Ridley Scott and the main cast of “All the Money in the World” talk about the last-minute decision to replace Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer
In the early morning hours of July 10, 1973, 16yearold John Paul Getty III was kidnapped by a gang of petty criminals in the Piazza Farnese in Rome. Balking at a $17 million (Bt534 million) ransom demand for his safe return, his billionaire grandfather, J Paul Getty refused to meet the kidnappers demands. By November of that year, when an envelope from the kidnappers containing a lock of hair and a decomposing human ear was received by the Italian broadsheet Il Messaggero, Getty Sr began reconsidering his options.
“I was familiar with the incident, but wasn’t initially interested,” admits director, Ridley Scott, who quickly changed his mind about adapting the Getty story to the screen after reading David Scarpa’s screenplay. “Within a few lines [of the script] and after meeting with Dan and Bradley (producers Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas), I knew I was in good hands…I absolutely wanted to make this movie.”
“All the Money in the World” features an allstar cast including Charlie Plummer as John Paul Getty III, Michelle Williams as his devoted mother, Gail, Mark Wahlberg, as Getty Sr fixer Fletcher Chase, and Christopher Plummer as the legendary billionaire.
Indeed, it was Christopher Plummer’s last-minute addition to the ensemble that left eyebrows elevated in November when Scott, in the final stages of editing, announced he would cut Kevin Spacey (originally cast as Getty Sr) entirely out of the film following allegations of misconduct. “There was no way that we would move forward with the film as it was originally shot,” explained producer Dan Friedkin. “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.”
Scott, Friedkin and Christopher Plummer, along with Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, and screenwriter, David Scarpa, gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles to discuss the making of the new film and shooting it in just nine days.
Tell us about your decision to replace Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer.
Scott: It was pretty straightforward. The biggest thing was when the [news] landed…I knew this was going to really affect the film. And so, the first thing I did was call Dan Friedkin and said “We’ve got to replace him”. So, rustling the team back together, we sat down and figure out what needed to be done – what’s available, what’s not available, who’s available... The big question was can I get the right person to [play] Getty? I flew that night to New York and met with Christopher Plummer, and that was it.
Did you have any reservations about jumping straight into the film?
Christopher Plummer: I had no time to consider anything… I love taking risks and so does Ridley, so we welcomed it in a funny way. I just had to rely on my memory, which I thought, ‘My god, I’m getting on. I wonder if I can really do this in nine days?’ Because there were these huge monologues – he (Getty) never stops talking! I guess my theatre training helped me in that department (laughs)…
Wahlberg: He actually didn’t ‘call’ me. He was sitting there in my hotel room when I got back from doing press for “Daddy’s Home 2” in New York. He told me what he wanted to do, and I completely understood. Everybody understood the circumstances and the necessity behind the reshoot. Next thing you know, I’m walking on set, saying hi to Christopher Plummer for the first time as Ridley is saying “Rolling…”
Williams: I said, you can have my salary and you can have my Thanksgiving holiday [to do the reshoot]. The salary wasn’t much to speak of, so they just took my Thanksgiving holiday (laughs)…
Scarpa: I was initially called back with the idea that we might have to change something, but we really didn’t. It’s so rare that you get a chance to do something a second time around, so everybody started coming up with ideas: “What if we do it like this? What if we try that?” Claire Simpson, our editor, really had to put the hammer down. All these scenes really needed to fit in the exact slot that they were in before and Ridley felt the same way.
Did you make any other changes to the film?
Scott: No, the film was otherwise perfect, excuse me for saying (laughs)…
What was the biggest challenge making the film?
Charlie Plummer:At first, it was just overwhelming to get to work with the people I was getting to work with. Beyond that though, I had to be careful, knowing that this is someone that people may have their own perception of, but at the same time I knew I didn’t want to be mimicking anything. It was really important for me to bring something of myself so that it felt truthful, especially in those moments that are particularly intense. To bring a sense of truthfulness to all of those things, I think, was something that was challenging for me to wrap my head around.
Scott: Honestly, I never think of ‘challenges’. I just think of how much I enjoy doing what I do, what needs to be done, and get on with.
When you first learned of Ridley’s plans for the reshoot, did you think he’d actually be able to pull it off?
Charlie Plummer: Certainly. He has done so much in his career. It didn’t even cross my mind that it wouldn’t happen.
Scarpa: The miracle of the digital era is they could sit there in Rome, push a button and send [the footage] all the way back to Claire’s editing room where she could start working on it right away. They’d shoot a scene, she’d cut it, and boom, pop it in… By the time they wrapped that shoot, they had a cut.
What is it about the Getty story that still resonates with audiences today?
Charlie Plummer: So much of it still fascinating. Even just looking at the family dynamic between the richest man in the world leading an empire while his grandson and his son are off partying in Morocco… And then this thing happens.
Wahlberg: It’s fascinating. Here is the richest guy in the history of the world at the time, yet he does his own laundry because he doesn’t want to pay someone else to do it, let alone pay for the return of his grandchild. I understand [his position] when it comes to negotiating with criminals… but somebody’s life is at stake. With your own child what you would do? That’s the question you ask yourself as you watch the movie? And the more I learned about what took place, the more interested I became. Whether people are familiar with the story or not, I think they’re going to find it fascinating.
Christopher Plummer: It’s a terrific story. And people always love a good story.