Despite grossing well over $300 million after its release, seasoned actress Taraji P. Henson recently revealed she made only $40,000 for her role in the 2008 box office hit, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.
The 50-year-old, who played Queenie in the movie and earned an Oscar nomination for her standout role, opened up on the amount she received during an interview on Ladies First with Laura Brown, according to The Jasmine Brand. The Empire actress said that was her net earning after tax deductions and paying her team. Meanwhile, the movie’s other stars, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, reportedly earned millions for their respective roles.
“I felt like what I was asking, at that time of my career, was fair to the ticket sales that I would contribute to this big film,” she said. “[The studio] wouldn’t do it… and then I was gutted.”
Though she eventually started being paid her worth, Henson said she has had to continually challenge the “strong Black woman” narrative as she feels it’s dismissive.
“I understand why we took that on, Black women being the bottom of the totem pole, never being seen. I understand, but it’s when others go, ‘Yes, strong Black woman!’ and then it dismisses us,” she said. “Then if my child or somebody I know is gunned down in the streets, I’m supposed to be strong through that? I’m not allowed to be angry? I’m not allowed to be pissed off? I can’t say [anything back] because you’ve taken everything from me. I’m not allowed to feel that? I’m just supposed to be strong?”
Quite a number of Black actresses in Hollywood have shared their grievances on being underpaid as compared to their White female counterparts even when they’re equally as good. In a 2018 interview with Porter, Viola Davis spoke about how unfair the pay gap was.
“If Caucasian women are getting 50% of what men are getting paid, we’re not even getting a quarter of what white women are getting paid. We don’t even get the magazine covers white women get. And that is not speaking in a way that is angry,” she said. “They deserve everything they get paid. Nicole Kidman deserves it. Reese Witherspoon deserves it. Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Frances McDormand… But guess what – I deserve it too. So does Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Halle Berry. We’ve put the work in too.”