The cast and creators of the upcoming FX limited series “Trust” spoke about the differences between their show and the film “All the Money in the World” during a panel at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Friday.
Both projects explore the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, heir to the Getty fortune, and the attempts by his mother to get him back safely. One of the chief differences is that in the film, the young Getty is shown to be a victim, whereas in the series he enacts a fake kidnapping in order to get money from his grandfather.
Series writer and executive producer Simon Beaufoy said that take on the story came from research into Getty’s story. “It became clear reading between the lines that he actually kidnapped himself,” he said. “It was a hoax gone wrong…He’d run up a debt, quite a large debt, and couldn’t repay it.”
Another difference was the portrayal of Getty family employee Fletcher Chase, played by Mark Wahlberg in the film and Brendan Fraser in the series. Fraser’s Chase is a cowboy hat-wearing, Bible quoting negotiator, whereas Wahlberg’s Chase was more subdued and straight forward.
“He’s a man with a textured past. He’s on a journey of redemption. He wants to rescue this kid for personal reasons outside of being beholden to his boss, the richest man in the world…I wanted to show that he really cares, that he cares about the family, he cares about Gail. He’s not just an employee of this Midas character.”
Donald Sutherland plays John Paul Getty in “Trust,” which premieres March 25, whereas Christopher Plummer played Getty in the film. Kevin Spacey was originally set to play Getty, but was removed from the film when allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.
The Getty family’s trials and tribulations reveal the truth in the axiom that money can’t buy happiness.
“The great mystery is what is lacking in them,” Beaufoy told reporters Friday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif. “They try to fill the big huge hole in each of their souls with money or sex or drugs — there is passed down this lack of empathy, this complete lack of understanding of human emotion.”
“Trust” revolves around the bizarre 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, who initially concocted the scheme in an effort to wring money out of his oil-money family but it went awry when the kidnappers turned on him while his grandfather dragged out negotiations. Donald Sutherland plays patriarch J. Paul Getty Sr., while Michael Esper limns Getty III. Hilary Swank plays Getty III’s mother, Gail.
None of the actors were able to meet with their real-life counterparts. Beaufoy indicated that the Getty family sought to impede the production. “The lawyers’ letters were flying around and it became impossible,” he said.
Boyle and Beaufoy previously teamed on such pics as 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” which won the Oscar for best picture, and “127 Hours.” The pair were enthusiastic about the experience of working in the longer format of a 10-episode drama series. Boyle said the ability to cast as many as 70 actors was a thrill compared to working in the confines of a two-hour film.
Sutherland said Boyle impressed him with his dedication to working 24/7 on the project. “There is no chair on the set that has Danny Boyle’s name on it,” he observed, because the director never sat down. Sutherland also praised Beaufoy’s “exquisite” script.
Boyle returned the compliment, citing Sutherland’s “meticulous” research for the role of the billionaire who was seen by the world as a craven miser as he haggled over his grandson’s life. Boyle said understanding Getty Sr.’s worldview was crucial to nailing the emotional heart of the story.
“He was a mathematician, a linguist — he was a brilliant man,” Boyle said. “People who didn’t fall into that (category) irritated him.”
Beaufoy said he didn’t believe in the fabled “Getty curse” afflicting the family but he does see the corrosive influence of wealth.
“If you don’t have to get out of bed and do something every morning, that’s kind of a curse,” Beaufoy observed.
Swank was equally effusive about working in TV after spending most of her career in film (Fun fact: Swank worked with Sutherland on her first film, 1992’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” when she was 16.)
“The beauty of television is everything gets revealed as you go,” she said. “There’s such beauty in that it is so human. It’s so hard to tell a story in two hours. I’m coming to recognize that.” Actors follow the storyline in installments while shooting just as viewers do on air. “We’re just like audience members — we’re waiting for the next episodes to come,” she said.
Beaufoy said the look at the inner sanctum of the Getty clan comes at a timely moment when there is great focus on the growing level of economic inequality in the country.
“It’s becoming beyond any imaginings of wealth,” Beaufoy said of the 1% in this era. “The poorest people are so incredibly poor and the rich are so incredibly rich on the other side. That is a kind of fascination.”
(Pictured: Danny Boyle)