In a July profile for Vanity Fair published on Thursday, Michelle Williams discussed being paid less than Mark Wahlberg for the All the Money in the World reshoots, in which Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced involving the former House of Cards actor. (Spacey has denied some of the allegations.) Williams is an extremely private person, but for the first time, she opened up to Vanity Fair about the experience.
"You feel totally devalued, but that also chimes in with pretty much every other experience you’ve had in your workplace, so you just learn to swallow it," Williams said about receiving less money than Wahlberg. Believe it or not, the 37-year-old Oscar-nominated actor learned about the pay discrepancy like most everyone else — by reading about it. She said, "A private humiliation became a public turning point."
Williams and Wahlberg's pay discrepancy was actually first reported in November 2017 by The Washington Post. Williams told Vanity Fair about the Post's report, "The teachable moment is that the story came out and no one cared. It didn’t go anywhere. It was like it never happened, which just confirmed to me there is no recourse."
Then, in January, an uproar ensued upon hearing, once again, that Wahlberg had earned a much higher paycheck than Williams for the reshoots. FYI, they are both represented by the same agency, William Morris Endeavor (WME). Williams told Vanity Fair she remains with WME and her agent, Brent Morley, who she "values creatively." She also said, "I believe in second chances.”
As revealed by USA Today in January, Williams received less than $1,000 for her work on the reshoots, or $80 per day. As for Wahlberg, he reportedly negotiated a $1.5 million paycheck or he would not participate. In December 2017, director Ridley Scott told USA Today all of the actors did the reshoots "for nothing." In the end, Wahlberg donated his entire salary to #TimesUp. Williams told Vanity Fair she has yet to speak to Wahlberg about the unequal pay.
At the time of his donation, Deadline obtained the following statement from Wahlberg:
"Over the last few days my reshoot fee for All The Money in the World has become an important topic of conversation. I 100% support the fight for fair pay and I’m donating the $1.5 million to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in Michelle Williams’ name."
One of Wahlberg's managers, Sarah Lum, also emailed Vanity Fair the following statement to be included in Williams' July profile: "I don’t think any of us want to talk about that ever again [winking face emoji]."
Before any of this made headlines, Williams said asking for more money for the reshoots didn't even cross her mind. "I just wanted to do the right thing on his behalf," Williams said about Anthony Rapp, who accused Spacey of allegedly trying to sexually assault him at just 14 in an interview with BuzzFeed News. (Spacey issued Rapp an apology on Twitter and said he didn't remember what Rapp was accusing him of.)
Even Jessica Chastain tweeted about the massive pay gap between Williams and Wahlberg. "I heard for the reshoot she got $80 a day compared to his MILLIONS," Chastain wrote on Jan. 9. "Would anyone like to clarify? I really hope that with everything coming to light, she was paid fairly. She's a brilliant actress and is wonderful in the film." Before sending the tweet, Chastain asked Williams for permission. "Yeah, sure, go for it," Vanity Fair said Williams told her. "But it’s already out there, and nobody cared."
However, people quickly started to care, especially women, and those women in Hollywood who are sick of being paid less than their male costars. It meant so much to Williams to see women stepping forward on her behalf and knowing she wasn't alone in the equal pay fight. "I was one woman by myself, and I couldn’t do anything about it," Williams said. "But in the wolf pack — the phrase Abby Wambach uses — things are possible. And that’s really what it took: somebody who was at the head of the pack, Jessica Chastain, pulling me up with her, and then all these other women surrounding me, teaching me."
Chastain also told Vanity Fair, "No one should have to step out onto a limb on their own. We are all here to share the weight. It’s easy to label one actress difficult, harder to label a group."
Williams echoed Chastain's thoughts in an email she sent to Vanity Fair after their original interview. "Women have to be watchdogs for each other," Williams wrote. "A great change has come, but if it is for me or just within my industry, it won’t be enough. Women must recognize what power we have and where — however small and dull it might feel — and use it to advocate on behalf of others for the betterment of us all."
In the end, the unfortunate moment of unequal pay Williams faced resulted in a positive conclusion for her. On Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter announced Williams and Sam Rockwell will star in a FX limited series, Fosse/Verdon, from Lin-Manuel Miranda about Bob Fosse (Rockwell) and Gwen Verdon (Williams). What makes the new project all the more exciting is Williams told Vanity Fair she's being paid the same amount as Rockwell — and didn't even have to negotiate.
She said about the eight-episode series, "When they told me about it, I thought, OK, now comes the part where I have to go in kicking and screaming and shouting about equality and transparency ... Then, before I could even ask for it, they said, 'They’ve offered you what Sam Rockwell is making.' I cried."
It's almost like Williams had a full-circle moment that started out completely unfairly and ended with her finally getting what every woman deserves — equal pay. Hopefully, William's journey will continue to impact Hollywood and help other women be treated and paid like their male counterparts.