Ridley Scott on why Kevin Spacey’s sexual assault allegations were a good thing for All The Money In The World (exclusive)

Sam Ashurst
Yahoo Movies UK Contributor

All The Money In The World is in UK cinemas today, and the true-life tale of the Getty kidnapping makes for a tense, gripping thriller packed with stand-out scenes and performances.

But probably the most impressive performance comes from Christopher Plummer, drafted in at the last minute to replace Kevin Spacey’s central character Jean Paul Getty, after sexual assault allegations involving Spacey came to light, and threatened to destroy the film.

“I went through many little reactions,” director Ridley Scott tells us. “The first of which was, we’ve gotta replace him.”

If you didn’t know the behind-the-scenes drama, you’d never know Plummer wasn’t part of the full shoot, as opposed to just nine days of reshoots.

We talked to director Ridley Scott about how he achieved the impossible, replacing a full central performance in his film, while still managing to hit the scheduled release date.

Yahoo Movies: Aside from storyboarding carefully, what’s the secret to shooting so quickly?

Ridley Scott: Experience. I’m so experienced after all these years. I had a lot of experience before I even began movies, in adverts, when they were still considered an art form.

I remember the days when people would go to get a beer out of the refrigerator during the programme and come back for the commercial breaks.

Did you reshoot everything from scratch involving Getty, or are there reaction shots with Kevin in the room that have been kept in the film?

A little bit of each. For the most part, we got it the first time out, but then Kevin had this problem.

When I finish a cut, that’s really it, it’s a director’s cut, so it worked very, very well. When I had to replace Kevin, I knew certain elements would change, because the actor would be a different person, a different character.

Christopher has this innate charm, which is part of who he is. When he’s saying the same lines, that are pretty heartless, that smile and that twinkle makes it even more lethal somehow. So he did affect Michelle [Williams] quite a lot – so some of that stuff I picked up even more. It was slightly different, yeah.

Rome, 1973. Masked men kidnap a teenage boy named Paul (Charlie Plummer). His grandfather, J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), is the richest man in the world, a billionaire oil magnate, but he’s notoriously miserly.

Christopher brought something out of Mark Wahlberg – and so did you I think – this is the best I’ve seen from him since Boogie Nights…

Yes.

…How did Mark respond when you told him Kevin was going to be cut out of the film? He’s in a lot of scenes with Getty…

He said: ‘Oh f••k.’ You know, ‘Oh f••k. I’m about to star in another movie.’ I said ‘We’ll have to fit around your time.’ I only needed him for two days of the overall nine days. I wanted Michelle for the other seven, because there was more to her stuff.

He did that in two days?

Yeah, yeah.

What was Michelle’s reaction?

She said ‘I’m ready, whatever you want, wherever you want.’ She was amazing. She was absolutely for it. I had to make a decision pretty quickly, we couldn’t hang about.

And how did you react when you heard about the allegations?

I’m protective of my partner Dan Friedkin, who actually put up the money – this is not Sony, this is from Dan Friedkin, my partner, and his company [Imperative Entertainment]. I wanted to protect them.

So my first conversation was with him. I said ‘Listen, I can do this, we can fix this, it will cost extra because this sort of thing isn’t insurable, do you want to do that? And he stood up and said ‘Absolutely.’

We went ahead on a tightened version of what we’d normally do. And, of course, we did it for nothing, but the crew still has to get paid. It’s not a cheap process. But they were all completely for it, and delighted to go again. It was very positive, actually.

Do you think that if it wasn’t for ageism in Hollywood this wouldn’t have been a problem? Why couldn’t Christopher Plummer have been cast in the first place?

It was a toss up, I always had Christopher Plummer in mind. There were two for the part, Christopher and Kevin. Kevin is an excellent actor, and he’s a lot younger at 52. The part is pretty strenuous, so when an actor reaches 87 you think towards protecting him and not putting him under too much pressure. I was wrong. Chris Plummer is an absolute warhorse with endless time spent in theatre, so he took it all in his stride. But, at the time, I thought we maybe we should go to Kevin, because it was challenging.

That’s almost ironic – you couldn’t have a more pressured situation than this one…

[laughs] Yes.

Do you feel the Kevin Spacey stuff has deflected from the film itself? It’s a weird situation, because everyone’s talking about it, and I think a lot of people are going to want to see this magic trick you’ve pulled off…

Anything’s useful. I’ll take it all. It turns out that it might be very useful, to raise the curiosity of those members of the audience that might normally not have bothered. It’ll definitely give us an added, different profile, yeah.

All The Money In The World is in UK cinemas now. Watch the trailer below.


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