And the hits just keep coming. Joining the esteemed ranks of actors who’ve gone public about Hollywood’s gender pay gap today is Natalie Portman, who has revealed that a male co-star once got paid three times as much as her.
Who was this titan of cinema who merited a bigger pay cheque than the Oscar-winning Portman, you ask (an actor who has, lest we forget, been so incredibly successful in her 22-year career that there’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to all of her awards)? The late Marlon Brando, perhaps, before his death? Daniel Day-Lewis? Robert De Niro?
Friends, no. The actor deemed deserving of out-earning Natalie P. three times over was none other than the towering talent, the filmic icon, the bright star that is… Ashton Kutcher.
Yep, that’s right. Way back in the heady days of 2011, when Donald Trump was just some weird orange guy on American reality TV and Tinder hadn’t been invented yet (were we ever so young?), Portman and the erstwhile host of MTV’s Punk’d starred together in a questionable little romantic comedy called No Strings Attached. For his troubles, Kutcher got paid three times as much as his female co-star – and she knew it.
“I knew [about the pay gap] and I went along with it,” Portman, recently nominated for another Golden Globe for her role in Jackie, tells Marie Claire in a new interview.
Her reluctance to kick up a fuss at the time was due to “this thing with ‘quotes’ in Hollywood,” Portman explains. “His [quote] was three times higher than mine so they said he should get three times more.”
No Strings Attached was released just before Portman won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Black Swan. She had already been nominated for an Academy Award in 2005 for her role in Closer, and was a household name after starring as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. (Kutcher, to be fair, did have 14 Teen Choice Awards to his name.)
“I wasn’t as pissed as I should have been,” Portman says today. “I mean, we get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy.”
Portman isn’t the first female actor to admit to feeling uncomfortable talking about equal pay thanks to Hollywood’s generally high salaries. Jennifer Lawrence has said that similar anxieties once held her back from discussing the gender pay gap.
“It’s hard for me to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t exactly relatable,” the Hunger Games star wrote in an October 2015 essay. At the time, the Sony email hack had recently revealed that Lawrence was out-earned considerably by her male co-stars in American Hustle – and like Portman, Lawrence acknowledged that she hadn’t fought for equal pay on that film.
“I gave up early,” she wrote. “I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me).”
Portman’s The Other Boleyn Girl co-star, Scarlett Johansson, meanwhile, has said that talking about the gender pay gap in connection to her “own personal experience” as a wealthy woman “feels a little obnoxious”.
However, Portman has clearly had a change of heart when it comes to calling out Hollywood sexism. “Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar,” she tells Marie Claire. “In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”
She adds: “I don’t think women and men are more or less capable. We just have a clear issue with women not having opportunities. We need to be part of the solution, not perpetuating the problem.”
Kutcher, to his credit, has thrown his full support behind Portman. The actor – whose wife Mila Kunis has also written about the sexism she’s encountered in Hollywood – posted a tweet on Wednesday night praising Portman for speaking up.
Images: Rex Features