Back when I first started writing for this site, I covered a lot of high-profile actors signing up for superhero gigs. A decade ago, it was still surprising when a Big Name Star agreed to lower themselves and grudgingly accept millions of dollars to be in a silly kids’ movie about people with laser hands and pew-pew fights. Well, fast forward ten years and superhero movies are the biggest thing going, so big they’ve become the backbone of American cinema (for better or worse, that’s another conversation). Now, if you’re an actor or director you almost can’t afford NOT to be in a superhero movie. Which is why I appreciate Michelle Williams’ candor on the subject.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she admits that money is a consideration, saying, “In my twenties, I wasn’t cognizant of retirement, the housing market or college tuition; I just did whatever the f-ck I wanted to do. Now, I sometimes do what I want to do, but I also have to make decisions that take care of my family.” She’s got a kid to put in college, she wants a nest egg, she has a mortgage. All practical considerations everyone deals with, and for actors the answer to these things is usually “big paycheck for dum-dum movie”. At least she’s honest about why she took the gig and isn’t trying to sell us that she did it so her kid could see the movie or whatever. They’re never doing it for their kids—superhero movies pay well, especially over time if your franchise lasts, and the exposure is PRICELESS for an actor.
Think back to Chris Evans’ career in 2010, before the first Captain America movie came out. It was mostly B movies and bit parts in comedies. He wasn’t a household name, he wasn’t an A-lister, he certainly wasn’t seeing the top-tier scripts. Now? Chris Evans is one of the most famous, recognized people in the world. He’s become synonymous with Captain America, which has its pros and cons, but the biggest pro is that everyone in the world knows who he is. He has pick of the litter on scripts—it’s not Hollywood’s fault his picker is broke and his non-Marvel output is, um, mediocre at best; he can direct movies now, his name can get things financed. Captain America completely remade his career, turning him into an A-lister.
Which is another point Michelle Williams makes. She’s best known for independent dramas, and she has worked a couple times with director Kelly Reichardt, who, according to Williams, is struggling to finance her next movie: “Kelly Reichardt had a movie that she wanted to get going this fall. […] She couldn’t get the funding for it, which boggles my mind. If Venom is a big hit, maybe it’ll make it easier for a filmmaker like Kelly to get her movie made.” Williams is aware of the trade. Some people call it “one for you, one for them”, but I don’t really like that because it implies you can’t like making the “them” movies. But it is true that a big, successful blockbuster raises your profile and makes it possible to fund smaller indie movies. If Williams’ profile goes up because of Venom, and she’s on board Reichardt’s next movie, then maybe trading on Williams’ name helps Reichardt secure funding. Not unlike publishing, the big stuff pays for the small stuff.
I wish more actors would be this pragmatically honest about these jobs. Very few actors are actual comic book nerds who have dreamed of playing these characters since childhood. Most are taking these roles because it’s a good business decision. But too often we have to play through this fantasy that huge actors sign onto superhero gigs solely to feed their inner child and impress their own children, or whatever the f-ck. Even Williams throws in some language about how “new and fun” making Venom. Was it? I’ve heard some stories that suggest otherwise. Which is why I believe her more when she talks about real-world considerations for making a lot of money, and what it could mean for her beloved indies should the movie do well. Besides, as we at Team LaineyGossip firmly believe, it’s sexy when women talk about work, and the reasons they do certain work. I haven’t liked Michelle Williams this much in years.