Julia Roberts On Breaking The Glass Ceiling For Actresses’ Salaries After Seeking Better Pay On Erin Brockovich

Julia Roberts and baby in Erin Brockovich
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

In 2022, the fight for equal pay is still unfortunately a relevant topic, including in the Hollywood industry, which has a persistent pay gap between male and female stars. Oftentimes progress on this issue has been up to the actresses standing up for themselves, including a historical instance of Julia Roberts breaking the glass ceiling and demanding $20 million for starring in 2000’s Erin Brockovich at a time when she was one of the biggest movie stars in the world and not being paid as such. Over 20 years later, Roberts shares more about those negotiations. 

Erin Brockovich was the No. 10 highest grossing movie of that year domestically, earning Universal Pictures $256 million worldwide and five Oscar nominations, as well as netting Julia Roberts a Best Actress win. However, the actress had to fight to become the only woman in Hollywood to get paid as much as a male movie star. Roberts shared her approach: 

I didn’t feel so boxish about it, but I felt like, ‘Come on.’ Which is my nature — not to be all up-in-arms about something, but to say, ‘Come on. Let’s get real. Let’s be fair.'

At the time, Roberts nabbed the based-on-a-true-story role after starring in a series of very successful ‘90s romantic comedies like Pretty Woman, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Notting Hill and Runaway Bride. Those four films collectively made nearly $740 million, which at the time made her a super bankable star. As the actress said during her History Channel’s History Talks in Washington D.C. over the weekend (via Variety), she saw her worth and asked for it. Roberts continued with these words: 

When I’m working, I work very hard. I’m ready. I’m on time. I’m prepared. I’m happy. I’m all-in. So, show me the money.

In Roberts' recent chat with CBS Mornings’ Gayle King, the interviewer asked her about any apprehension she had when asking to be paid more for the role. Roberts said it's never been in her nature to not tell it like it is, and being the “plain speaker” who is “direct” afforded her these opportunities. She also said this: 

I think some people would say I’m harsh or strict or intense, which secretly makes me laugh. I’m so happy someone thinks that. It’s OK to be authoritative about a situation without worrying people aren’t going to like you. I like being liked, but I like things to be correct as well.

Having a conversation about one’s value in a job is often thought of as an awkward and difficult conversation, especially with those who have one’s employment in your hands. However, Julia Roberts' tenacity is a prime example of why speaking up for yourself can be a step in the right direction. Because Roberts demanded equal pay, she surely inspired more women to do so in the industry and broke the glass ceiling for women in Hollywood. 

Roberts is set to soon return to rom-coms after a long time away with the upcoming 2022 movie Ticket To Paradise, which she filmed alongside co-star George Clooney. Ahead of the movie’s release date on October 21, you can check out what the critics are saying about Ticket To Paradise here on CinemaBlend. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.