With your own child, what would you do? That’s the question you ask yourself as you watch the movie. It is fascinating”
The words of Mark Wahlberg, one of the stars of the gripping new John Paul Getty biopic, All the Money in the World, succinctly sum up the appeal of the movie – and our enduring love of cinema as a whole.
Filmmaking at its best can make us question our own beliefs and ideals as we are thrust us into the shoes of people living in worlds far removed from our own – facing decisions we would never wish to make.
The Ridley Scott-directed blockbuster takes the viewer on a journey back to July 10, 1973, when 16-year-old John Paul Getty is kidnapped by a gang of petty criminals in Rome. A $17m ransom demand is swiftly issued to his billionaire grandfather, J. Paul Getty. But Getty, one of the wealthiest men in the world, refuses to pay up.
He argues if he stumped up the cash he would put his 14 other grandchildren at risk of cold-hearted kidnappers, while others feel he has put money above all else, including the life of a loved one.
By November of that year – with Getty remaining steadfast in his stance – an envelope from the kidnappers containing a lock of hair and a decomposing human ear is received by an Italian newspaper. With such a high price having already been paid by his grandson, just what value will Getty place on his life?
Cash rich but morally bankrupt? It is another question we must attempt to answer for ourselves.
Heralded director, Scott, the mastermind behind cinematic classics such as Alien and Blade Runner, admits he wasn’t initially interested in taking on the project, but his mind was swiftly changed about bringing the incredible true-life tale to the big screen after reading just the script’s opening.
Scott explains: “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.”
The film has an all-star cast but has become almost as well known for who isn’t in it as for who is. Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher) stars as the beleaguered John Paul Getty III, Michelle Williams shines as his devoted mother Gail, Mark Wahlberg impresses as Getty Sr.’s fixer Fletcher Chase and Christopher Plummer brings to life the legendary billionaire himself – a last-minute addition to the cast after Kevin Spacey was removed from the leading role after serious allegations about his personal life came to light following the shooting of the film.
Determined to keep to his intended release date, Scott was able to secure his original locations, plus the services of Williams and Wahlberg, and assemble each day’s footage with editor Claire Simpson, completing the filming in just nine days.
The result is a trio of Golden Globe nominations for Scott, Williams and, most impressively of all, Plummer, for best supporting actor.
After overcoming its own drama, the team now hope the rich story of All the Money in the World can be now be recognised.
Scott says the money-before-family dynamic is much more complex than it may appear.
He adds: “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.”
Screenwriter David Scarpa says Getty himself is held captive by money, adding: “The reality is that you are never really free from money, from its influence on your life.
“Getty is the richest man in the world, and yet he is as much a hostage to money as anyone else in the movie. In a sense this story is about a hostage crisis where the kidnapper is money itself. That’s what drew me to it. And I think it’s a story that was as relevant then as it is today.”
Charlie Plummer thinks the happenings are still intriguing, 45 years on. “So much of it still fascinating,” he says. “Even just looking at the family dynamic between the richest man in the world leading an empire while his grandson and his son are off partying in Morocco… And then this thing happens.”
Veteran screen star Christopher Plummer says the success is simple: “It’s a terrific story. And people always love a good story.”
It is a story so good that the film deserves far more than just being known as the one that Kevin Spacey was nearly in.
All the Money in the World hits cinemas across the UAE on January 25.