Across a two-decade filmography on the big screen, Jackie star Natalie Portman has earned leading lady status across commercial blockbusters and prestige dramas alike, but the actress and director revealed she once took a backseat to a major Hollywood actor during a prime period in her career, telling Marie Claire U.K. during a recent interview she was paid three times less than her costar, Ashton Kutcher, for a romantic comedy she toplined.
Portman — a bankable star with an Academy Award, superhero franchises, and a trio of Star Wars films under her belt — told the publication she knew about the discrepancy in their salaries but was apprehensive about voicing opposition.
“Ashton Kutcher was paid three times as much as me on No Strings Attached. I knew and I went along with it because there’s this thing with ‘quotes’ in Hollywood. Your quote is the highest you’ve ever been paid. His quote was three times higher than mine so they said he should get paid three times more,” she said in the magazine’s February issue. “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. I remember talking to Ruth Bader Ginsburg about it. Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar. In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”
Though Portman, currently taking the awards race by storm for her performance as Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie, received her first Oscar for her work in Black Swan following a publicity blitz a few short weeks after No Strings Attached debuted Jan. 21, 2011, the project was filmed long before the Darren Aronofsky project made waves on the awards circuit. Still, Portman was the first-billed actor among the film’s cast (her name appears before Kutcher’s on the project’s theatrical poster and in the trailer), and she’d previously risen to the status of a global superstar after appearing in major movies like V for Vendetta, Closer, Garden State, and the Star Wars prequel trilogy — each of which grossed at least $310 million domestically between 1999 and 2005.
While the issue represents just one of many concerns regarding gender and representation in the male-dominated film industry, the 35-year-old said she values her status as a public performer now more than ever, especially as the nation transitions into a Donald Trump presidency.
“‘I feel energized to be an activist; that our art is more urgent than ever,” she said. “It’s more important than ever to be as good a person as you can be in your community and to be really active in helping people who need more help now than ever.”
The war against the Hollywood gender wage gap intensified in December 2014, when the infamous Sony email hack revealed Jennifer Lawrence, who appeared as a supporting actress in David O. Russell’s 2013 awards juggernaut American Hustle, received a deal to earn seven percent of the film’s profits as opposed to the nine percent of the her male costars. The film grossed $251.2 million worldwide.
Portman’s peers, including Lawrence and Scarlett Johansson, have taken a public stance against gender pay inequality in the past, with Lawrence penning a powerful, topical essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter in October 2015, and Johansson calling for the industry to move the discussion into “a larger conversation about feminism in general” during an interview with Cosmopolitan.
To read the feature in full, see the February issue of Marie Claire U.K., out now. The issue is also available as a digital edition through Apple Newsstand.