Back in 2010, Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher co-starred in “No Strings Attached.” Both received top billing as pals who embark on a “casual” relationship, but according to Portman, 35, she earned three times less than Kutcher for the film.
During an interview with Marie Claire U.K., Portman (on a promotional tour for “Jackie,” which is expected to land her an Oscar nomination) told the magazine that she knew that Kutcher, 38, made more money than her, but she didn’t speak out at the time.
“I wasn’t as pissed as I should have been,” Portman said. “I mean, we get paid a lot, so it’s hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy.”
Representatives for Kutcher did not return a request for comment.
As an increasing number of stars talk publicly about the gender pay gap (such as Gillian Anderson revealing she was offered half of what David Duchovny made on “The X-Files,” or Amanda Seyfriend noting she was paid 10 percent of her male co-star’s salary) Portman isn’t the first to admit that large Hollywood paychecks are a contributing factor to why some women don’t speak up. After all, you’re already making millions — who would have an issue with that?
In summer 2015, Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay in Lena Dunham’s “Lenny” newsletter about what it was like to find out that all her male co-stars in “American Hustle” made a higher salary than her. However, since she had already made so much money on “The Hunger Games” and X-Men films, she apparently felt guilty asking for more.
“I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need,” Lawrence wrote. “But if I’m honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.'”
Portman also told Marie Claire that compared to other professions, where women routinely make 80 cents to the dollar compared to men, Hollywood actresses make 30 cents on the dollar. Sometimes Hollywood business practices lead to this disparity, such as the one between her and Kutcher. “I knew and I went along with it because there’s this thing with ‘quotes’ in Hollywood,” she explained. “His was three times higher than mine so they said he should get three times more.”
In other words, an actor’s “quote” is how much they were paid on their previous projects, and dictates how much they make on other films. So if Kutcher already had a higher quote, then he would have made more, just by showbiz standards.
When “No Strings Attached” came out in January 2011, Portman was about a month away from winning her first Oscar for the ballet drama “Black Swan,” though she had earned fame in movies like “Garden State” and “V for Vendetta.” (She also had roles in the “Star Wars” franchise.)
Meanwhile, Kutcher — best known for the long-running sitcom “That ’70s show” and movies such as “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and “Valentine’s Day” — was about to close a deal in May 2011 for a reportedly massive $750,000-per-episode salary to replace Charlie Sheen in “Two and a Half Men.”
Of course, another issue at hand is opportunity: If there are fewer roles for women, they have less of a chance to increase their own quotes by starring in more projects. In 2014, a study from the Annenberg School at University of Southern California found that just 28 percent of characters in the year’s top 100 movies were women.
‘I don’t think women and men are more or less capable. We just have a clear issue with women not having opportunities,” Portman said. “We need to be part of the solution, not perpetuating the problem.”