Mark Wahlberg Should Get Paid More Than Michelle Williams

Tim Sackett Compensation/Cash Money, Tim Sackett 8 Comments

Oh boy, here we go! Buckle up, kids!

Equal work, Equal pay!

A huge, giant controversy was sparked last week when it was found out that actor Mark Wahlberg negotiated to be paid $1.5 million to do a reshoot for the movie “All the Money in the World”, while his co-actor, Michelle Williams, got paid less than $1,000 for the same reshoot.

That’s a problem, right!?

You better believe that’s a problem! But—oh yeah, there’s a ‘but’ in this story—Mark Wahlberg is not the problem. He’s not even part of the problem. He’s a very valuable product that is getting paid what the market has determined is fair. Apparently, that figure was $1.5 million for this work.

Now, the market might have also found that Michelle Williams was also worth $1.5 million, but Michelle and her agent did not ask or even attempt to negotiate this value for her. Additionally, the movie producer who gave Wahlberg the $1.5 million didn’t inform Williams that she might also want to re-negotiate her terms for this reshoot. Her agency, which also represents Wahlberg, should have told Williams that another client was having some success renegotiating.

Here are the issues surrounding this:

  1. Why did Michelle Williams not feel confident and empowered as a great, talented female actor to ask for her value?
  2. Why did her agent not feel confident enough in his/her client’s talent to ask for more pay for more work?
  3. Why did the producer, who knew others were getting paid, not ensure others doing similar work were also getting paid?
  4. Why did Williams’ agency not give her some inside information on how others were negotiating?

Wahlberg has nothing to do with any of this. Let’s turn it around and say Mark Wahlberg was not Mark Wahlberg, but instead for this role, Mark Wahlberg’s character was being played by Julia Roberts. Julia Roberts is a much more ‘bankable’ talent than Michelle Williams. If Julia negotiated a $1.5 million pay increase for a reshoot, is it now Julia’s responsibility to let Michelle Williams know she is getting more money? No.

So, first things first, Mark Wahlberg should get paid more than Michelle Williams simply because he asked and he was willing to walk away from making this movie unless he got what he felt was fair compensation. The company making the movie decided they needed Mark Wahlberg in this movie to the tune of $1.5 million for the reshoot. They actually might have made the same decision for Michelle Williams, if she would have asked. She didn’t.

There’s another piece to this story. I’ll call it the Target Economic Theory, and it goes like this. If you walk into your local Target store and you’re walking down the cat food and cat toy aisle and all of sudden you look up and you go, ‘holy crap, that’s freaking Mark Wahlberg looking at some cat toys in my Target!’ you would lose your mind. You would recognize Mark Wahlberg instantly.

Now, replace Mark with Michelle Williams at Target. Some might actually lose their minds overseeing Michelle Williams in Target looking at cat toys. Most Americans would look at her and think ‘wow, that’s a super attractive woman at Target looking at cat toys’, but they would have no idea who the heck Michelle Williams was.

Mark Wahlberg starring in your movie sells “X” number of tickets, even if your movie is crap. He’s proven to be a bankable actor in Hollywood. He’s proven his value in major ways. Michelle Williams starring in your movie will also sell tickets, but she has yet to prove she can sell “Mark Wahlberg” tickets.


So, the company making “All the Money in the World” would have had a decision to make. Is Michelle Williams worth $1.5 million? They might have said no, scrapped the movie altogether, or just hired another actor willing to do it cheaper. They might have said, “Michelle, we love you, we want you, but you’re not Mark. Here’s a figure we think you’re worth.”

They didn’t do any of this, so shame on them. Michelle Williams is worth way more than the embarrassing amount they paid her. Multiple people failed in this case: the movie company, the agency representing both actors, Michelle’s agent, and even Michelle herself.

In the end, Wahlberg donated the $1.5 million to the #TimesUp legal fund in the name of Michelle Williams, to show he supports pay equality. The agency who represents both Wahlberg and Williams gave another $1.5 million donation to the same cause. Did Wahlberg have to do this? No, he got his money fair and square, but it was a nice gesture of support for pay equality and the fight.

So, let’s talk about this. Hit me in the comments. What do you think? I’ve heard people tell me that Mark and Michelle both should have gotten $1.5 million. Do you agree with that? If you do, then, should all actors all get paid the same amount? Where do we draw the line?

Tim Sackett
If you Google “Tim Sackett” you’ll find our Tim, and a truck driver chaplain. Our Tim is NOT the truck driver chaplain, although how awesome would that be if he was!? He is a prolific writer in the HR and TA space who just happens to also run an Engineering and IT contract staffing agency (HRU Technical Resources) out of Michigan. He also writes every day at his own blog, the Tim Sackett Project. Weirdly, he’s known as an expert in workplace hugging, which was kind of cool years ago, but now seems painfully creepy, but we still love him and he’s fairly harmless. Tim is also on the board of the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (ATAP), lifetime Michigan State Spartan fan, husband to a Hall of Fame wife, 3 sons, and his best friend Scout. He also wrote a book with SHRM called The Talent Fix, you can find it on Amazon.

