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Equal Pay Day: The powerful women (and a few men) speaking out against sexism and ageism in Hollywood

Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Thompson, Patricia Arquette and George Clooney are calling for an end to discrimination

Jess Denham
Monday 09 November 2015 11:15 GMT
Jennifer Lawrence penned an essay on the gender pay gap after finding our her American Hustle co-stars were paid more than her
Jennifer Lawrence penned an essay on the gender pay gap after finding our her American Hustle co-stars were paid more than her (Rex Features)

Barely a week goes by without a high profile name voicing their anger at how sexist and ageist Hollywood is. Despite it being 2015, women in their thirties are deemed too old to play the love interest of a fifty-something man, the gender pay gap is alive and kicking, there are fewer films with a female lead today than in 2002, and there are still alarmingly few female directors.

Jennifer Lawrence recently penned an essay on the gender pay gap for Lena Dunham's newsletter Lenny, after the Sony cyber attack leaked emails revealing that her male co-stars were paid more than her on American Hustle. “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likeable!” she wrote. “F**k that!”

Here's what other leading ladies and gentleman have had to say on the issue of sexism and ageism:

Emma Thompson

"It's still completely s**t. I don't think there's any appreciable improvement and I think that, for women, the question of how they are supposed to look is worse than it was even when I was young. So no, I am not impressed, at all." - Radio Times, July 2015

Patricia Arquette

"To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's rights. It's time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America." - Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech at the Oscars, March 2015

Meryl Streep was a big fan of that one, and rightly so:

Jessica Lange

“Hollywood is run with this male point of view. Even if a woman runs a studio, she still does it with a male point of view. As long as that exists, you're still going to have this wish fulfilment. That men continue to be fascinating and attractive and virile, and women age and are no longer sexual or beautiful - it's a fantasy that has nothing to do with reality.” - The Wrap, May 2015

Helen Mirren

"It's f**king outrageous. It's ridiculous. And 'twas ever thus. We all watched James Bond as he got more and more geriatric and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It's so annoying." - The Wrap's Power Breakfast, June 2015

Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams (Photography: Andy Gotts MBE)

Maisie Williams

"There are a lot of roles that come in that are 'the girlfriend' or 'the hot piece'. It will say 'Derek: intelligent, good with kids, funny, really good at this' and then it will say 'Sandra: hot in a sort of cute way' and that's all you get." - London Evening Standard, August 2015

Zoe Saldana

"When men - producers- say, 'You're old' to me that is the most laughable f**king ridiculous thing a moron could ever say. By the time you're 28 you're expired, you're playing mommy roles. We're not the ones putting ourselves in those places. We're allowing ourselves to be put in those positions. I just won't allow it." - The Telegraph, July 2014

Emily Browning

"I have read a lot of scripts where the girl is just there to be the girl. It is an issue for me. It's not even about 'strong, female characters'. People think that means badass girls with guns - which is really fun to do sometimes - but it's just about women being portrayed as real humans. Real, complex, interesting humans." - The Independent, September 2015

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Cate Blanchett

"Thank you to the audiences who went to see Blue Jasmine. And perhaps to those of us in the industry still foolishly clinging to the idea female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round people." - Best Actress acceptance speech at the Oscars, March 2014

Alexander Skarsgard

“Sexism is a big problem in Hollywood. Boys can talk about sex and have sex in films and it's cool but when girls to it they are just sluts. It's so prudish and puritanical. Hollywood is difficult for women - people making films want super-hot, young girls and then there are fewer great roles for women aged over 40.” - London Evening Standard, July 2015

Michelle Rodriguez

"I have such a strong sense of self, there are certain lines I just won't cross. I'm really picky about the parts I choose. I can't be the slut. I cannot be just the girlfriend. I can't be the girl who gets empowered because she'[s been raped. I can't be the girl who gets empowered and then dies." -, March 2015

Maggie Gyllenhaal at the Golden Globes 2015 (Getty)

Maggie Gyllenhaal

“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time. I'm 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.” - The Wrap, May 2015

Jodie Foster

"When I was growing up in the film business I never saw a woman's face. Sometimes it was the lady who played my mom or occasionally it would be a makeup artist but most often it would really just be me and the script supervisor. Little by little, as time went on, a few female faces started coming onto crews, and it changed everything." - Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech, Athena Film Festival, February 2015

Jane Fonda

"I was a movie star and I produced a lot of my own movies, but I am 77-years-old now and those opportunities just aren't there. Ageism is alive and well. It is okay for men to get older because men become more desirable by being powerful. With women, it's all about how we look. Men are very visual, they want young women. So, for us, it's all about trying to stay young." - The Telegraph, May 2015

Gillian Anderson

"At the beginning the pay disparity [between herself and X-Files co-star David Duchovny] was massive. [Sexism] is built in to our society. It's easy to miss and it's easy to get used to it." - Red, November 2014

Matthias Schoenaerts

“People say, 'Wow, how is it working with a female director?' I'm like, 'What are you talking about? It's like working with a person'. People ask, 'Is it like a female look at violence?' I don't even know what that means.” - The Hollywood Reporter, May 2015

Meryl Streep as the Witch in Into the Woods (AP)

Meryl Streep

“Once women passed childbearing age they could only be seen as grotesque on some level.” - On turning 40 and being offered three roles as witches, Vogue, December 2011

Naomi Watts

"I would be given back all my studio muscle provided I used it to beat another woman senseless and get so turned on by that thrashing that I would have to have urgent sex with my 60-year-old male costar whose buttocks were to be played by a gymnast. I'm still deciding whether or not I should take that job." - Elle's Women in Hollywood awards, October 2011

Salma Hayek

"The sad thing is the only two industries where women make more than men are fashion and pornography." - The Hollywood Reporter, May 2015

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