Jessica Chastain demands equal pay for women

By Alexa Caruso on April 20, 2017 | 20 Comments

Jessica ChastainIn a recent interview with Variety, Miss Sloane actress Jessica Chastain revealed she recently turned down a role when offered a lesser salary than her male counterparts.

She says, “What I do now, when I’m taking on a film, I always ask about the fairness of the pay. I ask what they’re offering me in comparison to the guy. I don’t care about how much I get paid; I’m in an industry where we’re overcompensated for the work we do. But I don’t want to be on a set where I’m doing the same work as someone else and they’re getting five times what I’m getting.”

For the two-time Oscar-nominated actress, who can currently be seen in The Zookeeper’s Wife, it was something former Sony exec Amy Pascal said that really got Jessica upset about the pay disparity between the sexes. She said, “I remember watching Amy Pascal…She said part of the reason women don’t get paid equal to men is they don’t ask for more; actresses need to stop being so grateful. That really hit me. At first, I was really pissed off. And then I thought, ‘She’s touching on something here.’ Women need to step forward and demand they’re fairly compensated for their work.”

Jessica, who was paid only a quarter of what her The Martian co-star, Matt Damon, received, knew she needed to fight for fair compensation, stating: “I’m not taking jobs anymore where I’m getting paid a quarter of what the male co-star is being paid. I’m not allowing that in my life.”

But sticking to her principles hasn’t been easy. It’s cost Jessica some big roles in the past, although in the end she’s thankful she’s made the decisions she did. She admitted, “There was something huge that I recently turned down. For me, it wasn’t about the money; it was an old-fashioned problem of the wage gap… I remember afterwards I was like, “What did I do? Maybe it was a mistake.” But it wasn’t, because everyone in the studio system heard what I did. So what you’re doing is creating a reputation… Even though I lost that film, I’ve created a boundary. I drew a line in the sand.”

It’s evident Jessica has been a strong proponent of gender equality in Hollywood, not just for herself, but for others. She’s been outspoken on the issue and has pushed Hollywood to hire more female directors, crew members and develop more accurately female-driven content.

Let’s hope Jessica inspires others and motivates the powers that be in Hollywood to continue to fight this unfair practice, which can serve as an example for other industries that are also plagued by this antiquated ideal. ~Alexa Caruso

Comments & Discussion

  1. Ned • April 20, 2017 @ 9:22 AM

    Power to her! I don’t know why actresses would ever hesitate to demand equal pay. It’s only fair that they receive the same paycheck. I hope other women in the business follow Jessica’s lead.

  2. R • April 20, 2017 @ 10:25 AM

    Matt Damon was the LEAD. I cannot even remember her role in that movie.

  3. Nick Norris • April 20, 2017 @ 10:27 AM

    For one, she was in less than a quarter of the movie (The Martian) and likely wasn’t on set a quarter of the time Matt was. (Anyone able to educate me on how many days both actors were on set?)

    Two, she’s otherwise absolutely right! Get ’em Jessica!

  4. Ron • April 20, 2017 @ 10:59 AM

    Jessica is a very talented actress and her crusade does have merit, but, the example of the movie where she was paid a quarter of the movie’s star does not bode well for her argument. Yes, there should be equal pay for equal work no matter the sex, but, when comparing the roles in the movie in question is like a 5-yo wanting to stay up as late as their 20-yo sibling. The movie itself would have done some good business with someone else in the Matt Damon role, but, not as good as it did. If she were the lead of that movie and a male actor was doing her role, would she expect for both of them to be paid the same? She has a point but needs to sight better examples for comparison. What about her pay compared to her Zero Dark Thirty co-stars Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler? Jason was probably close to half of Jessica and Kyle was less then 10%.

  5. CDubya • April 20, 2017 @ 12:05 PM

    I agree with R… It was a Matt Damon movie. She was barely in it for 5 minutes. But yes, if she is starring in a movie and getting equal or most screen time then for sure get paid the same, that makes sense.

  6. Vanessa • April 20, 2017 @ 12:20 PM

    Completely support what she’s doing and standing for, but I feel like in order to demand the same pay, you have to have the same type of role as other actors in the film. Matt Damon had a far bigger role than Jessica did in The Martian, so it makes logical sense for him to have a bigger paycheck. But if there are other films where the male and female LEADS have a big wage gap going on, then of course I agree with her.

  7. Shawn Beaudette • April 20, 2017 @ 12:39 PM

    This makes me feel like we’ll see a lot less of Jessica Chastain. Actors get paid based on their expected box office returns and if they are a lead or supporting. I forgot Chastain was even in the Martian. More people are going to see a Damon-led movie over Chastain so he should be paid more. This would be like WNBA players being paid the same as NBA players.

  8. Patrick W • April 20, 2017 @ 1:16 PM

    I agree with the others, The Martian is a bad example. Matt had a much bigger role with most of the movie on his shoulders, that deserves more compensation.. regardless if the role was played by a man or a woman. However, I do agree with equal pay where applicable. The movie industry is difficult to judge, because although Jessica Chastain is one of Hollywood’s finest actresses and always gives and Oscar worthy performance..she does not have the Hollywood “name” like some stars and is not as big a draw.. and sometimes compensation is given for their name rather than doing the same job as their costar.

