All the Money in the World: Making, Unmaking, Remaking–due to Kevin Spacey’s Sex Scandals

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD describes the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother Gail (Michelle Williams) to convince his billionaire grandfather (Christopher Plummer) to pay the ransom.

When Getty Sr. refuses, Gail attempts to sway him as her son’s captors become increasingly volatile and brutal. With her son’s life in the balance, Gail and Getty’s advisor (Mark Wahlberg) become unlikely allies in the race against time that ultimately reveals the true and lasting value of love over money.

Credits:

Ridley Scott directs from a script written by David Scarpa (The Last Castle), based on the book by John Pearson. Producers are Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Quentin Curtis, Chris Clark, Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam and Kevin J. Walsh. Director of photography is Dariusz Wolski, ASC. Production designer is Arthur Max (The Martian). Editor is Claire Simpson. Composer is Daniel Pemberton (King Arthur). Costume designer is Janty Yates (Gladiator).

Cast

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD stars Michelle Williams (Manchester By the Sea), Christopher Plummer (The Man Who Invented Christmas), and Mark Wahlberg (Patriot’s Day), along with Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer (Lean on Pete), and Timothy Hutton (“American Crime”).

Though the film is inspired by true events, some scenes, characters and dialogue have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes.

The film, whose running time is 2 hours and 12 minutes, is rated R by the MPAA for  language, violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.

Film’s Origins

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD began when producer Quentin Curtis optioned John Pearson’s book on Getty, called Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J.Paul Getty, that focused specifically on the infamous kidnapping.

How Money Shapes People’s Lives

He brought the project to screenwriter David Scarpa. “I of course knew about that kidnapping but really I had always wanted to do something about money and how it controls and shapes people’s lives. When you think about it, so many of our decisions, from who we choose to stay married to and where we choose to live and what jobs we choose to take etc., are driven by that. And obviously people without money are affected in the sense of their choices and options are limited. But money even influences the wealthy emotionally, in that it gives them freedom and power but then what to do with that? When Quentin told me about the project, my first reaction was, ‘Oh the kid without the ear?’ and he said, ‘Well you know another interesting fact here is that Getty at the time was the richest man in the world and the ransom was well within his means, he had a billion dollars and the kidnappers asked for $17 million which was like a parking ticket to him and yet he refused to pay it.’ That got my attention. I said, ‘I’m in,’” Scarpa recalls.

It was Getty’s notorious miserliness and what that represented emotionally that intrigued Scarpa. “The obstacle wasn’t paying the ransom and rescuing his grandson – the obstacle was psychological, he just couldn’t bear to part with his money. And so the story goes from being a standard issue thriller to something that examines the hold this money has over this man, how it affects his family and even the kidnappers. The most important thing, the life of a child, and he can’t bring himself to pay for it for all sorts of reasons. Even this wealthy man, the richest in the world, is held hostage by this money,” Scarpa notes.

Scarpa worked on the script, shaping the structure based on the kidnapping itself and combining two venerated genres in a new way. “The kidnapping provided the spine of the script, although we do go back in time to the childhood of the boy and background into who Getty was. The biggest structural challenge was balancing the kidnapping drama with a classic biopic and we sort of smashed those genres together. The idea was to move back and forth between this thriller and this Shakespearean family drama at the same time,” Scarpa notes. Scarpa’s script landed on the 2015 Black List. Producers Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas of Imperative Entertainment read it, and immediately found the story captivating. “It was huge in scope,” the Imperative partners remarked. “A period piece spanning three continents, telling the unbelievable story of a personal tragedy that struck one of the world’s most wealthy and powerful families. We knew immediately that this story, if done properly, would make a beautiful and compelling film. From that moment, we made it our mission to bring this story to the big screen, and we knew there was only one director to do it.”

Ridley Scott wasn’t keen on a movie about the Getty crime–until he read it. “The word Getty conjured up a specific memory for me, I of course knew who he was and was familiar with the incident and I wasn’t particularly interested. But within a few lines and after meeting with Dan and Bradley, I knew I was in good hands. A great script like this is the jewel in the crown and it’s the hardest part. When I read it, I thought ‘wow.’ The material and the script were great and I absolutely wanted to make this movie,” Scott recalls.

Scott notes the fascinating dichotomy of J. Paul Getty – his famous tight-fistedness made headlines of course, but so did his business acumen and ultimately his philanthropy. “He had guts and brains. You don’t fly into the Middle East in 1948 and buy up oil and land rights unless you have courage and cleverness. He was a brilliant man, but all that fell away when he was asked how much he would pay for his grandson and he said ‘Nothing.’ Everyone was shocked to the core. But he was also sending a message to the kidnappers. People who kidnap people are essentially terrorists and today, governments won’t negotiate with them. So, in a way Getty was being modern in his approach. Did he really mean that? I don’t think he could have – it was propaganda from him to the kidnappers. And people forget that he was a philanthropist on many levels. By the time he’d begun to think about his legacy, he was already in the process of building what’s now the Getty Villa in Santa Monica, this beautiful museum that’s free to the public,” Scott notes. Initially, Kevin Spacey, transformed by elaborate make-up and prosthetics, played the iconic tycoon. But art and life collided when many men came forward alleging that the actor had sexually harassed them. Swiftly, Scott along with Imperative Entertainment partners, who also fully financed the film and reshoots, decided to replace him entirely with Oscar ®-winning actor Christopher Plummer. “As soon as we were made aware of these horrific allegations, only six weeks before our scheduled release, there was no way that we would move forward with the film as it was originally shot. We could not in good conscience let these claims go unanswered. When Ridley and I made the decision to recast with Christopher Plummer, our entire cast and crew could not have been more supportive and we can’t thank them enough for their unfailing commitment throughout this entire process” said Dan Friedkin.

