While actor Michelle Williams was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to speak during a Congressional hearing on closing the gender pay gap, she recounted her feelings of being “devastated” at learning that during a re-shoot she was paid $1,000 while her co-star Mark Wahlberg received $1.5 million, according to The Guardian. The controversy surrounding the gross pay disparity erupted on social media in early January 2018 when it was revealed that during a hastily assembled re-shoot of the Ridley Scott film ironically titled All the Money in the World, Williams was paid just an $80 per diem during the week and a half of shooting while her co-star Wahlberg, with whom she shares equal billing on the picture, received a whopping $1.5 million.
Speaking at the hearing on Tuesday, Williams recalled being “paralyzed in feelings of futility” when the news broke and remembered that the initial lack of reaction to the gross inequity was the hardest thing to take.
“Guess what, no one cared.”
“This came as no surprise to me,” she said. “It simply reinforced my life-learned belief that equality is not an inalienable right and that women would always be working just as hard for less money while shouldering more responsibility at home.”
The controversy blew up at the height of the #MeToo movement shifting public awareness about the treatment of women in the workplace, especially regarding the sexual misconduct that often seems to accompany the power disparity in Hollywood between young, up-and-coming actresses and powerful producers like Harvey Weinstein. Indeed, the re-shoot of All the Money in the World was only happening in the first place because scenes featuring a role that had been played by Kevin Spacey were being pulled and actor Christopher Plummer was being re-shot in them after Spacey was implicated in a sexual harassment scandal of his own.
But, according to Williams, even with the general zeitgeist of the moment and the emerging power of the #MeToo movement coming to the fore, her story may well have flown under the radar as yet another unremarkable case of women being treated unfairly had it not been for her fellow actor Jessica Chastain stepping up and tweeting about it.
“Jessica’s audience was much wider than mine,” said Williams, who is a four-time Oscar nominee, “and she wasn’t afraid to pick up a megaphone and be heard.”
“Heard she was, there was an uproar and a public shaming within my industry that resulted in a $2m donation to the Time’s Up Defense Fund.”
The end result of that public shaming was that Wahlberg donated the entirety of his re-shoot salary to Time’s Up, while the agency that represents both Wahlberg and Williams kicked in $500,000.
And a little over a year later, Williams says that, while there is still a long way to go, things are looking up.
“On the job I just completed two weeks ago, I have to tell you, I was paid equally with my male co-star,” she said.
She also said that her workplace experiences are shifting too. Rather than being “hugged for too long” as a greeting in the morning, people shake her hand and look her “squarely in the eye.”