Ridley Scott Axes Kevin Spacey Character from a Film Already 'In the Can'

Director Ridley Scott shocked the film world by announcing that he is replacing actor Kevin Spacey with noted Canadian-born film star Christopher Plummer in his already completed film All the Money in the World. The film tells the story of J. Paul Getty’s ordeal following his son’s kidnapping. Spacey played Getty, whose scenes must now be reshot.

The film was scheduled for a closing-night screening at the AFI film festival, but was pulled by Scott at the last minute after allegations of sexual assault by Spacey were reported in the media.

The task of replacing a major character in a film that had been completed is monumental, as the The Hollywood Reporter points out:

The movie, which was pulled as the closing-night screening of AFI Fest at Scott’s insistence, is scheduled to hit theaters Dec. 22 via Sony’s TriStar. As of now, the release date remains unchanged despite the reshoots, but insiders say that if anyone can pull off reshoots and still make the holiday release date, it’s Scott.

The filmmaker made the decision unilaterally and only notified Sony of his decision late Wednesday afternoon, according to sources familiar with the situation, adding that Plummer was originally the first choice for the role, but top studio executives wanted a bigger name.

Spacey shot a total of eight days and many of his scenes featured just him. Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams also star in the feature, as J. Paul Getty’s lawyer and daughter, and the two are expected to come back for reshoots.

It is not clear how Scott will produce the Spacey-Plummer swap, but bringing back the actors for filming and finishing the movie on this razor-tight schedule is an enormous undertaking. Another equally complicated option may be the use of delicate visual effects work. One challenge for such VFX work is that many of Spacey’s scenes were shot in different locations.

VFX house MPC — which was the lead VFX house on last year’s visual effects Oscar winner The Jungle Book — is working on All the Money in the World. (Other VFX houses may also be involved). Depending on the complexity and number of shots in which the character appears, it is possible that digital compositing could place Plummer into some existing shots.

Such techniques have been used in unique situations to finish other films, although the current situation is virtually unprecedented.

There are plenty of examples of actors dying in the middle of a production. But this film was “in the can”and ready for distribution when Scott made the decision to ax Spacey from the movie. Obviously, Scott thinks that even with the extra costs, the film has a better chance of giving a return to investors if Spacey’s name is no longer associated with the project.

But talk about a buzz killer — I think Scott is throwing good money at an unrecoverable film. Even if Spacey isn’t seen or mentioned, most potential customers will know the background and either avoid the film or watch it with a distracted eye. But when you give a couple years of your life to a project, it’s hard to give up on it. Apparently, Scott just couldn’t let it go.

Sony should have put its foot down, but Scott is a maker of blockbusters and the company almost certainly didn’t want to piss him off and lose a chance to produce his next mega hit.