The 46-year-old actress revealed in her memoir, Around the Way Girl, that she made “less than two percent” of Brad Pitt‘s salary for the 2008 movie, despite being “listed as the third principal actor in the cast.”
“Both Brad and Cate [Blanchett] got millions,” Henson wrote. “Me? … [I hoped for] somewhere in the mid six figures … something worthy of a sold up-and-coming actress with a decent amount of critical acclaim for their work.”
“[My agent told me,] ‘They came in at the lowest of six figures. I convinced them to add in a little more, but that’s as high as they’d go,'” she recalled. “There was one other thing: I’d have to agree to pay my own location fees while filming in New Orleans.”
Henson, who was known for Hustle Flow and the series Boston Legal at the time, played Benjamin’s adoptive mother, Queenie, in the movie. She told Hollywood Chicago after the film’s release that she was surprised to land the role at all.
“It was very bold for [writer] Eric Roth to choose to make Queen an African-American woman who was the surrogate mother to Benjamin Button — a white character — which would have been very unusual at the time [of the film’s setting],” the star said.
“I honestly didn’t think I had a chance to get this film,” she admitted. “I’ve been down this road before. Big feature film. Big names. Big director. They want big names all across the name. There are people in the industry who aren’t so creative. They’re number crunchers.”
Henson said in her memoir that she’s lost countless parts, including a role in St. Vincent to Naomi Watts, because producers didn’t think she “‘fit’ audience expectations” as a black woman. She presently stars as Cookie Lyon on the Fox series Empire.