How Ridley Scott erased Kevin Spacey and re-shot a movie in 9 days
When allegations of sexual misconduct against actor Kevin Spacey surfaced in late October, renowned film director Ridley Scott was faced with a conundrum: his new film, All the Money in the World, was slated to open mere weeks later, starring Spacey.
In an unprecedented move, Scott announced he was replacing Spacey with veteran stage and screen actor Christopher Plummer in the role of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty.
In just nine days, Scott reassembled his cast and crew and re-shot large chunks of the already completed film in order to erase Spacey from the project.
Scott's gamble seems to be paying off. The film barely made the Dec. 4 deadline to be screened for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and later received three Golden Globe nominations for Scott, Plummer, and co-star Michelle Williams.
"This is an absolutely huge deal — it's never been done before," Lee says. "The movie was actually done and ready to go to movie theaters to be screened, and to reopen it and call back the crew and cast, including Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams, to fly to Europe and redo scenes with an actor who had no time to research it at all, it's a huge deal but definitely paid off."
Reshooting Spacey's scenes meant filming nearly 400 new shots over nine days in three locations, including in the U.K. and Italy, adding $10 million to the movie's $40-million budget.
"Reshoots are actually common on movies, especially action movies," Lee notes. "Probably every Star Wars or Marvel movie has had a little bit of a reshoot. It's just very unprecedented to put this amount of money for a reshoot into a drama, a thriller — it just doesn't happen."
This is an absolutely huge deal — it's never been done before.- Hollywood Reporter writer Ashley Lee, on the "All the Money in the World" reshoot
While going the lengths to replace an actor at the last minute might be rare, there have been calls from fans for re-casting actors they find problematic.
"One recent example is the Fantastic Beasts sequel, which has Johnny Depp in a very major role," Lee explains. "People were a bit concerned with his very publicized divorce with his wife Amber Heard — there were a few allegations of domestic abuse and fans were saying, 'Recast him.'
"So it may start a bit of a reaction with movie fans, but this is not a normal thing."
Knowing that the main character was originally played by another actor entirely might lead some moviegoers to scrutinize All the Money in the World more closely, but the last-minute switch appears seamless onscreen, Lee says.
"I would notice a scene with just Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg that was probably the old footage, and then the second that Christopher Plummer walks into the room, that's new footage, [and] I honestly couldn't tell.
"Ridley Scott is such a master — when I interviewed him, Christopher Plummer said that Ridley Scott is so great you only have to do one or two takes because he has so many cameras covering the scene and knows exactly what he wants it to look like. [The replacement] doesn't feel taxing, and it doesn't feel super-repetitive," she notes. "It feels very organic and still very authentic."
Just learn your lines, for crying out loud — and stay off the booze.- Actor Christopher Plummer
Plummer's performance in All the Money in the World, based on the real-life story of Getty's refusal to pay a ransom for his kidnapped grandson, has been widely praised by critics in the lead-up to the film's Christmas Day release.
"Christopher Plummer confers Getty with an authority and sense of resolve so complete that we're entirely seduced into thinking we're getting a taste of the real man," wrote Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy.
"First of all, Christopher Plummer is 88 years old. It's not easy to just pop in, deliver a few major monologues and leave," Lee says. "And he was about to go on vacation in Florida and just kind of relax for the Thanksgiving holiday. [But] he loved the script.
"He didn't know much about the Getty family beforehand, but he is a very seasoned actor in theater and in movies. He's portrayed real-life figures often, so he's pretty great at hopping in and out of this biopic material."
Plummer also had some advice for actors who might find themselves in a similar situation.
"He said, 'Just learn your lines, for crying out loud, as quickly as you possibly can — and stay off the booze for at least the first three days so you can have a clear head,'" Lee says with a laugh.
Scott has revealed that he offered Plummer the chance to view the original footage of Spacey's performance, but Plummer declined, opting for his own unique take on the character.
Given the widely positive reviews for All the Money in the World, will other directors begin to consider last-minute reshoots should circumstances demand?
"I don't think so," Lee says. "[Scott] did have the resources and the seasoned crew that he's always worked with. So the fact that this was a very supported movie made it possible."
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