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Interview with Director Ridley Scott & Others

Behind the Scenes of 'All the Money in the World'


Behind the Scenes of 'All the Money in the World'


This exclusive interview with All the Money in the World director Ridley Scott, actor Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer and Mark Wahlberg brings a first hand look behind the scenes and into its famous 'reshoot'. How did Scott and others manage to replace protagonist Kevin Spacey and reshoot the scenes in nine days?



Behind the Scenes of 'All the Money in the World'

By Steven Goldman
web only

In the early morning hours of July 10, 1973, 16-year-old John Paul Getty III was kidnapped by a gang of petty criminals in the Piazza Farnese in Rome. Balking at a $17 million ransom demand for his safe return, his billionaire grandfather, J. Paul Getty, one of the wealthiest men in the world (who as legend has it once installed a payphone for the use of his guests in his palatial UK residence), 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 (Black Hawk Down; Alien), 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.”

John Paul Getty, portrayed by Christopher Plummer. (Image: Catchplay)

Indeed, it was Christopher Plummer’s last-minute addition to the ensemble which 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.”

John Paul Getty before the recast, played by Kevin Spacey. (Image: Catchplay)

Determined to make his holiday release date, Scott, (who celebrated his 80th birthday a day after completing the reshoots) was able to secure his original locations and the services of Williams and Wahlberg - assembling each day’s footage with editor, Claire Simpson, filming in nine days.

The Following is the extract of the interview with the crew of All the Money in the World:

Tell us about your decision to replace Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer.

Ridley Scott: It was pretty straightforward. The biggest thing was when the [news] landed… I knew this was going to really effect the film. And so, the first thing I did was call my partner, [producer] Dan Friedkin, great guy. I said to him, we’ve got to deal with this. We’ve got to replace him. Really? Yes, replace, reshoot. How many scenes? I don’t know. But let’s jump into it, now. So, rustling the team back together, we sit down and figure out what needs to be done - what’s available, what’s not available, who’s available... The big question is 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.

Still from All the Money in the World (Image: Catchplay)

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 theater training helped me in that department (laughs)…

Mark 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. I was about to start another movie, a movie that I’m producing... We had rehearsals planned and casting… But I committed to servicing Ridley’s vision. 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…”

Michelle 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)…

David Scarpa (Screenwriter): 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 and say, “If you tinker with the movie endlessly, we’re going to miss our release date.” All these scenes really needed to fit in the exact slot that they were in before and Ridley felt the same way.

Still from All the Money in the World (Image: Catchplay)

Did you make any other changes to the film?

Ridley Scott: No, the film was otherwise perfect, excuse me for saying (laughs)…

What initially attracted you to the Getty story:

Ridley Scott: Getty became famous because of the money. But then he became infamous when he refused to pay up. People somewhat simplistically thought, “What a bad guy...” But it was more complex than that. And it’s that complexity which fascinated me. When he’s talking to the press and they ask him, ‘How much will you give to release your grandson?’ ‘Nothing’… He’s talking to the kidnappers. They’d be watching for his reply. He was negotiating.

Christopher Plummer: I was living in Europe at the time and we all knew of the story back then… I compare him to Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. There’s also a lot of King Lear in Getty too. Except that Lear actually did learn, too late. Getty didn’t seem to learn at all. Still, I tried to give him as much warmth as I possibly could in my performance. If you just played him black and white, as a villain, you’d lose the audience.

Charlie Plummer (John Paul Getty III): I didn’t know anything before, really. I had heard a little bit about the story. As soon as I found out I was going to play the part, I did as much research as I could. Most of that was written interviews and books. I found these Rolling Stone articles, stories that were written about him, interviews with him. Interestingly, there were no video or audio clips of him at this time… There were very limited audio clips of anyone in the family, same with video.

Still from All the Money in the World (Image: Catchplay)

Michelle Williams: There were a few wonderful books, one in which [Gail Harris] gives a first-person account, and that was extraordinarily helpful… Where she talks about her experience of being vilified as a mother in the Italian press. There are also a couple of clips of her on YouTube where she’s speaking at a press conference. She had this way of talking, forward and direct… That’s who she was. That’s how she talked. That’s how she held herself. And the thing that I got mostly from it was she that she was so intelligent. She had a belief that if she could say the right thing, it would affect the outcome.

Mark Wahlberg: I believe [Fletcher Chase] is still alive. I am not 100% sure. I wasn’t able to meet him, and no one recommended that I try. It’s funny, because when describing the character to me the first time we met, Ridley said he was a guy who was out to seek the spotlight. But when I googled him, there wasn’t a single image of him. No images, whatsoever. A former CIA guy, I guess he can make a lot of things go away. But for a guy who was out to ‘become famous’ you’d think he’d have written a book and he’d be there with a big smile on his face... Instead, there was very little information, other than his background. He was the captain of the crew team at Harvard. He worked for the CIA. And he was J. Paul Getty’s right-hand man. He probably did quite a few unsavory things for Mr. Getty as well. But he ended up working for Gail in the end.

Edited by Shawn Chou

Additional Reading

Ang Lee: Cinema Keeps Telling Me It is About to Change
♦ Jia Zhangke: Tackling Taboos, Because of Love
Director Cheng Wei-hao: Blazing One’s Own Trail in an Adverse Environment