Claire Foy Earned Less Than Her On-Screen Husband for ‘The Crown’

While examples of Hollywood sexism are seemingly endless, this is not one of them.

Variety (“Claire Foy Was Paid Less Than Matt Smith on ‘The Crown’“):

Asked whether Foy was paid the same as Smith, the producers acknowledged that he did make more due to his “Doctor Who” fame, but that they would rectify that for the future. “Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen,” said Mackie.

Despite the headline, that factoid was the 7th paragraph of the piece, which is about the challenges of making a fictionalized Netflix series about living figures and the unique concept whereby the show will be completely recast every two years with new actors.

In recent months, a spotlight has been shined on how poorly Hollywood treats women, with several famous cases of women being paid far less than men. On its surface, this case seems especially egregious: How can the star of the show make less than a supporting player? But the sentence that introduces the controversy also explains it nicely: Smith was a much bigger star than Foy at the time they were hired.

The NYT coverage (“Claire Foy, Queen on ‘The Crown,’ Was Paid Less Than Her On-Screen Husband“) is much better on this count:

Not even the queen of England can get an equal slice of the mincemeat pie.

The actress Claire Foy, who charmed critics and fans as a young Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix series “The Crown,” was paid less than her co-star Matt Smith, who played the queen’s husband, executive producers acknowledged on Tuesday at the INTV Conference in Jerusalem.

Mr. Smith came to Netflix as an established actor in Britain, most notably as the titular character on the BBC staple “Doctor Who” from 2010 to 2013 — a fact that informed the producers’ decision around salary, they said at the conference.

Aside from a role in 2015 in the Golden Globe-winning BBC mini-series “Wolf Hall,” Ms. Foy, 33, was a relative unknown when she was cast in “The Crown.” But in the show’s first two seasons, which centered on her character’s reign, Ms. Foy became its breakout star, earning a best actress Golden Globe for Season 1 and a Golden Globe nomination in the same category for Season 2. She was also nominated for an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama for Season 1. Mr. Smith, 35, was not nominated for an Emmy or a Golden Globe for his role as Prince Philip.

Both were exceptionally good, in my opinion. But the Phillip character is written as something of a cold fish and a whiny brat. Foy’s queen is much more sympathetic. Regardless, actors aren’t paid based on talent but on their ability to draw eyeballs—and their negotiating leverage. And Smith’s part in the show was huge; there were whole episodes devoted to Phillip.

The NYT piece references one of the more egregious recent cases:

In January, it was revealed that Michelle Williams, the female star of the Ridley Scott film “All the Money in the World,” was paid a per diem of $80, a bit above the union minimum, for 10 days of added work after the disgraced actor Kevin Spacey was purged from the film and replaced with Christopher Plummer — a move that required reshoots. Her male counterpart, Mark Wahlberg, received the same per diem — plus a negotiated fee of $1.5 million.

As a response, Mr. Wahlberg and his talent agency donated $2 million in the name of Ms. Williams to a fund dedicated to fighting pay inequity and harassment of women in Hollywood.

Wahlberg’s being shamed into giving his money away notwithstanding, this wasn’t gender discrimination but rather chutzpah. Williams worked for scale on the reshoot in solidarity with the studio’s writing out Spacey whereas Wahlberg demanded to be paid his customary fee. Given that the movie business isn’t a charity, I don’t blame him one bit.

The case of The Crown is weird in that, from a public standpoint, it seems obvious that the actor playing the lead character should be paid more than a supporting character. But that’s not always the case, regardless of gender. Jack Nicholson made twelve times what Michael Keaton did for the 1989 Batman movie—and Keaton was already a big star.

And, thanks to her starring performance in The Crown, so is Foy. Now. One suspects she’ll be paid quite handsomely in future roles.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Gender Issues, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Another factor to take into consideration is the fact that Smith has been in demand, both in the U.K. and in Hollywood, since leaving Doctor Who and looks to be on the way to becoming something of a mega-star. Securing him for even two seasons of shooting likely meant that he had to pass up other roles, so that likely paid a role in negotiations as well.

    Additionally, as I said amid the whole kerfuffle regarding the differences in the salary and contract provisions for Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg, the parties involved here are hardly naive people who are easy to take advantage of and they were both represented by agents who have an incentive to get the best salary they can since they get paid based on a percentage of that salary. This is business, not sexism.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yes, if anything Williams was just being too nice. It’s not her responsibility to work essentially for free because the studio found itself in an embarrassing situation.

