Scarlett Johansson to Bank a Record $20 Million for 'Avengers' Sequel?

If reports are true, the actress' salary for reprising her role as Black Widow would be the biggest paycheck ever for an actress

Here's proof that Black Widow is as valuable as any male Avenger! According to the New York Post, Scarlett Johansson, who played the superhero spy in the summer smash The Avengers, is being offered $20 million to costar in the sequel. If the report is true, the 27-year-old's salary would be highest ever offered to an actress, beating out Angelina Jolie's $19 million for The Tourist.

Just for comparison's sake, let's put Johansson next to Kristen Stewart, who was named Forbes' highest-paid actress of 2012. Despite topping the list, the Twilight star commanded $12.5 million for each of the two Breaking Dawn films -- much less than Scarlett is being offered to join forces with Iron Man and Captain America in The Avengers 2.

Even more established stars can't compete with that Avengers paycheck: Reese Witherspoon reportedly makes around $15 million per film, and Cameron Diaz makes around $10 million. (Although keep in mind that bigger stars often get a big chunk of the film's back-end profits, especially if they share a producer credit.)

The unfortunate downside to this story is that male A-listers still command far bigger paydays than their female counterparts. Tom Cruise, Forbes' highest-paid actor of 2012, earned an estimated $75 million last year, compared to Stewart's total of $34.5 million. (These were Cruise's earnings for two films; Stewart made three.) Cruise and other stars of his caliber, like Leonardo DiCaprio, can routinely demand upwards of $20 million to star in a film.

But that's all the more reason why Scarlett's $20 million paycheck is a big deal. If she's commanding a comparable amount to her male costars, it's a big step toward pay equality in Hollywood. We're psyched to see Black Widow kick butt in the Avengers sequel, and even more psyched that she has potentially added "shattering glass ceilings" to her list of superpowers.

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