This was not merely a reaction to Spacey’s alleged behavior, it also was out of respect for the dedicated cast and crewmembers who had devoted their time and expertise to crafting the film. As Sony Pictures put it, “A film is not the work of one person. There are over 800 other actors, writers, artists, craftspeople and crew who worked tirelessly and ethically on this film, some for years, including one of cinema’s master directors. It would be a gross injustice to punish all of them for the wrongdoings of one supporting actor in the film.”

Getty: From Famous Playboy to Ruthless Businessman

J. Paul Getty lived a remarkable and cinematic life. A millionaire by the time he was 24, a famous party boy in his youth, hobnobbing with the rich and famous, reckless with his fortune, he eventually returned to the “family business.” He became a disciplined, ruthless capitalist but also a patron of art and architecture. Among other accomplishments, he was the mastermind behind the recreation of Hadrian’s Villa we know today as The Getty Villa in Malibu, California. Getty was a man of many contradictions – unfathomably rich and relentlessly cheap, loving and cruel.

Christopher Plummer

J. Paul Getty’s contradictory actions, morally ambiguous nature and his complicated family relationships fascinated Christopher Plummer. “I was thrilled when Ridley called me to do it – I had always wanted to work with him and this is such a fascinating subject. I’m fond of playing real people because the research is fascinating and what an extraordinary character to play. And it is so well-written that I completely jumped at it,” Plummer says. Scott and Friedkin always had Plummer in mind and were thrilled when he agreed to take on the role. “Christopher was fantastic, delivered beyond what I expected,” Scott says.

Given the unprecedented nature of Plummer’s casting and the short schedule required to reshoot the scenes and finish the movie, the stakes were very high. Scott felt confident he had an able partner in Plummer. “We weren’t even sure this would be possible logistically, as we needed everything to fall into place, from locations to the actors returning for reshoots. But it all hinged on this essential performance and had an absolutely overwhelming feeling Chris could do it. If he had been busy, then we probably couldn’t have made it.” Of course, Plummer was familiar with the infamous abduction and Getty’s surprising reaction, but less so about the man himself. “The kidnapping is a big part of one’s knowledge of Getty but he was a very inward man, not particularly showy. Obviously he worshipped money – he liked lovely things because they never change or disappoint. There is a purity for him in beautiful objects that he didn’t find in people. I think he also had a less well-known humanity. Even his unsentimental attitude about the ransom – he excused it by rationalizing that he had so many grandchildren, to pay for one, then that leads to more kidnapped grandchildren. So there is some sort of cold logic to that and the script asks us to delve into that, especially as it relates to his complex relationship to his family,” Plummer observes.

Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams plays Gail, John Paul Getty III’s indefatigable mother who outwits and out-maneuvers both her miserly father-in-law and the kidnappers in a high stakes effort to rescue her son. She signed on immediately for several reasons, starting with Ridley Scott. “Well, the first thing that I heard was Ridley Scott, and after that I didn’t really need to hear much else. But then it just happened that a great script came along with it, so it was an instant yes,” Williams recalls. Working with Scott turned out to be as satisfying as she’d hoped. “He’s such a master and he has such precision and a kind of shorthand that allows him to communicate what needs and wants with incredible economy, which means the days are fast, they never drag and are really fun. It’s like there’s a creative ball being thrown around and you’ve got to be alert so you can catch it. He gives you room to grow and discover and play, but if you ever need him, he is there for you. I loved coming to work. He was so full of ideas and surprises. If the scene was in a repetitive path, he’d throw something on it, either intellectually or physically, which made it more exciting and in the moment,” Williams explains.

Williams researched Gail as much as she could, via clips on YouTube, articles and books that mostly offered third-person accounts or mere snippets of Gail. It was the costume design and hair and make-up departments that initially helped her find her way into Gail. “It really all came together when I started working with Ridley’s incredible costume designer Janty Yates and the fantastic hair and make-up artists (Ferdinando Merolla and Tina Earnshaw). They’ve worked with Ridley before and there’s a reason for it. He’s charming and smart and he attracts the highest quality people. It was an embarrassment of riches to be among them. And just wearing someone else’s shoes, literally, gives you a lot of information, so all this external stuff was very helpful to me in combination with the internal understanding and imagination of who she was,” Williams explains.

There was very little research material about Gail available to Williams aside from pieces she found on the Internet. After her divorce, Gail resolutely removed herself from the fame and fortune of the Getty family and had successfully become a private citizen. It was only the infamous kidnapping that thrust her unwillingly back into the public domain. “Michelle is a rare bird, a many layered artist who takes it very seriously. The material we found on Gail was limited. Press would raid her car, her doorways, get her on camera when she would have to address the press. You do see a certain physicality in her which Michelle incorporated. Gail had been a polo player; she was a proper athlete who was above all else very intelligent. And a real modern mom and obviously very determined and disciplined,” Scott says.

Although in the movie, they are antagonists, Christopher Plummer was thrilled to work with Michelle Williams. “I’m a huge fan of hers. She’s a marvelous young actress with great versatility. It was fantastic to work with her, even for such a brief time,” Plummer says.