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Paul Newman may have one of the best reputations of any actor who has ever worked in Hollywood. Everybody seems to love him. Susan Sarandon has given us all an entirely new reason to adore the actor. In a recent interview, while talking about the discrepancies of pay that tend to occur between actors and actresses, Sarandon reveals that she once received parity with her co-star Paul Newman, but only because he gave her part of his salary. According to Sarandon...
That happened to me with Paul Newman at one point, when I did a film with him ages ago. They said it was 'favoured nations', but they only meant the two guys. He stepped forward and said, 'Well I'll give you part of mine'. So, yeah, he was a gem.
The film that Susan Sarandon mentions to BBC 5 (via BBC.com) appears to be the 1998 film Twilight, not to be confused with the teen vampire movie, which starred Paul Newman as a private detective hired to find the runaway daughter of a pair of former movie stars, played by Gene Hackman and Sarandon.
Susan Sarandon says that she brought up the pay disparity but was told the reason for it was "favored nations" clauses in contracts with Paul Newman and Gene Hackman. Favored nations clauses dictate that nobody else on a production will get paid more than the person who has that clause in their contract. While it's entirely possible these clauses did exist, the fact that Newman was apparently more than willing to help Sarandon out shows that he certainly didn't have an issue with the actress making an amount equal to what he made, which makes the explanation seem dubious to Sarandon.
This isn't the first time that we've heard of actors taking pay cuts in order to help bolster their female co-stars. Emma Stone has said she's worked with her male co-stars in the past to do the same thing. Pay in Hollywood is frequently based on quotes, where what an actor is offered is in part based on what they have previously received, so by getting the pay boost in the past, it helps actors get more in the future.
The fact that Paul Newman was willing to do this 20 years ago, when gender pay disparity, while obviously an issue, wasn't treated as the problem that it is today, shows just how important he thought the problem was, and that he was willing to take steps to do something about it. The fact that we didn't even know about it for 20 years shows that it was just about doing the right thing. It's a classy move from somebody who was already viewed as one of the most classy people in the history of Hollywood.