Ridley Scott’s decision to fire embattled actor Kevin Spacey and replace him with Christopher Plummer comes at a financial risk and carries a significant price tag, as the director races to finish the “All the Money in the World” ahead of its planned Dec. 22 release date.
It’s an unprecedented move, one that’s full of logistical challenges, as well as added, unexpected costs for reshoots, post-production, and the creation of new marketing materials. Some marketers estimate that the creation of new trailers, posters, in-theater standees, and additional advertising campaigns could total millions once rush fees and take-down costs are added up.
Despite the headaches and hit to the wallet, it’s a step that Scott and the film’s financiers Imperative Entertainment deemed necessary in the wake of several sexual assault and harassment allegations against Spacey, who plays billionaire J. Paul Getty in the picture. They felt that continuing on the project with Spacey’s name above the title would cloud its Oscar hopes and doom its commercial prospects.
As it is, “All the Money in the World,” which centers on the kidnapping of Getty’s grandson, is a difficult sell and a film that needs critical goodwill if it’s going to to succeed. Though Sony and Imperative toyed with moving the picture to 2018, they are eager to have it debut in advance of Danny Boyle’s “Trust,” an FX series that also revolves around the Getty kidnapping and airs in January.
Imperative will shoulder the additional costs of reshoots. Reshooting Spacey’s work as Getty is expected to take eight to 10 days, according to insiders close to the project, and will likely be north of $10 million to the film’s budget. It also requires bringing back stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams. Both actors were scheduled to have two weeks worth of reshoots written into their contracts, but they may have exceeded that amount of time already. If so, they will be paid their pro-rated weekly rate, according to agency sources and producers who have handled similar situations.
A character actor of Plummer’s caliber, boasting an Oscar and a long list of credits, can typically command between $250,000 and $400,000 for a supporting turn, according to knowledgeable insiders. Wahlberg and Williams both signed off on the decision to recast Spacey, and their schedules are relatively flexible. Williams is shooting “Venom,” a superhero movie being produced by Sony, the distributor of “All the Money in the World.” It’s in the studio’s interest to make Williams available, which it is doing. Wahlberg is not currently filming a project. He’s on the press tour for “Daddy’s Home 2,” which also makes it easier to slot him into the production.
One option not currently on the table, according to insiders, is to have Plummer do much of his work in front of a green screen and then work with visual effects firms to splice him into pre-existing footage. Most of Spacey’s scenes involve him interacting with only a few other actors or featured solo shots, so Scott and the producers believe that it would be more economical and effective to simply recreate the scenes with Plummer. Digitally inserting actors into footage can be tricky — it’s particularly challenging to make the lighting sync up, sources say. Filming will take place within the next two weeks and the goal is to have the picture locked by Dec. 15, according to insiders.
Scott and his producers are moving into uncharted territory. In the past, filmmakers have had to scramble to complete a picture when a key actor has died — Scott was forced to do this on “Gladitor” when Oliver Reed had a fatal heart attack before he had finished filming. Here, digital trickery was heavily employed. There have also been a few instances in which reams of footage have been scrapped and shot with new cast members, as was the case with Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” and Woody Allen’s “September.” Nor is it the first time that high-profile actors have been shuffled mid-production. Robert Zemeckis recast Eric Stoltz with Michael J. Fox five weeks into shooting “Back to the Future” after determining he had the wrong actor in the role.
However, this appears to be the first time an actor’s off-screen scandal has so threatened to overshadow a project that it needed to be retooled and completed under such a tight deadline. As sexual harassment allegations involving everyone from Louis C.K. to Dustin Hoffman to Brett Ratner continue to roil Hollywood, studios, networks, and producers are viewing the “All the Money in the World” case intently. It could, after all, set an important precedent. There’s already been major fallout from having a radioactive star attached to upcoming films or TV shows — Spacey was dropped from “House of Cards,” while the Nov. 17 release date of C.K.’s movie “I Love You, Daddy” was scrapped by the Orchard at the last minute.
It is highly unlikely that the cost of the reshoots on “All the Money in the World” will be covered by insurance, according to two experts on the subject. A typical cast insurance policy covers cost overruns arising from death, illness, or injury to any of the major actors. Spacey’s situation does not match any of those circumstances.
“This would be an out-of-pocket decision,” says Angela Plasschaert, an expert in entertainment risk management. “The cost will be a lot, and I think it will be 100% the production’s cost.”
Some insurers do offer what is called “disgrace coverage,” according to Christie Mattull, managing director of the entertainment division at Hub International Insurance Services. Such policies came into vogue with the advent of reality television, and would cover situations such as the cancellation of a show due to a leading figure’s arrest. However, such policies are rare and are only bought by major studios. A smaller production company like Imperative Entertainment would almost certainly not obtain a policy of that sort, she said.
The reshoot will also complicate “All the Money in the World’s” awards chances. In order for the film to be seen by voters for Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and other key early plaudits, screeners usually have to be pressed and ready to ship by early November. However, Sony believes that a Dec. 15 finish can still allow some voters the chance to screen the finished film.
The film will also need to be re-watched by the Motion Picture Association of America, so the group can assign a rating. The MPAA typically asks for 28 days to review a film, but the ratings board has assured the studio that it will expedite its review.
Sony and Imperative are ultimately are trusting that Scott, a veteran with classic films such as “Blade Runner” and “Alien” on his resume, has the ability to shoot what he needs quickly and economically. In recent years, he’s built a reputation for bringing in pictures on time and on budget. Finishing “All the Money in the World” so it can debut on Dec. 22 will take all those skills and more. It will require him to do something that many people consider nearly impossible.
Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas of Imperative are producing.
Gene Maddaus and Peter Debruge contributed to this report.