Based on a true story (one of many coming out in the last two weeks), All The Money In The World is about the responsibility of family, the cruelty of wealth and the love of a mother. Michelle Williams plays Gail Harris, the former daughter-in-law of J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), the founder of Getty Oil who was once ranked the wealthiest person in the world.
When Gail’s 16-year-old son John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer, no relation to the other actor as far as I know) is kidnapped while vacationing in Rome, Gail turns to the boy’s obscenely wealthy grandfather to pay the ransom that’s demanded. He initially refuses, reluctant to both part with any of his fortune and to set the precedent the family can be extorted. That leads her to seek help from Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg), a security aide Getty has sent to deal with the situation. The two set out to either convince the elder Getty to pay the ransom or find another way to free her son.
As has been well-covered in the last couple months, the movie underwent one of the biggest and quickest changes in recent memory. The elder Getty was originally played by Kevin Spacey and both a poster and trailer featuring him were released months ago. When he was accused of sexual assault, director Ridley Scott almost immediately announced he would be removing Spacey from the film and replacing him with Plummer through a combination of reshoots and other editing tricks. More on this below.
The first poster is all about positioning the characters in relation to each other. That’s communicated by placing Gail and Fletcher on the ground, literally in the shadow of a monument built to the senior Getty. “J. Paul Getty had a fortune. Everyone else paid the price” is the copy that’s placed under the title. That bust of Getty featured Spacey’s face.
A couple new posters were released after the recasting (more on that below), neither of which showed Plummer as Getty but which did include his name. One had Gail and Fletcher trying to get into a car amidst a scrum of journalists and photographers, the other showed a bloody severed ear made of a $100 bill, with the ominous copy “Everyone wants a cut.”
A series of character one-sheets came next that each showed one of the main characters accompanied by their name, the name of the actor playing them and a quote from the film that gets to the heart of their motivations.
The official trailer starts with Gail asking Chase if he carries a gun. That immediately establishes that there’s danger afoot. We get that Gail’s son has been kidnapped and that Chase used to be a spy, a background that Gail is counting on to help get her son back. Chase works for Getty, who refuses to hand over the money necessary. Chase then decides to take matters into his own hands, a role that sometimes puts him into conflict with Getty. Gail refuses to give up and we see her both fretting over Paul’s circumstance and frustrated by Getty’s inaction.
It’s pretty action-packed, which is a bit surprising considering the overall vibe is one that’s more dramatic than thrilling. It’s clearly selling the tension that exists not just in the kidnapping and attempted rescue itself but also in the relationship between Getty and Gail. Wahlberg looks fine as the security chief who finds his loyalties changing over the course of the story and Williams is her usual fantastic self as the mother willing to do anything and challenge anyone to get her son back. Plummer is menacing and cold in his role as a man out to protect himself more than anything else.
It’s a slightly different tone here than what was used in the first trailer, which Sony has since pulled down from YouTube. That trailer, which included Spacey and which you can still view here, was much more slowly dramatic in tone and pacing. It’s likely that the two trailers were always meant to hit different beats and present slightly different versions of the story. It was much more focused on telling the audience how different the world and lives of the rich are, with the kidnapping a subplot to that. Spacey as Getty is saved until the very end as if it’s the reveal of a villain who’s been looming in the background, though he’s almost unrecognizable underneath a great deal of makeup.
Online and Social
The official trailer opens the official website, which then gives way to the key art on a splash page that also features a prompt to register for updates as well as links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
Scroll down the page and you’ll find an “About” section that has a story synopsis and then a “Cast & Crew” section with the names of those involved in the making of the film. There’s also “The Book” with information on the memoir the movie is based on and a link to order it if you’d like to learn more.
All that is also accessible via the content menu at the top of the page. Additionally there’s “Trailer,” which just has the second, post-recasting trailer (obviously) and a “Gallery” that, as far as I can tell, just has one production still.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Just a couple weeks before release a new TV spot was put out that offered the first look at Plummer in the role previously occupied by Spacey, telling the same basic story as the trailer but in a more condensed and dramatic fashion because of the time constraints. More commercials like this one followed that hit different parts of the story, some focusing on the wealth of Getty and the drama of the family, some including more of the kidnapping plot.
The second trailer and some of the TV spots were used as ads on Twitter and Facebook. Elements of the videos and the key art were used for online ads elsewhere on the web. I’m sure there was outdoor advertising done as well.
Media and Publicity
EW shared a first look photo of Wahlberg and Williams along with an interview with Scott where he talked about the story and more. It was later announced the movie would premiere at the AFI Festival.
Sony TriStar initially announced initial release plans, including that AFI Fest screening, would remain in place even after Spacey was accused of trying to seduce actor Anthony Rapp when Rapp was just 14, allegations that lead to Spacey making the widely-criticized public declaration he was gay. Those plans were later discarded shortly after the studio announced a planned awards campaign was being scrapped.
Then out of nowhere one of the biggest shoes in the movie world in recent years dropped when Scott announced he was cutting Spacey from the film and reshooting his scenes with Plummer. That would be enough of a shock but was exponentially more so given that the announcement came just five weeks before release. That lead to the news it was being replaced as the AFI Fest closing feature by Molly’s Game. Plummer later made short, concise comments about the situation, framing it not as a replacement but as starting over, albeit on a very tight timeline.
Scott finally spoke about the turmoil behind the scenes and his decision-making process in ditching Spacey’s performance for Plummer’s, as well as the tight timeline he and everyone else had to work under as a result.
Wow. That’s a lot going on here. I mean…the announcement that Spacey was being dropped from the film would have been a big enough story, but coming just a little over a month from a release date that was not only maintained but achieved? That’s huge. And because the motivations behind that move were pure and in-line with the social movement sweeping the nation and media industry, it was praised. It’s likely, in fact, that it has helped enhance the film’s reception as people now view it as an example of putting morality above commerce.
Even without that, even in a world where Spacey isn’t pulled, the movie would have seemed fairly timely. We’re just a few years past the Occupy movement and as a nation we’ve been debating in the last few weeks if giving tax cuts to billionaires is a step that’s good for the whole country or not. So a story of one of history’s richest individuals and how he was unwilling to bend even a little to help his own family seems all-too-relevant.
Interestingly, that’s the angle taken just in the last portion of the campaign, with the second trailer and the advertising that’s gone along with it. Either that perspective was planned all along or Sony has been reading the room and decided that kind of story would resonate with the mass audience more than what’s presented in the first trailer, which is more about how different the rich are from everyone else. Either way, it’s indisputable that the Plummer Era marketing presents a stronger, more compelling message than what came before.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
Not great news for the movie as it’s come to light that while Michelle Williams came in essentially for free to handle the reshoots necessary when Christopher Plummer was added to replace Kevin Spacey, co-star Mark Wahlberg was paid around $1.5 million.
A new trailer came out shortly after the movie was released highlighting the tension between the elder J. Paul Getty and the pressure to pay the ransom to release his kidnapped grandson and uses some of the positive reviews the film has garnered.
Director Ridley Scott talks more here about the speedy reshoots he undertook when he cut Kevin Spacey’s performance from the film and brought Christopher Plummer off the bench.