Ridley Scott, the director who gave the world Alien, Blade Runner, Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator, and many other masterpieces, came up last month with a biopic on the life of American gazillionaire, J Paul Getty. Until recently, the man who was portraying Getty in All the Money in the World was none other than Kevin Spacey.
Following the sexual assault allegation against Spacey, Scott’s decision to replace him was immediate. In a span of nine days, Scott managed to assemble his cast and crew, acquire permissions for all locations in England and Italy, and reshoot all scenes which initially featured Spacey. Christopher Plummer, the Sound of Music fame actor replaced Spacey, and confessed of this being common in theatre, but rare in films.
In the light of this controversy, it would be interesting to understand about the cold-hearted gazillionaire who negotiated his own grandson’s kidnapping.
Life of a Miser Gazillinaire
An American-born British industrialist, J Paul Getty was the founder of Getty Oil Company. In 1956, Fortunes Magazine declared that he was the richest living American and in 1966, Guinness Book of Records named him as world’s richest private citizen. His worth at his death was more than $2 billion (approximately $8.60 billion). However, the old man was infamously as miserly as anyone could be.
In 1973, Getty’s 16-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III was kidnapped by an organized crime group in Italy, known as the ‘Ndrangheta’. They demanded $17 million from the oil tycoon, but he refused to pay. The family suspected a foul play, a ploy by the teenager to pull out money from his tightfisted grandfather. Consequently, the family received an envelope with a lock of hair, and human ear.
Despite this development, Getty senior did not relent to the kidnappers. When the kidnappers finally reduced their demand to $3 million, he acceded, however to pay no more than $2.2 million – the maximum that was tax deductible. The rest he lent it to his son at an annual interest of 4%.
In his autobiography, As I See It, Getty defends his initial refusal to pay the ransom on two points. First, he argued that to submit to the kidnappers’ demands would immediately place his other fourteen grandchildren at the risk of copy-cat kidnappers. He adds, “the second reason for my refusal was far more futuristic. I contend that acceding to the demands of criminals and terrorists merely guarantees the continuing increase and spread of lawlessness, violence and such outrages as terror-bombings, ‘skyjackings’ and the slaughter of hostages that plague our present-day world.”
An eccentric who kept a pet lion, Getty senior was among the greatest art collectors of the 20th century. He read voraciously, engaged constantly with experts, and counted Rembrandt’s The Night Watch as his favourite movie of all time. Within the autobiography, he recalls how he’d “spent countless hours, during any number of trips to Rijks museum (in Amsterdam), just looking at it, losing myself in it”.
Getty believed in the impact art could have in civilizing humanity. “Twentieth-Century barbarians cannot be transformed,” he wrote, “until they see, begin to understand, and finally savour fine art”. Through Getty’s perspective, sculptures and paintings could save the world.
This certainly does not absolve Getty of the “inhumane” emotions that he showed towards people. A rampant womanizer, an indifferent father and grandfather, John Paul Getty lived two completely opposite sides: one that of apathy for his family and people around him, and that of relentless generosity for the world of art.
Downfall of Kevin “I’m sorry for assaulting you, but I’m also gay” Spacey
On October 30, Buzzfeed News did an interview of Anthony Rapp, an American Broadway and film actor. Nothing much was special about this interview, some theatre talks here, some film gossip there. Little did anyone know that Rapp was about to drop the bomb, leaving the film industry and the world stunned to the bones.
Spacey, a two-time Academy Award winning actor, was accused of sexual assault by Rapp when he was 16 years old. In the interview, Rapp publicly alleged for the first time that in 1986, he was invited to a party by Spacey to his apartment. At the end of the night, Spacey, 26, picked up Rapp, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making sexual advancements. For 31 years, Rapp remained silent, witnessing the meteoric rise of Spacey, something he coveted himself.
Not only has Spacey lost credibility in the industry, but is now losing out on films that he had contributed to. Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World released in the United States on December 25. However, around two months before the release, the allegations were made public. To add fire to the fuel, Spacey’s media team came up with an apology that appeared more like seizing the opportunity for the actor to come out of the closet. Spacey attempted to apologize “sincerely” for an encounter which he “honestly, did not remember”. Justifying it with confessions of his previous relations with men while also simultaneously revealing his homosexuality lost him whatever credibility he was left with.
When Rory Carroll of The Guardian asked Ridley Scott if the allegation had created a dilemma for him, he just shook his head. “My decision came without any anguish,” he said, informing he had almost immediately decided to meet with Sound of Music fame Christopher Plummer. Ridley Scott, the director who gave the world masterpieces like Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, among many other films, termed it as entirely “a business decision”.
“Whatever you do in private is none of my business. It only becomes my business if it infects the business that I’m in.”
Christopher Plummer’s performance in All the Money in the World is being appreciated by film critics across the industry. Kevin Spacey, on the other hand, apart from this flick, lost out on the much-acclaimed Netflix series, House of Cards, and Gore, another Netflix movie that the production house decided to shelve. After so much hullabaloo, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that curtains are being drawn on Spacey’s career.