Though she has become one of Hollywood’s best-paid movie stars of any gender, who better than Jennifer Lawrence to carry the mantle of getting actresses comparable paydays to male movie stars? She comes out swinging in an essay for Lenny, the new online newsletter launched by Lena Dunham to address issues on feminism and lifestyle.
“This might have NOTHING to do with my vagina, but I wasn’t completely wrong when another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a “spoiled brat,” Lawrence writes, addressing those hacked Sony e-mails that bared the salary discrepancy on the David O Russell-directed film American Hustle. “For some reason, I just can’t picture someone saying that about a man.”
Lawrence has found herself on both sides of the pay issue, recently. She and Amy Adams came out on the short side of the pay scale compared to American Hustle co-stars Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale, but she is reportedly being paid considerably better than co-star Chris Pratt in Passengers, which is currently in production. Frankly, while Pratt has become Hollywood’s hottest leading man, he was still establishing himself when the Passengers deal-making got done, while Lawrence already had The Hunger Games and other hits under her belt.
Lawrence, who spoke out convincingly when her private photos were hacked and made public, said she has avoided taking on causes like last year’s ice-bucket challenge. She has decided that equal wages and feminism are causes worth speaking up for. “With a lot of talk comes change, so I want to be honest and open and, fingers crossed, not piss anyone off,” she writes. “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. When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. 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).”
Lawrence acknowledges that her giving in enables Hollywood to continue towing an established line. That line has always factored in a perception that male stars draw more strongly than female stars and thus deserve bigger paydays and greater creative say. While that might have been the case several years ago, the swing away from studio reliance on movie stars, and more on concepts, has blurred those lines. No actor these days can be qualified as can’t-miss, a view fortified by a look at the non-performing movies that are on the resumes of everyone from Johnny Depp to Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Bale or Cooper. Meanwhile, actresses are making selective strides in a number of areas, including prompting gender change rewrites of male lead film roles. That is in the works as Mad Max: Fury Road star Charlize Theron emerges as the lead in the Sony Pictures spy drama The Gray Man (Pitt was once going to star in the film), and MMA superstar Rhonda Rousey, who’ll play the brawny bouncer role originated by Patrick Swayze in a remake of Road House. This comes after Sony and director Paul Feig relaunched Ghostbusters with the female quartet of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. These occurrences are still relatively rare, but not as much as when Salt was rewritten for Angelina Jolie after Tom Cruise bowed out. Lawrence acknowledges the difficulty of speaking up at the risk of being labeled “difficult.” It is much easier to try to get along.
“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,” she writes. “I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ This could be a young-person thing. It could be a personality thing. I’m sure it’s both. But this is an element of my personality that I’ve been working against for years, and based on the statistics, I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue. Are we socially conditioned to behave this way? We’ve only been able to vote for what, 90 years? I’m seriously asking — my phone is on the counter and I’m on the couch, so a calculator is obviously out of the question. Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?”
Lawrence said all this goes beyond a paycheck, and that when she has spoken her mind on creative issues, it is viewed as an unusual outburst, unlike if her male counterparts gave voice to creative concerns.
Lawrence writes: “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! Fu*k that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard. Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share. Again, this might have NOTHING to do with my vagina, but I wasn’t completely wrong when another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a ‘spoiled brat.’ For some reason, I just can’t picture someone saying that about a man.”
Take that, Hollywood!