  3. @James Joyner:

    As I recall it was somewhat more detailed than that as Wahlberg had a provision regarding compensation for reshoots in his contract whereas Williams either did not or agreed to waive it in light of the circumstances under which the reshoots became necessary.

    But the point remains the same in any case.

  4. On a somewhat unrelated note, I’d definitely recommend The Crown to anyone looking for a new series to binge watch. At first, I didn’t think I’d like it since I’m generally not a fan of all the hype about the British Royal Family, but it is very well done and the concept of covering the entire life of someone like the Queen while she is still alive is interesting in and of itself.

  5. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis: it was even a bit more than that. My understanding is that although Wahlberg’s contract had a clause for reshoots it would have resulted in substantially less than $1.5M. But he also had a clause that allowed him to approve costars and he and his agent used that to push the compensation way up. Basically, he wouldn’t approve Plummer or anyone else unless he got his way. Pay him or throw the movie in the trash. So they are tough negotiators and within their rights but also completely oblivious to the moment they were in.

  6. @MarkedMan:

    Oblivious in what way?

    Do we know for a fact that Wahlberg and/or his agent had any idea what the terms of Williams’s contract were or the status of her discussions over compensation for reshoots?

  7. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Oblivious in not realizing how this might play out if it became public. Of course, I’m not familiar enough with Wahlberg’s body of work to really judge motivations, but I would think his acceptance of the role in the first place indicates he wants to have at least some “respectable actor”roles as opposed to just “now, that’s a big gun!” ones. And it’s not unreasonable to expect that holding the movie hostage is going to play badly with that audience. I suspect (but can’t know) that if he had just accepted the reshoot fee he had negotiated in the contract there wouldn’t have been the insider whisper campaign against him that led to his public shaming. But at the height of the #metoo movement he appeared not just to be not supporting it, but actually trying to twist it to his financial advantage.

    I’ve got no dog in this fight. He’s a tough negotiator. I don’t have any personal opinion about him and am indifferent to whether he’s in a movie or not. But a savvier agent might have a) seen this coming, and b) judged it would be perceived differently than holding, say, Disney hostage for a reshoot of “Now That’s a Big Gun 4!: Pocket Cannon Edition”.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: I agree that it was somewhat tone deaf given the moment.But it’s not Wahlberg’s fault that Kevin Spacey is a creep.

  9. @MarkedMan:

    I don’t see how Wahlberg can be blamed for this, and I think the extent to which he was attacked when the salary difference became public was absurd.

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    It also might be that Ms. Foy’s agent isn’t as good as Mr. Smith’s. Don’t discount the role of representation. What a performer is paid is the responsibility of her or his agent, not the producer.

  11. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’m not disagreeing with you, although I wouldn’t go so far as to call it absurd. Whether the disapprobation was “justified” or not, though, he and his agent should have seen it coming. Wahlberg is a public figure, by definition, and his marketability depends on how he is perceived by potential audiences. Not recognizing that his actions wouldn’t just be seen as tough negotiations but as being oblivious to the #metoo movement should have been a consideration, especially given that the whole thing came about because of #metoo, i.e. Spacey was being replaced with Plummer because he was so toxic with the audience they feared the movie would flop.

  12. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Do we know for a fact that Wahlberg and/or his agent had any idea what the terms of Williams’s contract were or the status of her discussions over compensation for reshoots?

    Given that they were both represented by the same agency… I would hope they did.

  13. SKI says:

    @Dave Schuler: They both were represented by the same agency.

  14. mac says:

    There’s always a reason to pay women less than men. Funny how that happens.

  15. Dave Schuler says:


    Then more people should be asking questions of the agency.

    Why aren’t agents negotiating better deals for their female clients? The producer’s jobs are to raise money and make sure that the production comes in on budget. It’s not the producer’s job to pay more than they need to for services. It’s the agent’s job to bargain for more.

    Agents frequently bargain in packages and that might have been the case here. So, for example, the package of Foy and Smith (plus who knows how many other supporting performers) might have been cheaper than other packages of performers or an a la carte approach.

  16. @SKI:

    They were represented by the same agency, but not the same agent. And the individual agents primary fiduciary duty is to negotiate the best deal they can for the client in question, not to negotiate a “fair” deal.

  17. @SKI:

    That was true for Williams and Wahlberg, I’m not certain it’s true for Foy and Smith.

