Natalie Portman is arguably one of the most respected actresses working in film today. Aside from having the giant franchises of both Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe on her resume, she has a lengthy list of impressive titles whose cast lists bear name – beginning with the remarkable Leon back in 1994, when she was just 11 years of age. So, as she promotes her latest project – the award-winning Jackie – we pay close attention when Portman draws back the curtain to reveal the reality about the gender pay gap, using her 2011 film No Strings Attached as an example.
“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. I mean, we get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy. Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar. In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”
To be clear, the “he” in this case is Ashton Kutcher – winner of the 2010 People’s Choice Award for ‘Favourite Web Celeb,’ several Teen Choice Awards for television, and star of films such as The Butterfly Effect, Guess Who, The Guardian, What Happens In Vegas, Valentine’s Day and more. He’s also a successful producer.
Natalie Portman, by contrast, has an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA to her name, along with 113 other nominations. She has starred in Cold Mountain, Closer, V For Vendetta, Black Swan and Knight Of Cups, among many, many others, and is a noted producer, director and screenwriter. But still, “there’s this thing with ‘quotes’ in Hollywood…”
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The issue of the gender pay gap is, for some reason, contentious in all industries around the world. Despite being repeatedly proven by data and fact-based evidence, many continue to deny it even exists. When it comes to Hollywood, the issue grows even thornier, because the people in question are already considered to be “rich and famous.” The point is, though, that the gender pay gap in Hollywood is simply a variation of a situation that can be found in all industries – and that is why it’s important for women, including Hollywood actresses, to talk openly about it.
For those that acknowledge the existence of the gender pay gap, there are many stock excuses that are routinely rolled out when the debate arises. These include the idea that pay is based on merit, seniority, experience and a willingness to put in ‘long hours.’ Well, this is another reason why it is particularly important to listen to Natalie Portman. By the time she starred in No Strings Attached with Ashton Kutcher in 2011, she outranked him by every measure – including box office.
The common argument that men in Hollywood receive higher salaries because women generate less box office for studios clearly fails in this case. A quick glance at Box Office Mojo reveals that the lifetime gross for Ashton Kutcher currently stands at $957,186,734, while the same calculation for Natalie Portman equals $2,072,559,702. So, if the gender pay gap in Hollywood is as blatant as “30 cents to the dollar,” and it isn’t based on merit, seniority, experience, overall box office draw, or a willingness to put in long hours, what is it based on? “Quotes,” says Natalie Portman, while promoting Jackie – for which she is expected to receive her third Oscar nomination. I’m sure we can all figure out how those are calculated.