If there was ever any doubt that it’s harder to be a woman than a man in Hollywood, Natalie Portman has just provided yet another cold hard fact. During an interview with Marie Claire UK, Portman revealed that her male co-star Ashton Kutcher was paid three times more than her for their 2011 rom com No Strings Attached.
Portman says that she knew of the pay disparity prior to shooting, but signed on because of Kutcher’s projected quote (ie: what he made on his last film). “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. I mean, we get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy.”
Both actors were already household names at the time of filming, but it’s definitely worth noting that in 2011, Kutcher was best known for his roles in That 70’s Show, Punk’d, and for being married to Demi Moore. As for Portman, she had just won an Academy Award for Black Swan.
Let’s go over that last one again – Portman had just won a freaking Oscar and was being paid three times less than her Oscar-less male co-star. “Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar,” says Portman. “In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”
Portman’s example of the wage gap in Hollywood isn’t unique. Following the Sony hack in 2014, it was revealed that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were paid less than their male co-stars for American Hustle. Like Portman, Lawrence accepted the role after having just won an Academy Award for her role in Silver Linings Playbook.
Actor Hilary Swank has also shared her experience with the Hollywood wage gap. During an interview with Chelsea Handler, Swank revealed that following her Oscar-winning role for Boys Don’t Cry, she still hadn’t made enough money to qualify for health insurance. Swank followed up her win with another Oscar for Million Dollar Baby, but one particular movie offer following her two wins didn’t come close to representing her achievements. “The male hadn’t had any critical success, but had been in a movie where he was ‘hot.’ He got offered $10 million and I got offered $500,000,” says Swank. “I said ‘no,’ so they went and found a newcomer who did it for $50,000.”
Thankfully, there is some promising news. As more actors continue speaking publicly about the disparity between men and women’s pay in Hollywood, a move to close the gap seems to finally be taking place. For her 2016 role in Passengers, Lawrence negotiated a $20 million salary, $8 million more than her male co-star, Chris Pratt. Actor Emmy Rossum recently made headlines when she demanded to not only be paid the same as her Shameless co-star William H. Macy, but also be paid backpay for all seven seasons. Rossum, who is the lead actor in Shameless, was granted her request, with filming recently starting for Season 8 of the hit Showtime series.
As for Portman, she’s not only speaking out about the pay gap, but she’s also fighting for more opportunities for women in film. Portman, who made her directorial debut in 2016 with A Tale of Love and Darkness, insisted on a female director for her upcoming film On the Basis of Sex about Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg. “I don’t think women and men are more or less capable [as directors], we just have a clear issue with women not having opportunities,” Portman told Marie Claire. “We need to be part of the solution, not perpetuating the problem. As this story is specifically about gender discrimination, I was like, ‘How dare we not hire a female.'”