scorecardresearch Skip to main content
Ty Burr

The pay gap between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams is shocking — and business as usual

Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg in “All the Money in the World,” for which Williams received less than $1,000 to Wahlberg’s $1.5 million for reshooting scenes.Fabio Lovino/Sony Pictures

It’s more than shameful that Michelle Williams was paid less than 1 percent of what Mark Wahlberg made for reshooting “All the Money in the World.”

It’s business as usual.

Wahlberg got $1.5 million, Williams less than $1,000.

The story is a wounding postscript to a tale of moviemaking triumph. When Kevin Spacey’s predatory past was made public in late October, it dealt a possibly fatal blow to the actor’s career and tolled a death knell for his latest movie, “All the Money in the World,” a then-unreleased dramatic thriller based on the 1973 J. Paul Getty III kidnapping case.

The film was in the can: shot, edited, and two months from theaters. Yet producer-director Ridley Scott correctly sensed that no one would want to see a movie starring a tarnished idol in the crucial supporting role of billionaire J. Paul Getty. In a display of bravura Hollywood professionalism, Scott announced he would reshoot Spacey’s scenes, replacing him with Christopher Plummer, and still meet the film’s release date. And that’s just what he did.

Filming took place over nine days in late November, and the official word was that while Plummer, the crew, and other personnel were paid, the name cast volunteered their time for close to free. Williams was on record as doing it for Ridley; in fact she was paid a standard per-diem rate of $80, which puts her take-home for the reshoots at less than $750.


Scott told USA Today in December that “they all came in [for] free,” but yesterday the newspaper reported that  costar Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for reshooting his scenes. That means he made, oh, 2,000 times what Williams did.

Williams’s fellow stars and activists — among them Jessica Chastain, Amber Tamblyn, Mia Farrow, and Sophia Bush — rushed to her defense online, buoyed by a current (and hopefully lasting) wave of solidarity. Coming after the highly visible #TimesUp campaign before, during, and after the Golden Globe Awards, the pay gap is a shocking reminder that Hollywood has a long way to go to achieve gender parity.


Some facts: Wahlberg’s fee was negotiated by his agents at William Morris Endeavor, a company that also represents Williams. You could take this to simply mean that Mark Wahlberg has a good agent, one who understood a juicy leverage point when he or she saw it. Whether Williams has a lousy agent is immaterial, since by all accounts the actress offered her time for close to gratis in a show of team spirit. Wahlberg, or his agent, did not.

But why would a company choose to push for a payday for one star and not the other? Especially given that Williams, as Gail Harris, the mother of the kidnapped boy, is actually the star of “All the Money in the World” — the focus of the majority of the scenes and the desperate eyes through which the audience takes in the suspense and drama. Wahlberg’s role, as Getty factotum and hostage negotiator Fletcher Chase, is important but secondary.

In fairness, Chase has more scenes opposite the elder Getty than does Gail Harris, which means that reshoots may have required a greater time commitment from Wahlberg than from Williams. But 2,000 times? In fairness, too, “Mark Wahlberg” on a poster or a marquee probably sells more tickets than does “Michelle Williams” — which, alternately, could be read as yet another symptom of a larger disease rather than a contributing factor to one case.


More likely, the disparity has something to do with the fact that Wahlberg is close friends with WME head Ari Emanuel, model for Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold in the Wahlberg-produced series “Entourage.” Coincidence? More like the Hollywood old-boy network at play.

Wahlberg was named the highest-paid actor in the movie business by Forbes this summer, with an annual income of $68 million. The highest actress on the list was Emma Stone, at No. 15, with $26 million. All told, the 10 top-ranked actors on the Forbes list made three times what the 10 top-ranked actresses did.

This isn’t about millionaires, though, but about the pay inequity those millions represent, all the way down the line to the lowliest gofer and extra on the set. While there are no wage-gap numbers on the many different levels of the entertainment industry — a study that should be done — the national figure that women make 76 cents of every earned male dollar is probably representative.

The larger issue, obviously, is opportunity and the old boys’ resistance to creating more of them for women. According to the 2017 “Celluloid Ceiling” report from the San Diego-based Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, women made up 18 percent of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing movies — up one percentage point from 2016 and dead even with 1998, the first year of the study. That’s not change, that’s stasis. That’s inequity.


There are business reasons cited for paying male stars more than female stars. The international market, which accounts for 70 percent of Hollywood grosses, favors action movies and action stars, who (Charlize Theron notwithstanding) are mostly male and who have a longer commercial shelf-life than actresses are allowed to (Meryl Streep notwithstanding).

But that doesn’t account for Gillian Anderson starring in seven seasons of “The X-Files” before Fox paid her the same as David Duchovny, or Robin Wright having to push for equal pay with Spacey on “House of Cards” (and, she claims, being lied to after she was told she had it). It doesn’t account for the newscasters and entertainment talking heads who make much less than their male colleagues.

It doesn’t account for all the below-the-title women, on all levels of the industry (and society) who do the same work as men for less compensation. And it doesn’t account for Michelle Williams doing her director a solid without being told her costar was getting a hefty paycheck for taking the same trouble.

It’s not like anyone’s asking for all the money in the world. A fair share would be enough.

Ty Burr can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.