In 2017, Ridley Scott pulled off the seemingly impossible – he reshot all of Kevin Spacey’s scenes a J. Paul Getty in All The Money in the World with Christopher Plummer less than a month before the film’s release. Here’s how he pulled off this award-nominated trick.
It’s been a weird year for film, and an unprecedented era of social change in the industry and beyond, as the allegations of sexual assault made against mogul Harvey Weinstein led to a seismic shift in how we discuss harassment and misogyny in the entertainment industry. It didn’t take long for many people to feel safe enough to come out with their own stories of harassment and abuse at the hands of some of the most powerful men in Hollywood, but few could imagine the fall-out that occurred after Star Trek: Discovery star Anthony Rapp accused Oscar winner and House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey of sexual assault when he was 14 years old.
Many questioned how this would effect his next film, Ridley Scott’s biopic of the John Paul Getty III kidnapping, All The Money in the World, for which he had already garnered immense Oscar buzz for his portrayal of the eldest Getty. Before any prognosticators could call “flop”, Scott made the call to remove Spacey from the movie altogether and replace him with the legendary Christopher Plummer, and he told the world he would have the reshoots done without the film’s release date changing. It’s the kind of bonkers Hollywood tale that even the most imaginative screenwriters would find unbelievable.
Originally, Plummer was Scott’s choice for the lead role, but he claims the studio told him to go with Spacey as he was the “bigger name“. Previously, Scott had claimed that, while casting the part of J. Paul Getty, the billionaire oil baron who refused to pay the ransom for his kidnapped grandson, “in my mind, I saw Kevin Spacey… I’ve never worked with him, and I always knew I would have to have him portray Getty in this film.”
Initial shooting took place earlier this year – even by Scott’s standards and before the Spacey fallout, this was a quick shoot – and it was reported that Spacey’s part had him on set for only 10 days. After the allegations against Spacey emerged in late October (other claims followed the original accusations made by Rapp), the film’s original premiere at AFI Fest on 16th November was canceled. Before that date, Scott had already announced that he was doing reshoots with Plummer, which began on the 20th of that month and ended 9 days later. This required the film’s other actors, including Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg, to return for reshoots, as well as a fresh round of editing and an overall process that is said to have cost film’s financiers Imperative Entertainment “millions.” However, they are also said to have considered the process necessary, as a film released with Spacey still in a prominent role would have inevitably bombed with audiences who had no desire to support an alleged sexual offender.
The reshoots required certain scenes to be completely redone, while others combined new shots with old ones from the original shoot. Visual effects were only used in one scene, to replicate a moment where Getty buys a $2m painting, as it was originally shot in Jordan and to do so again would have been impractical. Whereas Spacey required extensive make-up to appear older and unrecognizable, Plummer required the opposite, wearing a wig to look younger in flashback scenes.
The process was not as simple as replacing one actor with another. Editor Claire Simpson explained this in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter:
“We were pressured with time, and the two gave very different performances, so it wasn’t just a question of replacing [Spacey with Plummer]… The rhythm was very different, his emphasis on the dialogue was very different, and that impacted the other performances in the scene. So we decided to replace complete scenes.”
The film made the cut-off date for Golden Globes consideration and snatched up three nominations, including Best Supporting Actor for Plummer, whose reviews have been some of the film’s strongest, even as he confessed he didn’t do much research for the part. Not bad for nine days work. Let’s see if that can take him all the way to the Oscars.
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