Ridley Scott talks casting Kevin Spacey, Michelle Williams in Getty kidnapping thriller

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In 1973, masked men abducted the 16-year-old grandson of J. Paul Getty (Kevin Spacey) — then the richest man in the world — off the streets of Rome. But Ridley Scott says his film will focus less on the crime than on the behind-the-scenes drama. The oil tycoon prioritizes his fortune, while the boy’s mother (Michelle Williams) pairs with an ex-CIA agent (Mark Wahlberg) to save her child. “I just consumed it,” Scott says of David Scarpa’s Black List-ed script. “I knew about the kidnapping, but this story was very, very provocative… Gail Getty was an exceptional character, and there are many facets of the man Getty that make him a really great study. There’s this great dynamic. It was like a play, and not a movie.”

But to set the stage, he had to find the right stars — one of whom he thought of immediately. “When I read the script, I started thinking, ‘Who was Paul Getty?’ In my mind, I saw Kevin Spacey,” Scott recalls. “Kevin’s a brilliant actor, but I’ve never worked with him, and I always knew I would have to have him portray Getty in this film.” Spacey’s previous performances convinced Scott he could play the patriarch who championed the arts but infamously tried to save his money over saving his kin. “He was so obsessed with what he was doing,” Scott says. “He wasn’t giving people a second thought.”

As for Gail, Scott says he didn’t picture Williams right away, but knew he wanted to work with someone new. “Michelle is very special as an actress, and I’ve never done anything with her before,” he says, adding that she impressed him with her work into researching the family drama behind the crime. “The family was very private and there was very little footage of [Gail], but around the kidnapping, there was one particular interview she did that Michelle jumped at, and it shows Gail Getty being very assertive, very smart.” Both are qualities Williams captures, he says.

And though the Getty kidnapping does have a rival project in the works — a limited television series being developed by Danny Boyle — Scott says he isn’t concerned the two versions will overlap in any way. “I had no idea that Danny was making [his series],” Scott admits, before pointing out that both of them must have been attracted to their respective screenplays. “It’s all in the material,” he says. “You could make a film about shoelaces if you’ve got a great script.” Too bad there isn’t a captivating real-life crime about footwear.

All the Money in the World hits theaters Dec. 8.

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