TORONTO – The decision to erase Kevin Spacey from Ridley Scott’s finished biographical drama “All the Money in the World” and replace him with Canadian actor Christopher Plummer — just six weeks before theatrical release — has filmmakers applauding and marvelling at how the team will pull it off.
“First of all, I think it should be commended for them to not give up,” said Michael Dowse, Canadian director and co-writer behind the “Fubar” franchise, which recently launched as a new series on Viceland.
“They obviously believe in their film and they obviously believe that the film is bigger than the one part. I think it’s highly ambitious but if anybody can do it, it’s Ridley Scott. He’s a real general and he’s also got a great team behind him.”
On Wednesday, news broke that Spacey is being cut from the film in the wake of sexual assault allegations that also led to his firing from Netflix’s “House of Cards.”
“I think it’s completely the right thing to do,” said Emmy Award-winning Canadian writer-director Patricia Rozema.
“It’s a big, bold message,” added Jennifer Jonas, who owns New Real Films and has produced features including “Born to Be Blue” starring Ethan Hawke.
“I think it’s Hollywood trying to come to terms with their decades of complicity with sexual harassment. It’s certainly extreme but it’s hard to deny that Ridley Scott’s heart (seems) to be in the right place.”
Spacey had already shot his scenes as billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, grandfather of kidnapped teen John Paul Getty III. Co-stars include Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, and Timothy Hutton.
The film, which is set in 1973, is due to hit theatres Dec. 22.
“If anyone could do it, Ridley Scott could, because of course he had similar experience … when Oliver Reed died (during the making of) ‘Gladiator’ and he had to manipulate the images and fake over the shoulders and all that stuff,” said Jonas.
Still, cutting out an actor entirely and replacing that person after shooting is wrapped appears to be a first.
“There’s obvious examples of Martin Sheen replacing Harvey Keitel in ‘Apocalypse Now,’ or Michael J. Fox replacing Eric Stoltz in ‘Back to the Future,’ but that’s in production,” said Dowse.
“I’ve never heard of it being done on post-(production). Normally they just bury the film and the film never gets seen.”
Spacey reportedly spent about eight days filming scenes, which makes replacing him “within the realm of the contemplatable,” said Jonas. “If it were something like 60 days, it would be impossible to imagine.”
On such a high-profile production, chances are they’ve kept all the sets, wardrobe and wigs.
“So from just a logistical primary standpoint, I guess his main challenge would be reconvening the other actors,” said Jonas.
Options for the re-shoots include returning to original locations or relocating some scenes to simpler settings. Face replacement technology and other visual effects could also be used.
But the job might be easier if they focus on close-ups “because there’s only one person in the shot,” said Rozema.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of close-ups — and Christopher is going to love that. They just make you feel more important and a bigger presence in the movie.”
Dowse noted allegations have been mounting against Spacey since the end of October, so Scott has had about a week and a half to devise a plan for the role.
“They’re probably knee-deep in it,” he said.
And Plummer, who was born in Toronto and won a best-supporting actor Oscar for “Beginners,” was reportedly Scott’s first choice for the role of J. Paul Getty, “so in a way it’s worked out for the film,” he added.
“He’s one of our greatest living actors, so he’ll be able to do it, and there’s probably some level of awareness and preparation for the role, if he was Ridley’s original choice,” said Dowse.
Plummer, 87, is also closer to the age of the character than 58-year-old Spacey and likely won’t need to spend as much time getting prosthetics and makeup done.
Such prosthetics can be seen on Spacey in the trailer for the film, one of several pieces of marketing material that are already out there and now need to be redone.
“They’re pros so I’m sure they’ll be fine continuity-wise,” said Dowse, noting Scott is “very efficient” as a director.
“They’ve obviously found a new way of doing it and … they should be applauded for doing it. It’s a really brave and great move.
“He’s being erased from a film, so there are repercussions for your actions, and there’s no way that one bad apple should bring down what looks like a pretty great film.”