Benedict Cumberbatch: Men should turn down projects where women are paid unequally

Showtime Limited Series "Patrick Melrose" premiere

Is Benedict Cumberbatch the woke feminist white male savior we’ve been waiting for? I’m only half joking – obviously, Benedict would never consider himself any kind of savior and he doesn’t push that narrative at all. But he is pretty woke and he is a feminist, both of which are sadly notable in this day and age. Well, Benedict is currently doing press for Showtime’s Patrick Melrose – which, incidentally, will probably get him another Emmy – and he talked about equal pay and how men should really engage with the issue of equal pay:

Benedict Cumberbatch has suggested that actors like himself should boycott projects that do not pay woman the same amount as their male co-stars.

“Equal pay and a place at the table are the central tenets of feminism,” says Cumberbatch in the new issue of Radio Times magazine. “Look at your quotas. Ask what women are being paid, and say: ‘If she’s not paid the same as the men, I’m not doing it.’”

A fervent feminist, Cumberbatch – who takes the title role in new Sky Atlantic series Patrick Melrose – also said he would be using his profile, and his new production company, SunnyMarch, to champion more female-focused dramas.

“I’m proud that [partner] Adam [Ackland] and I are the only men in our production company; our next project is a female story with a female lens about motherhood, in a time of environmental disaster. If it’s centred around my name, to get investors, then we can use that attention for a raft of female projects. Half the audience is female!”

[From Radio Times]

It’s sad but true that until men start demanding that their female coworkers be paid equitably, larger changes likely won’t be made. Yes, there are women out there doing amazing work on behalf of pay equality, but until the dudes get on-board and really put their literal money where their mouth is, the conversation and the reality of unequal pay will stay stagnant. Good for Bendy. Truly.

Here are some photos of Bendy out in London, doing press for Patrick Melrose. He looks… good? I’ll never love him with short hair, but he does look good here.

Benedict Cumberbatch arriving at BBC Radio Two Studios to promote his new Sky Atlantic Series 'Patrick Melrose' - London

Benedict Cumberbatch arriving at BBC Radio Two Studios to promote his new Sky Atlantic Series 'Patrick Melrose' - London

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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49 Responses to “Benedict Cumberbatch: Men should turn down projects where women are paid unequally”

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  1. mkyarwood says:

    Yep, always vote with your dollar. If you’re a banking star, you have the power to say you’re not interested in the same old trope, and that you know your costar is deserving of equal recognition and recompense.

  2. PeeWee says:

    I love that good men are still around. GIves me hope. How admirable of him.

  3. tracking says:

    Good for him. And that’s the place to address gender inequity, through production companies a la Reese Witherspoon. Because addressing salary inequity isn’t really possible when you’re talking about predominantly male-led projects. It’s not like he’s going to turn down Sherlock or Dr. Strange until his secondary love interest makes equal pay. That’s a systemic issue, and I admire his approach to redressing it.

  4. anna222 says:

    There will never be a time that I don’t read “Patrick Melrose” and think Melrose Place and immediately visualize Kimberly taking off her wig.
    Not that I’m weird, or whatever.

  5. JosieH says:

    His “solution” is rather simple-minded. Should Margot Robbie have received the same pay as Will Smith on Focus? Smith has a decades-long track record as a worldwide box office draw, while Robbie (at the time) was still a new name with no track record. Should Emily Blunt have received the same pay as Tom Cruise on Edge of Tomorrow? Cruise, particularly overseas, is still a draw. Blunt? The average moviegoer doesn’t even know her.

    And what if it’s the woman getting the bigger salary? Does equal pay work both ways in this situation, or is it only bad if it’s the guy who gets paid more? Scarlett Johansson gets paid way more than Hemsworth, Evans, and Ruffalo on the MCU movies, even though their roles are all the same in size. Should she take a pay cut to make everything equal?

    I doubt Cumberbatch has even thought about any of these scenarios – he’s just grandstanding so he can get a few back-pats from the media.

    • Lucy says:

      The answer to both questions in the first paragraph you wrote is yes.

      • JosieH says:

        If the answer is yes, guess what? Robbie and Blunt would have never have been offered those roles in the first place. Only superstar actresses would have been offered those roles. You just created a new glass ceiling for new actresses.

