Claire Foy addresses the gender pay gap in Hollywood and 'The Crown'

She says she knew she had to speak up for others, not just herself.

January 10, 2019, 2:15 PM

Claire Foy, star of "The Crown," is addressing a controversy that surrounded the show in 2018 regarding the gender pay gap in Hollywood.

In March 2018, producers of the Netflix original drama admitted the English actress, who stars as Queen Elizabeth II on the show, wasn't paid as much as her co-star, Matt Smith, who plays Prince Philip.

The producers said Smith's fame from his role as "Doctor Who" was the reason for the pay difference, but they resolved to make amends in the future.

"Going forward, no one gets paid more than the queen,” creative director Suzanne Mackie said at the time, according to Variety.

In a recent interview with WSJ Magazine, Foy acknowledged the controversy and spoke about the attention it garnered.

“I was being paid less than Matt,” Foy told the outlet.

“It was a short, sharp initiation into people wanting you to have an opinion about something you’re involved in," she continued. "You want to make sure you are saying something beneficial for a huge number of people, something that is not reductive and that you believe in, but you don’t really know enough about.”

PHOTO: Claire Foy and Matt Smith appear in a scene from the Netflix series, "The Crown."
Claire Foy and Matt Smith appear in a scene from the Netflix series, "The Crown."

With the emergence of the Time's Up movement in January 2018, the media highlighted the wage gap discussion following increased activism from some of Hollywood's biggest stars. However, Foy and Smith didn't realize their salaries would get so much attention.

"We were suddenly thrust into this discussion that none of us knew anything about,” Smith told WSJ Magazine. “But we had a sense of unity, and I fully support Claire.”

I could have said nothing. And I think everyone would have preferred that. But I thought, if I do that, I will be cheating myself and all the other women I know.

Foy also told WSJ Magazine that she was not given back pay of $250,000, despite reports claiming otherwise.

"People have decided all sorts of numbers that are not right, but I don’t think it’s helpful to go into that," she said. "I don’t think I need to. It is not important to anyone else."

Foy admitted she was "deeply hurt" by the situation in an interview with PorterEdit in October 2018.

"I’d been working on that show for two years," she said. "I loved everybody on it. And then I realized, there’s been a big, fat, dirty secret that nobody’s ever talked about."

She shared that she felt the need to be vocal about the pay gap for the sake of her fellow actresses.

"But then there was also that thing [of being] an inadvertent spokesperson," she said. "Why did it have to be me? I could have said nothing. And I think everyone would have preferred that. But I thought, if I do that, I will be cheating myself and all the other women I know.”

Smith also said the change was necessary and beneficial for the film industry.

"Claire is one of my best friends, and I believe that we should be paid equally and fairly and there should be equality for all," he told The Hollywood Reporter.

"I support her completely, and I'm pleased that it was resolved and they made amends for it, because that what's needed to happen," he added. "Going forward, I think we should all bear in mind that we need to strive to make this better and a more even playing field for everyone involved — but not just in our industry, in all industries."

Other actresses spoke out like Foy against existing wage disparities throughout the year.

Michelle Williams addressed the fact that she was paid less than $1,000 for re-shoots for the movie "All the Money in the World," while her co-star, Mark Wahlberg, made $1.5 million, which made her earnings less than 1 percent of his.

When the news broke in January 2018, Wahlberg announced he was donating the entirety of his re-shoot earnings to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund in Williams' name.

"Today isn’t about me," Williams said in a statement at the time. "My fellow actresses stood by me and stood up for me, my activist friends taught me to use my voice, and the most powerful men in charge, they listened and they acted."

"If we truly envision an equal world, it takes equal effort and sacrifice," she added.

Actress Jessica Chastain also helped her "The Help" co-star Octavia Spencer make five times her salary for a new film after she heard about their difference in pay.

Despite the increased awareness and activism for wage equality across the spectrum, the issue still exists.

Last year, the highest paid female actress, Scarlett Johansson, earned $40.5 million, according to Forbes, while the highest paid actor, George Clooney, earned $239 million.

To be fair, Clooney's worth is largely due to the success of his profitable investment in liquor brand Casamigos. The second-highest paid male actor in the world was Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson with $124 million -- still significantly higher than Johansson's earnings.

Women and men in film continue to push for more representation across gender and race in the industry -- and pay increases for both women in front of and behind the screen in production.

The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund raised more than $20 million last year to continue to fight for equal pay and combat harassment in the workplace.

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