Reel Feature: All The Money in the World (Unless You’re Michelle Williams)

All The Money in the World

When Ridley Scott set out to direct All The Money In The World, he could not expect that the film would be in the public consciousness for all the wrong reasons. What began as an end of the year awards bait, became the center controversy and that has continued even after the film was released on Christmas day. Needless to say, no matter how good the film might be, it’s more than adequate critical reception can’t overshadow the mistakes along the way. The latest blunder, a major pay disparity between its male and female lead for reshoots, comes at a time where everyone is paying close attention to gender inequality and when something looks suspect, those involved are being called to the carpet for it.

But how did we get here? All The Money In The World really didn’t have a ton of awareness leading up to its release date. It boasted an impressive cast (Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams & Kevin Spacey) and was being helmed by one of the best directors working today (Ridley Scott) but nothing about it really screamed: “must see”. The story on which it is based is intriguing (involving the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom) but I doubt it has much appeal beyond the older-skewing demographic who decide to eat this stuff up at the end of the year.

The fortunes of the film began to change for better or worse (depending on how you look at it) when it’s co-star, Kevin Spacey, was accused of inappropriate behavior with a then-underage actor named Anthony Rapp (currently on Star Trek: Discovery but best known from being in the original Broadway cast of Rent). This story broke in a post-Harvey Weinstein environment when Hollywood power players were being exposed to various levels of sexual harassment and misconduct. The exposure of the Spacey story led to other accusations in the days ahead and before you knew it the once lauded actor was now public enemy number one. Netflix cut ties with him which led to his series, House of Cards, suspending production in the middle of filming to deal with the fallout (it was later decided to release him from the show for its final season).

After all of this was exposed, the focus began to be placed on his other future projects. The most notable one was his portrayal of Jean Paul Getty in All The Money In The World. While a supporting role, his presence looms over much of the production and Spacey’s inclusion in the film would potentially lead to a lot of awkward questions for the cast and its director as the press tour began. What can be done to not taint the release of a film that many people worked so hard on?

It was eventually decided, in a boss move by Ridley Scott, that Spacey would be removed from the already finished film and his scenes would be reshot with another actor. This is no small feat as the film was little over a month away from its December 22 release date when this decision was made. Scott approached his first choice for the role, Christopher Plummer, to take on the challenge and he proudly accepted. The 88-year-old actor, as stated before, was Scott’s first choice but the studio wanted a more bankable name in the role (don’t you feel foolish now Sony). The reshoots would be scheduled during the Thanksgiving break, consisting of about 10 days of work and roughly 22-23 scenes. Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, and the crew had to return for these reshoots and the goal in sight was making sure the film was finished in time for its release date.

The 11th-hour change proved to be one that all involved pulled off. The film shifted its release date just three days and Scott completed a film that received a warm critical reception. Most of the reviews praised the fact that Scott got it done in the first place while others pointed to the strong performances of Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer, the latter only completing his scenes a mere few weeks before the film was released. This should be the happy ending to the story but another glaring blunder lay ahead.

During the Christmas break, a story broke that the actors did the reshoots on All The Money In The World for free. It was this nice gesture that implied that all involved cared so much about the quality of the film that they would volunteer their time to ensure that the film wouldn’t have to be pushed back from its original release date. Ridley Scott further indicated that the original actors were not paid and that only Plummer and the returning crew were paid for their time. Michelle Williams, in particular, expressed her desire to give up her Thanksgiving and shoot her scenes for free because that’s how much she cared about the project.

While working for free to save a project is a beautiful gesture, USA Today broke a story this week that showed things weren’t exactly how they appeared to be. Michelle Williams was actually paid $80 per diem per day. That came to less than $1,000 for her time on the reshoots. This doesn’t seem bad initially. This is someone who was willing to work for free to get the job done and surely her male co-star, Mark Wahlberg, took a similar cut to make sure the film was properly completed.

Sorry folks, that’s simply not the case. Williams was paid chump change for her time while Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for roughly 10 days worth of it. For all you math buffs out there, Michelle Williams was effectively paid less than one percent o the amount of her male co-star. When you see the numbers staring right at you in print, it paints an ugly picture about the value of female talent versus the male talent on a project.