    • Algernon says:

      Yes, Margot Robbie should have been paid the same as Will Smith, as they both had comparable amounts of screen time (translating to comparable number of work days). Even with a “decades-long track record as a worldwide box office draw” Focus hardly blew anyone’s socks off, the bankability of stars just doesn’t matter anymore. Not even Tom Cruise can sell a movie on his name anymore (Edge of Tomorrow, also not a barn burner). Also, bankability is sexist metric because who gets to become a star? The industry favors men at every step and stage, so it is much harder for a woman to reach the level of Will Smith or Tom Cruise, so there is less opportunity for less women to succeed at that level, which is why now, with movie stars no longer as relevant, it’s time to throw out that argument for keeping women down. Just pay people based on how many days they’re working or some other metric relevant to the actual work being done and not nebulous, made up concepts like star power and bankability.

      • JosieH says:

        Again, Robbie would NOT have gotten that role if she had to get paid Will Smith money. You just torpedoed her career because all the roles that made her a star went to bigger-name actresses. Only the rich get richer under the Cumberbatch Doctrine.

      • jammypants says:

        No not under the Cumberbatch doctrine. Under capitalism.

      • JosieH says:

        Yeah, the average citizen in China and North Korea is really thriving, jammypants. How many millions of people are going to be eating out of trash cans in Venezuela this year?

      • Algernon says:

        @JosieH I’m just saying the system is bad and should be updated in favor of equality. The system has been bad and wrong for a hundred years, and it’s past time to change for the better and pay people equally for the amount of work they’re doing. There are a million excuses to keep the status quo, which is bad and wrong and does not favor equality, and no excuse not to change and be better. Movie stars don’t matter anymore, it’s a great time to take that out of the equation and just pay people for the amount of work they’re doing. Why are you defending inequality?

      • jammypants says:

        Yes but it’s obvious communism in those countries is not executed in its pure form and will look a lot like capitalism, only with less human rights. Let’s be real here, the countries operating under the communist system adopt some of capitalism to justify the power imbalance. Vietnam is thriving for example because of the hybrid system adoption. So back to the main point, Cumberbatch alone is not responsible for how our capitalist society operates. His ideals are more egalitarian, which many would argue is not beneficial to said capitalist society.

        Your response treads a fine line between realistic and defeatist, but ideals are never achieved through cynicism. As a Kennedy once said, “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘why not?’

      • jammypants says:

        JosieH, I’d argue that those examples are anecdotal post 2010. There a few who can carry films, yes, but at times, brands and franchises are more powerful than actors. Just look at Hemsworth, Evans, Star Wars with unknowns. At times it can be a combination, like Pratt and Jurassic World. Being a star guarantees nothing (J Lawrence, Jolie, Pitt, Damon, Affleck). They can have successes and massive failures. There are very few fail safes like Dwayne Johnson and Tom Cruise.

      • JosieH says:

        “Yes but it’s obvious communism in those countries is not executed in its pure form…”

        Oh, that old “not pure communism” excuse. You commies need some new material. :)

      • jammypants says:

        Lol I’m not a commie. I’m simply stating the way those countries execute communism isn’t how it really is designed to do. They’ve adopted parts of capitalism hence why there’s a huge divide between the rich and poor. And come to think of it, our country isn’t pure capitalist either as its power lay in the hands of plutocrats. We are under the illusion that the people have power, but how can that be with gerrymandering? Only minor difference is more or less human rights. Under Trump, it’s looking less likely human rights matter 😒 Maybe Batch’s ideal is to ad hoc equality with our current economic system. God forbid that be such a terrible thing 🙄

        More importantly, you’re deflecting the points I made, which is you’re clearly mistaken to think Cumberbatch’s ideals will create a bigger imbalance to an economic structure that’s never designed to actually be “fair” as your examples are anecdotal and do not support actual facts.

    • chubcucumber says:

      Why would you doubt that a professional with extensive experience in his field hasn’t thought of these scenarios?

      I’m 100% sure he HAS thought of them and understands the complexities involved in scaling pay for different roles, accounting for experience, etc., probably much better than any of us not in the field do. It’s not like eight lines of interview quotes is his entire take on the topic.

