Try as they might, USA Today will not be successful in their apparent efforts to highlight the sexism of American society by pointing to a pay discrepancy between Hollywood stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams. Their opening paragraph sounds ominous, as intended:
Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for reshooting his scenes in All the Money in the World, three people familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly about it tell USA TODAY, while Michelle Williams was paid an $80 per diem totaling less than $1,000. That works out to Williams being paid less than 1% of her male co-star.
It makes you want to put on a Gloria Steinem wig, go stand on the curb with a burning bra and body-billboard that declares “Equal Pay for Equal Work” on one side and “#HerToo” on the other, doesn’t it?
But hold on.
A quick background is in order to help all this make sense. This movie was shot, sealed, and delivered to theaters to be released around Christmas time when the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against actor Kevin Spacey, who played a lead role in the film. Director Ridley Scott, sensitive to the situation, made a daring decision to recast Christopher Plummer in place of Spacey and reshoot every scene that had the disgraced actor in it. This put immense pressure on all the cast and crew.
For her part, Michelle Williams was ecstatic to participate:
Williams previously told USA TODAY that when Scott's team called to request her time for the reshoot, "I said I'd be wherever they needed me, whenever they needed me. And they could have my salary, they could have my holiday, whatever they wanted. Because I appreciated so much that they were making this massive effort.”
No question that’s admirable. But notice that was completely her decision. Had she asked for more money, no doubt Scott would have paid it. Further, she wasn’t alone. Every other man, besides Wahlberg, got paid precisely what Williams did (or less). You caught that, right? Every person, regardless of gender, got paid precisely what they requested or negotiated for this reshoot.
Actor Mark Wahlberg and his agent did not volunteer to do more work for free. They negotiated for the time and effort he would be spending away from other projects in order to accommodate Ridley Scott and his team. There’s nothing untoward or inappropriate about it, as much as USA Today wishes there was.
For instance, if the execs at USA Today asked the author of this shock piece, Andrea Mandell, to go back and rewrite a portion of it, she is completely within her rights to ask them to compensate her for her time. If one of her colleagues is asked to do the same, but volunteers to do it for free, that doesn’t mean USA Today is showing favoritism towards Andrea.
This is such a non-story it’s painful.
You can certainly be mad at Wahlberg for not agreeing to do his part for free. What you can’t do – if you’re a fair-minded, sane person, is claim that the decision to pay Mark Wahlberg $1.5 million and Michelle Williams $1,000 had anything to do with sexism.