Accounts of Humanity

David Scarpa is an American screenwriter, whose credits include The Last Castle (2001) and the remake of the sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008). His latest script is for Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World, the Golden Globe-nominated drama set around the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), the teenage grandson to oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer). Michelle Williams co-stars as Gail, the boy’s mother who desperately petitions her father-in-law for the $17 million ransom.

ASFF: How you first hear about the kidnapping?
I, frankly, first heard about it when I myself was a kid. It was a legendary kidnapping going back to the 1970s. It was a more innocent time and it was a barbaric kidnapping. That was when I heard about it. I can’t really tell you exactly when, but it always one of those things that you’ve always heard about.

ASFF: How easy was it to research?
There was a book that the producer had gotten hold of through the author which was called Painfully Rich, which was basically a book that Gail Getty co-operated with the author on. So a lot of it came from her own account. She worked with the author and proof-read the manuscript. So a lot of that information, and also Paul Getty III gave interviews about the kidnapping and his experiences to several different writers. So there were a number of sources that were available and we also did independent interviews with people who were involved with the case, such as an FBI agent.

ASFF: What conclusions did you come to about J. Paul Getty?
I approached him as a tragic figure. He’s obviously the wealthiest man in the world and you would think that this would mean that he would have essentially a freedom from money. His grandson is kidnapped and this causes him real pain. He wants his grandson free and yet he doesn’t have the power over himself to simply hand over the money to free him. He’s a classic miser – he has this hoarding behaviour where he amassed all this art collection as well.

ASFF: How did you feel when Ridley Scott came on board to direct?
I was quite thrilled that Ridley took an interest very early in the game, and we were all delighted to hear about it. It took a little bit of back and forth before we were actually able to put the whole movie together with Ridley.

ASFF: What did you think when you heard that Danny Boyle is behind a rival TV series, Trust, about the Getty family?
Our project had been around for a while longer. I’d written the script and it had gone out to the world and it was widely read in Hollywood. So we didn’t really hear of the Danny thing for quite a while after that. Having said that, keep in mind they’re two different media. One is film, one is television – and they both have their strengths and weaknesses. I don’t think they’re necessarily competitive.

All The Money In The World
opens in cinemas 5 January. For more details, visit:

James Mottram

1. Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams film All The Money In The World.