Last month, a friend and I finally went to see It, produced in part by Brett Ratner’s Ratpac films — just before six women went public with sexual assault allegations against the Hollywood mogul. One of the trailers that played before the film was for All the Money in the World, a retelling of the Getty kidnapping in the 1970s that stars Kevin Spacey as the strange J. Paul Getty. The Spacey allegations had just emerged, and I asked my friend during the trailer, “How many tickets do you think they’ll sell for this? Three?”
The film’s producers don’t want to know the answer to that question. Instead, with less than two months to go before the film opens, Ridley Scott will cut Spacey out of the film entirely and replace him with Christopher Plummer — all in seven weeks:
In an unprecedented bold move, director Ridley Scott, along with Imperative Entertainment’s Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas have decided to remove Kevin Spacey from their finished movie All The Money In The World. Christopher Plummer has been set to replace Spacey in the role of J Paul Getty. Re-shoots of the key scenes are expected to commence immediately. Scott is also determined to to keep the film’s December 22 release date. …
Spacey worked about eight to ten days on the film, but the character is an important presence even if much of the action in the thriller involves the frantic efforts of the kidnapped heir’s mother Gail Harris (Williams), and Getty’s advisor (Wahlberg) to free the youth. The nightmare escalated after the family received his severed ear as proof the kidnappers were going to kill him if the money wasn’t delivered.
It wouldn’t just be difficult to tell the story without Getty; it would be impossible. He was the man who had “all the money in the world,” after all. His refusal to pay for his grandson’s ransom is what makes the story distinctive and sets up all the rest of the drama. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, they got more drama with Spacey than they bargained for — a lot more drama.
TriStar, a unit of Sony, chose to withdraw the film from the AFI Fest this week after the scandal erupted. They went along with Scott’s efforts to reshoot with Plummer in order to rescue the work of “over 800 other actors, writers, artists, craftspeople and crew who worked tirelessly and ethically on this film, some for years, including one of cinema’s master directors.” Deadline’s Mike Fleming considers the grit shown by the filmmakers to reshoot the film “inspiring,” considering that they will have to reshoot about eight days of Spacey’s work. But even Fleming admits this is all about the marketplace:
Given the state of the current environment and news, it’s inspiring to see filmmakers fight for what is morally right, and the producers’ support of Scott gives the movie a chance for a fair shake in the marketplace and potentially in awards season, which would not have happened had Spacey’s scenes been left intact after the troubling allegations leveled against the actor.
I find myself a little less impressed with all of this last-minute reshuffling, which in business terms would be nothing more than salvaging a large investment that would otherwise surely go bust. Spacey’s conduct was another of Hollywood’s “open secrets,” according to reports coming out over the last week or two, especially on the set of his own production, House of Cards.
The filmmakers climbed into bed with Spacey (pardon the pun) either knowing this risk or failing to perform the due diligence this investment required. Spacey had a highly lucrative name at the time, a box-office booster; they made a market decision to cast him in the role for that reason. They chose to work with someone who had a reputation in their industry that surely hinted that their choice might backfire — and it has. Now it seems they’re more worried about getting the film into theaters quickly enough for Oscar contention and patting themselves on the back, which is something less than “inspiring.”
If they can pull this off, it would certainly be impressive. No film has ever suffered by having Plummer as part of its cast, and the stink from Spacey will dissipate enough for the film to have a shot at some box-office success. That’s the bottom line here — not Sony’s corporate conscience, nor the grit of the director and producers. It’s about all the money in the world.