Sexual Harassment, Inequality & Multi-Million Dollar Paydays for Movie Stars (Part 1)

When it came out recently that Kevin Spacey was guilty of sexual misconduct, he had been working in on the film “All the Money in the World” (a movie about John Paul Getty) distributed by Sony. After an intense process of deciding what to do, Sony and director Ridley Scott decided to reshoot Kevin Spacey’s scenes with Christopher Plummer.

When they did this, the female lead Michelle Williams apparently said she would do it for free–actually $1000 a day for expenses. But Mark Wahlberg’s agent got him $1.5M for his reshoot.

Now why did Ridley Scott and Sony re-shoot? They reshot because they really thought it would make more money in the long-run than if they went ahead with Kevin Spacey in it. Maybe there would be even further backlash against Ridley Scott if he went ahead with it and let the film have that stigma. Hollywood is always motivated by $$ at least in part because it’s a business. And let’s say in this case, the talented director Ridley Scott also feels better about the film now AND let’s say that the Sony exec who approved it also feels better that apparent sexual predator Kevin Spacey is out of the film.

But they were at least to a high degree motivated by money from this film and the money from their careers going forward — their legacy. They didn’t make the decision just from some moral sense of being horrified about Spacey is my point. A lot of it was about money.

So that means that Michelle Williams nicely agreed to re-shoot for just the cost of expenses, while Mark Wahlberg’s agent got him $1.5 MILLION for the same thing.

The money to be paid to Michelle Williams and to Wahberg would be paid by the studios, whatever that amount was to be. Now… The studio made the decision based mostly on whether they would make more money with Spacey in or out, When they make that additional money, that money is going in their pockets. Michelle Williams and Mark Walhberg are not going to get any more for their additional work beyond what they were already going to get. In the end, Walhberg gave that his $1.5 MILLION to a charity called Times Up Legal Defense Fund, and his agency William Morris donated another half-million to this charity — so in the end, he basically shot for free. And, they gave it in Michelle WIlliams name.

But my question is…. Did Michelle Williams do the right thing to be willing to shoot for free when the studio was likely going to make well beyond their money back? Did Wahlberg simply stand up for what is fair to actors? Should he have done the re-shoot for free? Why was the woman so willing to shoot for free when the studio would make the extra money… and the man was standing for his pay — or the right to do with what he wanted.

It’s a philosophical question… but I can’t help but wonder if the answer… whatever I may come up with or you may come up with …. if that answer — or those answers — may offer at least a partial explanation for why women make less money in Hollywood as a whole.

I have one simple thing to communicate…. Hollywood is in the business of making films to make money. Most decisions are highly made based on the money it can make — not exclusively, but highly weighted by the likelihood of making MONEY — both right now and in the future.
When controversies arise… when a public relations disaster comes up, the question is…. How can we minimize the damage? WHY? So we can still make money.

In the end, the question for screenwriters is: “If you have a script to sell…. what MOVIE STAR would LOVE to star in your film because it is so good and that role is so great for them?

If you are an actor…. “Assuming you’re not a star yet, what can you add to a film…. that would help the producers or directors you’re working for reach their goals? Early on it may not yet be about making money for indie filmmakers… it might be about getting attention for great films…. so they can go on to make BIG films …. that make money. SO — what can you do to help that producer or director get noticed… by being great yourself?”

In closing, you have one thing to do. “MAKE THEM SEE THE MONEY… and you’ll have and you’ll be speaking their language.”

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