary cuts
Multi-awarded actress Emma Stone has revealed that male co-stars have taken pay cuts in order for her to have parity with them. “That’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair,” she reveals in an interview with Out magazine. “If my male co-star, who has a higher quote than me but believes we, are equal, takes a pay cut so that I can match him, that changes my quote in the future and changes my life,” she explains.
7. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
American Hustle’s three main stars, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Adams, reportedly worked together for about 45 days of filming for the movie, yet were paid unequally. Both male stars earned more than $2 million each and received nine percent of the profits; while Adams only earned over $1 million and seven percent in profits.
Adams’ co-star Jennifer Lawrence also wrote an open letter about the pay disparity. “I got mad at myself,” she writes, recalling her initial reaction after her co-actors’ salaries were revealed. “I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early,” says Lawrence. She would write about how men’s voices, such as her American Hustle co-actors, were ‘automatically heard,’ while she “was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share” and second-guessing if she should demand higher pay.
8. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman starred with Ashton Kutcher in rom-com No Strings Attached, in which they both took on lead roles and appeared in a majority of the scenes. Portman later revealed in an interview with Marie Claire UK, that she was paid only a fraction of Kutcher’s salary.
She adds: “Compared to men in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar,” she begins. “In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”
9. Sienna Miller
Once she was offered ‘a gutsy, powerful role in a play that’s close to her heart,’ Sienna Miller reveals, adding that she had to turn it down due to the pay. “I was offered less than half what my male co-star was being paid,” she discloses.
While she was ‘in love with the role,’ the actress explains that not doing it was choosing to prioritize her self-worth and dignity: “I have really just had enough. Enough of being undervalued, enough of being undermined, enough of being disrespected, because of my gender.”
10. Scarlett Johansson as the highest-paid actress in 2019
Scarlett Johansson is named highest-paid actress in Forbes’ 2019 list, yet in comparison to her male counterparts, her $56 million earnings seem a bit dim. The highest-paid actor is wrestler-turned-superstar Dwayne Johnson, with estimated earnings of up to $76 million.