If Christopher Plummer wins a Golden Globe and perhaps an Oscar, for his role as J. Paul Getty in All The Money In the World, who will he thank? His wife, his daughter, his agent, Ridley Scott; the director who cast him? What about the kidnappers who snatched John Paul Getty III, the billionaire industrialist’s grandson whose story forms the basis of the film?
To be honest, there’s more chance of the veteran actor paying tribute to a group of abductors, than giving his heartfelt gratitude to the man who made any triumph possible. Namely, Kevin Spacey. Yet in theory this is precisely who he should acknowledge. Without the disgraced star being expunged from the project, the plum part would never have gone to Plummer.
Forget Baron von Trapp in The Sound of Music, it’s his latest character he’ll be remembered for, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. As has been widely commented upon, his Globes nomination in the Best Supporting Actor (Replacing Another Supporting Actor Under Shocking Circumstances) in a Motion Picture category came as a massive surprise. Evidence surely of a PR machine going into overdrive.
Rather than recasting, studio executives could have pulled the movie, cut their losses and waited for the storm to blow over. Recognising, however, that this was one scandal which wasn’t going away, they took a hard headed business decision that would have been worthy of old man Getty himself. At huge expense - reportedly $10 million - they therefore went down the show must go on route and shouted loudly about it.
This was a calculated risk, but obviously worth taking. Proving the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, the gamble has seemingly paid off big time.
The column inches generated by the unprecedented decision to reshoot Spacey’s scenes in their entirety have resulted in a film destined to be heralded by critics, awards juries and the movie going public.
Scandals are, of course, nothing new in Los Angeles. They go back to the early days with the courtroom appearance of Fatty Arbuckle, who was charged with the murder of a struggling actress and the trial of Errol Flynn for statutory rape through to the insistence by Louis B. Mayer that Judy Garland always sat on his knee and the infamous case against Roman Polanski involving sex and drug offences with a 13 year old girl in 1977.
Such crimes and misdemeanours (let’s not forget those accusations against Woody Allen), are as much part and parcel of America’s entertainment capital as they are of its political capital. One hardly needs reminding how inextricably linked they sometimes are; the death of Marilyn Monroe still in the minds of some as having had something to do with John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert, both of whom supposedly had affairs with the blonde bombshell.
In light of the questions being raised against the activities of more recent notable figures, it might be hoped that things will rapidly change. Sadly, it’s highly unlikely. You can easily get rid of one rotten apple that spoils the barrel, but what happens when the whole barrel was rotten to the core to begin with? The film industry may pretend that it’s going to take a long hard look at itself. But that’s all it will be. A pretense. After all, no town does make believe in quite the same way as Tinseltown.
Where Spacey’s future lies is anyone’s guess. He might be all washed up, fit only for summer stock if he’s lucky. Then again, when you’re arrogant enough to think that you’ll never get caught out, you’re also presumably arrogant enough to think that you can bounce back. The question is, who’d risk everything by allowing him to once more get in front of the camera? How about a certain and equally tainted movie producer who can afford to take the risk because he too has nothing left to lose? Don’t bet against it happening and sooner than you think.
In the meantime, cynics may conclude that Plummer isn’t the only one to be secretly grateful to the shamed and discredited Spacey. The producers and stars of House of Cards must in a weird way be delighted. A series past its prime and scheduled to end anyway, it has been given a potent shot in the arm. Viewers will doubtless watch in their droves to learn of the fate of Frank Underwood and how Claire, played by Robin Wright, will fare without him. One already senses Emmies.
As for Hollywood, well, it remains the land of dreams, tinged with nightmares. It’s just that for generations of innocent actors and actresses, are the cost of those dreams always a price worth paying?