The internet was outraged on Tuesday (as it so often is) over reports that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot had earned just a tiny fraction of what her male counterparts earned for their own breakout superhero roles. A story on Elle’s website compared Gadot’s base salary of $300,000 for her first superhero standalone with an alleged $14 million earned by Henry Cavill in 2013 for Man of Steel. Had the comparison been accurate, it would certainly have been worthy of outrage, another egregious example of gender imbalance in Hollywood—but the story was incredibly misleading, as actual reporting quickly showed.
Here’s what we can reasonably assume to be true: Gadot did sign a three-picture deal with Warner Bros. for Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman, and the upcoming Justice League movie, with a $300,000 base salary per film. As Kyle Buchanan over at Vulture points out, that’s pretty consistent with the salaries of other superheroes just starting out, including Chris Evans, who made a similar amount for the first Captain America movie.
Gadot’s reported $300,000 paycheck alone probably wouldn’t have caused such a stir, except that the Elle post used it as an example of the gender pay gap in Hollywood by comparing Gadot’s salary to the $14 million Henry Cavill earned for Man of Steel. (Never mind for a moment that that $14 million figure is already incredibly dubious, since it seems to originate from a Forbes article that uses some pretty unreliable sourcing.) Even assuming that number does correctly reflect how much Cavill received for the film overall, there’s no way it refers to Cavill’s base salary alone. Vulture asserts that Cavill, like Gadot, earned a six-figure paycheck for his superhero debut, and a source “with knowledge of studio negotiations on franchise films” told Vanity Fair something similar, adding that it would be “insane” for the studio have paid Cavill that much for a single movie upfront.
So where did that mythical $14 million come from? As Vanity Fair’s source explains, “Entry-level actors in franchise films are paid an initial rate. As a franchise takes off, they stand to make more money.” Actors starting out in major franchises stand to make most of their money based on the film’s box office success—which means that Gadot is also likely to be on the receiving end of some substantial bonus checks, considering the film is close to grossing $600 million worldwide at the box office.
While the pay gap in Hollywood is a very real problem, it’s not the villain in this particular story. The real test will come when Gadot negotiates her contract for the Wonder Woman sequel, which is already underway, but she already has quite a foundation to demand that she be paid what she deserves—and an internet ready to be prematurely outraged if she doesn’t.