“That’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair.”
Emma Stone is playing tennis icon Billie Jean King in the upcoming Battle of the Sexes movie and she, King and Stone’s co-star Andrea Riseborough spoke about gender equality and inclusion in Out magazine.
The film focuses on King’s match with Bobby Riggs, the same year King fought for equal prize money for men and women at the U.S. Open. Stone talks about how equal pay is still a challenge for women now.
“At our best right right now we’re making 80 cents to the dollar,” said Stone, adding that in Hollywood it’s “a difficult system because it depends on the kinds of films you’re a part of, the size of your role, how much the movies make at the box office. And so much of that changes your pay throughout your career, so I go more to the blanket issue that women, in general, are making four fifths at best.”
King added that Stone’s “at best” statistic is for white women, with the gender pay disparity increasing for black or Latina women, who are often paid even less.
“In my career so far, I’ve needed my male co-stars to take a pay cut so that I may have parity with them,” said Stone. “And that’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair. That’s something that’s also not discussed, necessarily — that our getting equal pay is going to require people to selflessly say, ‘That’s what’s fair.'”
The Oscar-winning actress continued, “If my male co-star, who has a higher quote than me but believes we are equal, takes a pay cut so that I can match him, that changes my quote in the future and changes my life.” She added that she’s been “so grateful” to her male co-stars who have adjusted their pay rates when they have been in a similar-sized role to Stone in films.
King responded, “You just gave an example of why men are so vital to these changes — because they’re usually in the power position, and if they start to change the paradigms, things start to shift. And that’s why I always include men in everything that I do.”
Meanwhile, Riseborough said she’s never experienced a male co-star taking a pay cut for her. “In fact, I’ve been number 1 in films before and been paid a lot less.”
The relevance of Battle of the Sexes, set in the 1970s, to today goes beyond equal pay, and Stone says she finds the parallels “pretty fascinating.”
“We began shooting in the spring of 2016 when there was still a lot of hope in the air, and it was very interesting to see this guy — this narcissistic, self-focused, constantly-stirring-the-pot kind of guy — against this incredible, qualified woman, and at the same time be playing Billie Jean, with Steve [Carell] playing Bobby Riggs,” said Stone, referring to the 2016 presidential election. “Obviously the way this has all panned out has been fascinating and horrifying, and it still feels like we’re in a bad dream, but those parallels make sense to me.”