ACTOR’S WORK CUT OUT FOR HIM
Spacey’s out. Plummer’s in. The movie opens in 44 days.
That’s how much time director Ridley Scott has before Dec. 22, the scheduled release date of All the Money in the World, the hostage thriller he’s now frantically revising.
That’s assuming Scott got right to work on reshoots Thursday morning, following his astounding announcement late Wednesday that he’s removing scandalplagued actor Kevin Spacey from the film and replacing him with Toronto-born actor Christopher Plummer.
Plummer, who will turn 88 a week before the movie’s planned release, will assume the significant role of billionaire J. Paul Getty in the fact-based drama about the 1973 kidnapping and ransom of the oilman’s 16-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III.
Co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams have agreed to reshoot their scenes in which they appear with Getty.
Ridley and movie studio Sony felt they had no choice, given continuing revelations of Spacey’s alleged sexual predation on men in incidents dating back decades but also as recently as last year. The film would be dead meat with Spacey still in it, with zero chance of Oscar attention. There had even been talk of pushing it into an early 2018 release, essentially dumping it.
Swapping actors at this stage of the game is a textbook example of changing horses in midstream, something that is meant to be fervently avoided. But it’s not entirely without precedent in Hollywood history, although never before on this scale and on such a perilous timeline.
Scott himself has previous experience with radical cinematic surgery, having employed groundbreaking digital tricks to fill in gaps in his 2000 epic Gladiator, after actor Oliver Reed died during filming. Scott and his team used body doubles and visual effects to complete Reed’s scenes, and the movie went on to win that year’s Oscar for Best Picture.
But Scott did all that long before Gladiator came out. All the Money in the World is so far along in the production process, a trailer has been out for weeks prominently featuring Spacey as the miserly Getty, although the actor is almost unrecognizable under heavy makeup and facial prosthetics.
Sony will have to spend millions on the reshoots and new marketing campaigns. It will also have to fork out for a sculptor to make a new museum-quality bust of Plummer as Getty, to replace the one of Spacey that appears in the trailer and also the movie posters, which also require changes.
Lavish amounts of money can make anything happen in Hollywood. The real challenge is the physical demands on octogenarian Plummer, who is being asked to do something that would daunt an actor 60 years his junior.
But if any actor can pull off a speedy switcheroo of such import, it’s Plummer, who has played many rogues and heroes in a screen career stretching nearly 60 years.
“He has the ability to assume and consume a role,” says Toronto filmmaker Barry Avrich, who produced two Stratford Festival films that Plummer starred in, The Tempest and Caesar and Cleopatra. Avrich also produced the past two Canadian Screen Awards shows, where Plummer was warmly received as a presenter and as an honoured guest.
“His commitment and dedication to his craft is immovable,” Avrich continued. “Chris is so aware of the process of filmmaking that working with him is an artful pleasure.”
Avrich has more than a glimmer of an idea of the task ahead for Plummer, Scott and the rest of the All the Money in the World team.
“(Christopher Plummer) has the ability to assume and consume a role . . . His commitment and dedication to his craft is immovable.” BARRY AVRICH FILMMAKER
He’s currently at work revising and expanding his 2011 documentary Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project, to address the allegations of multiple acts of rape and sexual harassment committed by the dethroned Hollywood mogul that have explosively come to light since Avrich made his film.
He plans to re-release the film next year. In his recent memoir, Moguls, Monsters and Madmen: An Uncensored Life in Show Business, Avrich said he was forced to water down his Weinstein film by distributor IFC Films, whom he felt was acting at the behest of Weinstein.
Avrich has months to renovate his film; Scott and Plummer really have only a matter of weeks for their gigantic task because they’ll have to lock the film before Dec. 22 so it can be distributed and promoted. Avrich and everybody will be watching closely to see if the All the Money in the World team can meet their deadline for a real Christmas miracle.
“It’s impossible for me to comment without reading the script,” Avrich concludes. “However, Chris is a magician and easily one of the greatest living actors.”
There’s a huge incentive for Plummer and Scott to succeed, beyond the obvious financial ones: Oscar glory.
Prior to Spacey’s outing as an alleged sex predator, the two-time Oscar winner was being touted by awards pundits as a likely Best Supporting Actor nominee for his performance as Getty, in a film that was also likely to court golden attention for everything from Best Picture on down.
Oscar buzz about Spacey and the movie abruptly shut down in recent weeks, after the sex allegations began. But a Spacey-free All the Money in the World could find renewed life as an Oscar darling, in part because Hollywood likes nothing better than a story about a hardluck kid who overcomes the odds and succeeds.
Plummer would now seem a seri- ous candidate for Best Supporting Actor, a prize he first won in 2012 for his performance as a late-blooming father in Beginners. This despite the fact that he might not have even reached the movie set yet.
A nomination for All the Money in the World would not only be sweet additional glory for a great actor, but also a form of poetic justice: Plummer was originally supposed to play Getty, but the studio insisted on Spacey, thinking him to be a more marketable actor.
Now it’s Plummer, and Richard Ouzounian, a former Star theatre critic and colleague who has interviewed the performer many times, suggests they’re lucky to have him, calling him “one of the most disciplined actors I have ever had the privilege of meeting. If anyone could step into a completed movie and redo one of the leading roles overnight, it’s him. And he’s got a mind like a steel trap. Ridley Scott made the perfect choice.” Peter Howell is the Star’s movie critic. His column usually runs Fridays.
Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World is going to be re-cut to replace actor Kevin Spacey, above, with Christopher Plummer amid allegations of Spacey’s sexual predation.