    • luna says:

      I’m with JosieH!! But Cumber is using his and his partner’s money so at least that seems to make it an honest and interesting experiment.

    • K2 says:

      I’d have no issue with equal pay working both ways. None. Any more than I do in alimony and child support. What’s the issue with that? Why is that even thrown out as a counter argument?

      And your own questions are disingenuous, because you’re not comparing like for like. By your own calibrations in terms of fame, when Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams are paid dramatically less than Jeremy Renner on the same movie, then we have a problem. A serious one. Because those women are hugely more famous than he is, and had more box office draw. At the time, Lawrence was the biggest star in the world – yet she was in the women’s rank in that movie’s pay scale. There are so many examples of this imbalance. Emma Stone was paid less for La La Land. Clare Foy was paid less for The Crown. It’s consistent, and constant, and evidenced in so many cases. This stuff isn’t even open to debate. It’s a fact. So throwing in cases where you have a clear supporting and main role is ridiculous. You are intentionally not comparing like with like, because if you used legitimate examples your argument would fall apart.

      The evidence on the pay gap is stacked to the ceiling and the kind of whataboutery thrown at this topic just further evidences that fact. If there were more intellectually respectable rebuttals, they would have been deployed.

  6. Zapp Brannigan says:

    Benedict Cumberbatch woke? Lol, best laugh I have had in ages.

  7. Lucy says:

    Yes. This is exactly what we’re talking about when men asks us “what to do” in the face of gender inequality. The same could be applied to whenever a POC character’s casting is whitewashed (See Ed Skrein in Hellboy).

  8. JosieH says:

    Also, if Cumberbatch’s philosophy were used by the studios, all that would happen is only the biggest-name actresses would get offered big roles.

    If you need a woman to star alongside Dwayne Johnson and you HAVE to pay her the same wage, you’re not going to offer that role to Naomie Harris (Rampage) or Karen Gillan (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), you’re going to only go after mega-star actresses. In other words, the rich would get richer and the Naomie Harris’s and Karen Gillan’s of the world would never get to star in ANY big movies.

    • Algernon says:

      You’re totally missing that movie stars don’t matter anymore and you do not need big names to sell movies. Star Wars didn’t cast big names when they put together a new cast, Marvel rarely casts big names and some of their most popular characters are played by people who were B list at best at the time of casting. Movie stars. do not. matter. That era is over. You could absolutely cast a no-name actress in a huge movie which is what Twilight did, what Hunger Games did, what X-Men did, what Wonder Woman did, etc etc. The actors are not driving popularity anymore.

      • Zapp Brannigan says:

        Yeah the age of the “Movie Star” is ending, the film landscape has really changed and I think the way forward for character led films is through streaming and premium tv.
        We are seeing it time and again how actors are moving into television for quality work that is not in the films anymore, especially older actors.

        For a studio to support a film in cinema it needs a built in fan base and an established market already, like the Marvel films, Star Wars or whatever. Heck you could cast me in Star Wars and it would still make bank!

        As for BC I think this is just a talking point for promotion, but we will see.

      • JosieH says:

        You’re assuming all movies made nowadays are franchises. Wrong. Put two no-names in La La Land and it’s not a hit. Put a no-name in The Revenant and it’s not a hit. Put a no-name in Flight and it’s not a hit. Hell, Passengers made $300 million even though it was a piece of crap BECAUSE it had two big-name stars in it. Stars still matter. Period.

      • Algernon says:

        Again, why are you defending inequality?

        It’s true on the lower end of the scale, financers feel better when there is a big name attached because people barely go see original ideas at the movies anymore, although Damien Chazelle did make Whiplash without a big name attached, but an original musical felt risky enough that he had to put name actors in La La Land to get it made. They both took huge paycuts to be in it, they both had comparable screen time, and did comparable work. Why not pay Gosling and Stone the same? (They both ended up making out like bandits thanks to bonuses after LLL turned into a huge hit, but Gosling raked in about $3m more than Stone, which means he got a slightly higher bonus scale and I know you’ll say it’s because he’s a bigger star but at the level that they are both among the most famous people in the world, why does that matter? They did comparable work, pay them equally.)

