Charlie Plummer has been acting since he was nine years old. He’s appeared on stage, starred in Boardwalk Empire, and now he’s featured in Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World as J. Paul Getty III. The billionaire’s grandson was abducted in Italy and held for ransom by kidnappers who threatened to maim him unless they were paid. His grandfather refused and the kidnappers carried out their threat.
For Plummer, who is no relation to Christopher Plummer, it was a chance to work with a grandmaster director and see Ridley Scott in action.
We caught up last weekend to talk about the film and Plummer’s audition which was recorded by his girlfriend on an iPhone.
Read our chat to see what Plummer had to say about the research he carried out for the film.
Charlie, I have to say that’s a transformation we see you go through.
I think a lot of it I shouldn’t take any credit for because the designs of the character in terms of what he was wearing and his makeup and hair was so incredible. Ridley really does have the best people to do everything. I really give so much credit to that. He’s an interesting guy. He has such an interesting life and he lived one.
I got to talk to Ridley about when Getty’s grandson was 16 and it was such a pivotal point in his life for the obvious reasons, but also as it is for most people in their lives and they’re discovering who they’re going to be as an adult. He was hanging out with The Rolling Stones and Andy Warhol. What’s interesting is that he didn’t have all of the wealth that his name had. I got to read up a lot on him and in his own words, his own experience and being that age. It was a specific character to see.
What was your knowledge of the story because so many people I’ve spoken to know the name, but not what happened?
I didn’t know the full story. When I heard about the project, I only knew about the Getty Museum and the Getty Oil. I didn’t really know about the kidnapping. I’d heard it mentioned, but then to really dive into it and into the family dynamic. To see what this family and what my character’s relationship with his mother was like, and his relationship to the world too. He was very involved in the arts scene and politics at such a young age. He was quite a rebellious person in general. It was a dream to be able to dive into that and then have Ridley guide you.
What was your most useful resource to learn about who he was?
He’d done some interviews with Rolling Stone. There was a book written by Charles Fox who had interviewed him and they were working on a biography before he died, so I was able to go into that and that was really helpful. While we were filming, I was able to go back into that. For me, it was all about speaking to Ridley because it’s impossible to capture this person’s life in two hours or so. I wanted to see what was important to him and in this story and how can I interpret it. I didn’t want it to be an imitation, I wanted it to seem like a real person.
How did you get involved in the film?
The casting director Carmen Cuba cast me in a movie called Lean on Pete and I shot that. We finished, I met with her and she does all of Ridley’s films. She really liked me and she asked me to put a couple of scenes on tape. My whole family was away on work and it was me and my girlfriend who was filming on an iPhone and Carmen said, “My God Charlie, you need to step it up with the audition tapes.” I thought I didn’t have a chance. Three weeks later I got the call saying I’d gotten the part. For me, this was really fast. I was expecting it to be the process of flying places and meeting people.
I saw the film and that scene where his ear is cut off. What was interesting was that at my screening so many people men and women turned their heads. What was it like to shoot that scene?
It was a difficult scene. I’d spent a month and a half working with the prosthetics people to make the ear and I’d go in, I’d get a head cast. It was a whole process. On the day, there’s a lot of work that goes into the prosthetics. There’s a lot of pressure because they’d only made a few ears. In the script, it’s written that they start cutting the ear and you see the blood start to drip and my eyes would shoot open and that would be the cut. So, I was talking to Ridley right before and I asked him if he was going to shoot it like that, he said, “Let’s see what happens if you keep going. If you wake up and feel it.” I hadn’t prepared for that at all, I don’t even know if you could because I don’t think there are videos of people getting their ears chopped off. In that moment, it was exciting because it was a case of what is that sensation like? Trying to imagine and feel that much pain in that moment was such an interesting experience. For me, watching that, it’s about watching that connection between CInquante and my character and how he’s right there sitting with me. To have him looking on the other side was so powerful and looking into his eyes was incredible and to be able to look into them was so helpful for me.
Have you seen it yet?
Yes, I was so happy and I had no idea what to expect. I was so impressed and felt so honored to be in their company. Everyone who worked on the film is at the top of their craft and this film showcases that. I think it’s a really good job.
I read up on him or as much as I could after the movie. He went on to lead such a tragic life.
He had such an interesting life and I think that’s something you see in the final scene where you see my character after all of this mess is over with. He has his life together and he’s looking healthy and good, but I think something is missing there. I think Ridley wanted to talk about wealth and what it does to a person. I think how empty a person can feel with that much around them and how tempting it is to fill that emptiness with anything you can.
For me, that was an essential part of the story. For me, there’s a component he’s searching for. I think that comes in form of compassion from his mother, his father, his grandfather and he’s missing something. Unfortunately, that carried through his life, especially when he was 23 and he overdosed and became a quadriplegic.
I hope people connect with it. I think there’s so much to connect with.
I found his relationship with his mother so interesting, particularly the scene when he makes that call to his mother.
I know. It was a great moment, right?
What’s next for you?
I’m doing a movie with A24. It’s a beautiful script and it’s out in 2018. I did Lean on Pete which is out in March. Other than that, nothing because it was a busy year. Hopefully, the right project will come up.
What do you look for in your roles when you’re reading a part?
It’s so interesting because I’ve been talking to so many young actors about it, and for me, it’s about the director, that’s really first. Like I was mentioning earlier, with Ridley, it’s all through him and his vision and what he wants to capture. That affects so much of what my job is. That’s really the most important thing. In terms of the character, as long as it’s a complex person and someone who changes over time. It’s always appealing to me to play someone who’s different from who I am. I think it does come down to the director.
What was it like working on a Ridley Scott movie? This is the guy who gave us Alien and Gladiator and Blade Runner.
It is different. I think to spend time with him and to see how he works is just priceless. I think for anyone of any age, but especially for me. I turned 18 while we were filming and to get to be around a person who has decades of experience and is a part of cinematic history, but I think in this process he’s really been able to show why he is and who he is. I think that comes from the courage he has and the bravery to do what he does and how he just doesn’t give up no matter what is in front of him. As a young artistic person to see that was so powerful, I could listen to him talk for ages.
He came along to introduce the movie last night. I could listen to him all night long.
I know. He’s an encyclopedia. He knows so much and some of his films are my favorite movies of all time. That’s the thing when you’re working with Ridley. It’s about that moment, it’s about whatever is in front of you. It’s not about tomorrow or yesterday. To hear his stories was incredible.