Michelle Williams Opens Up About Her Public Fight for Equal Pay
"You feel totally devalued," the actress told Vanity Fair in a new cover story interview. "A private humiliation became a public turning point."
Michelle Williams opened up about her public fight for equal pay, in a cover story interview for Vanity Fair's September issue, which was published online Thursday.
Late last year, it was reported that Williams only made $80 per diem for reshoots of All the Money in the World, while her male co-star Mark Wahlberg earned $1.5 million. According to Williams, she was embarrassed after discovering the pay gap by reading the news like the rest of the world.
"A private humiliation became a public turning point," Williams told the magazine, also explaining why she agreed to do the reshoots at such a minimal cost. (Reshoots had to be done to re-create Kevin Spacey's scenes after the actor was accused of sexual misconduct and replaced with Christopher Plummer.)
"It wouldn't have occurred to me to ask for money for the reshoots. I just wanted to do the right thing on his behalf," Williams said, referring to Anthony Rapp, the actor who alleged that Spacey made unwanted sexual advances on him as a teen.
In response to major backlash — propelled by the Twitter feed of Williams' good friend and fellow pay equity advocate Jessica Chastain — Wahlberg donated his $1.5 million check to the women's fund Time's Up, founded in January to combat abuse and gender inequality in the entertainment industry. William Morris Endeavor, the agency representing both Williams and Wahlberg, also donated $500,000.
Williams told the outlet that it took weeks for anyone to care about her substantially low reshoot salary. "The teachable moment is that the story came out and no one cared," she said. "It didn't go anywhere. It was like it never happened, which just confirmed to me there is no recourse."
But, after the 2018 Golden Globes in January — where Time's Up made its official debut — Chastain reached out to Williams to ask permission to tweet about the ordeal to her 750,000 Twitter followers. "Yeah, sure, go for it. But it's already out there, and nobody cared," Williams responded.
"I heard for the re-shoot she got $80 a day compared to his MILLIONS," Chastain wrote. "Would anyone like to clarify? I really hope that with everything coming to light, she was paid fairly. She's a brilliant actress and is wonderful in the film."
She later added, "Please go see Michelle's performance in All the Money in the World. She's a brilliant Oscar nominated Golden Globe winning actress. She has been in the industry for 20 yrs. She deserves more than 1% of her male co-star's salary."
It was then that Williams' story finally gained traction amid Hollywood's newly heightened sense of female empowerment. "[It spread] like wildfire," she said.
Though Williams appreciates Wahlberg's donation, she has never spoken to the actor about it. When Vanity Fair reached out to Wahlberg's rep for comment, one of his managers, Sarah Lum, e-mailed back: "I don't think any of us want to talk about that ever again."
Despite her own agent's missteps, Williams said that, in the end, she decided to stick with WME's Brent Morley. "I believe in second chances," she said, adding that Morley is someone she "values creatively."
In a rare moment, Williams also talked about her private life — including finding love 10 years after the death of her ex, Heath Ledger, with whom she welcomed daughter Matilda in 2005. For the first time, she spoke about her relationship with singer-songwriter Phil Elverum, whom she met through a mutual friend and quietly wed this year in an intimate ceremony in the Adirondacks.
"I never gave up on love," she said. "I always say to Matilda, 'Your dad loved me before anybody thought I was talented, or pretty, or had nice clothes.'"
Williams added: "Obviously, I've never once in my life talked about a relationship, but Phil isn't anyone else. And that's worth something. Ultimately the way he loves me is the way I want to live my life on the whole. I work to be free inside of the moment. I parent to let Matilda feel free to be herself, and I am finally loved by someone who makes me feel free."
Williams also chatted about her role in the upcoming Marvel movie Venom, her economically friendly habits — including her decision to drive a minivan — and bouncing back from the paralyzing experience of being stalked by the paparazzi for years. Read her entire Vanity Fair interview here.
If you know anything about Michelle Williams, it’s that she’s the Thomas Pynchon of the film world—almost immaculately private. But in our September cover story, the actress revealed her recent marriage, a new outlook on her career, and the lessons she learned from the pay-gap scandal that rocked Hollywood. Link in bio for the full story. Photograph by Collier Schorr. Styled by @SamiraNasr.