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Chris Stucchio: Gender Doesn't Drive Hollywood Pay Gap

There was a firestorm of outrage in January 2018 when it was revealed that Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for reshooting his scenes in All the Money in the World while Michelle Williams was paid less than $1,000.1 Kevin Spacey originally starred in the film as well, but after sexual misconduct allegations were made public against him, he was removed from it and his scenes were reshot with Christopher Plummer in his place.2

Many people saw this as another example of the gender pay gap in Hollywood, and that became the angle that most media outlets focused on when discussing the story; however, a USA Today article by Andrea Mandell that was published on January 9, 2018, said the following: “The Washington Post first reported Wahlberg's reshoot fee, noting that the actor ‘along with manager Stephen Levinson and agency WME, have a reputation in Hollywood for driving a tough bargain.’”3

Mandell also had an article published in USA Today two days later saying that “Wahlberg had co-star approval in his contract” and that he “refused to approve Christopher Plummer as a replacement for Kevin Spacey . . . unless he was paid over a million dollars for the reshoot.”4 Furthermore, that second article from Mandell says that Williams essentially agreed to do the reshoot for no salary as her way of showing her appreciation for the efforts of those trying to complete the film.5

Image result for jennifer lawrence hollywood
Jennifer Lawrence

In October 2015, the Christian Science Monitor published an article that quotes Jennifer Lawrence, one of the world’s highest paid actresses, as saying, “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people . . . I didn't get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself.”6 She also added, “I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn't want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don't need.”7

According to another Christian Science Monitor article from 2015, former Sony executive Amy Pascal said regarding the gender pay gap controversy: “I run a business. People want to work for less money, I'll pay them less money. I don't call them up and go, can I give you some more?”8
Interestingly, a 2017 Manila Bulletin article about Charlize Theron, another one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses, includes the following quote: “Theron also addressed the issue of the gender pay gap in Hollywood, saying that she put her foot down with The Huntsman: Winter's War, where she demanded to have the same pay as [Chris] Hemsworth. Universal Pictures executives did not even argue with her, she said.”9

As the aforementioned quotes and examples illustrate, salary disparities between males and females in Hollywood—and elsewhere, for that matter—often have nothing to do with gender; they’re more about negotiation, individual choices, and personal philosophies than anything else. Perhaps if feminists and people on the left emphasized those things instead of continually telling an entire generation of women that they will automatically be paid 20 percent less than men for doing the same jobs as them simply because of their gender, we could stop talking about the gender pay gap because there wouldn’t be one.

Chris Stucchio earned a B.A. in English from Buffalo State College in 1990. His nonfiction has appeared in the Buffalo News and Buffalo Spree magazine, and his creative nonfiction has been published in an annual print literary journal edited by a Pushcart Prize-winning author. 

Author's Notes:

1. Andrea Mandell, “Exclusive: Wahlberg got $1.5M for ‘All the Money’ reshoot, Williams paid less than $1,000,” USA Today, Jan. 9, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2018/01/09/exclusive-wahlberg-paid-1-5-m-all-money-reshoot-williams-got-less-than-1-000/1018351001/. 

2. Mandell, “Exclusive: Wahlberg got $1.5M.”

3. Mandell, “Exclusive: Wahlberg got $1.5M.”

4. Andrea Mandell, “Exclusive: Mark Wahlberg refused to approve Christopher Plummer unless he was paid,” USA Today, Jan. 12, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2018/01/11/exclusive-mark-wahlberg-refused-approve-christopher-plummer-unless-he-paid/1026347001/. 

5. Mandell, “Exclusive: Mark Wahlberg refused to approve Christopher Plummer.” 

6. Beatrice Gitau, “Can Jennifer Lawrence Jumpstart Hollywood Wage Gap Conversation?,” Christian Science Monitor, October 13, 2015. 

7. Gitau, “Can Jennifer Lawrence Jumpstart Hollywood Wage Gap Conversation?”

8. Jessica Mendoza, “Why Does Jennifer Lawrence Earn Less Than Male Hollywood Stars?,” Christian Science Monitor, August 20, 2015.

9. “Charlize Theron on Equal Pay, Female Action Stars and Bond,” Manila Bulletin, July 24, 2017.

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