Let’s look at it from the beginning. It had been reported that Wahlberg took an 80% cut on what he normally earns ($15 million-plus a movie) in order to work with Scott and because it was a potential awards contender. Much of the film’s foreign sales hung on Wahlberg’s name being attached to the project. Mark Wahlberg is a significant box office name and I can see why they wanted him on board for international appeal.

When it was quickly decided that Imperative Entertainment was going to finance reshoots (Sony did not front the bill on this one) after Plummer replaced Spacey, Wahlberg was already working on his next project Mile 22. He had the ability to negotiate since he already had taken a pay cut and because there was no reshoot clause in any of the actor’s contract. Williams wanted to get it done so she waived her fee but Wahlberg’s people negotiated a deal, allegedly without Willaims’ knowledge, that gave him this significant payday for the same amount of work.

The funny thing about that is Wahlberg’s people also represent Michelle Willaims. This wasn’t a case of different reps getting different deals. This is a case of two actors with the same people on their side who seemed to go to bat for Wahlberg but fail miserably for Williams. In the climate of the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up Initiative, which looks at issues with gender inequality, this is a glaring and nauseating mistreatment of a talented actress who has been in the game for 20 years.

Sure, we can argue that Wahlberg is a bigger name and can command a fee like this. He definitely has more above the title power in comparison to Michelle Williams but his power applies mostly to action driven films, not prestige Oscar releases, which this film was aspiring to be. Michelle Williams is a four-time Oscar-nominated actress who has proven to be one of the best actresses of her generation. I’d argue that her name brings more butts to the seats in films like this because most know if she’s involved, the film is probably on a higher level of artistic value. Look no further than the reviews of the film in question. Michelle Williams is receiving incredible accolades for her work in the film while Wahlberg has been described as just good, mediocre or miscast. I’m not trying to take anything away from him because I think he’s a good actor in his own right but Williams is carrying the film. Hell Christopher Plummer, who came late to the game, is getting the same level of praise as her which bumps our boy Marky Mark down to third.

I’m not saying that she necessarily deserved $1.5 million as well for her work but a deal that was at least close to that would seem fair. It’s as if their people thought his time was more valuable than hers and that’s what rubs me the wrong way. Some say you can’t blame Wahlberg because his people made the deal and he likely had little knowledge of it (although I tend to doubt that) but he could’ve maybe communicated with her to see how she was being compensated as well. He’s an actor and producer I might add, that has a lot of leverage in Hollywood and I think this would’ve been a good opportunity for him to use some of that for good.

SAG-AFTRA is apparently looking into the matter and had this to say about the issue:

“We’re looking into it. If Williams was paid at least scale for the reshoots, there’s nothing SAG-AFTRA can do about it, and anything Wahlberg may have negotiated above scale is OK with the union. The fact they’re both represented by the same talent agency — WME — could raise questions, if true, about fair and equal representation.”

They further elaborated by saying:

“We are unambiguously in favor of pay equity between men and women in this industry and support every action to move in this direction. At the same time, performers at this level negotiate their above-scale rates through their agents. As it relates to this matter, you should talk to their representatives.”

Perhaps the upside to this coming out is that many aren’t allowing it to just slide. The USA Today article was one way this came out but actress Jessica Chastain, a vocal presence in the Times Up Initiative, took to her Twitter to make sure that all of her followers knew about this issue and in the process praised Willaims, while pointing out the glaring error in what she was compensated in comparison to her male co-star. Some mock this issue and think it’s merely women whining and complaining but when it’s so obvious that there is a gender gap in this industry it simply can’t be ignored. I’m not sure how Williams feels about this issue as she has not commented yet (neither has Wahlberg for that matter) but hopefully, it’s enduring to her to see that so many have her back and see this as a blatant mistreatment of her time. No one expects anyone to work for free, which she proudly would’ve done, but we do expect people to be treated fairly and that really isn’t too much to ask.

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About Gaius Bolling 942 Articles
At the age of five, I knew I wanted to write movies and about them. I've set out to make those dreams come true. As an alumni of the Los Angeles Film Academy, I participated in their Screenwriting program, while building up my expertise in film criticism. I write reviews that relate to the average moviegoer by educating my readers and keeping it fun. My job is to let you know the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world of cinema, so you can have your best moviegoing experience. You can find more of my writing on Instagram @g_reelz.

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