Mexican actor says highly paid male stars would have to make sacrifices if they were serious about gender equality
The Cannes film festival is one of the glamorous highlights of the silver screen’s year – a time for sun, stars and self-satisfaction.
But this year, the atmosphere is mutinous. On Sunday the Hollywood actor Salma Hayek became the latest to throw yet another grenade into the simmering gender debate, arguing that male movie stars would have to take pay cuts if they were serious about equal pay for women.
The Mexican-born actor, a leading voice in the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, said highly paid male stars would have to make sacrifices.
“It is not just the producers” who have to change if the huge pay gap is to be closed. “It is actors too,” she said.
“Time’s up. You had a good run, but it is time now to be generous with the actresses,” she told a Women in Motion talk at the festival.
“If actors ask such inflated fees it will leave nothing for actresses. If the movie’s budget is $10m, the [male] actor has to understand that if he is making $9.7m, it is going to be hard for equality,” Hayek added. “Otherwise they will kill the movie.”
With a laugh and the confidence of a woman unlikely to go short of work, she added: “I will be hated for saying this, […] I hope I can get another job.”
Hayek – best known for Desperado and the indie hit Beatriz at Dinner – had accused the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of threatening to “break my kneecaps” after she spurned his advances on the set of her film Frida.
The actor and producer, who says she has sold a number of female-led projects she had been trying to make for 10 years since the Weinstein scandal shook up Hollywood, said real change was happening.
“The men are terrified. The predators are hiding. You feel this very palpable atmosphere,” she said.
It is not only Hayek who has been speaking out. On Saturday 82 women working in the film industry, including the head judge, Cate Blanchett, Ava DuVernay and Jane Fonda, stood in silence on the red carpet to protest at the festival’s lack of female directors.
The group, which also featured Kristen Stewart, the Wonder Woman director, Patty Jenkins, and Hayek, stopped halfway up the steps of the entrance to the Palais des Festivals to represent women’s curtailed advancement in the film industry.
“We are 82 women, representing the number of female directors who have climbed these stairs since the first edition of the Cannes film festival in 1946. In the same period, 1,688 male directors have climbed these very same stairs,” said Blanchett, reading out a collective statement alongside the veteran documentary-maker Agnès Varda. “The prestigious Palme d’Or has been bestowed upon 71 male directors, too numerous to mention by name, but only two female directors.”
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