‘If I was Oliver Colman, I’d be earning a f**k lot more’: Olivia Colman hits out at pay gap

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Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Olivia Colman has hit out at gender pay disparity for female actors.
Olivia Colman has hit out at gender pay disparity for female actors. Credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Oscar winner Olivia Colman has revealed her frustrations with the gender pay gap in the entertainment industry.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Colman said, “Don’t get me started on pay disparity but male actors get paid more because they used to say they drew in the audiences.

“And actually, that hasn’t been true for decades but they still like to use that as a reason to not pay women as much as their male counterparts.”

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Colman, who is promoting her new film Wicked Little Letters, added, “I’m very aware that if I was Oliver Colman, I’d be earning a f**k lot more than I am. I know of one pay disparity which is a 12,000 per cent difference. Do the maths, I know.”

Among A-lister Colman’s best known performances is as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown.

Her predecessor in the role, Claire Foy, made headlines in 2018 when it was revealed she was paid less than her male co-star, Matt Smith, despite playing the main character and having more screen time.

Olivia Colman is promoting the film Wicked Little Letters.
Olivia Colman is promoting the film Wicked Little Letters. Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh Supplied

The Crown’s production company, Left Bank originally defended the decision by arguing Smith had a higher profile due to his work on Doctor Who, but backed down after public backlash. Left Bank committed that for the remainder of the seasons, “no one gets paid more than the Queen”.

A report at the time suggested Foy would be back paid £200,000 (AUD$386,000) to bring her up to parity but the actor later confirmed that wasn’t true. She told Al Arabiya, “I’ve never mentioned anything about it and neither have the producers.

“It happened at the same time as it was coming out with a lot of other people that there was a lot of pay inequality across the board – in the music industry, in journalism, in every industry. It’s across the board that it became part of a bigger conversation, which is an odd place to find yourself in.”

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Claire Foy was paid less than Matt Smith on The Crown despite being the main character. Credit: Supplied

That same year, it emerged that Michelle Williams was paid less than $US1000 for reshoots in the film All the Money in the World while co-star Mark Wahlberg pocketed $US1.5 million.

Speaking a year later, Williams said, “This came as no surprise to me, it simply reinforced my life-learned belief that equality is not an inalienable right and that women would always be working just as hard for less money while shouldering more responsibility at home.

“I’ve been a working actress since the age of 12. I’d be accredited by my industry at the highest levels and that still didn’t translate to equal compensation.”

Following public outcry, Walhberg donated his $US1.5 million salary to Time’s Up while William Morris Endeavour, the talent agency which represented both actors, made a $US500,000 donation as well.

More recently, Oscar-nominated actor Taraji P. Henson was scathing of the pay gap. While promoting The Colour Purple in December, she told Gayle King, “The math ain’t math-ing. I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious about what I do, getting paid a fraction of the cost. I’m tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over. You get tired.”

In Forbes’ list of the 10 highest-paid actors of 2023, only two women — Margot Robbie (second) and Jennifer Aniston (sixth) — made the cut.

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