"If a woman does the same job as a man, she should be paid the same amount of money. She just should," said Viola Davis in 2016. "That’s just the way the world should work."
However, that's not the way the world works, especially the world of entertainment. Though it's common knowledge that women are paid less in every industry, the stories of these A-list actresses and how much less they made for the same (or even more) work than their male costars is crazier than any special effect. As Helen Mirren put it to Variety, "it’s a hard thing to talk about....because obviously, you’re not going to get much sympathy from people, since we’re talking about pretty massive sums of money."
However, no matter how uncomfortable it is, we're laying it all out there when women clearly didn't earn enough.
Portman is an Oscar-winning actress who can disappear into any role. Kutcher is that guy from Punked. The fact he made triple her salary on this rom-com feels like another prank.
“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,” Portman said to Marie Claire U.K. “Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar. In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”
Portman is now a big proponent of Time's Up, and the star of Annihilation, an entirely female-driven science fiction thriller. Kutcher doesn't seem too bothered with her finding her voice.
This spy thriller ignited one of history's biggest power couples, but also a big power disparity. Jolie had already won an Oscar for Girl Interrupted in 2005, yet she made half of Pitt's $20 million to play his wife on screen. Pitt is yet to win an Oscar for acting (though he scored one as a producer for 12 Years A Slave) yet Jolie has gone on to become an international activist, director, and feminist icon.
In one of the most recent and infamous cases of pay disparity, multi-time Oscar-nominee Williams was paid a paltry $1,000 for reshoots after Ridley Scott was forced to replace Kevin Spacey scenes with Christopher Plummer. Wahlberg made $1.5 million, even though Williams was the lead. After public criticism, the actor donated his salary to Time's Up.
Charlize Theron is one of the most respected actors in Hollywood, but you'd never know by the way she was treated on this poorly-received blockbuster. Despite her equal billing on the film, she was discovered she was paid less, via the online hack of Sony Pictures. However, for the sequel, she demanded and was paid $10 million more — the same for the film as her male co-star.
“I have to give them credit because once I asked, they said yes," Theron told Elle U.K. about renegotiating in 2015. "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."
Known in most households as Meredith Grey, Pompeo is currently the highest paid actress in television. But that took many years for her to get the payday she deserved. In a piece where she explained to The Hollywood Reporter how she became a $20 million woman, she said: "For me, Patrick [Dempsey] leaving the show [in 2015] was a defining moment, deal-wise. They could always use him as leverage against me — 'We don't need you; we have Patrick' — which they did for years. I don't know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals. There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that. At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is Grey's Anatomy and I'm Meredith Grey. They wouldn't give it to me. And I could have walked away, so why didn't I? It's my show; I'm the number one. I'm sure I felt what a lot of these other actresses feel: Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy? You feel conflicted but then you figure, "I'm not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house."
One of the most disappointing revelations of the Sony hack was that Jennifer Lawrence was being underpaid. After starring with Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, she scored an Oscar; he did not. However when it came to paying the two for supporting roles in American Hustle, Lawrence was undercut (along with fellow female co-star Amy Adams).
When it came to backend compensation, the breakdown ended up O’Russell: 9 percent; Cooper: 9 percent; Bale: 9 percent; Renner: 9 percent; Lawrence: 7 percent; Adams: 7 percent.
"When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn't get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn't want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don't need," Lawrence explained in an essay in Lenny Letter, "Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I'm sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share. Again, this might have NOTHING to do with my vagina, but I wasn't completely wrong when another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a 'spoiled brat.' For some reason, I just can't picture someone saying that about a man."
Some could excuse Lawrence's lower pay because she had less screen time, but Amy Adams was the leading lady in Hustle and not given much for it. She doesn't share an attitude with her character, a swift con artist. “I didn’t speak about it before and I’m probably not going to speak about it forever, because I disagreed with . . . not Jennifer per se, but people who had opinions on how women should go about negotiating.” Adams told British GQ, "The truth is we hire people to negotiate on our behalf, men and women... I knew I was being paid less and I still agreed to do it because the option comes down to do it or don’t do it. So you just have to decide if it’s worth it for you. It doesn’t mean I liked it.”
However, Adams still offered support to her costar. “I’m really proud of Jennifer. What I liked [about the essay] is that it was not necessarily about getting paid, or not getting paid… It’s like we [women] have been conditioned to not be controversial, to not cause problems. It’s about finding your voice.”
Although after numerous sexual misconduct accusations a lot of us would like to forget Kevin Spacey existed, he did, and got paid more than his costar for years.
