Hilary Swank was offered 1/20th of male costar’s salary after two Oscars


Hilary Swank may be out of touch as to what the Everywoman is looking for in an athletic line but she’s solidly earned her place in Hollywood. However, because it’s Hollywood, that just doesn’t matter because as a woman she’s of reduced value to the studios. Appearing on Chelsea Handler’s Netflix show with Ava DuVernay, Connie Britton and Miss USA Deshauna Barber, Hilary gave an appalling example of just how tremendous the disparity between men and women salaries in Hollywood is.

“When I did ‘Boys Don’t Cry,’ I was 24 years old. I made $3,000,” Swank, 42, explained to Chelsea Handler on her Netflix show, “Chelsea.” “In order to have health insurance, you have to make $5,000, so I didn’t even know that I didn’t have health insurance until I went and tried to get a prescription filled. They said, ‘That’s $160.’ … I had an Academy Award [and] no health insurance.”

She continued, “Then I win my second Academy Award, and the next couple movies later, I get offered a movie but the male [lead] hadn’t had any kind of critical success, but had been in a movie where he was hot,” she said. “He got offered $10 million and I got offered $500,000.”

“I said no, and they went and found a newcomer who did it for $50,000,” she said. “They made a savings of $450,000, probably to give the guy his bonuses.”

[From Page Six]

Jaysus H. Christmas – how in demand was this dude to deserve twenty times more cash than a two-time Academy-Award winner? Only Cary Grant could fit that bill. There is so much wrong with this. Hilary won her second Oscar for Million Dollar Baby in 2005 – that’s only 11 years ago. And then to offer the next actress only $50K? That’s criminal. Boys Don’t Cry had a $2 million budget. Whereas you would think they could have coughed up the additional $2K to get Hilary her health insurance, maybe things were that tight. Maybe they just had to work with what they could. Maybe, but I doubt it. They were likely just preying on a poor actress who was trying to make the leap from television to movies.

You can watch the clip with Hillary’s story here. I’m not embedding it because I can’t with Handler. After Ava had to correct her about David Oyelowo not being in The Martian, saying that was “the other British black dude,” Handler doesn’t even have the decency to be mortified. Then, following Hilary demonstrating how terribly women in the industry are taken advantage of – on her show on gender inequality – Handler said she employs ten male writers and two women and she would never hire a woman just because she was a woman. Ava, who intentionally hired all women directors for her Queen Sugar show because these exceptionally talented women weren’t being allowed to break into TV directing, pointed out, “No one wanted to be the first person to give them a chance… At some point you gotta let a woman give it a try.” After Connie Britton called Handler a feminist role model, I finally just took to my bed with a damp cloth over my eyes.




Photo credit: WENN photos

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53 Responses to “Hilary Swank was offered 1/20th of male costar’s salary after two Oscars”

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  1. AbrarAk says:

    Was it Gerard Butler?

    ETA- Oh wait, I read the part where she says she didn’t do it.

  2. Mila says:

    This made me sad and mad. What else is there to say.

    She is an amazing actress, she deserves more. But then again so do most women all around the world

  3. Barrett says:

    Swank deserved the fair payout no doubt. But where did she go? Does she have such a specific look or range that she was only a few hit wonder?

    When she pops up once a year I wonder where she has been?

    • als says:

      Swank may have been the best in those two years but that was it and it’s not even a feeling that she tried to continue her success and failed. She disappeared just like Adrien Brody and lived off being an Academy winning actress probably charging events fee.
      Now she has a clothing line to promote and she suddenly remembers all these things.

      • tealily says:

        I’m no Swank fan, but that seems a bit unfair. Maybe she went away because of too many instances like this.

    • nat says:

      There was a controversy involving Swank. In 2007 she was invited and probably paid for attending a b-day party of the Chechnya president. Apparently human rights organisation asked her not to participate as that president, Kadyrov – was involved in many human rights violations. OK, Swank did apologise in the end that said something about donating her appearance money to ngo’s but I suppose what’s done is done and it has dammed her reputation one way or the other.

      • Bella bella says:

        She really isn’t a very good actress. Her two Academy Awards are as appalling as the one for Reese Witherspoon. Sometimes the Academy doesn’t get it right at all, when you think of the amazing actresses who have received no award.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Agreed, Bella Bella. The two roles were so similar that I count her two Oscars as one.

  4. detritus says:

    Idris and David? She mixed up Idris and David?

