Remember last month we were all excited because Forbes put out its list of the highest paid actresses? Angelina Jolie and Sarah Jessica Parker tied for first followed by the usual group including Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Julia Roberts. Yes, these women have very envious lives and in my opinion get paid way too much for pretending to be different people all day and looking pretty, but at the same time all of these women also run businesses and do a lot of philanthropy so I am not going to complain. Plus, it is great to see women making this kind of money even if they have to wear a ridiculous turban while parading around Morocco.
But then Forbes put out their highest-paid actor list and those big numbers for the ladies lost a little bit of their sparkle. Top earners Angelina Jolie and Sarah Jessica Parker trail Leonardo DiCaprio by $47 million with their $30 million in earnings to his $77 million. They fall $20 million behind Johnny Depp and $6 million behind Will Smith. They even managed to be $5 million below Tom Hanks whose latest film, Larry Crowne, was considered a box office failure.
In the last twenty years women have proved they can do great action movies (Angelina Jolie in Salt, Mr and Mrs. Smith and Wanted to name a few) and make money off of comedy (Sex & the City: The Movie beat out at the fourth Indiana Jones movie in 2008). There are also a slew of new action films starring young actresses (Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games) that will hopefully help this trend grow. However, according to The Guardian, women have a smaller window to make blockbuster films then men and for the most part, we still often play the girlfriend sidekick to their hero. From The Guardian:
Men tend to star in big-budget movies that earn at the box office. Women can’t compete at the same level because they aren’t given the same roles. They’re not the stars of a Pirates of the Caribbean or Inception, they’re the window dressing: girlfriends and sidekicks. And as the foreign market for Hollywood films continues to grow (foreign revenue made up more than 67% of the US’s total box office gross in 2010), women will be increasingly shut out of the higher-earning roles. The foreign market is familiar with men blowing things up and wants to see more of it.
In Hollywood, women earn less as they age. Harrison Ford still bags $20m for action roles. If Cowboys & Aliens performs anything like his previous films, we’ll see him back on the Forbes list next year. But (as Indiewire’s Women and Hollywood blog noted) there are no 69-year-old women earning $20m per film. Sigourney Weaver (63) would probably love to have another crack at an Alien film but, as she said recently, that’s not likely to happen: “Just because of the way the industry is.
It is true. We will probably see Harrison Ford kicking butt in his 80′s but Michelle Pfeiffer will be relegated to playing an old lady in a nursing home having flashbacks to her earlier life when she was young and hot. But, as The Guardian points out, these actresses are aware of the pressure on age in the industry and have come up with different strategies to keep their career prosperous. “Female actors are therefore under a greater imperative to build their brands beyond the screen, because that’s where their future earning potential lies. Parker still makes money as a producer of Sex and the City. She’s also branched out into fashion and perfume. Jennifer Aniston is a huge brand outside of her film work.”
Let’s take a look at how the top earning actresses have figured out how to stay on top, even if they are still below their male colleagues.