21 Times Women Were Grossly Underpaid On Set

On average, women earn $1.1 million *less* than their male costars.

The gender pay gap is still a prevalent issue that women face, with women in the US earning 84% as much as men in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. This means that a woman would have to work an estimated 42 extra days to make as much money as a man in the same position.

The gap is wider for women of color. According to the Center for American Progress, for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men make, Black women earn 64 cents, Native American women earn 60 cents, and Hispanic women earn 57 cents.

One of the industries where the gender pay gap is the most conspicuous is the entertainment industry, with many famous women calling out the huge disparities in their paychecks compared to their male costars’.


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In 2019, a team of economists found that, on average, male actors earn $1.1 million more per movie than their female costars with similar amounts of experience.

Here are 21 times women were grossly underpaid on set:

1.

Challenging reports that she made $7 million for The Martian while Matt Damon made $25 million, Jessica Chastain clarified that she “made less than a quarter of that in reality.”


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She told HuffPost, “There is a huge wage gap in the industry. … It’s wonderful that people are starting to talk about the wage gap and really [admit] that it’s an issue.”

2.

Then, after Octavia Spencer educated her on the pay disparity that women of color face, Chastain offered to tie her and Spencer’s salary negotiations together to help them get a better deal — and Spencer got five times her initial salary.


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Spencer tweeted, “I don’t know what or if it cost her anything as far as her rate, I just know she stood with me.”

On Twitter, Chastian also said, “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.”

3.

Arden Cho reportedly declined to return for the Teen Wolf reboot because she was offered “half the per-episode salary proposed to her three counterparts.”


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Her character, Kira, was previously cut from the show’s sixth season.

4.

The X-Files ran for three years before Gillian Anderson was paid as much as David Duchovny was, and when the show was renewed in 2016, she was offered half of what he was offered to return.


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However, she ultimately received equal pay for the renewal.

5.

Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett received millions of dollars for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but Taraji P. Henson — who asked for $500,000 — was only paid $150,000.


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Henson also had to negotiate that $150,000 up from the studio’s initial offer of $100,000.

6.

When Priyanka Chopra made only 5% of what her male costar earned for a Bollywood movie, the producer told her, “This is the budget for the girl, and we can’t move beyond that.”


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She told InStyle, “I’ve been told straight up, if it’s a female role in a movie with big, male actors attached, your worth is not really considered as much.”

7.

The same year that Natalie Portman won an Oscar for Black Swan, she was paid only a third of what Ashton Kutcher (who has no Oscar nominations) made in their rom-com No Strings Attached.


Paramount / ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

She told Marie Claire, “I knew and I went along with it because there’s this thing with ‘quotes’ in Hollywood…His [quote] was three times higher than mine, so they said he should get three times more. I wasn’t as pissed as I should have been.”

8.

When Jennifer Lawrence found out from leaked Sony emails that she was paid significantly less than her male American Hustle costars — 7% of back-end compensation compared to the 9% that Jeremy Renner and Bradley Cooper were given — she was mad at herself and felt she “failed as a negotiator because [she] gave up early.”


Columbia Pictures / ©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

In an essay for Lena Dunham’s “Lenny” newsletter, she wrote, “I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need. … 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.'”

She once again received unequal pay for Don’t Look Up, making $25 million while Leonardo DiCaprio made $30 million.

9.

Her costar Amy Adams, on the other hand, knew they were being paid less than the men but “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” but “it doesn’t mean [she] liked it.”


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She told British GQ, “I’m really proud of Jennifer. What I liked 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.”

10.

Vanessa Morgan said that she’s “the only Black series regular but also paid the least” on Riverdale.


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On Twitter, she also said that she’s “tired of how Black people are portrayed in media…tired of us also being used as sidekick non-dimensional characters to our white leads…Or only used in the ads for diversity but not actually in the show.”

11.

It wasn’t until the eighth season of Shameless that Emmy Rossum was offered pay parity with her costar William H. Macy, but she held out for more to make up for the years she’d been paid significantly less than him.


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During a roundtable for the Hollywood Reporter, Rossum said, “As it was happening, I’ll tell you the person who supported me the most was William H. Macy. … To have the man counterpart on my show be like, ‘Yes, she does deserve this and more’ was so validating. And after it became public, it was a quick resolution.”

12.

Grace Park declined to return for the eighth season of Hawaii Five-0 after CBS refused to give her pay equality with costars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan.


Cbs Photo Archive / CBS via Getty Images

Daniel Dae Kim also left the show for similar reasons.

13.

Though she didn’t name which movie, Amanda Seyfried said that on a big budget production, she once made 10% of what her male costar earned — and they were both already huge names in Hollywood.


Gilbert Carrasquillo / Via Getty

She told the Sunday Times, “I think people think that just because I’m easygoing and game to do things, I’ll just take as little as they offer. … It’s not about how much you get, it’s about how fair it is.”

14.

Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch tried to hold out for pay parity with the rest of the Big Bang Theory main cast (all of whom made $1 million per episode). However, even after their costars all took a $100,00 per episode pay cut in solidarity, they were only able to negotiate up to around $425,000 per episode.


Cbs / ©CBS/Courtesy Everett Collection

In previous season, Bialik and Rauch made $175,000 per episode.

15.

Catt Sadler left E! News after a female executive informed her that her male cohost was making nearly double her salary — and he had been for years.


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On The View, she said, “We started at the same time, 12 years ago. We had the same, for all intents and purposes, experience, skill sets, same public profile — for me, it was really apples to apples…that’s why I just feel so strong in my conviction that what was happening was an injustice, and that’s why I felt very compelled to fight for what was right at the time.”

16.

Hilary Swank said that her “male counterpart will get paid 10 times more” than she does.


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While speaking at the Loyola Marymount University School of Film & TV, she continued, “Not double, but 10 times for the same job. We only have this much left for the female actress.”

17.

For All the Money in the World, Michelle Williams reportedly earned $625,000, whereas Mark Wahlberg earned $5 million.


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Additionally, for reshoots, he was reportedly paid $1.5 million, and she was paid less than $1,000.

18.

Netflix reportedly paid Amy Schumer $11 million for her comedy special The Leather Special, but after she learned that some male comedians — including Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle — were paid $20 million for similar projects, she went back to the streaming service to ask for higher (but not equal) compensation.


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Addressing the situation on Instagram, she said, “I believe women deserve equal pay. However, I don’t believe I deserve equal pay to Chris and Dave. They are legends and 2 of the greatest comics of all time. I would like to say that I have been selling out arenas these last couple years. Something a female comic has never done…I didn’t ask for the same as my friends.”

19.

On the set of Spider-Man, “the pay disparity between [Kirsten Dunst] and Spider-Man was very extreme,” but she “didn’t even think about it.”


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She told the Independent, “I was just like, ‘Oh yeah, Tobey [Maguire] is playing Spider-Man.’ But you know who was on the cover of the second Spider-Man poster? Spider-Man and ME.”

20.

In her memoir, Then Again, Diane Keaton revealed that her Something’s Gotta Give contract didn’t include back-end profits, whereas Jack Nicholson’s did.


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Two years after the movie’s release, he divided the profits he’d made evenly between himself and Keaton. 

21.

And finally, Charlize Theron was initially offered $10 million less than Chris Hemsworth for Snow White and the Huntsman, but she successfully negotiated equal pay for herself.


Universal / ©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

She told Elle, “I have to give them credit because once I asked, they said yes. They did not fight it. And maybe that’s the message: That we just need to put our foot down. … If you’re doing the same job, you should be compensated and treated in the same way.”

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21 Times Women Were Grossly Underpaid On Set

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