If you want to see an insane, seemingly impossible stunt performed at the cinema this holiday season, The Greatest Showman isn’t the only place to find one. After all, Ridley Scott’s new film All the Money in the World is itself an unbelievable magic trick. The movie originally starred Kevin Spacey, but somehow, Scott managed to completely replace Spacey just weeks ahead of its premiere in theaters.
So how did Scott pull off this unprecedented feat? Here’s the crazy story behind Scott replacing Spacey in his new film.
The Kevin Spacey scandal broke only two weeks before the movie’s premiere
BuzzFeed News published the first allegation against Kevin Spacey on Oct. 29, 2017. At that point, All the Money in the World, a movie starring Spacey as J. Paul Getty, was scheduled to have its premiere at the AFI Fest in 18 days. The wide theatrical release would then come a few weeks later, on Dec. 22.
In response to the Spacey news, Sony decided to pull the film from the festival. It then had to decide whether to still release it in theaters. According to The New York Times, after holding a series of emergency meetings, Sony decided that delaying the movie would only hurt it more.
So the company announced its intention to still release it over the holiday season. In a statement, Sony said that a film is the work of hundreds of people, who don’t all deserve to suffer because of Spacey’s actions. “Accordingly, the film will open wide as planned on December 22,” they concluded.
But then, on Nov. 8, it was suddenly announced that the film would be reshot with a new actor, Christopher Plummer, and still be released on Dec. 22.
It was Ridley Scott’s idea to recast Spacey
The reasoning behind the contradictory statements: Recasting and reshooting was the idea of director Ridley Scott and his producers. According to Deadline, two of those producers pitched this plan to the chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment in a meeting in early November. His response? “That’s impossible.”
But as the meeting continued, the Sony chairman realized that if there’s anyone who could pull this off, it’s Scott, who is a notoriously fast and efficient director. The incredibly confident Scott later told Entertainment Weekly that he never even considered that he wouldn’t be able to get this done on time.
“Because I know I can deliver,” he said. “I move like lightning. I’m already two scenes ahead. It’s simple! If you know what you’re doing, you don’t need 19 takes. You do one for the actor, one for me. It’s all planned out.”
So by the end of that meeting, it was decided that Scott would attempt one of the most daring filmmaking experiments ever, and the race against time began.
Scott met with Christopher Plummer just two days before the new casting announcement
Scott had originally considered Christopher Plummer for the role that ultimately went to Spacey. It was down to those two actors, and one source told The Hollywood Reporter that although Plummer was Scott’s first choice, the studio wanted a bigger name. So after the Spacey allegations, Scott took it upon himself to recruit Plummer for these daring reshoots.
Plummer says that he was just about to go on vacation to Florida when Scott asked to meet with him. The two met in New York, with Scott flying out from London and pitching the idea. Plummer just couldn’t resist the offer, and he accepted.
Two days after that meeting, the public announcement of this new casting was made, confirming how quickly the change happened.
Scott convinced the cast to shoot over Thanksgiving
Getting this done didn’t just involve filming Plummer. Scott had to reshoot all the scenes in which Plummer’s character interacts with the characters played by Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, and others. Getting actors back for reshoots on such short notice basically never happens, especially with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up.
But Scott met with Wahlberg and Williams, and they had room in their schedule and agreed to give up spending Thanksgiving with their families.
“I’m so very proud to be a part of this — we’re all here for Ridley,” Williams told Entertainment Weekly.
Scott shot about 30 minutes of new material
So what exactly did Scott reshoot? Well, there are a few shots in the movie where Plummer was just added into the existing Spacey footage. According to The Hollywood Reporter, for one desert scene, it would have been impractical to return the crew there. So Scott just digitally removed Spacey and replaced him with Plummer.
For other scenes, Scott combined new footage with existing footage. For example, when Plummer’s character speaks to a group of reporters, the shot of the reporters is old, but the shots of Plummer are new.
But for the scenes where Getty interacts with the characters played by Williams and Wahlberg, those were completely reshot. It wasn’t just a matter of inserting Plummer into the existing scenes. Since the whole rhythm of the movie changed with the new actors, the entirety of the scenes were redone.
The end result was about 30 minutes of new footage, the movie’s editor told The Hollywood Reporter.
The reshoots ultimately cost $10 million
The reshoots began on Nov. 20 and concluded on Nov. 29. According to The New York Times, Scott worked 18-hour days during this time, arriving at 6:30 a.m. and going well into the evening.
Luckily for Scott and the crew, J. Paul Getty isn’t the main character in the movie. Spacey himself had only shot for 10 days. If he had more screen time, this all likely would not have been possible. Despite the time crunch they were under, Plummer told The Hollywood Reporter that he never felt rushed because Scott knows exactly what he’s doing and how to get things done in just one or two takes.
Ultimately, the reshoots cost $10 million, according to The New York Times. That’s about a fourth of the film’s original budget. The reshoots wrapped on Nov. 29, and that very day, Sony released the first footage of Plummer in the role.
Scott had the movie ready to be seen only five days later
After the movie was reshot, there was still the matter of re-editing all of the affected scenes. But Scott got that done rather quickly. On Dec. 4, five days after reshoots ended, the movie was shown to members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group that votes on the Golden Globe Awards. The association ended up giving it three nominations.
Part of the reason Scott was able to get this done so fast was that during the reshoots, he would spend the day shooting and then the night editing, according to Deadline. Scott’s 80th birthday went by with very little fanfare during this time.
Ultimately, the U.S. release was pushed back, but only by three days. By still having the movie ready for 2017, Scott has officially pulled off an insane feat that will go down in cinema history.
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