Did Michelle Williams’ Agent Get Her ‘All of the Money’ For Reshoots?

By: Sara Dalsheim

In the wake of sexual assault allegations against actor Kevin Spacey, the director of the film All of the Money, Ridley Scott, decided to reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes and replaced him with actor Christopher Plummer.[1]  As a result of these reshoots, the film’s stars Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg needed to reshoot scenes as well.[2]  Wahlberg negotiated to be paid $1.5 million for the reshoots, while Williams was only paid $1,000, even though the two nearly had equal screen time.[3]  These figures are drastically different, and arguably can be explained by the fact that Wahlberg is more famous than Williams, so his overall filming fees would be much higher than Williams, even though she is the potential Oscar nominee for the film.[4]

While Wahlberg is considered a “bigger star” than Williams the two actors are both represented by the same talent agency, William Morris Endeavor Agency, which makes it more suspicious as to why the two actors’ reshoot pay gap were so different.[5]   It is possible that while the agents came from the same agency, they nevertheless worked totally independently when negotiating each actor’s reshoot deal.  However, the fact that the reshoot pay differences were so dramatically different could allow Williams to bring claims against her negotiating agent for not abiding by the legal ethical code of conduct.[6]  The agents, coming from the same agency, should have been knowledgeable when first negotiating the terms of the contract and reasonably should have known to include an adequate reshoot fee clause.[7]  This reshoot fee realistically should not look that different for two critically acclaimed and well-known actors, especially when being represented by the same agency.

The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct “serve as models for the ethical rules of most states.”[8]  Williams could cite to ethical violations in a potential claim against the agency; specifically, Model Rules 1.1 and 1.3 are two rules that Williams could use in her potential claim.[9]  Rule 1.1 states that “a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client.”[10]   The rule further explains that being competent means that the lawyer has “the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”[11]  Williams could use this rule against her agent and claim that they were incompetent because the agent was not thorough in researching how much reshoot fees typically cost or how much an actor of Williams’ caliber and talent should request for her time.[12]  Rule 1.3 states that “a lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client”.[13]  Williams can claim that the lawyer was not committed or dedicated to the work they were assigned because they so obviously failed to realize the proper value of a reshoot fee and failed to use the resources of their own agency to compare Williams’ reshoot costs to Wahlberg’s.[14]

This situation shows lawyers in the business world and beyond that when negotiating on behalf of a client they need to use all of their available resources to ensure that they are truly getting the best deal for their client. Even if a client agrees to a smaller paycheck, the lawyer should still act as that individual’s zealous advocate.  If a lawyer has access to knowledge that their client has the ability to gain more money, they have a duty to use it and pursue that best possible outcome.[15]

[1] Scott Mendelson, The Cruel Reason Michelle Williams Earned 0.07% Of Mark Wahlberg’s Pay For ‘All The Money In The World’ Reshoot, Forbes (Jan. 10 2018, 11:00 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2018/01/10/the-cruel-reason-michelle-williams-was-paid-1500x-less-than-mark-wahlberg/#7932d9567d8b.

[2] Id.

[3] Trace Williams Cowen, Mark Wahlberg’s ‘All the Money in the World’ Payday Was 8x Michelle Williams’ in the First Place, Complex (Jan. 19 2018), http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2018/01/mark-wahlberg-all-the-money-in-the-world-payday-salary-michelle-williams.

[4] See Mendelson, supra note 1 (posing the question of if this issue is an example “egregious gender discrimination/pay disparity in action”).

[5] Andrea Mandell, Exclusive: Wahlberg got $1.5M for ‘All the Money’ reshoot, Williams paid less than $1,000, USA Today (Last Updated Jan. 10 2018, 11:18 PM), 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/.

[6] See Model Code of Prof’l Conduct r. 1.1 (Am. Bar Ass’n, Amended 2017) (stating that lawyers have a duty to provide competent representation); Model Code of Prof’l Conduct r. 1.3 (Am. Bar Ass’n, Amended 2017) (explaining that lawyers have an obligation to “act with reasonable diligence” when representing their clients).

[7] Id.

[8] See Model Rules of Professional Conduct, ABA, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct.html (describing the purpose and history of the Model Rules).

[9] See Model Code of Prof’l Conduct r. 1.1 (Am. Bar Ass’n, Amended 2017) (stating that lawyers have a duty to provide competent representation); Model Code of Prof’l Conduct r. 1.3 (Am. Bar Ass’n, Amended 2017). (explaining that lawyers have an obligation to “act with reasonable diligence” when representing their clients).

[10] Model Code of Prof’l Conduct r. 1.1 (Am. Bar Ass’n, Amended 2017).

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Model Code of Prof’l Conduct r. 1.3 (Am. Bar Ass’n, Amended 2017).

[14] Id.

[15] See Model Code of Prof’l Conduct r. 1.1 (Am. Bar Ass’n, Amended 2017) (stating that lawyers have a duty to provide competent representation); Model Code of Prof’l Conduct r. 1.3 (Am. Bar Ass’n, Amended 2017) (explaining that lawyers have an obligation to “act with reasonable diligence” when representing their clients).

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