A Thought About Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg

You may be aware of the kerfuffle surrounding how the actors were – and were not – paid when Ridley Scott decided to reshoot scenes of his movie All the Money in the World to replace predator Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer.

Mark Wahlberg, one of the co-stars, exercised a clause in his contract to reject the casting of Plummer and then was paid $1.5 million to withdraw that rejection and do the extra work involved in shooting his scenes with Plummer. Michelle Williams’s contract, on the other hand, apparently required her to do any reshooting needed to complete the movie. The actors and their agents presumably negotiated these agreements – separately.

So Michelle Williams voluntarily worked for union scale, about $80 a day – and to digress for just a moment, what kind of union negotiates a contract that pays its members $80 a day? – to shoot her scenes with Plummer. She made all of a thousand dollars.

So what did Wahlberg do wrong? All he did was take advantage of the leverage the situation presented to get paid for his work.

While Michelle Williams grossly undervalued her services and practically gave them away.

The Curmudgeon does not understand why Wahlberg – a performer, by the way, whom The Curmudgeon finds to be duller than dull – is on the receiving end of so much criticism. All he did is stand up for himself. We have no reason to believe he knew anything about what Michelle Williams was to be paid, and that seems appropriate: it’s none of his business. We also have no reason to believe there was a limited pool of money and Wahlberg demanded it all for himself. Finally, we have no reason to believe Wahlberg had anything to do with what Williams was paid.

Michelle Williams is another story. We have heard nothing to suggest that she asked for more money and had her request rejected. We have no reason to believe that if she hadn’t agreed to work for so little money she would have been replaced. We have every reason, on the other hand, to believe that her love for the movie blinded her to the reality that movie-making is a profit-seeking enterprise and that she foolishly decided to donate her services to rich people who hoped to get richer by taking advantage of her essentially free labor.

No, The Curmudgeon believes the public criticism needs to be directed at three people: Ridley Scott, the director who reportedly engineered the decision to replace Kevin Spacey and reshoot his scenes and who paid a fortune for Mark Wahlberg’s services and apparently decided it was perfectly fine to pay Michelle Williams practically nothing; Michelle Williams, who doesn’t seem to understand that she has something of value to offer movie-makers; and Michelle Williams’s manager or agent, who failed to give Williams good advice or did so and was so little respected by Williams that such advice was rejected.

So while it’s certainly appropriate to criticize a process that produced such an enormous pay disparity between Wahlberg and Williams, criticizing Wahlberg seems totally wrong because unless there’s some aspect of this matter that we don’t know about, he did nothing wrong: all he asked was to be paid for his work.

How is that not his right?

And Michelle Williams? All she did was decide she was comfortable not getting paid for her work.

And that’s her problem and her fault.

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  • Peaches Shimmerdeep  On January 20, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    I completely agree with you. Wahlberg apparently donated his salary in the aftermath. I think that’s beside the point. Underpaying women is a problem. Punishing their co-workers isn’t the solution. I seem to remember that Meredith Baxter (then Birney) had some clause in her “Family Ties” contract that she always got a bump that was equal or greater than her costars. When Michael J Fox became a break-out star, he got a pay raise that paid off for her as well. Smart negotiating. Someone talk to her or her agent.

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