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'All The Money' Re-Shoot Was Decided 'In A Heartbeat,' Ridley Scott Says

Dec 25, 2017
Originally published on December 25, 2017 7:42 pm

Filmmaker Ridley Scott began shooting his thriller All the Money in the World on May 29. By September, Sony released the first trailer, with Kevin Spacey in the role of oil tycoon John Paul Getty. Then, on Oct. 29, just weeks before the movie was set to be released, Buzzfeed published a story about Spacey in which another actor accused him of sexual misconduct.

The news spread quickly. Spacey publicly apologized, but more allegations followed. Netflix dropped him from the cast of House of Cards and announced it would no longer release another Spacey film that was in post-production.

Ridley Scott decided he had to replace his lead actor before anything dramatic happened to All the Money in the World. "In a heartbeat — took about 20 minutes," Scott says, "because I can't let one person's actions affect the film to the extent that we may not have actually released it. I couldn't let that happen."

All the Money in the World was inspired by a true story about billionaire John Paul Getty, who famously refused to pay the ransom when his grandson was kidnapped in 1973. Scott's casting change-up was a highly unusual move, but producers Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas immediately agreed to help save the film, which was originally budgeted at $40 million — they gave Scott another $10 million for the re-shoot.

Thomas says, "There was just a confidence with Ridley that gives everybody else confidence that felt like we could pull this off."

On Nov. 20, a few weeks after the Spacey allegations broke, Scott began to re-shoot key scenes — this time with actor Christopher Plummer. The filmmaker brought back his cast and crew and shot 22 scenes in nine days. Just four days after that, they had a rough cut of the film ready to screen for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which ended up nominating Scott , Plummer and actress Michelle Williams for Golden Globes.

Plummer, 88, has decades of experience on screen and on stage. He says it was a cinch to perform extemporaneously. "Prepare is a funny word — I don't usually prepare," he says. "I leave it up to instinct and imagination. ... I had no time to research it or anything. Right, bang, right straight in."

According to the film's editor, Claire Simpson, Plummer's performance elevated the movie. She says he made Getty more stubborn and fragile in his old age. "It felt very authentic and really quite touching." Spacey, meanwhile, "had much more bravura and it was much more lighthearted."

Actress Michelle Williams returned to her role as Gail Harris, who battles Getty, her former father-in-law, to save her son. Williams says she didn't hesitate when Scott asked her back over the Thanksgiving holiday. "I said, 'Yes! Tell me when and where. I'm there. You got me,' " she recalls. She even worked for free to redo her scenes.

Actor Mark Wahlberg also redid his role as an ex-CIA operative who works for Getty. When the call came, he had already lost 30 pounds and grown a beard for another film. He and Plummer didn't have much time to get to know each other. "We basically said hello as Ridley was saying, 'Rolling and action.' "

Scott, an Oscar-nominated director, is known for bringing films in on time and under budget. It also helped that he had storyboarded the movie, so they knew exactly which scenes to re-shoot. Editor Claire Simpson says, "We were able to just work very fast, very hard and get it done. It was almost military precision."

The film was originally shot in Italy, Jordan and the U.K. But with no time to return to Jordan, they began by filming Plummer in front of a green screen and digitally replacing Spacey with Plummer. Other scenes were shot on location near London and in Rome. All the while, Simpson and her team edited away in London.

"After each scene, the camera department would download the camera data, send it to us ... and I would cut the morning's shoot that afternoon," Simpson recalled. "Ridley would come to the cutting rooms after the day's shoot and would actually see the cut of morning's shoot. Basically, it was just a continuous stream of data."

The edited scenes were then sped off for a sound mix, a color correction and a score adjustment. Scott says he was thrilled by the race to open on Christmas Day. "That was a rush, but I love a rush, you know? Filmmaking is my adrenaline."

All the Money in the World is already getting Oscars buzz. It may soon compete with movies that, by comparison, were made with all the time in the world.

Rose Friedman and Andrew Limbong edited and produced this story for broadcast. Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The movie "All The Money In The World" opens today. It's inspired by a true story from 1973 about the time when billionaire J. Paul Getty famously refused to pay the ransom for his kidnapped grandson.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD")

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER: (As J. Paul Getty) I have no money to spare.

MARK WAHLBERG: (As Fletcher Chase) What would it take? I mean, what would it take for you to feel secure?

PLUMMER: (As J. Paul Getty) More.

SIEGEL: Christopher Plummer stars in the role. At the last minute, he was asked to replace disgraced actor Kevin Spacey. NPR's Mandalit del Barco tells us how director Ridley Scott pulled it off.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: On May 29, Ridley Scott began shooting his thriller in Italy, Jordan and the U.K. By September, Sony released the first trailer with Kevin Spacey in the role of oil tycoon Getty.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (As character) Mr. Getty, how much would you pay to release your grandson, if not $17 million?

