Claire Foy found The Crown’s pay inequality ‘really heartbreaking’

Claire Foy is one of the stars in Women Talking, a film about an isolated Mennonite community where the women and girls have been drugged and raped. Foy is such a good actress, in general, and I’m interested to see what she does next. She usually plays queens and aristocrats, but really her background is working-class, so much so that she’s struggled for years with anxiety because of a big case of imposter syndrome. Foy recently spoke to the Guardian about Women Talking, feminism and The Crown. This is also the first time Foy has addressed, in detail, the fact that she was paid less than Matt Smith for The Crown, a story which came out years ago. Some highlights:

Finding the rage for Women Talking. “I had to not pull back. I had to not want to make her smaller. I’ve seen a lot of angry men in films, with their eyes bulging out, and there’s something OK about that. But angry women obviously get told they’re shrill or, what did someone once say to me? Head girly. I was never head girl. You have to think so much, as a woman, about how you communicate in order to get your point heard. You have to make sure that it’s palatable in some way.”

She didn’t grow up seeing many women being angry. “But you’ve got to get it out, in order to move on. I couldn’t. I just lived in denial that I had any.” She did, of course, have things to be angry about, but she didn’t know how to express it. “I’d be a really rageful driver, or I’d be really passive-aggressive, because I couldn’t say what I wanted or needed.”

She tells her 7-year-old daughter that it’s okay to be angry: “Because she doesn’t need to calm down. If she’s angry, OK, be angry then. Get it out, jump around, really scream. And then it only lasts minutes. Now, this would be ideal parenting. It’s not what I do all the time. Obviously I’m not in control of what’s happening in the world, or to a certain extent, my life.”

On the pay inequity on ‘The Crown’: “I don’t know whether to be honest or not. I don’t know how much shit to cause. [When the producers confirmed it publicly] that was the first I’d heard about it… I wasn’t shocked. I was very upset. Not like, boohoo, crying upset. I was very upset… I really love my industry, and I think it is made up of lots of honourable, incredibly talented, brilliant, imaginative, amazing people…. Sometimes, you see something, you hear something, you notice something, or something happens to you, and you just go, ‘Oh God, what am I doing? Why am I doing it? Should I be part of this?’ I found it really heartbreaking.”

She didn’t want to talk about it at the time: “Suddenly I was getting asked all these questions and being encouraged by certain people involved to be the spokesperson for it. I was like, ‘Absolutely f–king not.’ I just think everybody wanted me to behave in a certain way, in response to it. And I didn’t.” What certain way? She adopts a breezy tone. “‘It’s fine! It’s absolutely fine what happened!’ That’s what I think they wanted me to say. I mean, it’s so hard. I don’t think I should be honest about certain things about it, because I don’t think it would be helpful. It would add more fuel to it. We’re still talking about this, however many years down the line. I know the extent of it. I still went back on the show. If anything, I just didn’t want my experience of the show and what we all did on it to be overshadowed.”

The Crown’s pay inequity had a longer impact: She will say that the row has had “an amazing impact, subsequently. You can’t lie now.” A woman came up to Foy and told her that she had been paid fairly for a job because of what had happened. “She was saying it like I’d done something, and I was like, ‘I’ve literally done nothing at all. A newspaper article, and being really shamed … ’” Did it feel like shame? “No. It felt like all the attention was on me. And it shouldn’t be on me. I’m not the decision-maker in this process. Go and talk to them about it. Ask them what their reasoning is. Ask them why they did that. Ask them to be honest about everything. Not me.”

[From The Guardian]

Despite what she says now, I do think she was embarrassed and angry about the pay issue. I’m trying to put myself in her shoes – she probably wondered how she didn’t know that already, or why she never asked. I’m not saying that’s the correct response, I just think that she internalized the issue and spent too much time freaking out about what she should have done or what she should say now. But she’s right – it’s not about her, it wasn’t like she demanded to be paid less than Matt Smith, it was the producers hiding the financial discrepancy between their two leads.

I also think it’s probably really hard for a British woman to unlearn all of the crazy sexist sh-t in British society about how women should behave and whether or not women are “allowed” to be angry. I’m glad that she’s teaching her daughter to be angry!

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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12 Responses to “Claire Foy found The Crown’s pay inequality ‘really heartbreaking’”

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  1. Ang says:

    What was the pay discrepancy btwn them? An extra zero? Two? Part of me hopes it was nominal. Part of me knows it likely wasn’t.

    • Becks1 says:

      I’m seeing that she was paid around 40k per episode, he reportedly got about 13k more an episode than she did, and that she received 275k in back pay as a result of the discrepancy going public. So he made over 100k than her per season.

      • Sa says:

        “ and that she received 275k in back pay as a result of the discrepancy going public.”

        A while back she made a comment about how was hearing that she received backpay, but that it wasn’t true.

        I obviously can’t say if that ever changed, but I doubt it.

      • Becks1 says:

        @Sa that could definitely be true. I just did a quick google to see their salaries and saw that, but its very likely she did not.

    • Paisley25 says:

      If I’m doing the math right, Foy was getting around $40k per episode and Matt Smith was getting around $53k based on the amount of back pay ($275k) she eventually received.

  2. Lala11_7 says:

    If it weren’t for her MAGNIFICENT performance in first 2 seasons of “The Crown”…I would not have watched the subsequent seasons….I wonder did the Producers of the series make up for their deplorable tactics on the back end.

  3. Jais says:

    Jeez, somehow I didn’t know about the pay discrepancy. So the woman playing the freaking queen was paid less than the man playing Phillip? Wow. Just wow. There seems to be a real fear in the UK of standing out too much for anything. Like you don’t want to attract the focus of the tabloids too much or their misogynistic hate will destroy you.

    • Concern Fae says:

      There’s a long tradition in Hollywood (and lots of other industries) of paying people based on what their previous salary was. Matt Smith had done Doctor Who and a Terminator movie. Claire Foy had done well received, but smaller projects. Thus, their salary negotiations started from very different points.

      I suspect what’s going to happen is that salaries will be closer, but there will be some sort of signing bonus for people who could have gotten more money elsewhere. There’s also the issue of roles often being of very different sizes. Does a female lead who isn’t onscreen much deserve the same pay, or should the pay be equalized to pressure producers and directors to create better roles for the supporting women?

    • Becks1 says:

      Yes. I think Matt Smith came out and said something about it in defense of Foy. And then the producers did announce that no one would be paid less than the Queen going forward, so that is something, at the bare minimum.

      I can see why she was embarrassed, actually, bc so much of the defense of the discrepancy centered on how she was “worth less” than Matt Smith and that is always going to be hard to hear and hard to wrap your mind around and some of the defenses just sort of kept the inequity going – like men are usually paid more in hollywood so he has coming from a higher salary so he had more bargaining power or something, IDK. I don’t remember all the discussions but I can see why she just sort of wanted to hide from it.

      She was amazing as the Queen.

      On a shallow note, her two dresses in these pictures are amazing. The blue one looks like a painting.

  4. FilmTurtle says:

    Most actors leave the contract negotiations to their agents, who work out a deal based on what producers are willing to pay. So she’s absolutely right that she should NOT be the face of this problem. She needs to be raking her agents over the coals for accepting less than she deserved.

    • TwinFalls says:

      I always wonder why agents and managers don’t get more heat for accepting and continuing this pay disparity status quo.

  5. Escape says:

    Things are terrible for women and especially older women. At 60 I was fired from a long time job this January. When I started I was paid 10k less than any of the guys in my training classes that started with me. I was sexually harassed, complained about it but missed the 300 day window to complain. Things are reeeeealy bad for women.