LOS ANGELES — It’s unprecedented for a film director to react so quickly and efficiently to hard luck as Ridley Scott. When the world learned of Kevin Spacey’s numerous sexual misconduct allegations in late October, it seemed as though Scott’s latest film, All the Money in the World (due out then on Dec. 22, and now Dec. 25), was going to be swept under the rug like Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy.
Instead of letting hundreds of people’s work go unnoticed because of one person’s actions, Scott recast Spacey’s role as the real-life billionaire oil tycoon John Paul Getty mere weeks before its Christmas release.
Christopher Plummer stepped up to the plate without hesitation. At a recent press conference in Los Angeles for the film, the 88-year-old actor said he had always wanted to work with Scott, but what made him come to the film’s aid was Scott’s determination to put out the best film he could amid the chaos.
“[Scott] flew all the way from London to see me [in New York]. It was unbelievable,” Plummer exclaimed. “Even if I didn’t want to do it or loathed the script, I would have done it just for that.”
Scott joined in by saying he could talk about how he had always wanted to work with Plummer, but his reasoning for his immediate flight to meet with the actor was because of two reasons. One, Plummer was Scott’s first choice for the role from the beginning, but Scott regretfully admitted he cast Spacey to better market the film. Two, he knew Plummer was the “pro” he needed to reshoot the 22-scene schedule in nine days, when normally it would take about a month.
When asked about the weight of the turnaround for the film, Scott’s answer was surprising — and included a reference to a British brand of crispbread.
“I eat [stress] like Ryvita,” Scott joked. “Stress for me is not working. I think it goes with you. I’ve never worked a day in my life. My job is not work. My job is my passion and my life. So I don’t even think about it.”
Plummer added that the flame under them only gave them more fuel to prosper.
“If you love your profession, which [Scott] obviously does and I certainly do, you welcome challenges and stress more than anything else.”
During a question-and-answer session following the film’s world premiere on Dec. 18 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Scott said he “got on very well” with Spacey, who was under heavy makeup to resemble the 80-year-old Getty. He divulged that “Spacey did a great job,” but ultimately described his performance as “colder” in comparison to Plummer’s, who he said has “a smile that is charming and a glitter in his eye” that would cause you to think he’s trusting yet “lethal.”
Plummer recently received a Golden Globe nomination for his role in the film. Scott completed postproduction on All the Money in the World by Dec. 4 so the Hollywood Foreign Press Association could see it before voting ended. After I saw a press screening of the film at the Cary Grant Theatre in Los Angeles the Friday before its premiere, it’s clear to me Plummer’s nomination is no fluke. One might suspect it’s a move on the behalf of the Golden Globes to earn more respect for its awards show, but Plummer elevates the material to a level truly deserving of the recognition.
“I must congratulate the writer [David Scarpa (The Last Castle)]. I really did rely on him because I didn’t have any preparation at all, really,” Plummer said. “[Scarpa’s] wonderful script, which I relied on thoroughly having made no pretension to the research, had so many lovely colors in the character as written that I thought, ‘No, this is not just a monotonous monologue page after page. There’s an awful lot to evaluate.’”
As Scarpa stated during the press conference, All the Money in the World is much more than a film solely about the 1973 kidnapping of Getty’s 16-year-old grandson (played by Charlie Plummer, who’s of no relation to Christopher Plummer). Most familiar with the true story may recall how Getty refused to pay the $17 million ransom the kidnappers demanded. He told the press that to submit to the kidnappers’ orders would only put his other 14 grandchildren at risk of copycat abductors.
“When we embarked on this, I was looking for a movie about money and the power it has over everyone’s life,” Scarpa said. “One of the [film’s producers] came to me with [John Pearson’s 1995 book, titled Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty]. I was familiar with it, but what I didn’t know was Getty was the richest man in the world at the time and he refused to pay the ransom. It seemed like a Shakespearean jumping-off point for a story about a man who loved his grandson, yet was so addicted to money that it was painful to part with any of it.”
American comedian and actor W.C. Fields once said, “A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.” This quote encapsulates the film remarkably, because you can see how money caused the Getty family to falter.
All the Money in the World is a slick thriller with a surprising dose of humanity. Scott and his team of filmmakers pulled off the impossible by delivering a movie that’s better than the whirlwind leading up to its release would have you believe. With its exceptional performances and staggering story of the abyss of wealth, you, too, will lose yourself to its rich material.
PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.
FEATURED IMAGE: Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey in "All the Money in the World." CREDIT: Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures