Ridley Scott: The last-minute replacement of Kevin Spacey in ‘All the Money in the World’ made the movie better
That’s how long it took “All the Money in the World” director Ridley Scott, upon hearing that star Kevin Spacey was implicated in a groping scandal, to decide he was going to replace him.
The studio took longer to persuade, but Scott wasn’t taking no for an answer, and the executives came to understand that.
“I think they could see the look in my eye. You tell me no, it’s a bit like waving a red flag in front of a bull,” said Scott, who can still snort and paw the ground effectively at 80.
His message: “I’ve done more movies than you, and I know what I’m doing, so suck eggs. Let’s do this. Let’s get it done.”
Opposition to the idea was understandable, because what Scott proposed had never been done. He wanted to take a complete film, with a marketing campaign in place, trailers circulating, opening date a month a way and replace one of its most substantial roles with another actor, Christopher Plummer.
Plummer had been one of Scott’s original two choices for the role — that of J. Paul Getty, billionaire oilman who in 1979 famously refused to pay a penny of ransom to the Italian criminals who had kidnapped his grandson in Rome.
“He said he’d have to read the script first, but after we started shooting, he admitted he was going to do the role no matter what,” Scott said.
The other major players — Michele Williams as the abducted teen’s mother, and Mark Wahlberg as Getty’s personal fixer/investigator — dropped their Thanksgiving holiday plans to film key scenes with Plummer.
The reshoots took an astounding nine days, the whole process (including reediting) a month, and the film will be released nationally (and in Philadelphia) on Monday, almost exactly as originally scheduled.
Scott said he was motivated by anger — not at Spacey, with whom he got along during the original production (although he’s a bit miffed that Spacey never called to apologize). Scott was angry on behalf of his cast and crew — the large community of artists and technicians (some 400 full-timers on “All the Money in the World”) whose work would be squandered if scandal destroyed the movie.
“My unit has built up over the years, and I have a great collection of talented people and good friends who help me make movies. And this was my chance to help them. It would be a damn pity of the actions of one person would put all of that effort in jeopardy,” he said.
Scott, a veteran of the business, knew what was at stake.
“Once the movie is finished, the studio spends hard cash on advertising and marketing to make sure the film is seen,” he said. “Once that money is gone, it’s gone. The film gets lost. And that is unacceptable.”
Scott said the new version of the film is better — the actors who returned to shoot with Plummer were energized and excited, and that shows in the final product.
And, strangely, the “negative” publicity has helped.
“I think it’s helped us in terms of our profile. And that’s huge. I’ve seen too many good films get distributed and not get noticed. Movies that should have played and didn’t. You need awareness, and we have that. We’ve got awareness, and we’ve got a really good film. I really think we’ve got something — something that will not get lost in the exhaust fumes of Star Wars.”