Long before Frances McDormand introduced the phrase “inclusion rider” to the world, one of Hollywood’s biggest names took a pay cut to make sure an actress working with him received fair pay.
Susan Sarandon appeared to refer to making the 1998 movie “Twilight” when she told BBC Radio 5 she discovered she was earning less than Paul Newman and co-star Gene Hackman. The movie makers used “favored nations”—a negotiation term that guarantees each actor in a film receives the same pay as their co-stars— but then applied it only to the two men in the film, according to Sarandon.
“They said it was ‘favored nations,’ but they only meant the two guys. He (Newman) stepped forward and said, ‘Well, I’ll give you part of mine.’ So, yeah, he was a gem,” said Sarandon of Newman. Making up the difference meant a reduced salary for Newman.
Sarandon mentioned Newman’s offer to BBC Radio 5 Live when she reflected on a recent similar gesture. “Emma Stone once came forward and said she got equal pay because her male stars insisted upon it and gave up something of theirs,” she said. “That happened to me with Paul Newman at one point, when I did a film with him ages ago.” The neo-noir thriller Twilight also starred Reese Witherspoon.
Newman died aged 83 in 2008.
Sarandon’s recounting seems especially meaningful in a week when the standing of women took the limelight at Academy Awards. Best Actress winner McDormand gave a high-profile plug to a term that embraces a legal effort to push for greater on-screen diversity that would affect women.
McDonald ended her rousing acceptance speech during the Oscar broadcast on Sunday by saying, “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.” The idea is that A-list actors can stipulate in their contracts benchmarks in hiring for both onscreen and below-the-line jobs should reflect women, people of color and members of the LGBT community.
Sarandon also touched on another sensitive topic impacting women in her BBC 5 interview. The actress, 71, also said she believes the Hollywood a casting couch is not going to disappear.
“I think what will go away is the unwanted exchange, but I think that giving yourself sexually, or being drawn to power and wanting to have sex with someone that’s in power is also a choice, said Sarandon in the BBC 5 interview. “What we don’t want to have is being exploited and to have the Harvey Weinsteins of the world holding it over your head and holding it over your project – that is the most despicable.”