Left, by Frederick M. Brown; Right, by Niklas Halle’n/AFP, both from .
To note the ongoing wage disparity in Hollywood is to become something of a broken record. Men make more and women make much, much less, in just about every regard, whether they’re behind the camera or in front of it. The path of an actress is also much thornier than that of an actor’s, thanks to the everyday sexism embedded in fighting for a smaller pool of plum leading roles. And things hardly get easier once an actress skyrockets into movie-star territory—a fact that’s highlighted each year when Forbes releases its annual lists of the highest-paid actors and actresses in Hollywood.
This year, the industry’s highest-paid actor is Mark Wahlberg, whose starring role in the dumb but highly lucrative Transformers franchise has deeply paid off. He made approximately $68 million this year, thanks to the latest installment, Transformers: The Last Knight, and his rate for the upcoming comedy sequel Daddy’s Home 2. He barely edged out Dwayne Johnson, who was No. 1 last year, but landed in second place this year with $65 million. Rounding out the top five is Vin Diesel ($54.5 million), Adam Sandler ($50.5 million) and Jackie Chan ($49 million).
How does this list show the stark wage contrast in the industry? Compare it to the same magazine’s recently released list of the industry’s highest-paid actresses. On August 16, Forbes revealed that Emma Stone, who also picked up an Oscar this year, was Hollywood’s highest-paid female star. However, her sum doesn’t come close to Wahlberg’s $68 million haul, or even Chan’s $49 million. Stone made approximately . . . $26 million, mostly thanks to her back-end deal for the whimsical musical La La Land. Take that in for a moment: the highest-paid actress in Hollywood doesn’t even make half of what the highest-paid actor makes. Had La La Land been a flop, the No. 1 spot would have gone to Jennifer Aniston, who made about $25.5 million, largely due to her lucrative endorsement deals rather than her on-screen roles
The figures are even more baffling when one examines the entirety of the highest-paid actors list. The top 14 highest-paid actors (some of whom are mainly Bollywood stars) all made more than Stone, including her La La Land co-star Ryan Gosling, who earned $29 million (and did not win an Oscar).
“The top 10 actors banked a cumulative $488.5 million—nearly three times the $172.5 million combined total of the 10 top-earning women,” Forbes’s Natalie Robehmed writes. “While only three actresses made more than $20 million in 12 months, 16 actors broached the mark.”
Another unspoken issue here is that the list of highest-paid actresses was comprised solely of white women, which speaks to Hollywood’s broader inequality for women of color. If the upper echelon of white women is facing this much difficulty when it comes to parity, it’s difficult to imagine how long it will take to achieve true parity for all women across the board. For what it’s worth, the list of highest-paid actors included a large contingent of nonwhite performers—which is perhaps the only silver lining on this gloomy wage-gap cloud.
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