Chadwick Boseman’s career had reached new heights by the time “21 Bridges” made its way to theaters. He had already starred in a few biopics that centered groundbreaking Black public figures and pop cultural icons: “42” (as barrier-breaking baseball player Jackie Robinson), “Get on Up” (as the Godfather of Soul, James Brown) and “Marshall” (as the first Black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall). Though, his most impactful role is perhaps playing the barrier-breaking, titular superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster, “Black Panther.”
Boseman gained popularity, commercial success and acclaim—becoming one of Hollywood’s A-list actors and top leading men in seven short years before his passing from colon cancer in August 2020. To be clear, “42,” which is his breakout role, slung into theaters in 2013.
With all of his success, he had done something that at least often times isn’t heard of or seen with A-list men in Hollywood—he literally paid it forward. Sienna Miller, Boseman’s co-star in “21 Bridges,” recently revealed that the “Black Panther” actor cut his own salary in order for her to get a raise with her salary.
“He produced ’21 Bridges,’ and had been really active in trying to get me to do it,” Miller told Empire. “He was a fan of my work, which was thrilling, because it was reciprocated from me to him, tenfold. So he approached me to do it, he offered me this film, and it was at a time when I really didn’t want to work anymore. I’d been working non-stop and I was exhausted, but then I wanted to work with him.”
Miller told Empire that Boseman fought alongside her to get her a higher salary, even cutting his own to make it happen.
“I didn’t know whether or not to tell this story, and I haven’t yet. But I am going to tell it, because I think it’s a testament to who he was,” Miller told Empire. “This was a pretty big budget film, and I know that everybody understands about the pay disparity in Hollywood, but I asked for a number that the studio wouldn’t get to. And because I was hesitant to go back to work and my daughter was starting school and it was an inconvenient time, I said, ‘I’ll do it if I’m compensated in the right way.’ And Chadwick ended up donating some of his salary to get me to the number that I had asked for. He said that that was what I deserved to be paid.”
While the gender pay gap is a widespread issue across industries, Hollywood has taken center stage on gender and race disparities. Like Miller and Boseman, in 2018, Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer talked about how her close friend and co-star Jessica Chastain advocated for her to make five times her asking salary for an upcoming holiday comedy, as of 2018.
According to BBC:
“I love that woman, because she’s walking the walk and she’s actually talking the talk…” Spencer said at the Women Breaking Barriers panel at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018. “She said: ‘You and I are going to be tied together. We’re going to be favored nations and we’re going to make the same thing, you are going to make that amount.’ Fast forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for.”
Like Spencer’s experience with Chastain, Miller called her experience of Boseman advocating for her and making the salary gain happen an astounding one she had never experienced before that.
“That kind of thing just doesn’t happen,” Miller said. “He said, ‘You’re getting paid what you deserve, and what you’re worth.’ It’s just unfathomable to imagine another man in that town behaving that graciously or respectfully. In the aftermath of this I’ve told other male actor friends of mine that story and they all go very, very quiet and go home and probably have to sit and think about things for a while. But there was no showiness, it was, ‘Of course I’ll get you to that number, because that’s what you should be paid.’”