  9. Silly Still • April 20, 2017 @ 1:35 PM

    The silly thing is that if she were to have taken up that “huge” role, and gained notoriety like J. Lawrence; her ability to push the entire movement would have more persuasiveness; not to mention the side bonus of actually getting paid more.

  10. mack • April 20, 2017 @ 1:54 PM

    Matt Damon carried that movie in the lead role. AND like REAL WORLD jobs, the more experience and better you are at your job the more you get paid. maybe they should have worked out what Matt got paid a minute of screen time, and paid her accordingly. not to mention.. they could have put any actress in her part and it wouldn’t have made any difference in that film.

  11. Ron Helton • April 20, 2017 @ 2:03 PM

    I watched The Martian twice. I had to look her up just now on IMDB. I can’t remember what part she played, but I am assuming it was the mission commander. Either way, I won’t be watching the movie anytime soon to verify. Maybe she needs to up her performance or hire a better agent.

  12. Alex L • April 20, 2017 @ 2:24 PM

    No one is boo-hooing for Chastain. I’m sure there are equal minimums for men and women according to the union. When it comes to star pay, anything goes. Name, financial recognition, role. I agree with everyone here that there is no way she should have gotten near to Damon’s pay on The Martian. Damon is also a much bigger name. His name on a movie is worth a lot more than Chastain’s. Often is before the title. Can she get a movie financed, like Damon can? It’s why Johanssen is the lead in Ghost In The Shell. Probably not financed with a less-known lead.

  13. Matty G • April 20, 2017 @ 3:40 PM

    I was thinking the same thing as everyone else that posted, lol. Matt Damon made 4X as much because he had 4X more screen time which would equal WAY more filming time than Jessica.
    Using the movie “The Martian” is very counterproductive to her cause; I can’t really recall what character she was or how much of the movie she was even in.
    Well it was a nice career while it lasted eh Jeseica? Turning down roles because of demanding more money is usually the reason why actors no longer get hired. I’ll look for you on the next season of Dancing with the ‘Washed Up’ Stars

  14. Cody • April 20, 2017 @ 4:31 PM

    That’s not sexism…..

    No one’s ever heard of her, and everyone knows who Matt Damon is. He’s literally worth more than you, Jessica!

    Bring this back up when you have greater name recognition and acting experience than your coworker and are being paid less, and we’ll gladly take a good hard look at that.

  15. Tharsos • April 20, 2017 @ 6:14 PM

    Here is the difference…. Jessica Chartain, as great as she is, and pretty and talented as she is, mmake her first movie in 2007 and of her 26 Major motion Picture, 5 have been where she’s had a main role (she had bit TV roles here and there before that) Matt Damon has been acting since 1988, that is a 29 year experience gap. with 76 films, and that’s not counting the ones he produced.

    The only thing an employer is allowed to discriminate on in regards to paying an employe less, is Experience.and this is what this is, its not because she’s a woman, it’s her experience, or Lack thereof.

    I dont think it would be fair, if I were to star in a supporting role in a Jessica Chastain movie, and I got the same pay as the star. Nor is it fair that someone who’d been acting for 10ish years, should be paid the same as a 30year veteran.

    Also, I have a real hard time feeling sorry for someone who’s making millions for a few months of work, when there are people who work 60 hours a week and have to chose between food or rent.

  16. D • April 20, 2017 @ 6:32 PM

    I agree

  17. Slip • April 20, 2017 @ 6:35 PM

    Pay your dues like everyone else !! If you’re a high demand actress or actor you will be paid accordingly. If you’re a nobody and expect equal pay …. you can expect your career to be short lived

  18. Teresa • April 20, 2017 @ 9:54 PM

    “I’m in an industry where we’re overcompensated for the work we do..”
    Maybe actors should be asking that 1/2 their salaries got to pay for transportation for the working poor, or paying for kids lunches in low income schools.
    Be like me, stop going to movies and wait for them to come on Netflix.

  19. Gareth • April 21, 2017 @ 12:45 AM

    Well I want to be in the next movie starring Jennifer Lawrence or Scarlet Johansson, or be in the next TV series starring Kerry Washington or Kaley Cuoco, and I demand to be paid as much as these women even if no one knows who th f**ck I am!! Equality over quality I say!

  20. MightyMad • April 21, 2017 @ 9:48 AM

    Principes over salary is all well and good… but you gotta be viewed as INDISPENSABLE if you really want to make a stand.

    Lord knows I adore Chastain (seriously, I would married that woman tomorrow, no question!), but I seriously doubt she has the box-office cloud or even the award prominence to be the one leading such a crusade.

    Basically, she’s undeniably talented… but she isn’t big enough to truly be untouchable. Which means that studios who cannot sign her, because of her salary demands, will have very little scruple with seeking the next actress on their casting list for the role(s) she turned down.

    Another major issue: as good an actress as she is, and as drop-dead gorgeous as she is (like I said before: marriage TOMORROW!), Jessica has just hit the big 4-0, and, if you think that ageist towards women isn’t a big deal for Hollywood execs… c’mon now – this is news to NO ONE!

    It’s one thing for a starlet or a young A-lister, like J-Law or Emma Watson, to come on the front line for equal pay. But, for someone like Chastain… that may sadly spell her career’s transition toward supporting mom roles. Or even no movie roles at all.

    So let’s hope Jessica truly knows what she’s doing, because show business simply doesn’t care about her gender as much as she seems to think.

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