“What I do now, when I’m taking on a film, I always ask about the fairness of the pay.”
It’s no secret that women aren’t equally compensated in the workplace — and that’s just as true in Hollywood. Across the entertainment industry, women are often not paid as much as their male coworkers and are expected to simply let it slide. In fact, some female celebrities admit they’ve been paid millions less than men working on the same project as them, who are doing basically the same job.
But as of late, women are standing up for themselves and speaking out in an attempt to finally close the pay gap. These actresses, musicians and models are demanding equal pay and actually walking away when they’re not given what they deserve. Although it’s difficult to walk away from a big opportunity, these women are making a difference and paving the way for generations to come.
Neve Campbell has starred in all five films in the “Scream” franchise, but she recently announced she wouldn’t be returning for “Scream 6.” The actress explained that while it was a difficult decision, it all came down to the offer she was given not meeting her expectations. Since she wasn’t able to negotiate a better deal, she decided to simply walk away.
“I did not feel that what I was being offered equated to the value that I bring to this franchise, and have brought to this franchise, for 25 years. And as a woman in this business, I think it’s really important for us to be valued and to fight to be valued. I honestly don’t believe that if I were a man and had done five installments of a huge blockbuster franchise over 25 years, that the number that I was offered would be the number that would be offered to a man,” Neve told People.
When Bryce Dallas Howard signed on for the “Jurassic” films in 2014, she says it was a “different world” and she was at a “great disadvantage.” She ended up agreeing to her contract despite being paid millions less than her co-star Chris Pratt. But as time went on, the pay gap weighed on her and she decided to speak out. After consulting with Chris, they decided to fight back on aspects of her contract that hadn’t been set in stone, like spinoff video games and theme park rides. Chris even volunteered to assist with the negotiations.
“What I will say is that Chris and I have discussed it, and whenever there was an opportunity to move the needle on stuff that hadn’t been already negotiated, like a game or a ride, he literally told me: ‘You guys don’t even have to do anything. I’m gonna do all the negotiating. We’re gonna be paid the same, and you don’t have to think about this, Bryce.’ And I love him so much for doing that. I really do, because I’ve been paid more for those kinds of things than I ever was for the movie,” Bryce told Insider.
When Ellen Pompeo was first cast in “Grey’s Anatomy,” she was being paid half of that of her co-star Patrick Dempsey — despite the show being named after her character. She didn’t learn of the pay gap until several seasons in, thus beginning her fight for equal pay. While it took some time, Ellen is now the highest-paid actress on a primetime drama, earning $575,000 per episode. On top of that, she’s earned a seven-figure signing bonus and two full backend equity points on the series, which is estimated to bring in another $6 million to $7 million.
“You never want to [be perceived as] too greedy. Or maybe it’s just that as women, that’s our problem; a guy wouldn’t have any problem asking for $600,000 an episode. And as women, we’re like, ‘Oh, can I ask for that? Is that OK?’ I’d call Shonda [Rhimes] and say, ‘Am I being greedy?’ But CAA compiled a list of stats for me, and ‘Grey’s’ has generated nearly $3 billion for Disney. When your face and your voice have been part of something that’s generated $3 billion for one of the biggest corporations in the world, you start to feel like, ‘OK, maybe I do deserve a piece of this,'” Ellen told The Hollywood Reporter.
Throughout Sienna Miller’s career she says she’s had to turn down many roles because she didn’t feel as though she was being fairly compensated. One of those times included a role in a Broadway production where she and a male co-star were the only ones on stage. Despite being the star of the show, they refused to pay her the same as the male actor — so she walked away.
“It was a play with just two of us on stage and I was offered less than half of what he was going to be paid. If it was two men, it wouldn’t probably happen. Sad, but I walked away,” Sienna told Vogue.
After Julianna Margulies wrapped on “The Good Wife,” she was asked to reprise her role on the show’s spinoff series “The Good Life.” While she says she really wanted to do it, CBS wouldn’t compensate her fairly so she unfortunately had to walk away.
“The showrunners had found a nice way to reintroduce my character, a story that was to span three episodes. I was really excited about the idea, but CBS refused to pay my [ask],” Julianna reportedly said during a television festival.
