Mark Wahlberg did something gross. Is anyone at all surprised?
USA Today broke the news this week that Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for the 10 days reshooting Kevin Spacey’s scenes in All the Money in the World. Spacey, who was cut from the film after his sexual-misconduct scandal erupted, was replaced by Christopher Plummer. Director Ridley Scott and actress Michelle Williams returned for the reshoots, with the latter offering to do them for free and only earning an $80 per diem for her time, totaling under $1,000. Presumably unbeknownst to Williams, Wahlberg negotiated a hefty salary for the reshoot.
I attended a Q&A with Scott at the first press screening of All the Money in the World in December where he said all the actors “did the reshoots for nothing,” and in an interview with USA Today Williams said, “I just thought that this experience that we had all treasured was going to be essentially flushed down the toilet. I adore [Scott], worship him, would do anything for him. I hated that this man’s time and expertise and gentlemanliness was going to be kind of for naught. So when I got the phone call about the change of plans I was thrilled. I was enlivened, it picked me up off the couch a little bit and got me excited. I said I’d be wherever they needed me, whenever they needed me. And they could have my salary, they could have my holiday, whatever they wanted. Because I appreciated so much that they were making this massive effort.”
At the time, it didn’t seem odd that Wahlberg was absent from said USA Today interview with Williams and Scott, but now it makes sense. He didn’t come back for free, as he was willing to let it be advertised. What’s troubling here is that amid the recent initiatives like Time’s Up, which aims to fix gender pay disparities within the industry, this isn’t an open-and-shut case. Deadline reports that while SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) is investigating the disparity, a source says, “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.”
Basically, because Williams and Scott opted not to profit from Spacey’s scandal, there’s nothing SAG-AFTRA can do about it and there’s nothing improper about Wahlberg’s negotiations. Where the shadiness comes into play, however, is the fact that Wahlberg and Williams are both repped by William Morris Endeavor, and it appears the talent agency went to bat for Wahlberg’s salary while keeping Williams in the dark about what her co-star was earning.
I won’t get into the tit for tat of what each actor deserves. I’ve already gone on record as labeling Williams my choice for best lead actress of the year for a truly magnificent and nuanced performance in Scott’s Sirkian melodrama, and I didn’t mention Wahlberg at all in my review because I rarely take notice of set dressing in films. I will say that the most galling aspect of this, to me, isn’t Williams’ loss of salary. She clearly intended to do the reshoots as a genuine favor to Scott, and Scott himself opted not to be paid an exorbitant sum for having to fix a film that Spacey’s scandal wrecked (and for the record, those placing the blame on Scott for casting Spacey in the first place are off-base: The decades of rumors about Spacey involved him hiding his sexuality, not that he was abusing minors).
Wahlberg has been dragged on social media, and rightly so. Profiting off the Spacey scandal seems extra gross in the midst of Hollywood’s current wokefest but also in comparison to Williams and Scott taking a pay cut. What’s more, Wahlberg himself has a past that should bring into question his own involvement in films.
The 46-year-old actor has spent years trying to make himself over. He’s given interviews about how he doesn’t masturbate because he loves his wife so much. He has a series of restaurants called Wahlburgers with his brothers Donnie and Paul. He stars in movies like Daddy’s Home 2 with people like Mel Gibson, who are so damn reprehensible that you have to focus on their past misdeeds instead of Wahlberg’s.
But if you look to just two years ago, you’ll see that he recently dropped his pardon request for the hate-crime assaults he committed in his youth. Writing in the 2014 petition, he said, “I am deeply sorry for the actions that I took on the night of April 8, 1988, as well as for any lasting damage I may have caused the victims. Since that time, I have dedicated myself to becoming a better person and citizen so that I can be a role model to my children and others.”
That pardon would’ve allowed him to operate his Wahlburgers chain without being denied licenses for crimes such as telling a 12-year-old black boy, his older brother, and his sister in 1986, “We don’t like black niggers in the area, so get the fuck away from the area.” Wahlberg and his friends chanted, “Kill the nigger, kill the nigger,” while hurling rocks at the black kids, who managed to escape. In another incident, Wahlberg hurled rocks again and hit a young black girl and a white girl.
In the most violent incident, on April 8, 1988, Wahlberg attacked a Vietnamese man, Thanh Lam, with a large wooden stick. Wahlberg called him “a Vietnam fucking shit” and knocked him out. When he fled the scene, Wahlberg attacked another Vietnamese bystander, Hoa Trinh, punching him in the eye and leaving him partially blind. After he was apprehended, Boston police returned Wahlberg to the scene of the crime where, according to two officers, he looked at Lam and exclaimed, “You don’t have to let him identify me, I’ll tell you now that’s the motherfucker whose head I split open,” before yelling about “slant-eyed gooks.”
Wahlberg was arrested for both crimes, which occurred two months before his 17th birthday, so he was charged with attempted murder as an adult. He pleaded guilty to assault and served 45 days of a two-year prison sentence.
In 2016, he dropped the pardon request. The Associated Press reported that it was closed after Wahlberg didn’t answer to a letter asking if he wanted to keep it open. Maybe he realized he’d be a better role model by owning up to his past, or maybe he just decided the bad PR wasn’t worth it.
It’s worth noting that after his jail stint Wahlberg didn’t actively attempt to atone for his crimes, and never so much as reached out to his victims. He instead became a Calvin Klein model and rapper. Did turning 18 and joining Hollywood suddenly make Wahlberg a model citizen? Or does he have other dark moments that have yet to be revealed? Wahlberg had every right to negotiate his salary before, but given his past and the current political climate, it probably wasn’t the right move to be seen as taking advantage of a gross situation. If his past comes back to haunt him, he’ll only have himself to blame.