    And a big f&ck you the all the studios that thought this was OK. Hilary is awesome for speaking out with her example, irs so perfectly wrong it hurts. noone can deny this is completely unfair.

    • Mia4S says:

      No…and ironically you just mixed up Idris and Chiwetel Ejiofor. 😒 😉

      There is so much irony in how much value the Oscars are supposedly given….and the reality that they are worth very little.

      • detritus says:

        the irony is strong in my posts today this is for sure. I blame lack of caffeine, but I’m not mixing Idris up with anyone, I am mixing my outer space movies though.

        also on the note of Oscars, yeah. They don’t count for anything it seems. Unless you are a dude. Then they count.

  5. detritus says:

    Idris and David? She mixed up Idris and David?

    And a big f&ck you the all the studios that thought this was OK. Hilary is awesome for speaking out with her example, its so perfectly wrong it hurts. noone can deny this is completely unfair.

    • Betsy says:

      I was going to say I would make that mistake, too, because I don’t follow British actors very closely unless they really make the fame leap, but then I thought, wait – no. Idris for David? Hmm.

    • lightpurple says:

      Chiwetel was in The Martian.

    • Izzy says:

      No. It was Chiwetel Ejiofor in The Martian.

    • detritus says:

      Ahaha I’m just as bad, but I’m thinking of the movie with the Fassy droid.

      I’m still side eyeing, but significantly less so, because Chiwetel and David do not have the same affect on me that Idris does. I read martian, thought of outerspace movies and immediately my brain got stuck on Idris. My bad.

    • thatbad says:

      good for her for turning it down and how insulting all of this is including chelsea the big feminist. god how awful Hollywood is to women.

  6. Betsy says:

    God, I am so sick of these stories. By which I mean they should keep telling them, but gracious sakes alive, how is this still happening?

    • Elle Rob says:

      Me too! And I think the pay gap goes hand in hand with ageism.

      Mila Kunis is playing the Mom to junior high students while actors a couple of years older than her are playing superheroes. Or Maggie G’s story about being “too old” to play a fifty-something character’s wife.

      It’s like Hilary said: if an actress turns down a role, they just go with someone younger they can pay even less. I don’t know what the answer is, other than a fundamental shift in how actresses are perceived in both Hollywood and society in general.

  7. Meg says:

    In this particular case, I think box office draw also plays a part. I like Hillary Swank, but for some reason she was never “it” in popularity. She’s an amazing actress, but that’s not what seems to draw Americans into the theater.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      I think that’s in part though because she refused to be in more commercial movies where they could replace her when she demanded more money. I always wondered why her career, after two Oscars, seemed in such bad shape. I personally love her. I have loved her since Boys Don’t Cry but she tends to be part of movies that just aren’t … fun. I used to think that’s because she has no career plan or a bad one or she’s too snooty to do low-brow stuff. But now I’m thinking she just refused to be taken advantage of. In a romcom you can just get someone else. In a movie like Million Dollar Baby, you need an actress of her calibre. Maybe for those movies they decided to pay her a little more because her skills were needed.

      I have no idea, really. But her IMDB page makes me angry now. It looks sad.

      • Bridget says:

        It says a lot that you don’t even remember the more mainstream fare she’s done. Swank may be a 2x Oscar winner, but she’s also the person who was fired from 90210 right before she got her first Oscar winning role. She’s not getting paid the big bucks because she’s not bringing in the big bucks.

    • sherry says:

      Show business is just that, a business. They are looking at what and who is going to make the most money for their bottom line. She said the male actor was HOT. It could have been Robert Pattinson during the Twilight hysteria or someone like Chris Pratt. People will go to see a “Chris Pratt movie.” Let’s say the studio has budgeted $20 million for all actors’ salaries. They can get Chris Pratt for $15 million and a lesser known actress for $500,000, knowing Christ Pratt will bring people to the theatre, or they can pay Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank $7.5 million each and hope each has a strong enough following people might come to see them in a movie together.

      Also, I just don’t think Hilary Swank has the name recognition and “star power” to get people into theaters, even though she’s a great actress. When I think Hilary Swank, I think of serious roles and an Oscar winning actress (i.e. this must be a serious film.)

      Most people, not all, want a fun experience when the go out to see a movie. Either family friendly, adventure, funny, romantic or scary. Hilary isn’t the actress I think of when I’m thinking of those films.

      • littlemissnaughty says:

        I said this below but again, at the time, she was all of that. Million Dollar Baby was huge. She fulfilled every criterion at the time. Talent, success, box office. People would’ve gone to see her. It was after she apparently refused to be lowballed that her career took this turn.

