Economist Greg Mankiw recently published a column in the New York Times, holding up the actor Robert Downey Jr. as an example of why many deserve outsize pay. Why should we begrudge Downey a $50 million payday for The Avengers? The film brought in $1.5 billion globally. Downey’s take was a mere 3 percent of the haul.
It certainly sounds like a reasonable sum when put that way. What, after all, is a little income inequality when it comes to talent and the ability to get people to pay for a movie and popcorn? But when you see Jennifer Lawrence sashay down the red carpet this Sunday at the Oscars, you might want to pause for a moment to consider the Hunger Games franchise, the status of women in Hollywood, and which sex our society believes deserves monster paychecks.
Hunger Games producers first signed Lawrence to a deal in 2011. She was still a relative unknown, albeit one with an Oscar nomination on her credits. So they could sign her to play the lead, Katniss Everdeen, for less than $1 million — a relative pittance for such a high-profile movie.
The film went on to earn $400 million in the United States, and $691.2 million globally. Using the logic of Downey’s payday, Lawrence should have received $20 million for the second installment in the Hunger Games series.
Instead, Lawrence received a $10 million salary for starring in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which went on to gross $830 million internationally. This feat allowed Lawrence to achieve the third spot on the most recent Forbes’ “Best Actors for the Buck” list, right below fellow female stars Emma Stone and Mila Kunis.