J. Paul Getty Resurrected in Ridley Scott Thriller

Plummer as Getty
Photo courtesy of IMDB


J. Paul Getty, the man who built and was buried on the grounds of the ornate, Greco-Roman inspired Getty Villa, was notorious in oh-so-many ways.

And the new Ridley Scott film about Getty has become almost as notorious and unlucky as the Getty tribe itself.

A 20th century oil magnate and rare art collector, Getty was as well known for installing pay phones for guests at his estate at Sutton Place west of London as for the extraordinary collections still available to wonder at the Getty Villa and up the hill.

(Getty said it was to stop workers refurbishing the Tudor mansion from racking up foreign charges, but the locks remained long after they left the site.)

It was about greed, yes, but also self-protection, a restless fear of exploitation, of being taken for a sucker—a mood that haunts the new thriller that has, against all odds, arrived in theaters just in time for Oscar season.

“All the Money in the World” revolves around the 1973 kidnapping of the industrialist’s 16-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III, played by Charlie Plummer (no relation to his cinematic grandfather).

As the story goes, a $17 million ransom is put over the head of young Paul—a sizable chunk of change but in no way too much for a billionaire who desperately loves his family, right?

Unfortunately, as history would reveal, the “richest man in the world” doesn’t earn that title by paying off Italian thugs, and although Getty had no issue with shelling out millions on artwork, a child was no profitable investment for a man of such interests.

The real Getty at Sutton Place
Photo courtesy of Getty archives

Under media scrutiny, Getty was quoted saying, “I have 14 other grandchildren. If I pay one penny, I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren” before coldly refusing to hand over the ransom money—a heartless move painted up as sound logic.

It also drives the character of Paul’s mother, Gail—portrayed by Michelle Williams—and her unraveling relationship with her tightfisted father-in-law.
Eventually, Getty employs former CIA operative Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg) to bring Paul home, “as quickly and inexpensively as possible” because, according to Getty, “there’s very little in life worth paying full price for.”

A heavily made-up Kevin Spacey was originally cast to play the 80-year-old billionaire, but after several men accused the actor of sexual assault last October, Sony pulled the film from its AFI Fest premiere.

The weeks that followed would certainly prove that no amount of prosthetics could cover up the controversy surrounding Spacey.

Facing being cast into “never-release land,” alongside Louis C.K.’s black-and-white comedy “I Love You, Daddy,” age and experience prevailed over moral and fiscal panic.

Scott, a nimble and fiery 80, took time off from producing 20 other movies and TV shows to recruit Christopher Plummer, 88, to reshoot the Spacey role in a handful of days—cutting back on the prosthetics probably helped the schedule.

Scott: Fifth Oscar nomination a charm?
Photo courtesy of IMDB

“Filmmakers today—they are so slow,” grumbled a triumphant Scott to Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Screeners went out to award voters on Wednesday, Dec. 27, still hot from the final edit.

The decision to reshoot by Scott, long overdue a director’s trophy, and Sony, which so badly needs a hit beyond sequels (its 2018 slate includes “Spider-Man,” again, “Bad Boys 4” and “Charlie’s Angels”—really, that’s all you have got?), appears to be paying off.

The movie has already picked up a surprise three Golden Globes nominations after rough assemblage screenings, most notably a Best Supporting Actor nod for Plummer who came through in the pinch. Now that is a Hollywood ending.

“All the Money in the World” is now playing in theaters across Los Angeles.