      • Bridget says:

        Million Dollar Baby was huge because of Clint Eastwood, though. People did not go to see her. Don’t get me wrong, she was great in Million Dollar Baby, but even then she was an infamously paltry box office draw.

      • Eleonor says:

        Clint Eastwood was a great director working with a great actress.

    • Veronica says:

      I’d say that was fair reason for pay disparity, but she clarifies that the male actor was NOT an established name yet. That makes it a lot more blatantly sexist given that she was on the upsweep following MDB.

      • Elle Rob says:


        Look at how much money studios will throw at up-and-coming actors before they’re established. Chris Hemsworth is a great example of that (and I say this as someone who likes Hemsworth and wants to see him in more comedies). Or look how many chances Armie Hammer’s gotten. Sure, you have the occasional Meryl Streep or Jennifer Lawrence, but they’re the exception. Meanwhile, movies seem to be more and more a bunch of dudes with one or two obligatory women.

      • Kate says:

        Armies Hammers not getting paid much, and Hemsworth is lucky he’s Thor.

        Swank had chances too. Post MDB she had a high profile rom-com, the Amelia Earhart biopic, the Black Dahlia film and a crowd pleaser white saviour teacher film. They all flopped hard, but they were opportunities other actors could have made something of. She’s just never been an audience favourite. She’s also had two other Oscar-baity roles in good films, but her performances weren’t that great.

  8. jinni says:

    Critical success is great but actually getting a movie to make a good box office is better. This is a business, so of course they are going to go pay the person with the most recent success at the box office in this particular scenario she told more money. Her awards and merger public name recognition is probably why she got the offer she has because she doesn’t really have a big box office history which is the most important thing in negotiating salary.

    Plus she kind of disappeared for a while and was replaced by actresses like Chastian, Adams, etc. So she isn’t a hot commodity anymore.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      Um, Million Dollar Baby was a smash hit both with critics and at the box office. This happened right after. So the argument doesn’t apply here. And as I wrote above, maybe she disappeared because she refused to be taken advantage of.

      • Kate says:

        She didn’t disappear though. She’s kept acting consistently. Post MDB she had some movies that were meant to be big, but they all flopped. She’s still made a movie or two a year, including some Oscar-baity films. Not one hit, critical or financial.

  9. Maya says:

    Hilary is wonderful and so is Ava but Chelsea is not a feminist but a disgrace to womenkind.

    She is a racist, attacks children and badmouths women constantly. I think she is a closet Trump supporter.

  10. Kiki says:

    I know she had to take care of her sick father, and that is truly admirable. However, I think (and probably knew) the other reason why she is out the acting circle because of misogyny and sexism, and that is cold to Hillary Swank (who can act numbers around J.Law any day) and she deserves better.

    Hillary Swank is the reason I want to be great actress. She takes risk and guts to her roles to real imperfections. That is why I wanted to be an actress because of her bold moves.

  11. Esmom says:

    So depressing. Reminds me of a radio interview I heard with Taraji P Henson last week — apparently she made 1% of Brad Pitt’s salary for Benjamin Button. 1 percent.

    • Don't kill me I'm French says:

      It is logic that Pitt is much paid than Henson.He is the lead ( she just was a supporting character) and the movie was sold on his name

      • Esmom says:

        I realize she wasn’t a star but 1% just struck me as pathetic, even for a supporting role that was pretty significant and even earned her an Oscar nom.

      • Elle Rob says:

        With Taraji, I would love to know if there’s more to that story.

        Years ago I somewhat knew an actor who complained and complained and complained about how he was being totally taken advantage of and how he had to pay all of these out-of-pocket expenses for a role. When I first heard the story, I was outraged – look at this studio taking advantage of an actor!

        Then another mutual acquaintance told me another side of the story: the production he was working on didn’t think all of the training and research he wanted to do was necessary for the role. They had apparently paid for some but felt like anything beyond that was not a good use of their budget. The actor disagreed and made a huge stink out of how he had to pay for all of this training out of his own pocket.

        So I wonder if it was something similar with Taraji: there’s truth to her statements but it’s not the whole story.

  12. Kate says:

    Eh, she’s won two Oscars, but almost everything else she’s ever done has been a very deserved flop. She’s the opposite of a box office draw at this point. If I see her name attached to a film I just assume it’s straight to DVD trash. Same as Cuba Gooding Jr for a long while there, or Adrien Brody.

