25 Times Actors Got Paid Less Than Their Co-Stars

Hollywood pay is often shrouded in many layers of secrecy, with salaries decided in backroom deals and decided according to many factors. This system, however, can lead to huge disparities in pay, with the lead actor on a film or TV getting paid less than those with more of a profile but in smaller roles.

As this list shows, sadly this happens much more to female stars than male ones, with the gender pay gap very real on a number of sets.

25 times actors got paid less than their co-stars

Gillian Anderson, The X-Files

In the lead-up to the X-Files reboot, Sex Education actor Gillian Anderson revealed it had taken her three seasons to match co-star's David Duchovny pay for the show—and that she had initially turned down the reboot offer until her salary matched that of her male co-star.

Kim Cattrall, Sex and the City

The pay gap between Cattrall and her co-star Sarah Jessica Parker has been cited by many as the reason for the feud between them. Figures differ about how much more SJP was paid for the series, but we know that she earned $15 million for the first movie and $20 million for the second compared to Cattrall's $7 million and $10 million.

Jessica Chastain, The Martian

Chastain took home a respectable $1.75 million for the Ridley Scott space drama—but that is very little compared to the reported $15 - $20 million Matt Damon netted for the movie.

Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man

robert downey jr iron man
Robert Downey Jr. in 'Iron Man.' Marvel

Downey was thought to be a huge risk for the first Iron Man film, and received a salary of $500,000. War Machine actor Terrence Howard, however, received up to a reported $3.5 million for the 2008 film—and has said he took a $1 million pay cut to get the crew to hire Downey.

Carrie Fisher, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens managed to bring Princess Leia and Han Solo back to the Star Wars world, but they both came at a cost. One, however, cast far more than the other, with Fisher getting $1 million for Ford's $23 million. Both of their salaries swamped those of the leads of the movie, with Daisy Ridley and Jon Boyega both getting just $300,000.

Claire Foy, The Crown

In one of the most famous cases of a woman getting paid less than her male co-star, The Crown Season 1 and 2 producers confirmed to Variety that lead Claire Foy was paid less than Matt Smith, who had just come fresh off of Doctor Who. This lead producer Suzanne Mackie to say at a television conference, "going forward, no-one gets paid more than the queen," and Foy is believed to have been given back-pay to even out the gap.

Kathy Griffin, Suddenly Susan

The comedian was third-billed on the NBC sitcom, but said her pay was lower than her co-stars. Griffin told Variety: "I had the second-lowest salary on the cast. Judd Nelson made four times what I made, and he ended up getting fired." She then said she managed to get a raise by speaking to the head of TV at Warner Bros., though she added, "I got a raise [but] I still didn't make equal to what the guys were making."

Chris Hemsworth, Thor

Chris Hemsworth may be the lead in Thor, but he made $10,000 less than Tom Hiddleston in the original movie, which netted them $150,000 and $160,000 respectively. Anthony Hopkins, meanwhile, made $10 million for the movie.

Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

While DiCaprio took home a reported $25 million for the Martin Scorsese movie, his co-star Jonah Hill accepted just $60,000 to star in the movie. Speaking to Hypable, he said of this: "I would sell my house and give him all my money to work for [Scorsese]. ... I'd have done anything in the world. I would do it again in a second."

Diane Keaton, Something's Gotta Give

diane keaton something's gotta give
Diane Keaton in 'Something's Gotta Give.' Sony Pictures

Diane Keaton may have been the lead of romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give, and won a Golden Globe for her work, but per her autobiography, she received no portion of the movie's profits while her co-star Jack Nicholson did.

Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

Both Jennifer Lawrence and co-star Amy Adams revealed they were paid less than their male co-leads Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper. The former wrote in an essay: "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."

Adam Levine, Begin Again

The Maroon 5 singer made his acting debut in the musical comedy, but did not get a similar paycheck to co-stars Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. In fact, he told USA Today, "I did this movie for no money...I want to treat [acting] completely differently because I have the very fortunate luxury of not having to think of this in terms of money."

Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers

Per J.Lo herself, she agreed to do the pole-dancing drama Hustlers for free. "I did it for free and produced it. I bank on myself," she told GQ in 2019. In terms of reviews for the actor, it was well worth the investment, with the film netting her best reviews since the late '90s and a Golden Globe nomination.

Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Despite being the lead of the movie, Mara told Deadline about the David Fincher movie, "If you're a female who is sort of opinionated or has a point of view or is self-possessed in a way, you get described with this language in way that others would never talk about men. When I did Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, did Daniel Craig get paid more than me? Of course. He got paid a ton more than me, but he's Daniel Craig and no one knew who I was so I don't deserve to be getting paid what he's getting. He's the one putting asses in the seats, not me. I had never done anything, so that's just sort of the way that went."

Bill Murray, Rushmore

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Bill Murray in 'Rushmore.' Buena Vista Pictures

Murray has been known on a number of occasions to accept a lower paycheck to work with an exciting newcomer. So it was with Rushmore, where he agreed to work for scale, the lowest daily wage a Screen Actors Guild member is allowed to take. He was therefore paid $9,000 for the movie—and, in fact, nearly made a loss when he gave director Wes Anderson a $25,000 check after Disney refused to allow him to shoot a scene requiring a helicopter. Anderson, however, never cashed the check.

Ellen Pompeo, Grey's Anatomy

Pompeo may have gone on to become the highest-paid woman on TV, but it was not always that way. In a Variety interview, she revealed that she nearly quit the show after she learned that Patrick Dempsey was paid double what she was for the show. She said: "He was being paid almost double what I was in the beginning. He had a television quote. I had never done TV."

Natalie Portman, No Strings Attached

Natalie Portman may be an Oscar-winning actor, but she still made a third of what That '70s Show star Ashton Kutcher was for their romantic comedy pairing. "I wasn't as pissed as I should have been. I mean, we get paid a lot, so it's hard to complain, but the disparity is crazy," she told Marie Claire.

Michael Richards, Jason Alexander, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld

Though other ensemble sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory and Friends paid their cast members the same salaries in later seasons, Jerry Seinfeld made $400,000 more an episode than the Kramer, George and Elaine actors.

Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman

In some cases, a star may become known for one movie, but because they came into that movie with less of a name than their co-star, they were paid much less. So it is with Julia Roberts, known to a generation for Pretty Woman, for which she was paid $300,000. Richard Gere, meanwhile, had a salary in the millions for the romantic comedy.

Zoe Saldana, Guardians of the Galaxy

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Zoe Saldana in 'Guardians of the Galaxy.' Marvel

Saldana is believed to be one of the lowest-paid stars on the set of the first movie, paid a reported $100,000 compared to Karen Gillan's $140,000, Lee Pace's $175,000 and Chris Pratt's $350,000.

Amanda Seyfried, unknown movie

The Mamma Mia! actor told The Sunday Times in 2015: "A few years ago, on one of my big-budget films, I found I was being paid 10% of what my male co-star was getting, and we were pretty even in status. I think people think that just because I'm easy-going and game to do things I'll just take as little as they offer ... It's not about how much you get, it's about how fair it is."

Michelle Williams, All the Money in the World

In a famous case that brought attention to the gender pay gap in Hollywood, Michelle Williams was paid less than $1,000 for reshoots on All the Money in the World after Christopher Plummer replaced the disgraced Kevin Spacey in the Ridley Scott movie. Co-star Mark Wahlberg, meanwhile, demanded $1.5 million for reshoots. This extended the already existing pay gap between them on the movie, which saw Williams paid $625,000 to Wahlberg's $5 million.

Bruce Willis, Four Rooms

Willis may have been the biggest star in the anthology film co-directed by Quentin Tarantino, but he made the least money of anyone in the movie. The Die Hard actor worked for free on the movie as a fun favor to Tarantino. This was against the Screen Actors Guild rules at the time, but SAG agreed not to sue him if he was not credited for the role.

Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

In the lead-up to the release of Season 3 of Westworld, in which Evan Rachel Wood received equal pay, she revealed that she had been paid less than her male co-stars for the first two seasons. She told The Wrap: "I think I'm just now to the point where I'm getting paid the same as my male co-stars. [With the first seasons,] it's like, 'Well, you're Anthony Hopkins or Ed Harris.' But I think now we're all doing equal amounts of work and really hard work."

Robin Wright, House of Cards

It took three years of fighting for the Forrest Gump actor to be paid the same as co-star Kevin Spacey for the Netflix show, despite her Golden Globe win for the show.

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