Hollywood wants to wish their controversies away, rather than actually fix the problem.
It was a serious meeting that took place in late October. The discussion was between executives of Sony Pictures, director Ridley Scott, and the producers of the film “All The Money In The World” — a smaller production concerning the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III and his grandfather’s famous refusal to pony up with the ransom demand. The discussions were grave, due to the film itself becoming a victim of the growing sex scandal swirling over Hollywood.
After principle shooting was done and the film was in the can Sony was prepping the title to appear in some film festivals and then stage a structured release schedule to set it up for the awards season nominations. But then news broke that the actor Anthony Rapp was accusing “Money” star Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting him when he was 14 years old. Others then came forward with similar stories surrounding the star and he quickly became persona non-studio. And Sony saw a problem with their product.
While these sexual predators are being regularly outed and chased off into the wilderness (as they should be) their careers and performances are effectively becoming shunned in kind. Here the studio had a title that was becoming toxic due to the appearance of major star in a sex scandal. The choices they faced were to delay the release and maybe find a time when Spacey’s name was less toxic, or resort to their priority which was to be recognized for this year’s trophy ceremonies. Another challenge was the cable network FX has a planned series about the Getty kidnapping and that could further mute the impact of the film should it be delayed.
Sony execs planned to just gut-check, keep the December 22 release date, and hope for the best. Then Ridley Scott chimed in. The director declared he wanted to reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes, doing so over the Thanksgiving holiday. It was unprecedented, and few in the studio gave the plan hope. The cast was called back — with Mark Wahlberg sending shockwaves to leftists for being paid an exorbitant amount over Michele Williams. (Turned out this was due to sound business reasons.)
The effort was achieved, despite the fact that trailers made from the original cut were already showing in theaters. Further, Sony had already begun the quiet backroom nudging of Spacey as a potential Oscar contender for his role. Then, when the scandal broke, rapid revisionism took place. Sony scrambled to replace posters that had Spacey prominently displayed, and the studio reached out to journalists, urging they downplay Spacey as merely a bit role in the film “starring” Wahlberg and Williams.
This bit of desperate performer-scrubbing is emblematic of Hollywood’s general attitude towards the mounting sex scandals. Their solution involved recasting Kevin Spacey’s role as J. Paul Getty with Christopher Plummer. It was a whirlwind nine day effort but Scott got his new footage, and he and the editors worked severe overtime to recut the film in time for the scheduled release and still qualify for awards season. You get the sense of desperation in denying any prior involvement of the scandal-plagued actor.
Director Scott, in referencing working with Christopher Plummer, declared that he always intended Plummer to take the role of J. Paul Getty. This is a Hollywood cliche’; so often creators make this kind of declaration during PR sweeps, to inform viewers of the gravity of the performance. As evidence Scott himself used this exact kind of hype months earlier, regarding the deposed Kevin Spacey:
“In my mind, I saw Kevin Spacey… I’ve never worked with him, and I always knew I would have to have him portray Getty in this film.”
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association – the collective behind the Golden Globes – played an activist role by granting Christopher Plummer a Best Actor nomination. The studio rushed a rough-cut screening for HFPA members more than two weeks prior to release. The Globes granted a reward of sorts for purging that poison from the film, giving Plummer a nod for his 9 days of work (Scott and Williams also netted nominations.)
Now Scott is saying he wanted to cast Plummer from the start, replacing Kevin Spacey…who Scott had proclaimed he wanted from the start. This desire to rewrite the film’s enterprise matches what we saw at the recent Golden Globes ceremony, where the appearance of standing up to sex abuse was all the rage.
Listen to their talk of bravery, just ignore their inability to talk about the attackers. Praise them for supposedly giving a voice to victims, just don’t judge them for ignoring the actresses who broke the scandal open. Exactly like the Sony project — the most recent image is the one Hollywood wants to be considered. Anything in the past they have erased should be completely overlooked.
We should all become most suspicious when those whose industry is about presenting images are the ones saying “Nothing to see here!”