    Even if it is, my prior comment stands.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    As I am leaving young adult lit and moving into adult (just placed my first adult title, I think) I can say this: I was overpaid. On occasion when I ended up stuck in a green room with fellow authors, usually female, we talked money. I mean inspiration and literary theory and how much we love the kids, but, mostly money. And again and again I had the same conversation with women writers who were my peers: What did you ask for?

    The thing is many of the women in kidlit I’ve run into do not ask. My own wife – NYT bestseller, Newbery winner – has not yet equalled the advance I was paid for a trilogy which, while very good, had lousy sales. In kidlit world, on the ‘who’s a big deal’ scale of 1 to 10, 10 being JK Rowling, I’m at best a 6. My wife is an 8 working on a 9. But, over the last decade, I’ve asked. Give me this amount of money. Give me business class or better. Give me unlimited expenses.

    Now she’s better at demanding, and will soon be seeing better advances, but hers will be based on real-world performance, while I was probably overpaid just for being the kind of arrogant dick who’d demand it.

  19. MarkedMan says:

    A good example of salary disparity based on reputation is the recent movie “Girls Trip”. Nominally this movie had four equal parts, all female. But one was played by Jada Pickett Smith and another was Queen Latifah, known Hollywood quantities. A third was an actress named Tiffany Haddish, a relative unknown. She told a hilarious story on one of the late night shows about taking Jada and Will Smith on a tour she had purchased with a groupon during the shooting (really hilarious, and worth googling). But from her description it is pretty obvious that she was getting orders of magnitude less money than Smith. Although that is probably going to change given audience reaction and her now-proven ability to do incredible promo for the film.

  20. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Yup, mixed up in posting. Not enough coffee yet.

    @Doug Mataconis:

    They were represented by the same agency, but not the same agent. And the individual agents primary fiduciary duty is to negotiate the best deal they can for the client in question, not to negotiate a “fair” deal.

    Indeed. No qualms with Wahlberg asking/getting the extra money but, at that point, Williams should have gotten similar consideration as well. That is partially on the agency, which owe her that duty but also on the studio which have an independent obligation not to treat similarly situated employees in dramatically different ways. It was an unforced error.

    As an employer, I need to make sure that I treat my employees equitably. Failure to do so will end up costing me more – even if only in lack of trust and good will from those employees who feel hurt and betrayed.

  21. @michael reynolds:

    One point I’ve seen many women make themselves is that women need to be more vocal about promoting their worth and get more hard-nosed in salary negotiations. Mika Brezinski in particular has written a book on the topic. In many fields, and especially it seems when it comes to the entertainment and professional world, it’s often the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, so to say.

    Of course, one can say that this is in part due to the fact that women have been conditioned not to be assertive and that’s a cultural issue as much as an individual one, but it’s a worthwhile point I think.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    Men have a sense of entitlement that women do not, and a greater tolerance for risk. Women authors tend to be more grateful for what they’ve been given, men tend to think they’re owed more. Bear in mind the world I’m talking about is overwhelmingly female, I’ve written 150ish books and exactly 2 of those were edited by men, and none acquired by male editors.

    There is also a lot to be said for an aggressive agent. (Love my wife’s current, she is tough.) But in the end the decision is always on the author/actor/director to be willing to walk away. The person who can say ‘no’ tends to win the negotiation.

    I’m in the middle of just such a situation right now which I may be able to talk about in a few weeks. If I get my way (50/50 at this point) it will be because I’m willing to say no. Most women faced with ‘Hey, that’s our final offer,” will shun the risk and take what’s offered. Many men start by rejecting any attempt at being bullied and push back almost instinctively.

  23. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Don’t leave out the differences in interpretation: a man who is a hard-nosed negotiator is ballsy; a woman who acts the same is considered a bitch.

    It’s a little hard to reach the top when you are barred by your sex from using the same tools your competitors have access to.

  24. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: Yup. There’s less fluidity in my line of work than yours but I started two “steps” higher simply by refusing the first offer. That actually put me ahead of a better-credentialed female colleague who’d been here five years.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:
    I’d suggest though that men are more willing to be called sons of bitches or whatever. It’s true women who act tough are more stigmatized than men but that’s in part because women are bothered more by such stigmatization. I’ve certainly been called a prick more than once, but I take it as a compliment whereas it would genuinely bother my wife. When you’re indifferent to the opinions of others it often has the paradoxical effect of producing more favorable opinions of you. Bullies go after the vulnerable.

  26. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Don’t leave out the differences in interpretation: a man who is a hard-nosed negotiator is ballsy; a woman who acts the same is considered a bitch.

