Bette Davis might have been one of the first women to take a stance against the gender wage gap that exists in Hollywood. She won an Oscar for her film Dangerous in 1936, but Warner Brother Studios refused to give her a pay increase or give her more substantial roles. So, she took a better role in a British film and broke her contract with Warner Brothers. She ended up in a court case defending her rights to equal pay, which represented the first time an actress ever spoke up about the pay gap. Unfortunately, Warner Brothers won the suit in 1943.
X-Files was Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. Both Mulder and Scully were equally important characters to the long-running sci-fi series. However, it took Anderson three seasons to get the same pay as Duchovny. But when the show was given a revival, she was offered half of what Duchovny was offered for his return.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were both major celebrities by the time they did the film Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They had equally as important roles in the film. However, Brad Pitt made $20 million for his role in the movie, while Jolie made about half of that.
Both Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams received less than their male costars in the 2013 film American Hustle. But, when the Sony Hack happened, Lawrence found out how much less she was making. JLaw and Adams were receiving seven percent of the film’s profits, while the men received nine. JLaw published an essay about her pay gap in Lenny:
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
“I would be lying if I didn't say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight,” she continued. “I didn't want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn't worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’”
Rooney Mara revealed that she has been paid less than her male co-stars on a few occasions. She is best known for her role in The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.
“I’ve been in films where I’ve found out my male co-star got paid double what I got paid, and it’s just a reality of the time that we live in,” she told the Guardian. “To me, it’s frustrating, but at the same time, I’m just grateful to be getting paid at all for what I do.”
Charlize Theron fought to get equal pay for the Snow White and The Huntsman sequel, The Huntsman: Winter’s War. She found out that her costar, Chris Hemsworth, was being offered substantially more than she was. She held out until she was offered the same as Hemsworth, which was $10 million.
In 2011, Natalie Portman was offered three times less than her costar Ashton Kutcher in the rom-com No Strings Attached. Mind you, that the same year Portman won an Oscar for her role in Black Swan, while Kutcher is mostly known for his prank TV show Punkd and playing the dumb pretty-boy in That ‘70s Show.
“I wasn’t as pissed as I should have been. I mean, we get paid a lot, so I can’t complain, but the disparity is crazy, Portman said.
In Diane Keaton’s book, Then Again, the Oscar-winner revealed that she didn’t receive a back-end for her role in the 2003 film Something’s Gotta Give. But her costar, Jack Nicholson, who had a smaller role, did receive one. To make up for it, Nicholson sent her part of his salary.
Meryl Streep is one of the most award-winning and celebrated actors of our time. There is literally no justification for why she should receive less than a male costar. If anything, she should receive more. But, in a recent interview Streep spoke up and said that she is happy that men are sticking up for female actresses.
“Men are ashamed that they’re getting that money,” she told Time. “It used to be, everybody didn’t say anything about it, so it was kind of fine. Now they’re a little more nervous that somebody will find out what they make vis-a-vis their co-star. That’s the best vigilance: the vigilance of privilege. People will always be battling and whining about it. When the other side says, ‘You know, I think that sucks’ — that’s great.”
Recently, Emma Stone revealed that her male costars have taken pay cuts so that they could be on a level playing field for a role.
“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,” Stone told Out Magazine. “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.'”
“I was like, ‘I want to be paid the same as Kevin,’” she said. “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.’”
However, Wright said that as of June, 2017 she still hasn’t received that equal pay.