Jennifer Lawrence's $20 Million Pay Day Is a Step Forward for Hollywood Pay Equality


Score one for equal pay: Jennifer Lawrence is about to out-earn a male movie star on the same project.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lawrence is set to make $20 million, plus a healthy share of profits, on the upcoming sci-fi movie Passengers. Her co-star Chris Pratt, fresh off one of the biggest opening weekends ever for Jurassic World, will make $12 million. That's a minimum $8 million difference.

In Hollywood, as in the rest of the world, equal pay is still just a dream, depressingly far from reality. This is an encouraging step forward, but it's important to put the news in context.

Yes, Lawrence will be paid significantly more than Pratt, especially if Passengers is successful at the box office. Considering the star wattage of these two actors, the movie will probably be a massive hit. But it's important to remember Lawrence and Pratt aren't exactly at the same level.

Matt Sayles/AP

True, Pratt did just open a movie to over $200 million in one weekend, domestically. Though nostalgia for the property likely fueled it to the top of the heap, Pratt was hardly invisible in the marketing. He'd be right to take some credit for Jurassic World's success. According to the Hollywood Reporter, he earned a pay bump on Passengers thanks to Jurassic World's huge opening weekend, from $10 million to $12 million.

One look at the rest of his box office successes, however, reveals he's still very much a developing movie star — particularly in contrast to Lawrence.

Box Office Mojo

Lawrence already has seven movies that grossed over $100 million to her name. In the marketing campaigns for each, she was at least visible, if not the primary face. The box office bonanza for the Hunger Games trilogy can be nearly entirely attributed to her, however, as the face of the franchise.

Pratt, on the other hand, really only has two huge hits completely to his credit. The LEGO Movie, while a total kick, featured only Pratt's voice. To give him kudos feels slightly disingenuous. Truly, he's only opened two movies on his own name and brand: Jurassic World and last year's Guardians of the Galaxy. (He wasn't a top-line star in Wanted.)

So in this case, the pay disparity between the two makes sense. The true battle in Hollywood is yet to be fought, as we see when the titular stars of Grace & Frankie, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, are paid the same as their male co-stars Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen despite those men portraying the show's supporting characters. Outside of Hollywood, the pay gap remains even more disparate. Jennifer Lawrence getting paid more than Chris Pratt isn't a wave change, it's just an encouraging sign.

As Patricia Arquette said in her inspiring (if somewhat problematic) Oscar acceptance speech, "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America." Hopefully the news of Lawrence's hefty payday will be the push America needs to get on the right side of the pay equality debate.