How FX's Getty drama Trust is building on All the Money in the World
For Danny Boyle, watching All the Money in the World made for a strange experience.
Together with writer Simon Beaufoy and producer Christian Coulson, he was in the process of wrapping the first season of Trust, a 10-episode FX drama series tracing the saga of the Getty family, when he sat down to watch the Ridley Scott movie. But he hadn’t quite realized how much overlap the two projects would have. All the Money is a film-length dramatization of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III; that very incident drives the primary — if not sole — plotline of Trust.
“We were just finishing off, so it was just very odd to watch another director’s work on the exact same story,” Boyle recalls, chuckling and emphasizing odd. “I’d never had that experience before.”
Trust premiered on Sunday night as FX’s major spring premiere; moving back and forth in time in their dynastic exploration of the Getty family, Boyle and Beaufoy envision telling the story over multiple seasons. The show stars Donald Sutherland as J. Paul Getty — the role which originally starred Kevin Spacey in All the Money, and for which Christopher Plummer took over (and earned an Oscar nomination) after Spacey was removed — as well as Brendan Fraser, Hilary Swank, and Harris Dickinson in other key roles.
The series premiere, however, is focused squarely on the elder Getty: an imperious, money-obsessed mogul too concerned with his wealth and power to give much thought at all to paying a minuscule — relative to his financial status, anyway — ransom after his grandson is kidnapped. For Beaufoy, it was that contrast — that he had “all the money” but so little love to give — that drew him to such a strange, epic family story. “The more I delved into it, the more that I found the family — all three generations of them — are fascinating in their emotional damage,” he explains. “What money has done to them — the kidnapping was really a catalyst to show the effects of the damage of excessive wealth on three generations of people.”
Beaufoy — the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind Boyle films Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours — adds that while he has not seen All the Money, such a grand, ambitious narrative goal is something that can’t be achieved in film. “As I understand it, [All the Money] is about the kidnap, and that’s all it has time for because that’s what the movies are like,” he says. “Our series manages to delve into all sorts of different places.”
The show’s structure indicates exactly that; each episode takes on a specific point-of-view, as well as a wildly different aesthetic depending on the character in focus. (Next Sunday’s episode, for instance, spotlights Brendan Fraser’s James Fletcher Chase, and will feature stylistic flourishes such as fourth-wall-breaking.) Boyle and Beaufoy have both worked in television before, but Trust represents their taking advantage of the medium’s current creative boom. (Boyle directed the first three episodes.) And Beaufoy, particularly, loves the narrative freedom provided by episodic TV. “It’s a ridiculous amount of work,” he cracks, “but I’ve had such a ball doing it.” In his estimation, Trust is able to build on the “cinematic shock” provided by last year’s film.
Boyle agrees that this is where Trust separates itself from All the Money. He says that he enjoyed the Ridley Scott film, while qualifying that it’s “not his greatest movie,” but that he’s been able to stay focused on his own dramatization of the Gettys — starting with Sutherland’s powerful, intense performance as the family patriarch. But it’s a topic, Boyle admits cheekily, that comes up every now and then: “Donald recently said to me, ‘What did you think of Christopher Plummer?’ and I said, ‘He was wonderful.’ And Donald says, [grumbling] ‘Ah, yes, I suppose he was, wasn’t he?’”
Trust airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on FX.