If you haven’t heard of Gal Gadot, you probably missed out on Wonder Woman, the latest breakout success in the world of superhero movies. Now people are angry that Gadot makes less than male superhero stars of similar fame, but there’s just one problem: it’s not true.
It all started with a story that ran in Elle, which claimed that Gal Gadot made about $300,000 USD ($396,000 AUD) for her starring role as Diana of Themyscira, also known as Wonder Woman. But the story erroneously compared Gadot’s paycheque to Henry Cavill’s supposed haul of $14 million USD ($18.5 million AUD) for his starring role in Man of Steel.
Unsurprisingly in our current era of online outrage, the story went viral and the internet went ballistic, citing this as yet another instance of the terrible wage gap between men and women (which does exist, just to be clear).
But there’s just one problem with the story: it’s completely inaccurate.
Apparently Elle took the figure for Cavill’s income from a Forbes article. But nobody is quite sure where Forbes came up with that figure, which is much greater than Cavill’s actual debut income in his role of Superman.
A bit of digging reveals the truth of superhero franchises, both how they select their lead actors and how they determine their paycheques: find a relatively unknown young actor who is willing to do the role for a lower fee, and then pay them more to retain them if the franchise takes off and sequels are needed. If it goes nowhere, cut them loose without too much of a loss.
That’s how superhero franchises have been working since they really started to take off about ten years ago when Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Most famously, Iron Man himself (Robert Downey Jr.) made a salary similar to Gadot’s for his debut as Tony Stark, and was later able to bank $50 million USD ($66 million AUD) for his role in The Avengers, after he’d become indispensable to the franchise.
This doesn’t mean Gadot won’t lose out in the long run. But expect her salary to go up, drastically, once she renegotiates her contract in light of the success of Wonder Woman.
And in the meantime: don’t worry, internet. Gal Gadot is doing just fine.