EW's exclusive interview with Hollywood's original maverick on the set of his biggest gamble yet
It’s Thanksgiving Day, and Ridley Scott is happy. Just outside London at Hatfield House — a stately 17th-century Jacobean mansion — the cast and crew of Scott’s All the Money in the World have gathered for unprecedented emergency reshoots of key scenes in a race to meet a Dec. 22 release date. It’s the kind of scenario that directors (and studios) tend to avoid at any cost, but one that Scott, TriStar, and Imperative Entertainment did willingly, at a reported cost of $10 million — a quarter of the film’s original reported $40 million budget.
As the crew digs into turkey and pie during a break, Scott, days from turning 80, bounds about with a Tigger-like spring in his step, making last-minute set changes to background vases and photo frames, and cracking jokes with his producers. He sure doesn’t seem stressed. “Are you kidding?” says his wife, Giannina Facio, standing nearby. “He’s thrilled!”
All the Money in the World is a drama based on the sensational true story of the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. Paul, as the 16-year-old was called, was the grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. But Grandpa, one of the richest men on the planet, refused to pay his namesake’s ransom. Paul’s mother (Michelle Williams) is left in a desperate struggle to rescue her son, aided by a Getty fixer and former CIA operative (Mark Wahlberg).
When Scott initially shot the film earlier this year, Oscar winner Kevin Spacey played the hard-hearted mogul. Which leads us back to these urgent reshoots…
On Oct. 29, actor Anthony Rapp (Rent) accused Spacey of making a sexual advance toward him when Rapp was 14 years old. (Spacey, at the time, was 26.) Since then, more than a dozen other men have alleged similar sexual misconduct or assault. (Spacey apologized to Rapp in a statement, but his attorney did not respond to EW’s multiple requests for comment.) This put Scott and his film, which has Academy Award aspirations, in an impossible position. Because audiences would likely punish any Spacey movie — or view it with very different eyes — the film risked box office disaster, to say nothing of dashed Oscar hopes for anyone associated with it.
In response, Scott made a bold decision. On Nov. 8, he announced that he would reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes, replacing him with Christopher Plummer, and still make the December release date. This meant securing original locations and getting key actors, including Williams and Wahlberg, back in front of the camera in London and Rome between Nov. 20 and Nov. 29, Thanksgiving week. But here on set, you won’t find anyone complaining.
“I’m so very proud to be a part of this — we’re all here for Ridley,” says Williams, who recalls being stunned when she learned of the allegations against Spacey. “When this idea was hatched, I immediately started to feel better. This doesn’t do anything to ease the suffering of people who were all too personally affected by Kevin Spacey, but it is our little act of trying to right a wrong. And it sends a message to predators — you can’t get away with this anymore. Something will be done.”
With Hollywood buzzing over Scott’s can he really do it? high-wire act, the director appears delighted with the challenge and with taking a moral stand. He sat down with EW on set to discuss the whirlwind series of events and his decision to do this. “There’s no time for pondering,” he says with a grin. “Sometimes you’ve got to lay down the law. You have to!”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where were you when you first heard about the allegations against Kevin Spacey?
RIDLEY SCOTT: I was finished with the film and was in [U.K. recording studio] Abbey Road finalizing the music. Someone was like: Guess what? And that’s where it began. I sat and thought about it and realized, we cannot. You can’t tolerate any kind of behavior like that. And it will affect the film. We cannot let one person’s action affect the good work of all these other people. It’s that simple.
Had you been happy with Kevin Spacey’s performance?
Totally. He’s a very talented man and I got on very well with him. I had no idea.
What’s the first call you make in a situation like this?
You have to know who you’re going to go for [to recast the role] and if he’s available. Chris [Plummer] was always on the list. So you find that out, but quietly, because you don’t want it going around. I flew into New York and met with [Plummer] and he said yes. So then we had to figure out if everyone else would be available to fit in these new days of shooting. Miraculously, they were. Before you can make the decision you have to make these quick phone calls around — not to the actors directly, but to the agents — saying there’s a possibility I may need some pickups [a.k.a. additional shooting days]. You don’t say why because of the gossip, but of course it was really for something much more significant.
It made big news when it broke.
[Laughs] Yes, I know. It was better to do it like this because once you inform the system, it’s everywhere. Once two people know what it’s about, bang, it’s all out there.
Did you have to call Kevin Spacey and tell him?
No. And he didn’t call me. If he had called me and said, “Hey, look, this is the way it is and I’m really sorry,” then I’d have handled it slightly differently.
If he had called and said all that, do you think you’d still have replaced him?
Yes. I’d have still done it. I would have said, “Yes, thank you for calling, but I have to move on.”
He was well-behaved on your set, I take it?
Well, I don’t know. You never see that. But you can’t condone that kind of behavior in any shape or form.
Have you been surprised by all these revelations coming out of Hollywood?
I think it was about time. Harvey [Weinstein] definitely was way overdue. There will still be a few more people out there gritting their teeth who are way overdue.
What was the studio’s reaction to all this?
They were like, “You’ll never do it. God be with you.” [Laughs]
But they’re holding the date of Dec. 22 for you anyway.
Did you ever consider pushing the release date to 2018?
Because I know I can deliver. [Laughs] I move like lightning. I’m already two scenes ahead. It’s simple! If you know what you’re doing, you don’t need 19 takes. You do one for the actor, one for me. It’s all planned out. When you storyboard, you’ve already pre-filmed the movie in your head — the wide shots, close shots, establishing shots. You’ve gotten some of your weird ideas when you’re quietly sitting, storyboarding by yourself. After a while you learn to trust and listen to your intuition. And I listen to mine. I trust it.
You finish shooting in Rome on Nov. 29. How are you going to get everything finished in time to screen for Academy voters and other awards groups — not to mention the release date?
They’re going to see it. I may have to do a couple of technical things to make it land completely technically, but it’s really already done.
What do you mean?
I’ve done it. I’ve been shooting since Monday [Nov. 20] and in with the editor every night since then. We’re not dealing with celluloid anymore; it’s all digital, and I send [the footage each day] to [editor Claire Simpson] and she cuts it, and I can go in and look after shooting. Everything I’ve shot is already in [the final cut] up through yesterday morning.
When you directed Gladiator, Oliver Reed died during filming. Does this feel more or less challenging?
It’s less of a challenge, actually. With Ollie, I didn’t have anything of him except bits and pieces and I had to reassemble him digitally. This is a real person and I’m simply reshooting the scenes. We’ll finish next week and I’ll go straight into the editing room, but most of it will already be slotted in. We’ll smooth out any wrinkles, and bingo, we’re there.
So what’s going to be the biggest obstacle? Finishing on time?
Nope, I’m fine. I’ve already started recce [British military slang for reconnaissance] on another film. I’d like to do three a year, but we’re going to start the next one in February. I’m not sure if we’re keeping the title because the book is so important, but I’m doing [an adaptation] of The Cartel.
You started your career in advertising; surely you must have thought about how this gambit might serve in generating interest in this film.
Correct. I didn’t do it for that reason, but it never left my mind.
The story of the Getty family really shows how damaging wealth can be.
Sometimes I think being really rich is as bad as being really poor. Because you are facing a void every morning. There’s nothing to do. If you have wealth and no job, you sit there twiddling your thumbs and start drinking at lunchtime. At 4 p.m. you move on to something stronger, and before you know it you’re on to rock & roll. The greatest gift is being passionate about what you do. This [gestures around the set] is a gift for me. I’m busier than I’ve ever been — I’m in the office from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.
And you turn 80 the day after you wrap.
Yeah, but I don’t think about that. It’s a number. Just a bloody number.