        There’s literally no reason to pay people doing comparable work inequally. They need names to make independent films! Okay, but does that preclude paying the lead man and woman the same?

      • jammypants says:

        “Algernon says: Again, why are you defending inequality?”

        I ask the same thing, which I’ve yet to receive an answer but I also got called a commie for simply stating facts lol

      • BorderMollie says:

        Exactly, this. The idea of the box office draw superstar is just over. Take one look at Chris Hemsworth’s career outside Marvel for proof that the popularity and visibility of an actor doesn’t bring in audiences anymore. Best to cast the most talented and suitable actors for a role and, yes, pay them equally.

      • K2 says:

        “Put two no-names in La La Land and it’s not a hit.”

        So why was Stone paid so much less? Equal fame, equal screen time. Lower pay.

    • Ravensdaughter says:

      I hadn’t thought about the co-star/STAR requirement for equal pay-good thinking Josie H et al.
      Still, it’s great that Ben is out there, trying to make the acting world a more equitable place. It does have to start at the top.

    • teacakes says:

      Ok, then why were Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone not equally paid for La La Land?

      She was already an Oscar nominee who’d been in several hit movies and a franchise by that point, she was every bit the draw he was and had the same level of name recognition, but he still got $3m more than her for a movie that was a two-hander? Bull.

      The same goes for Michelle Williams and All The Money In the World, or Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle (multiple-time Oscar nominee and winner, and they still got stiffed on pay, Williams most egregiously). I call bull on these “it’ll lock fresh faces out of lead roles!” excuses because it’s very apparent even established, well-known actresses are being underpaid compared to their male counterparts in films where they share equal screen time.

      • Kit says:

        It’s also missing the point that equal work means the lead roles get equal pay. That typically means there are a number of supporting roles where many up and coming actors gain experience and exposure that may lead to a starring role. Most actors don’t appear out of the blue in a lead role. There will still be new faces. And if a lead role requires a 20yo woman then they’re not going to hire Meryl Streep because she has the box office draw, chances are it will be someone starting out. And if it otherwise means that they’ll consider casting experienced, age appropriate female love interests for middle aged or older male actors, well that’s not such a bad thing either.

  9. Case says:

    I admire him a lot for trying here. Nothing will change if the stars who have power don’t enforce equality.

    I never knew much about Cumberbatch before but was under the impression I wouldn’t like him. After seeing him on the Infinity War press tour, quite the opposite. Seems like a cool guy from what I’ve seen.

  10. Mads says:

    He always spouts lofty ideas that he doesn’t think through or be consistent on. This is just a media blitz comment. Not taking it seriously.

    • jammypants says:

      He’s a hit or miss with actions. I think some of his actions support his beliefs, while I side eye the hell out of him for foaming at the mouth about people not supporting Syrian refugees by taking them in their homes, while he can’t do that with his huge property because he has “babies” 🙄 as if other people he’s spitting at don’t also have babies.

    • Kate says:

      Actually, he’s already done something concrete. Head of film, head of movie film and production, head of development at his company are all women, plus he’s got another two woman as executive producers (rare). Women are seriously lacking in those types of positions.

      My issue with the Syrian refugees thing was that he responded to that empty criticism to begin with. New parents plus his lifestyle would not make for good sponsors. This is true of a lot of people because the vast of majority refugees need undivided support and attention, which is also why most of the agencies that assist them prefer donations.

  11. Gutterflower says:

    I always found him unattractive, having only seen him in pics. Then I saw Infinity War and wow he has charm. Still dislike him in photos though lol.

  12. Winechampion says:

    He’s fantastic in Patrick Melrose, and that’s all I got.

  13. No Doubtful says:

    Is it possible they don’t know what each other is getting paid? In the “real world” that is something that is looked down upon by employers.

    But yes…if they do know…then they should step up and say something.

  14. Kiwiforbreakfast says:

    Honestly don’t find him hot in the slightest but finally got around to catching Doctor Strange and he was great in it. And Infinity War was actually a good action film.

  15. chubcucumber says:

    Isn’t the problem that they DON’T make more? I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it. Famous women who can open films still get paid less than their male co-stars.

  16. luna says:

    Where on the internet can you find out the salaries of actors and actresses? Has it always been public knowledge?