This post has been updated.
If there is a lesson to take away from the first two seasons of “The Crown,” it is that no sane person would dare cross Queen Elizabeth II. Left Bank Pictures, the production company behind the series, seems to have learned this too late, however — two of its executives revealed on March 13 that lead actress Claire Foy made less than co-star Matt Smith for her work on the show.
Variety reported that producers Suzanne Mackie and Andy Harries were asked during a discussion at the INTV Conference in Jerusalem whether the actors playing Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, were paid the same amount. The pair said Smith made more because of his “Doctor Who” fame, saying that the inequity would be amended in the future.
“Going forward, no one gets paid more than the queen,” Mackie said.
Left Bank Pictures, which controls budgets and salaries, publicly apologized to both actors on Tuesday for the controversy generated by the producers’ comments. Neither actor was aware of what the other earned, the company said in a statement, and therefore “cannot be held personally responsible for the pay of their colleagues.”
“We want to apologize to both Claire Foy and to Matt Smith, brilliant actors and friends, who have found themselves at the center of a media storm this week through no fault of their own,” the company stated, later adding, “We understand and appreciate the conversation which is rightly being played out across society and we are absolutely united with the fight for fair pay, free of gender bias and for a rebalancing of the industry’s treatment of women, both those in front of the camera and for those behind the scenes.”
The statement also said that Left Bank Pictures will speak with representatives of ERA 50:50, a U.K. campaign for gender equality among actors, and Times Up U.K.
Unfortunately for Foy, she won’t be the one who’s paid more. The period drama’s unusual structure calls for an entirely different set of actors every two seasons. While Foy and Smith depicted the royal couple from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign until the mid-1960s, their characters have been recast for the third and fourth seasons. Olivia Colman will play the queen when the series resumes filming in July, while the new Philip has yet to be announced. Helena Bonham Carter will replace Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, the queen’s rebellious younger sister.
“Seasons 3 and 4 will be the test of whether the show really has the legs to survive,” Harries said, per Variety. “I think we were the first television series ever to change cast and continue, and we will change cast twice. It’s daunting but exciting, and I hope it’ll keep the series fresh and really of interest to people.”
The revelation that the show’s lead made less than a supporting actor is particularly surprising when considering critical reception. Foy received high praise for her portrayal of the restrained monarch, in which she nailed everything from the queen’s posh accent to her physical poise. She was nominated for an Emmy and won a Golden Globe for her performance in the first season, arguably placing her at the same level of fame as (if not higher than) Smith. She still received a smaller paycheck than he did for the second season, which earned her another Golden Globe nod. The Washington Post reached out to Foy’s and Smith’s representatives for comment but did not hear back.
This isn’t the first time a woman has been paid less than a lower-billed actor. After Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct, “All the Money in the World” director Ridley Scott replaced him with Christopher Plummer and called the rest of the cast back to reshoot pivotal scenes. Michelle Williams, billed as the film’s lead actress, earned a fraction of what supporting actor Mark Wahlberg did for reshoots. USA Today reported that Williams earned just $80 a day, adding up to less than $1,000, while Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million total. Both actors were represented by the same agency.