"I want to be paid the same as Kevin," Wright asked producers, according to an interview she gave. "I was looking at the statistics and Claire Underwood's character was more popular than [Frank's] for a period of time. So I capitalized on it. I was like, 'You better pay me or I'm going to go public.'"
Forbes reported that Spacey made $500,000 per episode in 2014 while Wright was making $420,000 an episode.
Love her or hate her, Kathy Griffin is still a star — selling out Madison Square Garden and regularly generating headlines. But back when she starred in the '90s NBC sitcom Suddenly Susan, she already faced the gender pay gap.
"I’m someone who has been very open about asking for raises and trying to get equal pay. You’re just simply told, 'No.' It’s brutal. I guess I became aware of it on my first paid job. When I was on a sitcom in the ’90s, Suddenly Susan, I made the second-lowest salary on the cast," she told Variety in 2015, "Judd Nelson, who I liked, made four times what I made, and he ended up getting fired. And I went on to get two Emmys, a Grammy, three television shows with my name in the title and a New York Times best-seller."
She also called out how the problem is systemic.
"If you’re a woman and you think your agency is going to have your back, think again. I’ve never been in a situation where I had a Lorne Michaels or a Judd Apatow have my back. Or a studio. Or a network. I’ve been doing this s–t on my own forever," she explained, also noting how aging impacts women in the industry, "I’ve never been paid what the guys get. No, it’s not getting better for me. It might be getting better for Jennifer Lawrence. But I’m not 25 and a movie star."
Paltrow, who at $9 million per film was ranked on Forbes' list of highest paid actresses in 2015, had a tiny paycheck compared to Robert Downey, Jr. who was the world's highest paid actor that year (and the past two.)
Paltrow opened up via Page Six about Downey's $80 million Iron Man payday, saying, "Our 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 s---ty."
"Look, nobody is worth the money that Robert Downey Jr. is worth," Paltrow who seems more interested in her lifestyle brand Goop nowadays, explained, "But if I told you the disparity, you would probably be surprised."
Halle Berry is a trailblazer. John Travolta is a... Scientologist. Berry made a $2.5 million for the flick, while Travolta cashed in with a $20 million payday. However, Berry made an extra $500,000 bonus for showing her breasts in the film. (Nice try, Hollywood.)
At the time, Berry had already won an Emmy for Shonda Rhimes's writing debut, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, but was yet to be the first black woman to win an Oscar for best actress. That would happen in 2002.
Harrison Ford was paid 76 times more than Daisy Ridley for their roles in the Star Wars franchise.
Given that Ford is an icon, while Ridley was a newcomer, the number is still obscene considering that Daisy was the lead, while Ford was only in a few scenes. Also, Carrie Fisher, who is of the same status of Ford, was only paid £1 million for bringing back her role as General Leia, which is 23 times less than Ford's £23 million.
Although the 2003 comedy was directed by Nancy Meyers, one of the most successful female directors, things off-screen tilted towards the men.
In Keaton's 2011 memoir Then Again, she revealed that she received no back-end profits for the film, while co-star Jack Nicholson did. This was particularly alarming because Keaton's part was significantly larger than her costar's. Though it's unknown how much Nicholson made from the film, two years after it was released, he gave Keaton a check that his agents confirmed was half of his own profits.
After a report claimed that Jessica Chastain made $7 million for The Martian, the acclaimed actress set the record straight.
"Someone wrote an article once that said I made a certain amount of money for The Martian. I made less than a quarter of that in reality," Chastain told HuffPost Live. "People are already saying, ‘Well, she’s making a lot less than her male co-stars because she’s making this.’ I made less than a quarter of that in reality, so there is a huge wage gap in the industry.”
Chastain has made a name for herself advocating for equal pay since. She made headlines when Octavia Spencer revealed Chastain helped her make five times her asking salary. “She had been underpaid for so long. When I discovered that, I realized that I could tie her deal to mine to bring up her quote. Men should start doing this with their female costars," said Chastain.
Pretty Woman is one of Julia Roberts's most iconic roles, but she was not paid like an icon. She was paid just $300,000 to star alongside Richard Gere, who earned millions. Roberts was the obvious lead, with more screentime.
When Jennifer Lawrence spoke out about she was paid less, Roberts was among the many who congratulated her courage. "I applaud her," the Eat Pray Love star said on Good Morning America. "I think it's great to kind of shake things up. I think it's great to go, ‘Excuse me. Over here. I know something now and I'm frustrated by it and why is this?'"