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Sexism Watch: Gender Disparities in Actor Salaries

by Melissa Silverstein
February 17, 2012 11:21 AM
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Pine Lawrence

I saw a story the other day about how the actor Chris Pine (whose new film This Means War opens today and looks beyond dreadful) was being sued by his former agents over non payment of commissions.  In the story it revealed what Chris was paid for some of his recent roles.

Here's what bothers me.  Before he played Captain Kirk in the Paramount reboot of Star Trek, he had no career.  While the salary for the first Star Trek film is not listed, the salary for the second and third are, and they are substantial:  "$1.5 million plus up to $500,000 in backend compensation for the second film (which is currently in pre-production) and $3 million plus the $500,000 in backend for a third film, if it happens.  He also gets 5 percent of net merchadising revenue from the exploitation of his name and likeness."

He also made $3 million to star opposite Denzel Washington in Unstoppable.  That film cost $100 million to make and made $81 million in the US (and another $86 million overseas).  Both their names were above the title.  Not a big success.

So now on his next film This Means War which is opening today, he's getting $5 million (plus $1million in deferred compensation) to co-star opposite Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon.  This film which looks to be a total disaster (24% on Rotten Tomatoes) cost an absurd $65 million to make (according to the LA Times). 

And, he's also going to star in the reboot of the Jack Ryan series (three movies) with with salary beginning at $4 million and going to $8 million for the second film and then $12 million for the third film.

So here's my point. 

I look at Chris as a symbol of the young male action star.  Overpaid because they are in high budget action films.  While many women star in lower budgeted dramas, even those women who star in the action films (aside from Angelina Jolie) don't get paid the same as the boys.  Kristen Stewart made $500,000 for the first Twilight and she had much more experience than Chris Pine did when he got the Kirk gig.  But Star Trek had a bigger budget ($150 million) and bigger studio (Paramount) so that's how inexperienced actors get paid the big bucks.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Jennifer Lawrence is making $500,000 for the first Hunger Games.   She will receive bumps based on the box office performance.  This is is higher budgeted film $90 million than the first Twilight ($37 million), yet Lawrence -- who by the way was nominated for an Oscar  -- still gets the $500,000 salary.  She's on the poster, is clearly the lead, yet still doesn't get paid the same as the guys.  I mean seriously, Chris Pine making $3 million for Unstoppable is offensive.  Was the salary justified because of the success of Star Trek?  Please don't tell me that people went to see Star Trek for Chris Pine.  I have nothing against him, but that film sold itself it never mattered who was in it.

So the lesson is that it is virtually impossible for women to create the type of career that an actor like Chris Pine can.  And he can do that just because he is a guy.

Chris Pine Sued By Former Agents; 'This Means War,' 'Star Trek 2' Salary Revealed (Exclusive)  (Hollywood Reporter)

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  • Tinninches | June 22, 2012 10:40 PMReply

    These women should be lucky they are even allowed to leave the kitchen. Speaking of which, you sound like a bitch, and should probably run along and make me a sandwich.

  • David | February 22, 2012 9:34 PMReply

    Robert Downey Jr. was paid only paid $500,000 for Iron Man. Was THAT because of sexism too?

    Your complaints on this matter are simply ignorant.

  • Heather | February 27, 2012 12:33 PM

    And he made 10 million on the second one. So when the second hunger games comes out, we'll compare notes, and see who was paid more.

    I bet you 10 million dollars I know who it will be.

    He's more well established, you say? He's been around longer, you say?

    Exactly. That's why he wasn't figured into the original comparison. She's comparing the salaries of two young actors of differing genders in the same genre. Start changing the variables, and the comparison is no longer relevant.

  • Jan | February 20, 2012 8:29 AMReply

    Not surprising at all. It's still a patriarchy.

  • budmin | February 19, 2012 10:13 AMReply

    "Over Paid" is a Marxist term besides, when Hunger Games becomes successful as a new IP she'll be sitting on top of the fantasy epic world.

  • Sergio | February 17, 2012 11:34 AMReply

    By the way, what did Lawrence for that X Men movie compared to the other male actors on the film? And I'm surprised that she only got $500,000 for Hunger Games. I assumed she was pulling in seven figures for that film. She had no clout at all to get a bigger salary? Who's her agent?

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