Diane Kruger has added her name to the list of women in Hollywood prepared to speak publicly about the gender pay gap.
Speaking to Variety at the Cannes Film Festival, Kruger expressed her gratitude to other actors – such as Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence – who have already criticised the film industry’s sexist pay scale.
Kruger, who was born in Germany and splits her time between homes in Vancouver, Paris and Los Angeles, said that the problem was particularly acute in the US.
“I’ve certainly never been paid as much as a male co-star in the United States,” she said. “In France, yes.
“Sometimes I had to accept [lower pay] for financial reasons, or because I really, really wanted to play that role,” she continued. “It is tough.”
The 40-year-old actor also spoke about the double standards she has experienced while working on film sets, observing that opinionated women tend to be branded difficult to work with – while men are simply considered passionate.
“I’ve certainly [had] the experience that if I speak up and I don’t sugar-coat things, that people think, ‘Oh you’re harsh or you’re a bitch,’ and men would be treated as great artists and passionate about their work,” she said.
“But it’s a matter of yourself to just create that space and say: ‘No, this is where I draw the line.”
Currently, just 7% of films released in the US are directed by women. Over the course of Kruger’s own 16-year career, only three out of the 36 films in which she has appeared have been directed by female filmmakers – putting her own tally at a little over 8%. Significantly, two of those women-led films were made in France (Sky and Disorder, both released in 2015); the other, 2006’s Copying Beethoven, was made by Agnieszka Holland, a Polish director.
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Asked why she thought that sexism is more deep-rooted in the American film industry, Kruger said that French cinema is less concerned with blockbusters and less geared to appeal to young people: “Ageism is not as prevalent in Europe.”
Kruger added that she believes women filmmakers often bring a different sensibility to their work – and are more likely to depict female characters as realistic, fully-formed people.
“I just think it’s a different point of view, especially for a female character. I find that they are maybe more profound, a little less single-dimensional,” she said, noting that male directors often portray women as secondary, rather than central, characters.
But, Kruger continued, a shift is beginning to take place. “I think it is changing because women are speaking out more and I know that there is a real push in Hollywood to try to have more female directors,” she said.
While lots of the high-profile actors speaking out about the gender pay gap in Hollywood are white – think J. Law and Jessica Chastain, as well as Robin Wright, Patricia Arquette, Emma Stone and Natalie Portman – there is also an oft-overlooked race wage gap, which becomes doubly harmful when combined with gender.
In Forbes’ ranking of the highest paid actresses in 2016, eight out of the top 10 were white. No black women made the cut, and the two women of colour who did – Deepika Padukone and Fan Bingbing – make their fortunes away from Hollywood, in Bollywood and China respectively. (Jennifer Lawrence, the highest paid actress on the list with annual earnings of £35 million, still earned almost £14m less than her male counterpart, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.)
Sigh. Still so much work to be done. Come on, Hollywood; we’re counting on you.
Images: Rex Features