Closing The Gap

Benedict Cumberbatch: Actors shouldn't take jobs where their female co-stars aren't paid equally

Benedict Cumberbatch attends the UK Fan Event to celebrate the release of Marvel Studios' 'Avengers: Infinity War'
Gareth Cattermole/Disney via Getty Images
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the UK Fan Event to celebrate the release of Marvel Studios' 'Avengers: Infinity War'

Benedict Cumberbatch, known for playing Marvel's Dr. Strange and the BBC's Sherlock Holmes, suggested in a recent interview that male actors — including himself — should turn down roles in productions in which women are not paid equally.

"Look at your quotas. Ask what women are being paid, and say: 'If she's not paid the same as the men, I'm not doing it,'" Cumberbatch said in an interview with Radio Times Sunday while promoting his latest series, "Patrick Melrose."

Cumberbatch hopes to enact this policy at his new production company, SunnyMarch, as well.

"I'm proud that [business partner] Adam [Ackland] and I are the only men in our production company," he said. "Our next project is a female story with a female lens about motherhood, in a time of environmental disaster. If it's centered around my name, to get investors, then we can use that attention for a raft of female projects."

He says that focusing on women-centric stories is both the right thing to do, and good business.

"Equal pay and a place at the table are the central tenets of feminism," said Cumberbatch, who has long spoken about his identity as a feminist.

Co-stars Allison Williams, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jennifer Jason Leigh attend the 'Patrick Melrose' series premiere
Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Co-stars Allison Williams, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jennifer Jason Leigh attend the 'Patrick Melrose' series premiere

It makes business sense to tell stories that engage a wide range of viewers including women and people of color. To do this properly, you need to pay workers fairly, he argues.

"Half the audience is female. And, in terms of diversity, 'Black Panther' is now the third most successful film of all time," he said. "The audience is there! It's about facilitating platforms for talent. If you do that, the combination is combustible — world-beating. That's what we want to do."

It's unlikely that Cumberbatch's female co-stars were paid equally for past projects like "The Imitation Game" or "Dr. Strange," in which he was the leading man. However, HuffPost reports the actor is also open to playing an "objectified man-totty" role in a female-centered film.

"If it's good enough for Chris Pine [in 'Wonder Woman']," he joked, "it's good enough for Benedict Cumberbatch!"

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