Are female film stars getting a fair deal, or does pay inequality dominate Hollywood?

Written by Busra Mutlu

It was recently revealed that Oscar winning actress Jennifer Lawrence and Christ Pratt will be starring in a romantic sci-fi drama Passengers, directed by Morten Tyldum planned to be released next year. Although the film is still pre-production stages it has already made huge headlines regarding the actors fees. Sources have revealed that Pratt will be earning $12 million, which is a $2 million increase from his previous pay cheque and Lawrence will be getting $20 million.

This is isn’t the first time an actor is getting paid such high sums, Leonardo DiCaprio has been charging $20 million for almost all of his films since Titanic. Bradley Cooper who is a frequent co-star of Lawrence made $20 million for starring in American Sniper last year, however his salary did not make the headlines. So why is it such a big deal for an Academy, BAFTA and two Golden Globe Award winner Lawrence to be earning more than her co-star?

The answer is simple: actresses in Hollywood RARELY get paid $20 million let alone earn more than their male co-stars. 

Leaking scandals

During the Sony Pictures email leak. last year it was revealed that Lawrence and Amy Adams were paid 7% of the profits made by AmericanHustle, while Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner earned 9%. It’s important to remember that Adams has five Academy and five BAFTA nominations, much more than her male co-stars. Obviously the amount of awards an actor has isn’t the only factor when considering their fee, it’s also how much fanbase they have and how bankable they are at the box office. However, when Lawrence was filming American Hustle she already had two blockbuster franchises under her belt, Hunger Games and X-Men. Notably with Hunger Games, she took on the main character role and the first film made more then $650 million at the box office, with the sequel making more then $850 million and they both were released before American Hustle.

The struggle

Actresses have been struggling with unequal pay for a very long time. In 2003 Cameron Diaz made the headlines for being the second actress to join the $20 Million Club after Julia Roberts when she signed on to do Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. However, demanding that high amount for a film wasn’t unseen, even back in 2003. Tom Cruise was already earning $20 million in 1996 and Will Smith’s salary for Ali in 2001 was also $20 million. This year The Hollywood Reporter revealed the big names in the $20 Million Club, which includes Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Denzel Washington and Sandra Bullock. It’s sad to see that out of the five actors only one is a woman. 

Unequal pay in Hollywood doesn’t only affect actresses, but also female employees within studios and film companies. The Sony leaks also revealed that there are seventeen employees of Sony Pictures that have an annual salary of $1 million or more. Out of the seventeen employees, only one is a woman.

When Patricia Arquette went on stage to receive her Best Supporting Actress Award at the 2015 Oscars she gave a very powerful speech for equal pay: “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” Women in Hollywood have been fighting the salary gap for quite a while now and Lawrence’s success will be a great example for women in Hollywood along with Charlize Theron who will receive the equal salary of her co-star Chris Hemsworth for Snow White and the Huntsman prequel. It has been reported that the Sony leaks has helped her in demanding equal pay in a time when the industry is at the highest criticism of the unequal pay. 

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