Taraji P. Henson had a significant supportive role in the movie Benjamin Button, but her paycheck didn’t mirror that.
Taraji appeared on the Ladies First with Laura Brown podcast and spoke about the pay disparity in the 2008 blockbuster, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
“I felt like what I was asking, at that time of my career, was fair to the ticket sales that I would contribute to this big film. [The studio] wouldn’t do it… and then I was gutted.”
“I want to make this very clear – I’m not saying that Brad or Cate shouldn’t have gotten what they got,” she clarified. “They put asses in seats, so give them their money. They deserve it. I’m not saying they shouldn’t get what they’re getting. I was just asking for half a million – that’s all. That’s it. When I was doing ‘Benjamin Button,’ I wasn’t worth a million yet. My audience was still getting to know me. We thought we were asking for what was fair for me, at the time.”
Taraji P. Henson went on to explain that after Uncle Sam took his 50% cut and she compensated her team, she went home with $40,000 out of a $100,000 offer and Benjamin Button grossed $335 million.
The Baby Boy actress eventually took home an Oscar in 2009 for her role as Queenie, but she didn’t become “mainstream” until her breakout role on Empire as Cookie Lyon. That’s when the price went up and it was stuck.
“I understand why we took that on, Black women being the bottom of the totem pole, never being seen. I understand, but it’s when others go, ‘Yes, strong Black woman!’ and then it dismisses us … Then if my child or somebody I know is gunned down in the streets, I’m supposed to be strong through that? I’m not allowed to be angry?” said Henson. “ I’m not allowed to be pissed off? I can’t say [anything back] because you’ve taken everything from me. I’m not allowed to feel that? I’m just supposed to be strong?”