Jessica Chastain Speaks Out on Hollywood Wage Gap, ‘The Martian’ Earnings
Ever since Jennifer Lawrence penned a much-needed call-out in Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter on disparities in acting pay between men and women, Hollywood has been giving some long overdue consideration to the issue of sexism in the biz. Celebrities fed up with the baldfaced double standards between male and female actors have ben making their voices heard and being upfront about the difference between what they’re being paid, and what they should. The world is out of joint when actors of equal public stature, performing what is essentially the same service on a film set, receive differing compensation. Jessica Chastain is the latest entertainer to stand up and note the ugly implication of unfair pay, that it clearly communicates a lessened value of a woman’s work relative to that of a man.
In conversation with the Huffington Post, Chastain set the record straight about the sizable gap between the checks that she and Matt Damon claimed for their new sci-fi blockbuster The Martian. Without naming any names, Chastain mentions a tabloid that had misreported her Martian earnings (the good folks at The Playlist theorize that she’s referring to an item clocking her check as $7 million against Matt Damon’s $25 million), and clarifies that even that estimate is far, far more generous than the truth of the situation. In her words, she claims to have made “less than a quarter of that”, which would place her payday in the $1.75 million range. It’s a rare occasion indeed that someone receiving a check for nearly two million dollars constitutes a grave injustice, but hey, sexism turns the world into a crazy place.
To be fair, a few factors ought to be taken into consideration when calibrating outrage over this mess. For one, despite her Oscar nominations and stellar curriculum vitae as of late, Chastain’s name simply doesn’t hold the A-list ticket-moving power as Damon’s, though that’s a slippery metric to consider. What’s more concrete is the division of face-time onscreen in the film. As astronaut/MacGyver superfan Mark Watney, Damon does a lot of the heavy lifting in the film, appearing in nearly every scene. He certainly does more than Chastain, and so perhaps it makes sense that his check would dwarf hers, but certainly not to this extent.
And regardless of the specifics of The Martian, what Chastain’s describing is symptomatic of a much larger, more insidious issue in the entertainment industry. Her increased transparency on her own finances is a pretty bold move, and hopefully, it’ll catalyze others to do the same and maybe even spark some meaningful change in the way this business is run.