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Emma Stone is the highest paid actress of 2017, according to annual Forbes list

The gender pay gap in Hollywood is made glaringly apparent in Forbes’ list of highest paid actresses for 2017. While there’s obviously millions of dollars in the mix for either gender, the difference between the total sum in dollars made by the highest paid actresses and the highest paid actors is pretty striking.

The top-earning actress, Emma Stone, raked in $26 million, making her both the biggest dollar and percentage gainer year-over-year. This can be largely attributed to her role in La La Land. By contrast, her co-star Ryan Gosling banked $29 million in 2017, which only put him in the 14th spot on the list of highest-paid actors for the year. The highest paid actor, Mark Wahlberg, made $68 million through a number of projects and endorsement deals.

Cumulatively, the top-10 earning actresses made a total of $172.5 million (before taxes and fees) for the period between June 1, 2016, and June 1, 2017. During that same time, the top 10 male actors earned $488.5 million: a cool $316 million more. Many of those on the top 10 actor’s list appeared in multiple box-office hits, while some had TV series and endorsement deals.

Stone bumped Jennifer Lawrence from the top spot, which that actress held both in 2016 with earnings of $46 million and in 2015. Lawrence’s earnings last year were largely attributable to her role in the final Hunger Games film. For 2017, she dropped to third place with earnings of $24 million from upfront fees for Mother! and Red Sparrow. Jumping up the list to take the second spot is Jennifer Aniston with $25.5 million, up from $21 million in 2016. Interestingly, much of Aniston’s earnings this year weren’t from acting, but rather endorsements for brands like Smartwater and Aveeno, along with the sale of hair care line Living Proof to Unilever in December 2016.

Cumulatively, the top-10 earning actresses made a total of $172.5 million between June 1, 2016 and June 1 (2017).

Rounding out the top five is Melissa McCarthy at $18 million and Mila Kunis at $15.5 million. McCarthy dropped from the second spot in 2016, which she achieved mainly from her role in the Ghostbusters movie, to fourth. Kunis remained steady thanks to her ongoing role as the voice of Meg in the animated series Family Guy, as well as for the film Bad Moms, which has a sequel due out November 1.

Emma Watson was the only newcomer to the list, ranking sixth with $14 million from films like Beauty and the Beast. Rounding out the top 10 were Charlize Theron, who tied with Watson at $14 million; Julia Roberts and Cate Blanchett, who tied at $12 million; and Amy Adams in the 10th spot at $11.5 million. Adams, it’s worth noting, is a five-time Oscar nominee, yet made $2 million less than the 20th highest-paid actor, Mark Ruffalo.

Two-time Academy Award-winner Blanchett, who appears in Thor: Ragnorak, made the list for the first time since 2009.

Dropping from the list this year are Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, and Scarlett Johansson. They ranked 10th, fifth, and third, respectively, in 2016. Last year, Johansson was also named the highest-grossing actress of all time, and 10th among both actors and actresses for their careers, thanks to films that have grossed $3.3 billion thus far. In a sign of how quickly these things change, 10 of the actresses who made the list in 2015 were absent this year. They are Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Stewart, Anne Hathaway,  Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Sandra Bullock, and Natalie Portman.

Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures
Notably absent was the highest-grossing actress of all time, Scarlett Johansson. (Ghost in the Shell, 2017)

Also of note is that Stone’s earnings for the top spot were $20 million less than Lawrence’s earnings in 2016, despite Stone winning the Academy Award this year for her role in La La Land. Franchise movies may not get as much Oscar attention, but they certainly bring in bigger bucks for actors. Stone’s star has still definitely risen significantly since 2015, when she ranked 16th on the list with just $6.5 million in earnings while appearing in films like the Academy Award-winning Birdman.

Earnings are down across the board for the top-paid actresses: Lawrence’s top spot in 2015 was thanks to a payday of about $52 million. Johansson, the second top earner that year, also made more than the top earner this year, raking in $35.5 million.

The earnings are estimated based on data from Nielsen, ComScore, Box Office Mojo, and IMDB, as well as industry insider information.

The gender pay gap has become a prominent issue in Hollywood, with many actresses speaking up about equal pay, including Shameless star Emmy Rossum and House of Cards’ Robin Wright.

One could argue that it’s presumed box office success that helps dictate pay. Many of the top-earning male actors played comic book characters in a series of films that brought in, and were expected to bring in, massive bucks. Some also sign multiyear deals that inflate the dollar figures. That said, it’s something we’ll be hearing a lot more about in the coming months and years.

Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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