In a new podcast interview, Golden Globe-winning actress Taraji P. Henson spoke about her journey as a single mother working in Hollywood. Amongst the conversation, the star revealed that she only received around $40,000 in take-home pay for her role in the 2008 Oscar-winning film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
As per the latest episode of InStyle’s Ladies First with Laura Brown, when the host asked Henson how she learned to advocate for her worth as an actress in Hollywood, the actress said that when she starred alongside Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in the 2008 film, she ended up being paid nowhere close to what her co-stars received — or what she thought she deserved considering what she was brought to the film. Candidly, Henson said that the treatment she received from the production studio was just devasting for her.
“Me and my team felt like I was finally at this place where I could ask for half a million,” the actress explained about what she hoped to earn going into the project. “That’s all we were asking for.” Recounting how it went over with the production studio, she continued, “Forget it. I don’t know exactly how much Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett — I’m sure they got whatever their quote [was] — which was way more than I will probably see in my life because they’re not paying actors that much anymore.”
Mentioning that the problem wasn’t about what her co-stars got paid, but more about her own worth as an actress, Henson continued, “I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have paid Cate and Brad what they deserve. They deserve that okay? Because when this comes out, people are coming because of Brad, and they’re going to discover me,” she said of her thought process at the time. “I’m bringing a certain amount to the seats too. 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. They did $100,000 — which is what they offered right away, and then I was gutted. All said and done I got $150,000.”
However, after paying 50% in taxes and then 30% to her management team, the star later told the host, “I may have made $40,000” from the film in total.
What’s more is that even though the company gave her an allowance to cover her housing expenses, Henson said she had to use that money to invest in her son’s tuition, which was around $30,000 a year at the time — instead of booking a fancy hotel while the film was shooting. Speaking on where she ended up, Henson said she lived “in the Embassy Suites with people who were displaced from their homes because of Katrina,” while later adding, “I kept that allowance in my pocket and I used it and I just stayed at Embassy Suites which was a fraction of the cost of what it would have cost if I would’ve gotten a fancy hotel.”
Overall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was critically acclaimed and won several awards, in addition to grossing over $335 million in the box-office. Even though she had already been in the industry for around a decade prior to even going for the role, Henson’s experience as a Black actress in Hollywood was one many of her peers have publically related to. Speaking about that time in her career overall, Henson told the host, “They didn’t see my value yet. I had to prove that.”
To hear everything Henson had to say about her journey, click here.