It’s been one of the most controversial films of the year and it hasn’t even been released yet.
By now, everyone should be aware of the last minute casting shakeup that made All the Money in the World global news. Kevin Spacey, accused of various sexual assaults, was cut out of the film after it had already been shot, edited, and ready for screening at the AFI Film Festival just last month. In came Christopher Plummer, joining fellow actors Michelle Williams and Charlie Plummer (no relation), to take over the role of J. Paul Getty. In our interview with the trio, we talk about the stress of this absurdly quick turnaround, director Ridley Scott’s unconventional on-set methods, and what it’s like to have another Plummer on the acting scene.
For our interview with director Ridley Scott, screenwriter David Scarpa, and producer Bradley Thomas, click here.
Ridley impressed Christopher by doing this one thing.
Christopher Plummer, “J. Paul Getty”: Ridley flew all the way from London to see me, unbelievable. Even if I didn’t want to do [the movie] I would’ve done it just for that! For years I’ve wanted to work with Ridley- I’m not just saying that to get another job. Really, seriously, I admire his work. I probably would’ve done it even if I loathed the script. Ridley made me feel as confident and comfortable as possible, which he did miraculously- mostly because of his outrageous sense of humor. That will calm anybody down.
As a single mother herself, Michelle found this was the biggest challenge in playing Gail.
Michelle Williams, “Gail”: The way that the script was conceived was of a woman who refuses to let herself fall apart, a woman who takes great effort to keep herself together because falling apart won’t get any closer to the ultimate goal which is to have her son back. At times, that was the hardest thing to do- to stay as strong and steely as possible when confronted with these circumstances that are so wrenching. She has to go through so much in this movie; so much that’s unfair, undue, and just shouldn’t have been, and she’s doing it essentially alone. She and Chase [Mark Wahlberg] form a certain partnership at some point but she is essentially taking all of these hurdles by herself.
This is how Michelle studied the mannerisms of Gail Getty.
Michelle Williams, “Gail”: There are only two or three clips of her online. Those clips would always put me right back into the pocket of how Gail carried herself, how she moved her mouth… I spent a lot of time working on them with a dialect coach, breaking apart the vowel sounds and understanding where that specific kind of speech pattern comes from. They meant a great deal to me.
“That was the hardest thing to do- to stay as strong and steely as possible when confronted with these circumstances that are so wrenching.” -Michelle Williams
Charlie Plummer and Paul Getty have these two things in common.
Charlie Plummer, “J. Paul Getty III”: At a young age, Paul had been surrounded by adults and around a lot of adult matters. That is something I can relate to, I’ve been acting since I was 12 and so I’ve had lots of conversations with adults. I also think the relationship with his mother is one that I can relate to, in some aspect.
Christoper is none too pleased there is another actor named ‘Plummer.’
Christopher Plummer, “J. Paul Getty”: I didn’t know there was an actor named ‘Charlie Plummer’… how dare there be. Laughter. Especially with the name ‘Charlie.’
Haha, no but from the little I saw on the screen, he’s absolutely super. Although I hate to say it. Laughter.
This is the only question Michelle would ask Gail Getty.
Michelle Williams, “Gail”: I would really only want to ask her what her [experience] was like.
The time crunch was a welcomed challenge.
Christopher Plummer, “J. Paul Getty”: I thrived on it. If you love your profession, which I certainly do, you welcome challenges and stress more than anything else.
“If you love your profession, which I certainly do, you welcome challenges and stress more than anything else.” -Christopher Plummer
A lot of the scenes in the film were the actor’s first take.
Michelle Williams, “Gail”: Ridley was so great at putting me at ease and giving me the floor. I had never worked with someone who had given me so much freedom. He just opened up the space and said, ‘This is yours, go be free.’ That was intoxicating. So [Ridley] would say, ‘Here’s the space, I’ve got cameras in places I don’t need to tell you about, why don’t we rehearse on film?’ That’s a scary thing to do because nothing is finessed, nothing is smoothed out, it’s all unknown. So we would do this thing that we called… rehearsing on film… and very often he would say, ‘Ok great, I’ve got it, I’d like to move on.’ And in the middle of rehearsing on film, he would throw a physical obstacle in your way that you couldn’t have anticipated, so you would be dealing with something in real time and always in the back of my head a little smile went on in my brain, thinking ‘God, what is he going to come up with next?’ I would get so excited to come to work because it was like the stage, it was like being in a play where it’s real, it’s alive. So what you see in the movie, a lot of [the scenes] are our first take, which has a real aliveness to it. It was a really exciting workplace and I’m a little lost without it.
Christopher relied heavily on the script.
Christopher Plummer, “J. Paul Getty”: I must congratulate the writing, I really did depend David’s wonderful script because I didn’t have any preparation at all. There were so many rolling colors in the character as written that I knew it was more than just a monotonous monologue lasting page after page. There is an awful lot of value in [this character].
She doesn’t see any similarity between Gail and her mother character in The Greatest Showman.
Michelle Williams, “Gail”: Gail Getty is very different from Charity Barnum. [Gail] required a lot more of me but I was ready for it, hungry for it. After the “couch time” that was Showman, I was ready to get back up on my feet and be driven hard again which is, what everyone here described, is what we live for. Still, after all this time, I’m just burning for the “unknown.”
“At a young age, Paul had been surrounded by adults … That is something I can relate to [because] I’ve been acting since I was 12.” -Charlie Plummer
A natural bond formed between Paul and his captor.
Charlie Plummer, “J. Paul Getty III”: That was through speaking with Ridley at the beginning of the process and talking about how crucial that relationship was. My character spends five months in captivity, and [we talked about] how important it is to physically see what that does to a person, but also mentally. Being the only human connection Paul has for five months, naturally [a bond] will happen. Romaine also does such a phenomenal job of really bridging those two characters.
Makeup is a distraction, authenticity is key.
Christopher Plummer, “J. Paul Getty”: In playing real people, you have to be as subtle as possible. If you try to make an imitation out of it you might as well wear a mask. You have to save something from inside you that can be revealed through the character that you’re playing, otherwise, it is a cheap imitation.
‘All the Money in the World’ opens on Christmas Day.