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Dueling Getty Kidnapping Projects Take Advantage of Rome’s Production Incentives

On July 10, 1973, J. Paul Getty III, grandson of oil baron J. Paul Getty, acknowledged by many to be the richest man in the world, was kidnapped in Rome’s Piazza Farnese. The bandits severed the 16-year-old’s right ear to put pressure on his reluctant grandfather to pay a ransom.

Now, 44 years later, two big Hollywood productions have separately descended on the Eternal City to reconstruct the harrowing tale of crime and money.

Ridley Scott is shooting feature film “All the Money in the World.” And the Danny Boyle-directed TV series “Trust” will start production in mid-August.

A curious coincidence?

Both projects are tapping into Italy’s recently introduced tax credits for international productions that provide up to 25% of a film or TV drama’s budget with no per-project cap.

“It’s a good credit,” says “Money” producer Mark Huffam, noting that “it’s structured so that you get quite a lot of your cash back as you go along,” which isn’t often the case with other incentives.

As for the experience of shooting in Rome, Huffam says it’s fine but not as flexible as he’d like. “There’s a lot of regulation,” he notes. “Once you apply for a permit and it’s granted, it takes several weeks to change a date.”

“Money,” which is produced by Imperative Entertainment and Scott’s Scott Free Prods., is on a nine-week shooting schedule — seven weeks in and around Rome and two in and around London.

The film, which Sony Pictures will release in the U.S., features Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty; Michelle Williams as Gail Harris, the kidnapped teenager’s mother; Mark Wahlberg as an ex-CIA agent brought on board to help negotiate; and Charlie Plummer in the role of J. Paul Getty III, who, before being held captive in a cave in the mountains of Calabria, had been living like a hippie in the Italian capital.

Scott Free president Kevin Walsh points out that the producers have tried to stay authentic to the period. “We are covering a lot of Rome locations and making sure they look right,” he says.

The crew, including supervising art director Cristina Onori, is 90% Italian.

“Trust” will shoot for at least 20 weeks in Rome and Calabria, says line producer Enzo Sisti, who notes, “It’s the first TV project of this scope to tap into Italy’s international incentives for TV,” introduced in 2015.

The 10-episode anthology series, produced for FX Networks, will use two camera units that at times will overlap. Donald Sutherland has been cast as the Getty patriarch, who is “marooned in a Tudor mansion in the English countryside surrounded by five mistresses and a pet lion,” according to press materials. Hilary Swank will play the mother “left to negotiate with increasingly desperate kidnappers. Problem is, she’s broke.”

The FX skein, described as equal parts family history, dynastic saga and examination of the corrosive power of money, is aiming for a January 2018 premiere.

When it comes to attracting eyeballs, will “All the Money in the World” and “Trust” clash?

Walsh says the “Money” team is “just focused on making the best movie that we can make with our script, which we’ve had for years.” No release date has been set.

One thing is sure: Rome’s film community is a big fan of both projects. “It’s a nice windfall for us,” notes Roma Lazio Film Commission president Luciano Sovena.

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