Michelle Williams Was 'Paralyzed' After Learning Costar Mark Wahlberg Was Paid More Than Her
The four-time Oscar nominee spoke on Capitol Hill Tuesday while advocating for House Democratic legislation that would close the gender pay gap.
Williams joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus to mark Equal Pay Day as she recounted discovering Wahlberg, 47, had made $1.5 million compared to her paycheck of less than $1,000 for reshoots on the Ridley Scott film.
“It’s the kind of story I would normally resist: the morality tale with a happy ending, or rather a happy beginning because that’s really why I’m here,” Williams said. “There won’t be satisfaction for me until I can exhaust my efforts ensuring that all women experience the elevation of their self-worth and its connection to the elevation of their market worth.”
“In late 2017, the news broke that I’d been paid less than $1,000 compared to the $1.5 million that my male counterpart had received for the exact same amount of work,” she continued. “And guess what, no one cared. This came as no surprise to me, it simply reinforced my life-learned belief that equality is not an inalienable right and that women would always be working just as hard for less money while shouldering more responsibility at home.”
Williams said she was “paralyzed in feelings of futility” after learning of the pay disparity.
“I’ve been a working actress since the age of 12. I’ve been accredited by my industry at the highest levels and that still didn’t translate to equal compensation. Months passed and the actress Jessica Chastain, with whom I had in fact played sisters, offered to take my story to her Twitter,” Williams said.
She added, “Jessica’s audience was much wider than mine and she wasn’t afraid to pick up a megaphone and be heard. Heard she was, there was an uproar and a public shaming within my industry that resulted in a $2 million donation to the Time’s Up Defense Fund.”
Williams said the events had changed her time on movie sets.
“I could tell my workplace was shifting. Rather than being grasped too tightly or hugged for too long as a morning greeting, my hand was shaken and I was looked squarely in the eye and I was welcomed to my Monday morning,” she said.
Williams added, “On the job I just completed two weeks ago, I have to tell you, I was paid equally with my male costar.”
In a report by USA Today, it was revealed Wahlberg had made $1.5 million for extensive reshoots on the film, while Williams received only a per diem of $80 a day.
According to an industry insider who spoke to TheWrap in 2018, Williams’ original contract required her to do any necessary reshoots, while Wahlberg’s did not. So when Scott called for 10 days of reshoots after the movie’s original star, Kevin Spacey, was replaced by Christopher Plummer, Wahlberg had the opportunity to negotiate additional pay.
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And while both Williams and Wahlberg immediately agreed to participate in the reshoots, the actor’s agent reportedly told the film financiers he “never” works for free, according to a source who spoke with TMZ. Wahlberg’s agent Ari Emanuel (the co-CEO of WME) set the price, to which film execs eventually agreed, per TheWrap.
After the news broke, Williams weighed in on the personal sacrifices she made for the reshoots, admitting she missed Thanksgiving with her daughter in order to work.
“I had to break the news to my family and tell them I wasn’t going be home [for the holidays] and make alternate arrangements for them,” she told Vulture in 2018. “But everyone was so supportive, no one more than my 12-year-old daughter, who said, ‘You worked so hard on this. Don’t let it be ruined because of one bad man.'”