We weren’t short on reasons to love Benedict Cumberbatch, but there’s officially a new one to add to our very long list.
In a recent interview with Radio Times, the actor made his position on equal pay perfectly clear, suggesting that male actors should boycott roles if their female co-stars aren’t being paid on par. “Equal pay and a place at the table are the central tenets of feminism,” he said. “Look at your quotas. Ask what women are being paid, and say: ‘If she’s not paid the same as the men, I’m not doing it’.”
He also vowed his new production company, SunnyMarch, would maintain this ethos moving forward.
But Cumberbatch is not the first to speak out on this issue. The fight for equal pay in Hollywood has been a hotly debated topic over recent months, slotting into greater social movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp. The first big incident came when Mark Wahlberg received $1.5 million US more than his female co-star, Michelle Williams during the reshoot of All the Money in the World. Wahlberg subsequently donated his total earnings to the Times Up Legal Defence Fund which was established by a number of leading female actors to protect victims of sexual harassment and assault.
Many suggested that Wahlberg’s response proved pressure on equal pay worked. And certainly a bunch of other, similar examples support that theory.
Just read in @THR that Mark Wahlberg is donating the $1.5 million he made and WME is donating an additional $500k to #TIMESUP in Michelle Williams name. Amazing. The lesson here is that pressure for equal pay works.
— Melissa Silverstein (@melsil) January 13, 2018
Over the past year, there have been a number of equal-pay success stories. Each new report building momentum and a case for change. Claire Foy, lead actor in Netflix drama ‘The Crown’, received full reimbursement after a gaping pay disparity between her and co-star, Matt Smith was revealed early this year.
Ellen Pompeo, star of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ revealed in a January interview that her co-star, Patrick Dempsey had been paid significantly more despite the show being named after her own character, Meredith Grey. Following Dempsey’s departure from the show, Pompeo signed a new deal making her the highest-earning female actor on a TV drama at $575,000 per episode.
And in 2017, Emma Stone gave a candid interview to Out Magazine where she revealed that many of her male co-stars had taken pay-cuts on her behalf, to ensure parity was reached.
“In my career so far, I’ve needed my male co-stars to take a pay cut so that I may have parity with them. And that’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair,” continues Stone. “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.'”
Of course, in an ideal world, men wouldn’t have to take pay cuts to ensure equality, but in the short term it’s necessary. Because, when influential men like Cumberbatch and Wahlberg stick their noses out on issues like pay-parity, the industry listens. It listens, and it changes.