The actor talks diving into the life of the then-richest man in the world and working with Ridley Scott

Kevin Spacey has waited nearly two decades to get a chance to work with director Ridley Scott.

“I’ve known Ridley a very long time, and I’ve seen him on a number of occasions at a number of places, but we’ve never worked together, and it was maybe four, five years ago when I ran into him again,” the Oscar winner recalls. “I said to him, ‘Ridley, in the future, I don’t care where you are, I don’t care if we’re on an airplane or at some VIP premiere party, if you see me, I do not want you to come up to me, I do not want you to come say hello, because we’ve been saying hello together for nearly 20 years, and the next time you say hello to me has to be on a film set.”

That film set turned out to be the one for All the Money in the World, in which Spacey stars as oil magnate J. Paul Getty, then the richest man in the world. Scott’s upcoming drama chronicles the 1973 kidnapping in Rome of Getty’s 16-year-old grandson and its resulting turmoil, during which Getty bristled at the prospect of paying a ransom, while the boy’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), desperately tried to retrieve him and even allied with an ex-CIA agent (Mark Wahlberg) to do so.

In the exclusive trailer above and the poster below, Getty looms large over Williams and Wahlberg’s characters…

Credit: TriStar

Yet to Spacey, Getty isn’t a clear-cut villain, despite how much he appeared to prioritize his fortune over his family. The actor says that as he researched Getty’s life, he found that Getty wasn’t the heartless penny-pincher the public thought him to be. He wasn’t a wolf of Wall Street-type billionaire partying on yachts and wasting his wealth, but a renowned patron of the arts — he built a museum in Malibu dedicated to great Roman art that the public could view for free — with a legacy he hoped to preserve amid scandal.

“The circumstances of this particular event were very fraught with a lot of misinformation, and a lot of assumptions,” Spacey tells EW. “He was reluctant to pay the ransom on one level because he had 14 grandchildren, and he felt that if he started paying ransom, he was going to put his other grandchildren in jeopardy. Yes, there are certain things he did to minimize the tax implications of paying ransom, and people can certainly question, ‘Was that a good thing? Was that a bad thing?’ You know, he was all business. That’s the thing I really learned about him, that he was all business.”

Besides, Spacey is no stranger to playing questionable figures in real and fictional life. The actor relished the chance to embody Getty, even though he had to go through a five-hour makeup process every day to play the 81-year-old.

“One of the things I always enjoy trying to do in roles is allowing a character to behave, to do things, to say things in which an audience’s allegiances keep shifting, where even sometimes against your better nature you might like a character, you might root for a character,” he explains. “Ridley would come up to me and go, ‘Wow, that was really so different than I thought I would feel about this scene… I actually kind of like the guy.'” Spacey chuckles. “To me, that’s part of the challenge and part of the joy in being able to play a character as complicated as this man was.”

Watch the trailer above. All the Money in the Worldarrives in theaters via TriStar Pictures and Imperative Entertainment on Dec. 8.

All the Money in the World
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