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The outrage over Gal Gadot’s $300,000 paycheck for Wonder Woman, explained

It was sparked by an absurd, inaccurate claim that Henry Cavill made $14 million when he appeared in Man of Steel.

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman Warner Bros.
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Thanks to a poorly sourced news story, the power of Twitter to make something go viral, and the erotic allure of online outrage, an urban legend was born on Tuesday morning: that the $300,000 Gal Gadot was paid for her starring role in Wonder Woman was pennies compared with Henry Cavill’s alleged payment of $14 million for 2013’s Man of Steel.

It all began when Lauren Duca, a columnist at Teen Vogue, tweeted the following (now deleted) sentiment:

Duca’s tweet was retweeted more than 14,500 times and quickly drew attention to the story. And it’s easy to see why: Not only is it absolutely absurd to think that Gadot was paid 46 times less than Cavill for a better movie, but if it happened to Gadot, the insinuation is that other actresses are likely suffering from the same pay gap.

There’s only one problem: The scenario in Duca’s original tweet wasn’t true.

To be certain, there is absolutely a gender pay gap between actors and actresses in Hollywood, but Gal Gadot’s salary for Wonder Woman isn’t an example of it.

Gal Gadot was probably paid $300,000 for Wonder Woman. Cavill was probably not paid $14 million for Man of Steel.

The apparent culprit behind this false comparison is a story published by Elle that has since been updated to reflect its error. The original piece stated that Gadot was making $300,000 for Wonder Woman and that Cavill had made $14 million for Man of Steel. Elle cited a story from Variety as its source for Gadot’s salary, which in turn cited an Israeli entertainment show.

For Cavill’s salary, the Elle piece cited Forbes, which had in turn cited a website called the Richest, one of the internet’s many websites that “tell” you a celebrity’s net worth. The Richest speculates that Cavill’s net worth is $8 million, though that assessment appears to be based on only two pieces of “earnings and financial data,” both from 2013. Those two pieces of data are a $14 million salary and “box office gross” bonuses from Man of Steel, and a $23,900 Omega De Ville Hour Vision wristwatch; the site does not list any other earnings or assets whatsoever, from before Cavill worked on Man of Steel (like the payment he would have received for appearing in The Immortals and Showtime’s The Tudors) or since.

The Elle article spurred Duca’s popular tweet. And after people pointed out to Duca that the $14 million figure had come from a questionable source, she tweeted — and also later deleted — a clarification, while still making the point that Gadot’s salary is tiny compared with the worldwide box office gross that Wonder Woman will haul in:

People were far less interested in that subsequent tweet, and it was only retweeted 198 times before it was deleted.

Meanwhile, Vanity Fair reported that “a source with knowledge of studio negotiations on franchise films” said that it would be “insane” for a studio to pay Cavill that much. And Vulture reported that “Cavill made a six-figure paycheck comparable to Gadot’s for Man of Steel and that his co-star Amy Adams, a much bigger name, pulled in seven figures to play his Lois Lane.”

Vanity Fair’s and Vulture’s sources were unnamed, but both outlets are more reputable and trustworthy than the Richest.

Essentially, the point that Elle, Duca, and others were trying to make about a gender pay gap and Wonder Woman is already broken if the $14 million figure is false — no matter how noble their intentions. That point becomes even more entertainingly incorrect and ironic if Vulture’s source is right about Adams getting paid more than Cavill.

Gal Gadot was paid similarly to Chris Evans for the first Captain America movie. And she’s poised to make a lot more money in sequels.

To be clear, the gender pay gap in Hollywood is real — the Sony email hack of 2014 revealed that Jennifer Lawrence was actually paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle even though she was arguably the biggest star of the movie.

But Gadot’s contract is actually the norm for debut superhero movies: Little-known or unknown actors don’t make that much money when starring in their first superhero films.

Deadline, a well-sourced trade publication like Variety, reported in 2010 that Chris Evans was paid around $300,000 to star in Captain America: The First Avenger. And the Hollywood Reporter points out that Chris Hemsworth made $150,000 initially for appearing in Thor.

These salary numbers feel like drops in the bucket compared with what superhero movies usually rake in at the box office — Captain America: The First Avenger made $370 million worldwide and Thor made $449 million worldwide. Wonder Woman has already surpassed $570 million worldwide. But they also don’t include or consider things like a box office bonus, whether an actor has contractual obligations to appear in future movies, and whatever kind of deals are made for additional compensation that is dependent on the movie’s success.

What Evans and his fellow Marvel stars — most notably Robert Downey Jr. — have done in the wake of their respective successes is renegotiate their contracts. Downey famously parlayed the initial $500,000 he made for Iron Man into $50 million for his appearance in 2012’s first Avengers film.

And Gadot will have the same opportunity as she negotiates potential future Wonder Woman films.

According to Vanity Fair, she hasn’t signed on for the inevitable Wonder Woman sequel. Because Wonder Woman is a smashing box office success, Gadot now has an advantage in negotiating a bigger payday for herself.

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