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:
- Why did Michelle Williams not feel confident and empowered as a great, talented female actor to ask for her value?
- Why did her agent not feel confident enough in his/her client’s talent to ask for more pay for more work?
- Why did the producer, who knew others were getting paid, not ensure others doing similar work were also getting paid?
- 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?
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.