Charlize Theron knew she had to speak up when she discovered that she was being paid less than her co-star Chris Hemsworth in “The Huntsman.” While negotiating her contract for the sequel, Charlize asked for higher pay, to which the studio agreed.
“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. This is a good time for us to bring this to a place of fairness, and girls need to know that being a feminist is a good thing. It doesn’t mean that you hate men. It means equal rights. If you’re doing the same job, you should be compensated and treated in the same way,” Charlize said in an interview with Elle U.K.
Throughout her career, Jessica Chastain has dealt with unequal pay and situations where she would get paid with what was “left over” from the salary of her male co-star. She finally decided to put her foot down and demand to be compensated fairly, even if that meant having to turn things down. In an essay penned for Variety, Jessica says she now always asks about how she is being compensated in comparison to her male co-stars.
“What I do now, when I’m taking on a film, I always ask about the fairness of the pay. I ask what they’re offering me in comparison to the guy. I don’t care about how much I get paid; I’m in an industry where we’re overcompensated for the work we do. But I don’t want to be on a set where I’m doing the same work as someone else and they’re getting five times what I’m getting,” she wrote.
Jessica Chastain’s decision to stand up for herself actually influenced other actresses too! Octavia Spencer says that after speaking with Jessica about the wage gap and pay discrepancies faced by women of color, the duo decided to take action on a film they were working on together.
“I love that woman, because she’s walking the walk and she’s actually talking the talk. She said, ‘Octavia, we’re gonna get you paid on this film…You and I are gonna be tied together. We’re gonna be favored nations, and we’re gonna make the same thing.’ Fast forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for,” Octavia said at a Sundance Film Festival panel.”
When Hilary Duff was still a teen, she was set to make a sequel to “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.” Her mother Susan was helping to negotiate the contract, during which she demanded Disney pay out the $500,000 bonus that they owed Hilary. When the studio refused and completely withdrew their offer for the film, Hilary and her mother decided to walk away from any future “Lizzie McGuire” projects.
“Disney thought they’d be able to bully us into accepting whatever offer they wanted to make, and they couldn’t. We walked away from a sequel. They walked away from a franchise…We weren’t feeling the love. They weren’t giving Hilary the respect she deserved,” Susan told EW.
Patricia Arquette may have made a powerful speech at the 2015 Oscars demanding equal pay for women and even taken the issue to Congress, but she has still had to walk away from roles where she wasn’t going to be compensated fairly. In fact, she says one studio offered her an entirely different pay structure than her male co-star, despite that they were both Oscar winners.
“I’ve walked away from several jobs because they were giving me really bullshit deals that were really shitty and different from men in a really fucked up way,” Patricia told The Daily Beast.
Emmy Rossum decided to stand up for equal pay going into her eighth season on “Shameless.” The actress explained that at that point, she felt her salary should be equal with the show’s male lead, William H. Macy, as she spent more hours on set and was on camera more than anyone else in the cast. She refused to sign on for season eight until it could be negotiated. While the contract negotiations took some time, she was finally given what she deemed to be fair.
“I certainly was never trying to make any kind of grand political statement. I was only trying to do what felt right. The idea of not continuing on ‘Shameless’ was not one I ever wanted to entertain. So when it all worked out, I was thrilled — thrilled my small victory was part of a much larger tide. But my story is not unique. It was just public. Wage disparity becomes even more pronounced when you factor in age, race, body size and orientation,” Emmy told The Hollywood Reporter.
Ahead of season nine of “The Walking Dead,” Lauren Cohan was reportedly sent “lowball” offers — despite the fact that she had been a part of the cast for almost a decade. During the months-long contract negotiation, she decided that it was time to walk away from the show.
“I kind of felt in some ways surprised, to be honest with you. And I took that, how baffled I was, and thought, ‘Okay, well that’s a sign. This is maybe just not a fit anymore.’ To feel like we weren’t lining up in so many ways I just thought, ‘Okay, well, maybe that means something,'” Lauren told EW.
Since her initial departure, Lauren has since returned to the show.