Comments 8

  1. Excellent!!! Well described analysis of the problem. But, how do we get away from this insanity? Not everyone’s contribution is the same, not everyone is worth the same pay as everyone else. This is also so valid in business, A CEO, a Director of Mktg, , an HR VP, etc, etc. who has successfully guided the company/function for many years is/was probably worth more dollars than the new and less exerienced person (male or female) being promoted to replace them. Equal opportunity means just that. “Opportunity.”

  2. I disagree and your argument smacks of traditional justifications used to pay men more in the workplace. “She didn’t ask.” “Her recruiter didn’t ask” or perhaps he counseled her against asking, lest she seem greedy, uppity, aggressive, fill in your favorite misogynistic adjective here… Women are perceived negatively for traits that reflect positively on men, including negotiating for themselves assertively. Perhaps Michelle or her agent decided the potential backlash or negative perception of her wasn’t worth the negotiation. (And if you have any doubt that repercussions exist for women in Hollywood who stand up for themselves, read any recent article by or about Mira Sorvino, Ashley Judd, Penelope Cruz) or any other woman who turned down Harvey Weinstein’s lecherous advances.)

    Your argument that Mark Wahlberg is more bankable or a better actor than Michelle Williams is equally absurd. Mark Wahlberg plays the same character in every film and show he’s ever acted in, and that character is Mark Wahlberg. If you like that character, I guess you’ll be a fan. Michele Williams is a 3 time Oscar nominee, including for best lead actress.

    Personal opinions of the actors aside, the real failure here was on the part of the agent and the producer. The agent – who represented BOTH actors – didn’t advocate for or act in her best interests, and he knowingly allowed her to take this terrible deal. He failed in his responsibility to her. Not in his responsibility to all his actors, just to her. Michele should fire him immediately. And the Producer knowingly allowed this inequality to happen, probably patting himself on the back for getting Michele for such a bargain. How is this different than a hiring manager holding down the salary of a woman he hires, while knowingly paying her male counterpart more? It’s not. The producer and the hiring manager both have obligations to stop being part of the problem and looking the other way when the gender pay gap benefits them personally. Women will never get to pay equity on their own when they’re not in positions to make pay decisions, and especially when we’re perceived negatively for negotiating aggressively for ourselves. We need fair minded men who are conscious of what is right and equitable- to be our partners in the the fight to close the pay gap and achieve pay equity, rather than perpetuate, and try to justify, the systems and beliefs that sustain it.

    1. Stacey,

      A little bit of clarification – the agent wasn’t the same for Michelle and Mark. The agency company is the same, but both had different people negotiating for them.

      Another bit of information – lifetime amount of revenue for movies Mark has starred in – $3.2B, with an average of $75M per movie; lifetime amount of revenue for movies Michelle has starred in – $835M, with an average of $28M per movie.

      I’m not saying Mark is a better actor than Michelle. I’m saying he makes the movie companies more money, thus he should get paid more. Michelle still deserves her fair share, she was screwed over on this movie, but people saying they should be equal don’t understand basic economics.


  3. All fair points especially in terms of their representation. Two key missing points here that make this a more nuanced situation
    1. Everyone was willing to compromise in order to reshoot Kevin Spacey’s part given the situation.
    2. Mark Wahlberg had cast approval in his contract given his star status. He refused to approve Christopher Plummer and held the movie hostage unless he was paid.
    In the end, it really doesn’t matter whose agent negotiated better or who has bigger box office draw. It was about doing the right thing for the movie and the industry culture. Clearly, the backlash pressured them into donating financially to the cause. But what sent a stringer message -everyone who worked for free or the big star and agent later writing a check?

  4. It’s a good rundown and a fair one. MW had the same representation company, but likely different agents to your point, meaning one of the key issues that impacts women today – speaking up and asking for more – wasn’t really MWs role.

    So many angles. Mark is smart for calling this one and donating the money, and I’m going to give him credit for that.

  5. I think there could be another reason behind this likewise the Ridley Scott film, which recounts the narrative of billionaire J. Paul Getty and his grandson’s hijacking, was reshot after its unique star, Kevin Spacey was blamed for inappropriate behavior and ambush by various men. Plummer has supplanted Spacey as the oil big shot.
    While both Williams and Wahlberg promptly consented to partake in the reshoots, the last’s specialist supposedly told the film’s lenders he “never” works for anything, as indicated by a source who talked with TMZ. Wahlberg’s operator Ari Emanuel (the co-CEO of WME) set the cost, to which film executives, in the end, concurred, per TheWrap.

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