Actor Claire Foy’s nuanced, star-making portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II on the hit Netflix series The Crown earned her critical acclaim, a Golden Globe award for Best Actress and an Emmy nomination —but she was still paid less than her male co-star.
Executives at Left Bank Pictures, the production company behind The Crown, revealed Matt Smith, the actor who plays Prince Philip on the show, earned more than Foy did on the Netflix series. While it was not immediately clear how much Smith was paid, Foy reportedly earned around $40,000 per episode of The Crown, according to a 2017 report from Variety. That’s a small fraction of the show’s production budget of around $7 million per episode for its first two seasons, serving as one of the most expensive television series on air, according to Variety.
At a conference in Jerusalem Tuesday, Left Bank creative director Suzanne Mackie said Smith made more money than Foy due to his fame from playing the eleventh Doctor on the hit British series Doctor Who, according to Variety‘s report from the event. Foy and Smith will be replaced in upcoming seasons of The Crown as it follows the lives of Queen Elizabeth and the royal family chronologically. “Going forward,” Mackie said Tuesday, “no one gets paid more than the Queen.”
But the pay disparity between Smith and Foy — despite Foy’s newcomer status before the show debuted, as the production company noted — sparked outrage from viewers who noted she was the star of the show and deserved better compensation compared to Smith.
The salary differences between the two actors is perhaps ironic due to Queen Elizabeth’s sizable net worth and influence compared to her husband, Prince Philip. Queen Elizabeth, 91, has a net worth of around $520 million, according to Wealth-X, a wealth insights firm, thanks to profits, real estate and collections that come from the Crown Estate and the Duke of Lancaster. The 96-year-old Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband of 70 years, reportedly has a fraction of that net worth and recently retired from his royal position, no longer attending public events.
But more telling than the Queen’s actual net worth compared to her husband’s is the show’s emphasis on female empowerment and the obstacles Queen Elizabeth faced while assuming the throne at a young age — and as a woman.
There have long been conversations surrounding equal pay for women in Hollywood and other industries, with Academy-Award winning actors like Jennifer Lawrence and Octavia Spencer speaking out about the issue as they navigate being paid less than their male or white co-stars. Issues over pay have continued to make headlines recently, from Michelle Williams’s minuscule compensation compared to Mark Wahlberg’s for their reshoot of All the Money in the World, to a host of television writers and producers anonymously sharing their salary information to better help their peers in the industry negotiate and earn more themselves.
As for Foy, the actor will no longer play the leading role in The Crown as the series moves forward. But the next queen has already been announced — British Academy of Film and Television Award-winning actress Olivia Colman will pay Queen Elizabeth as the story moves through the 1970s, though the production team has not announced who will replace Smith as Prince Philip. Regardless of who gets cast, the producers appeared to promise Colman will earn more.