Playback: Ridley Scott on ‘All the Money in the World’ and Never Slowing Down

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

In case you’ve been under a rock, actor Kevin Spacey became a bit of a liability for Ridley Scott’s new film “All the Money in the World,” so the director didn’t hesitate: he recast the role of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty with Christopher Plummer, reshot all of Spacey’s scenes in 10 days and made the planned holiday release with ease. On Halloween he had finished the movie and had never met Plummer. On Thanksgiving they were working again, and by Christmas they both had Golden Globe nominations. That has to be some kind of a record.

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It takes nothing short of immeasurable confidence to pull this off. That’s a quality Scott exhibits in spades when you meet him. Where did it come from?

“Practice,” Scott says. “It’s all about practice. The more you do it the better you’re going to get. Or the more you do it the more bored you’re going to get. In my instance, I evolved. My first film at 40 but now I’ve done about 200 productions. I’ve done 30 movies, personally, and my brother did 20. That’s 50 films that, frankly, if we owned, would be a major library. You’re talking about ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Beverly Hills Cop,’ ‘Alien, ‘Blade Runner.’ We were a good team, my brother and I, a real entity, which I love.”

Spacey’s scenes were strung throughout “All the Money in the World.” It wasn’t just some cameo, which means any significant recalibration in the role was bound to shift the overall tenor of the film.

“People say it did,” Scott says. “The adjusted warmth, the glow of Getty, and Christopher’s elegance and warmth affected how people felt. They felt more endeared to J. Paul Getty. They felt they had an edge of sympathy there, whereas with Kevin, there wasn’t much empathy for him. And I wanted to make sure Gail Getty was happy. She said, ‘I’m so pleased that you handled it this way,’ with, you know, a degree of respect. I didn’t make the old man into Scrooge. But we kept her completely informed all the time, that we were going to replace Kevin and go again.”

Speaking earlier of “Alien,” one of the big questions in the Disney-Fox deal is what will happen to intellectual properties like that. Come what may on the franchise he birthed nearly 40 years ago, Scott sees the industry’s year-end bombshell news as a smart content grab to compete with companies like Netflix, and a means of getting into a more specialized business.

“I think it may be a good move for Disney to evolve and have another demographic of a slightly heavier weight, i.e. more adult, more dark, which Disney, under their label, would be very uncomfortable of doing,” he says. “Because they live by very clever demographics. Pixar is genius. It covers all quadrants and they’re great at that. They want the world. But now that Netflix is so far ahead of the f—ing game, it’s going to be very hard to catch them. Netflix have $8 billion to spend this year. All from subscriptions. So I’m doing films with Netflix.

For more, including Scott’s philosophy of constantly pushing forward to the next thing and thoughts on late “Black Hawk Down” star Sam Shepard, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” at iTunes.

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