Charlie Plummer stars in “All the Money in the World” as John Paul Getty III, grandson and namesake of the wealthiest man in the world. When Getty III was kidnapped at age 16 in 1973, his grandfather refused to pay the $7 million ransom. In an interview, Plummer (no relation to Christopher Plummer, who plays the flinty oil baron), talked about the challenges of the role and what he learned from director Ridley Scott.
For a story like this, based on a real-life incident, is your performance based exclusively on the script or do you do outside research about the people and the times?
I did do outside research. I don’t have a lot of experience and this is certainly the first time I played a character who was at all based on a real person. So I did take full advantage of that and I did do as much research as I could. But I also didn’t want to overwhelm myself with research because I wanted to do my own interpretation. I thought if I was going to do it, it would really have to come from who I am as well. I then spoke to Ridley to really see his vision of the character and who this person was at this time in his movie; that was also really important for me. So I think all of those components really made up what my performance ended up being like.
Your character is somebody has had great wealth around him but he himself has not been super privileged because his grandfather would not give his mother any money. How did that affect him?
That was one thing that I think really sparked my interest. This guy who has this status, this name and what that means and when he walks into a room he knows that all people are talking about him is if he’s this person but then he goes home and he doesn't have all of that wealth. By the end of the film you see who he is when he does have all this wealth.
What's interesting for me is at the start of the film where he doesn't have it, though. He just has the name, the status. And so there is that emptiness inside of him. He had a certain emptiness in him and one that couldn’t be filled by status or wealth . John Paul Getty III got into this argument with a friend of his, actually the night he got kidnapped. He was drunk and they were fighting and the friend said “You’d be nothing without your name. No one would even care about you.” I think that that really does weigh on him in terms of who he is as a young person. At that age he was surrounded by these accomplished people, whether they were in politics or the arts, and really the reason why he was in those rooms was because of his name.
What was it like to inhabit the 70’s and what surprised you about that era?
Ridley is such a master for so many reasons and he had such a point of view on this decade and on this time. Janty Yates who did the costumes for the film and Ferdinando Merolla did the hair — all of that makes it a lot easier to slip into who that character was at that time. Janty was really the first person other than Ridley that I got to share ideas about the character with and so that was such an important relationship throughout. When that’s the first thing you see, it does have an effect on how the audience receives him and what they think his life has been like and so it definitely had an effect on my whole process. When you’re walking around and you see all the cars and the clothing and and it it all so iconic and it’s right at your fingertips — it really helped me slip into what that character was going through. At the end of the day it is not about the era. It is really is just about these people and what's going on internally for them and that is certainly what it was for me.
What did you learn from your director, Ridley Scott?
I learned so much from him. Just being around him you learn so much and that was certainly the case for me getting to just be on set with him you and seeing how he speaks with people and how he works in his own environment I think was such a learning experience. Every time I see him he always asks what I'm doing and what I'm working on next. The way he is so interested in everyone and everything and the way that at age 80 how he’s still working as much as he is. I just saw him and immediately he started talking about the next thing he’s doing. For a young person especially that is such an important lesson to always keep moving forward and always keep fighting to learn and grow. He is such a good example of that.