KEVIN SPACEY: (As J. Paul Getty) Nothing.

DEL BARCO: Then, just weeks before the movie was to be released, BuzzFeed published a story about Kevin Spacey. The news spread quickly.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: "House Of Cards" has collapsed on Kevin Spacey.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Kevin Spacey, the latest high-profile star caught up in allegations.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making an unwanted sexual advance towards him when he was 14.

DEL BARCO: Spacey publicly apologized but more allegations followed. Netflix dropped him from the cast of "House Of Cards" and announced it would no longer release another Spacey film that was in post-production. Before anything dramatic happened to "All The Money In The World," Ridley Scott says he decided he had to replace his lead actor.

RIDLEY SCOTT: Absolutely in a heartbeat, took about 20 minutes because I can't let one person's actions affect the film to the extent that we may not have actually released it. I couldn't let that happen. And the film's great.

DEL BARCO: How did you do it?

SCOTT: Great efficiency and brilliance.

DEL BARCO: It was a highly unusual move, but producers Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas immediately agreed to help save the $40 million movie. They reportedly gave Scott another 10 million for the reshoot.

DAN FRIEDKIN: Following a great filmmaker like Ridley, he's really the one who made it happen.

BRADLEY THOMAS: There was just a confidence with Ridley that gives everybody else confidence to feel like we could pull this off.

DEL BARCO: Three weeks after the Spacey allegations on November 20, Scott began to reshoot key scenes, this time with Christopher Plummer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (As character) How much would you pay to release your grandson?

PLUMMER: (As J. Paul Getty) Nothing.

DEL BARCO: Scott brought back his cast and crew to shoot 22 scenes in nine days. And just four days after that, they had a rough cut of the film ready to screen for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Scott and actors Plummer and Michelle Williams ended up getting Golden Globes nominations. Last week, at the L.A. premiere, Plummer said he enjoyed working with Scott at the last minute. With decades of experience on screen and stage, the 88-year-old understudy says it was a cinch to perform extemporaneously.

PLUMMER: I don't need to be prepared. I leave it up to instinct and imagination. But no time at all, I had no time to research or anything - right, bang, right straight in.

DEL BARCO: Actress Michelle Williams says she didn't hesitate when Ridley Scott asked her back over the Thanksgiving holiday.

MICHELLE WILLIAMS: I said yes. Tell me when and where, I'm there. You've got me.

DEL BARCO: Williams plays Gail Harris, who battles her former father-in-law to save her son. She even offered to work for free to redo her scenes.

WILLIAMS: It's kind of like meditation, you know, you just kind of have to center yourself and still yourself and then you're right in the pocket of the thing.

DEL BARCO: Actor Mark Wahlberg had already lost 30 pounds and grown a beard and was about to shoot another film but he came back to redo his role as an ex-CIA special forces operative who works for Getty.

WAHLBERG: The odd thing was is Chris and I had no time to kind of get to know each other to see if there was chemistry there. We basically said hello as Ridley was sayng rolling and action, I mean, literally.

DEL BARCO: Kevin Spacey had to use heavy makeup and prosthetics to appear older. The film's editor, Claire Simpson, says he gave an entertaining performance.

CLAIRE SIMPSON: He had much more bravura and it was more light-hearted.

DEL BARCO: But she says the film was elevated by Plummer's interpretation of Getty.

SIMPSON: Stubborn and yet fragility of old age. And it felt very authentic and really quite touching.

DEL BARCO: Ridley Scott is known for bringing films in on time and under budget. Simpson says it helped that Scott had storyboarded the movies so they knew exactly which scenes and how to reshoot.

SIMPSON: So we were able to just work very fast, very hard and get it done. It was almost military precision.

DEL BARCO: With no time to return to Jordan, they began by shooting Plummer in front of a green screen. The visual effects crew went to work digitally replacing Spacey with Plummer. Other scenes were shot on location while Simpson and her team edited in London.

SIMPSON: After each scene, the camera department would download the camera data, send it to us either by courier, or when they were in Rome, we had a dedicated Internet site. And I would cut the morning's shoot that afternoon. Ridley would come to the cutting rooms after the day's shoot and he would actually see the cut of the morning's shoot. Basically, it was just a continuous stream of data.

DEL BARCO: The edited scenes were then sped off for a sound mix, a color correction and a score adjustment. Scott says he was thrilled by the race.

SCOTT: Yeah, that was a rush. But I love a rush, you know. Filmmaking is my adrenaline.

DEL BARCO: "All The Money In The World" is already getting Oscar buzz. It may soon compete with movies that, by comparison, were made with all the time in the world. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MIND MOVIE'S "TAB TWO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.