    An Oscar is no guarantee of a highly successful and lucrative career. Swank got lucky with two extremely Oscar-baity roles that worked with her very specific talents, but she’s not a versatile actress nor one popular with audiences, and she’s made so many awful films she doesn’t even bring any prestige to a film. Why should she be paid the same as another actor is that other actor is the one actually getting people to the film?

    • MrsBPitt says:

      Kate…I totally agree with everything you said! Also, Boys Don’t Cry was mostly a cast of young unknowns on a tight budget. I hardly think that the rest of the cast got paid more than her,

    • Larissa says:

      Dianne Wiest has won two Academy Awards as a supporting actress. Last year there was a story how she difficulties to pay her rent.

      Hilary has made several main stream movies, they have all bombed big time. She just doesn’t sell tickets. Also ther is probably another factor to consider. She has actually used people heavily throughout her entire carreer. It also semms that she is one of those people that insiders in Hollywood don’t like, like Katherine Heigl.

      She used her fist housband and his family. She broke up an agen’t marriage. This was one of the best agents in the business, still he couldn’t help her to get her career rolling.

  13. Skins says:

    Wow, I know it’s all about who sells tickets and people don’t exactly line up around the block for Hillary Swank movies but that still seem pretty extreme for a 2 time Oscar winner. If she want’s to make big money I guess she should morph into some kind of action-hero chick.

  14. Loo says:

    Hollywood is unfair to actresses when it comes to pay but Swank, despite two Oscars, consistently made bad choices when it came to mainstream movies and thus could never cash in and her popularity for big paychecks. I think she desreved more than half a million for sure but 10 million? Not based on her box office record.

  15. manta says:

    It’s a sad state of the affairs if women have trouble getting a shot at TV directing in 2016.I remember numerous episodes of shows like LA law, NYPD blue ,ER or Homicide life on the street directed by women like Mimi Leder, Elodie Keene or Bigelow. Thirty or twenty years later, you ‘d think their successors would be everywhere.
    Good luck to Duvernay in her initiative.

  16. Bridget says:

    Hilary Swank is an infamously paltry draw at the box office, though. She plays her niche phenominally well – hardscrabble women – but can’t get people to watch her otherwise. Now, a 2x Academy Award winner offered $500K is atrocious no matter what way you slice it and I think that alone is the issue here, because it would take a string of humiliating flops for an actor to be paid at that level.

    I thought Emma Stone hit the nail on the head when she said that it’s also quantifying who is the draw. When women aren’t the ‘draw’ they’re paid less than a man would be paid in that scenario.

  17. Turtle says:

    These salary debates remind me of the frustrating gay-leading-actor debate:

    * So-and-so should just come out already.
    * “So-and-so can’t come out because his movies will fail at the box office and then no one will cast him. Show business is a business and studios want a return on their investment.”
    * But studios never cast openly gay actors so how do you know they’ll fail? We have no evidence this is true. And even if they do, for some reason, and the movie flops, how would you know it’s evidence of so-and-so being gay and not just a bad movie, if it rarely ever happens?
    * “It’s just easier to cast someone you know (or believe to be) straight.”
    * Doesn’t that just perpetuate the problem?

    And on and on, etc. etc.

  18. Amanda says:

    Execs are in this to make money, if Hilary brings in the big bucks then she will get offered the big bucks. Ugh… to be honest sometimes I just miss the good old days of puff piece gossip.

  19. annie says:

    The amount of people commenting about how this isn’t that bad what happened to Hilary because you think she isn’t a box office draw is frustrating because million dollar baby did well at the box office, so there was no reason to low ball her that much. And then I see comments insulting Chelsea Handler as being problematic, but these comments are even worse. Maybe if people actually watched the clip, you’d realize how crazy what happened to Hilary really is. The audience at Handler’s show was appalled. These comments make me sad. What happened to her was wrong.

    • Kate says:

      So because she had one movie that did well critically and financially (a film which was sold far more on Eastwoods name than hers), studios are just meant to ignore the 15+ flops she’s had since?

      The most notable thing she’s done in a decade is New Years Eve. And it’s not like she hasn’t had chances. She got a shot at a rom-com career and a horror career, she got her Amelia Earhart project made, she’s has other Oscar baity roles thrown at her (Conviction, The Homesman). Nothing’s worked out, because she’s just not a versatile actress, nor one that connects with audiences when she’s not playing a very particular type.