Female beauty, that is. For fellows though, it’s a vastly different story. Especially if you’re a leading man like George Clooney, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Chris Hemsworth. Scarlett Johansson is currently Hollywood’s highest-paid female actor. She earned $56 million between June 1, 2018 and June 1, 2019.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the highest paid male actor, but, in the same period he earned $89.4 million, roughly $33 million more. It gets worse. According to Forbes the ten highest-earning female actors last year – including Sofia Vergara, (the only woman of colour on the list) and Reese Witherspoon – made $315 million between them.
The top 10 highest-paid male actors? They made a whopping $600 million over the same time period.
Despite the fact the top-10 female earners upped their combined income by 69% from the year before, they’re still making considerably less than their male co-stars.
All the figures Forbes use are pre-tax, pre-agents/managers/lawyer fees and include ‘extracurricular’ earnings, which include other things like business ventures and brand advocacy. So what might be the reason for this discrepancy between the genders?
“The Rock” is the co-founder of a production company, which means he has more negotiating powers in the board room where decisions get made. He has more say on his projects, like his HBO project “Ballers” and the “Jumanji” franchise. As co-founder of a production company, he likely has more leverage when it comes to how much he gets paid.
Boosting opportunities for women in the industry is one of the reasons Reese Witherspoon launched her production company Hello Sunshine back in 2016. “Taking the reins of the business side of show business is the surest way to create opportunity in an industry that notoriously skews in favour of men,” Forbes Entertainment journalist Madeline Berg wrote.
This year, Witherspoon came in at number 3 on the highest paid female actors in Hollywood, behind Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara.The discrepancy between the female actors’ list and male actors’ list is distressing; Witherspoon, whose $35 million income earned her the 3rd position on the list, made the same amount as Will Smith, who is 10th on his list of male actors.
According the CNBC the gender pay gap in Hollywood is even worse than in the rest of the American workforce.
Oscar winning female actors have braved potential firestorms to speak out about against the gender pay gap in Hollywood. Emma Stone said in 2017, “I’ve needed my male co-stars to take a pay cut so that I may have parity with them. That’s something that’s also not discussed, necessarily — that our getting equal pay is going to require people to selflessly say, ‘That’s what’s fair.’”
In the same year, Natalie Portman told Marie Claire, “Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar. In Hollywood we are making 30 cents to the dollar.” For the rom-com she did with Ashton Kutcher in 2011, she was paid three times less.
Gwyneth Paltrow has also spoken out about her experience of unequal pay. “I was doing a film once, and I was co-starring with a man who had quantifiably not had the success that I had had or been as long as I had in the business, but he was paid the same salary as I was,” she told Variety Magazine in 2015.
Perhaps the answer, as Berg says, is for women to move into producing. “Creating more female-centred and female-written stories and increasing our numbers,” might be the way towards a more equitable paycheck.