    I understand the sentiment, but I negotiate with “ballsy” men with some frequency and quite frankly, they screw up a lot of potential deals. They have ridiculous outsized opinions about what they have to offer and how much it is worth and immediately go into “you are not going to rip me off” mode. This is primarily in the medical profession and doctors tend to be ego-maniacs anyway, but as long as I’m venting: “Your idea is not original. It’s also a stupid, impractical idea that has been tried and discarded a dozen times at least. And even if it was a good idea, well, there are lots and lots of good ideas. Good ideas are a dime a dozen. The amount of work and money needed for this idea to eventually become a product will almost certainly be spent on something proposed by someone with a realistic idea of fair compensation at this stage, rather than a buffoon that is asking for something like 150% of the net profit we would realize if it ever went to market. Off the top. For an idea.”

    Wow. I guess I had that bottled up inside me and needed to say it to someone. Thanks.

  27. MarkedMan says:

    It’s true women who act tough are more stigmatized than men but that’s in part because women are bothered more by such stigmatization.

    Dead on. I know lots of successful men who aren’t particularly liked professionally and just take it in stride. It’s good to be liked by your family and friends. It has its uses in business but is not essential.

  28. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: As an IP person, I’m curious. I assume that is “an idea, without a patent”? (Yah. Been there, heard that.)

    I remember realizing I was playing with the big boys when many years ago 3M was training me on a portfolio of products, including a bunch of speculative stuff for which they were hoping I could crack open a market in Japan. We were talking about returns-on-R&D and the rule-of-thumb I was given: Unless the product was pulling in more than $6M/year it would get canned.

  29. mattb says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’d suggest though that men are more willing to be called sons of bitches or whatever.

    I think it goes well beyond being “more willing.” The reality is closer to “trained” or more accurately “socially conditioned.”

    To the example of your wife, it takes a lot of training and practice to learn to ask and build the confidence to walk away. And if you don’t get that training and support in your formative years, then the process of learning those skills is even more difficult.

    There’s more than enough research to suggest that most women (at least in the US) typically have not gotten active (let alone passive) training in those areas during child and early adulthood.

  30. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I assume that is “an idea, without a patent”?

    Yep. I learned quickly to ask people not to tell me anything about their idea unless it was patented. I also tried, as gently as possible, to explain that this wasn’t because I had their best interests at heart, but rather because an unpatented idea was more trouble than it was worth 99.999% of the time. And technically, by describing it to me and to others not covered by an NDA, they were publicly revealing it, which meant it couldn’t be patented at all. I would also try to explain that just because they had a patent it didn’t mean they had a right to market the product, unless a thorough search had concluded their were no blockers on the underlying technology. But a significant percentage of docs would just get glassy eyed, wait for me to finish, and then blurt out their (usually unusable) idea, convinced that once I was exposed to their brilliance I would be so stunned by their brilliance I would immediately send millions of company dollars into their bank accounts.

    Recently I’ve been advising startups on what it takes to interest a large medical device company. Pretty much the minimum for a startup to approach any major med device company with a large R&D department of its own is an FDA cleared product that has significant results published in a well respected medical journal. And for a company without a significant R&D department, the product actually has to be on the market. It doesn’t necessarily need to be making money, because the big company can deploy it with their much larger sales and marketing force.

    There are exceptions to this, as in all things. But it is a darn good rule of thumb.

  31. george says:


    True, but entertainment and sport has its own guidelines regarding male/female. Which is why Serena Williams has made tens of millions, and Kaarsten Braach, the 203rd ranked male player who beat her 6-1 in an exhibition game has made almost nothing.

    Basically, in sport and entertainment you make what they figure you bring in from fans, and how good you are in an absolute sense doesn’t play into it. You sign a contract, and then if you do well you negotiate for a better contract. There are rookies in pro-sports outplaying guys who make ten times what they make; if they keep it up they’ll renegotiate their salary.

    Moreover, I find it impossible to care who’s getting what at the levels of income famous people are getting. The problem is in women’s pay in normal jobs, not which star is only getting $10 million when they should be getting $12 million.

  32. george says:


    I think that’s true, they’re socially conditioned to not care if they’re not liked.

    However, in the end of the day they’re still not liked; I’ve worked with a number of engineers like that, and if they’re good people will put up with them (so long as their positives outweigh their negatives), but they’re also consistently and openly called a-holes (and worse).

    Or put it this way, when the folks go out for a beer after work, they’re never invited, and people dissipate when they arrive at the coffee table. However, as you say, they’ve been trained not to care.