Just a few days after Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual abuse this fall, Ridley Scott came up with a plan to salvage “All the Money in the World.”
Spacey, who played J. Paul Getty in the fact-based kidnapping drama, was now radioactive, and Scott didn’t want his and others’ work to go for naught. So the director and the movie’s financier, Imperative Entertainment, agreed to an unusual move: They would recast the role with Christopher Plummer and engage in nearly two weeks of reshoots just a short time before the December release. Imperative would pay the costs, which ran as high as $10 million, to rehire crew and actors. Sony Pictures, the film’s distributor, would cut new marketing materials.
On Monday, that undertaking was rewarded in a major way. “All the Money” received three nominations at the Golden Globes: Scott for best director, Michelle Williams for lead actress in a drama and, most validatingly, Plummer for supporting actor. It was a remarkable lemons-into-lemonade story for a project that a few weeks ago seemed destined to become a little-seen trivia question.
Whether that story will resonate beyond the Golden Globes remains to be seen.
Because “All the Money” had been engaged in reshoots until last week, nearly no critic or taste-maker has seen it; Scott is in fact believed to still be frantically working on the film in post-production. (The Hollywood Foreign Press Association that picks the Globes nominees was shown an early cut.)
The HFPA, which is composed of some 89 overseas journalists based in Hollywood, also has almost no overlap with the thousands of industry professionals who choose the Oscars. Ditto for the Screen Actors Guild, which decides on another of Hollywood’s major annual awards.
The HFPA’s nominations can have a put-it-on-the-map effect, but they can also have a well-that-was-weird effect. Exhibit A for the former: One of the winners of the Globes’ two best picture categories has gone on to win the Oscar for best picture more times than not in the past decade (four out of seven years).
Exhibit A for the latter: Some of its nominees in those categories, such as “Burlesque,” “St. Vincent” and “Florence Foster Jenkins,” didn’t exactly storm the Oscars.
The politics of Globes voters are strange. Historically, they have sometimes been on to something, voting for television shows such as “Homeland” and “Transparent” before they hit the Hollywood-awards mainstream. But they also can go their own quirky way, privileging personality over quality.
Their nominations for “All the Money” can simply be seen as a gesture of goodwill for Scott and his cast’s herculean effort as much as a cinematic evaluation — evidence of which is that the director and two actors were nominated, but the movie wasn’t on the best picture list. (Of course, the Oscars could also hand out nominations for goodwill, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is somewhat less likely to vote that way.)
In choosing to honor “All the Money,” the Globes have begun to offer answers to a new and charged set of questions about the Hollywood harassment scandals: Can projects tainted by them recover — or even have a scandal work out to their advantage?
Whether these Golden Globe nominees could actually win when the Globes are handed out Jan. 7 remains to be seen. The HFPA likes to gauge which way the wind is blowing, so it will likely be following as much as leading there. The movie’s commercial prospects when it comes out over Christmas will be a major factor, too.
Still, the film scored an undeniable victory Monday. Sony and Imperative need “All the Money” to work wide — it’s an expensive proposition whose economic success will rely on average moviegoers coming out to see it. The Globes just gave them a little bit more of a reason to do so.