Prior to 1973, the Getty family was known for being the richest oil dynasty in the world. After that year, they became known for being the family destroyed by kidnapping, trauma, and family strife. Now they will be known for something else: as the inspiration for All The Money in the World, the new movie starring Christopher Plummer (and formerly Kevin Spacey). Ridley Scott's headline-making new film tells the story of John Paul Getty III's kidnapping and the chaos and media storm that followed. Though it is based on a true story, just how accurate All the Money in the World is is a question we might never be able to truly answer.
In 1973, the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III was an absolutely massive story. Journalists everywhere were fascinated with the story, and it's not hard to see why. A gruesome kidnapping complete with a severed ear, a multi-million dollar ransom, and a patriarch who refused to pay to save his grandson's life — if you wrote it in a book, it would be criticized for being over the top. But even though the incident was highly publicized at the time, and has been the subject of many media pieces since, there's still a lot that people don't know about the inner workings of what really happened during the Getty kidnapping. This is largely due to the famously cold and guarded nature of John Paul Getty, the grandfather who refused to pay the ransom for months. That said, over the years, more and more information has been revealed about the kidnapping.
All the Money in the World is based on a book by John Pearson, originally published in 1995 under the name Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty. Pearson wrote the biography of the Getty fortune as a journalist and historian, but it's unclear whether he received any official blessing or special access to the Getty family. So, while the film All the Money in the World might be factually accurate, the accuracy with which it depict the private relationships remains to be seen. For example, the relationship between Gail, the mother of the kidnapped son, and former CIA Agent Fletcher Chase, hired by Getty to oversee the Italian investigation into the kidnapping, is a major point of the film, but it is not based on their personal accounts.
Members of the Getty family have steered clear of publicly supporting or criticizing the film. Not even Balthazar Getty, actor and son of John Paul Getty III, has commented publicly. Only Ariadne Getty, sister of Getty III, has made public comments on the film, and she kept her opinions relatively neutral. "It's very personal to me, and I really don't have that much of a comment," she said in an interview with Town & Country. Ariadne, known as Ari, defended her family against what she viewed as the film's main thesis: that the Getty family, specifically its patriarch, cared only about money. "I think it's a film that painted our family as only obsessed with wealth," she said. "That's not the way I raised my children. We weren't raised that way."
It's impossible for any movie based on true events to be completely accurate, even with the full cooperation of those upon who the film is based. With most of the main players now gone — Getty died in 1976, Getty III in 2011 — and without the support from the Getty family, the story told in All the Money in the World should be taken with a grain of salt.