Hollywood’s wage gap drama: male actors continuing to earn more

The gap between the pay of men and women in general society is already well publicised, but the divergence between the salaries awarded to Hollywood’s leading male and female actors is far more striking.

Salaries for the world’s highest paid film actors currently range from $20–30 million, but an actor can earn substantially more by deferring all or part of their salary against a percentage of the film’s gross, known within the industry as a “profit participation” deal.

Topping the list of highest incomes for a film is Keanu Reeves, who pocketed a salary $30 million for his efforts in the latter two films of the Matrix trilogy. Including his percentage of the gross, his total earning from the films came out at over $150 million.

Bruce Willis, for his memorable performance in The Sixth Sense, holds second spot on the list of all-time earnings with a total income of $100 million for the picture, of which $17 million was his base salary.

Meanwhile, to find a female actor earning a comparable sum is a much more difficult task: with the exception of Sandra Bullock who earned $70 million for the 2013 sci-fi smash Gravity, there is no other woman on the top-ten list of all-time highest earnings. In fact, in the top 20 there’s only one other female appearance.

Hollywood, which has long advocated for equality between men and women through the social commentary of its films, appears to not practice what it preaches when it comes to how it rewards its stars. This has contributed to a sense of injustice among some actors rights group, and it will no doubt become a topic of further debate.