Christopher Plummer stepped in to replace Kevin Spacey on Ridley Scott’s latest “All the Money in the World” after the latter was accused of sexual assault. That you probably know.
“It would have been a pity if the film were completely neglected because of what happened,” Scott says on his decision to erase Spacey from the film. “I jumped into it immediately saying, ‘I can fix this. We’re going to have to recast, make sure everyone was available and the locations were available so I could go back as soon as possible and pick up every shot that [Spacey] was in.”
Scott is adamant it was the only way to go. The backlash against “All the Money in the World”, because it featured Spacey, would’ve been huge he felt.
“The theaters might not have taken us, but more than that for me, my investor Dan Friedkin would have wasted a lot of money, and I just couldn’t let that happen to him,” Scott tells Deadline. “Immediately, I was thinking of how I was going to fix this. You could just feel there was a bit of a purge going on here, one I think needed to happen in Hollywood. This overall issue of sexual harassment, it had to stop.”
What you – and I – likely want to know is : How? How did a filmmaker, a month or so away from the release of his film, manage to reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes with a new actor!? Did Scott have the “Sound of Music” star Skype in his scenes? did he have his head superimposed over Spacey’s body? Did they roll out a green screen and have the actor recreate his predecessor’s moments on it?
“We were pressured with time, and the two gave very different performances, so it wasn’t just a question of replacing [Spacey with Plummer],” editor Claire Simpson explains. “The rhythm was very different, his emphasis on the dialogue was very different, and that impacted the other performances in the scene. So we decided to replace complete scenes.”
With the help of Imperative Entertainment, who financed the 10 million dollar allotment of reshoots, Scott was able to film 400 new shots of Plummer as lead character, J. Paul Getty. Those new shots were a mix of redone sequences, with co-stars Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg back for shoots, as well as new footage with shots from the original that didn’t include Plummer.
Plummer says that while he was up to the challenge, the time constraints were daunting.
“I only felt the natural pressure of doing it all in that short a time” the actor, who was on set just 9 days, tells THR. “I am still ambitious at my age, and I take risks. And so does Ridley, which is why I admire him so much. It’s incredible — I’m nearly 90. I’m 88 today, it’s my birthday! Every 20 years, one seems to get a new career. It’s very satisfying. I’m not pushing up the daisies just yet. It was a scary and fun experience — both. It was a great adventure and a great pleasure for me, and really an honor to work with Ridley, and the wonderful Michelle Williams, whom I absolutely adore as an actress. I had never met her before but I’m an enormous fan. And Mark Wahlberg who is so good. They both gave up all their time to come back and shoot all their stuff with me, and they were just delightful to work with. The whole thing was an absolute wonderful, rosy pleasure. I can’t say a word against it.”
Oliver Tarney, sound editor, said “There were some great nuanced deliveries from the original scenes that made it into the new. We spoke to Tim Fraser, who was the production mixer for the reshoot, and asked him to use the same mics as Maurizio Argentieri had used in the original shoot to make it easier to swap between the material that was filmed six months ago and the new. We knew we’d have no time for ADR so the location recordings had to be of a very high standard.
“The sound effects were conformed into the new scenes, … and we had time for a two-day foley shoot but that wouldn’t cover what was nearly 30 minutes of new material,” he adds. “It’s mostly a mix of old and new, but the foley for Getty’s feet and moves had to be replaced entirely as it’s a very different performance.”
Interestingly, Plummer never watched Spacey’s performance.
”It doesn’t do an actor any good to watch someone else. When you take over a part in the theater, it’s better that you don’t go and see it first so you’re not influenced in any way, the role comes from you. I saw some of the kidnapping stuff, which I thought was very well done, but that’s all I saw. Bits and pieces that didn’t involve J. Paul Getty at all. I hadn’t seen the trailer [with Spacey] either.”
Scott says going back to the well on the film, and utilizing Plummer, cloaked the film in a new freshness.
“We hoped what we were doing could be viewed as something of an inflection point, in changing the way this film is viewed, through action. When we got back to the set for reshoots, there was an energy I’d never experienced before”, Scott tells Deadline of the cast and crew returning to work. “So many people coalesced and came together, gave their energy, gave up Thanksgiving with the families to make things right with this movie. I saw a resolve and a spirit that I’ve never experienced in any business I’ve been involved in. It was brought on by the desire to do what was best for this film, and in a way, for the industry. I love the movie, but I think that is what I’m most proud of was walking on the set and seeing that enthusiasm and commitment.”
“I realize some were saying this was difficult to impossible, but it really has to do with experience,” Scott says. “I’ve done over 2000 commercials, and I mean in the heyday of commercials and not the crap now where you have the mommy in the kitchen with her little girl. I mean the Apple spot, and things like that. I was very experienced in moving quickly, so that by the time I first directed a movie at age 40, doing The Duellists felt pretty straightforward to me. Even doing Alien after that felt straightforward. I felt I knew exactly what I was doing. By now, if I’ve got a problem, if someone says the roof is falling in, I say, prop it up, or move. I always look for the solution; I never dwell on the problem.”
“All the Money in the World” releases Christmas day.