How Accurate Is FX's 'Trust'? John Paul Getty III's Family Disagrees With A Key Part Of The Plot
Trust tells the story of the abduction of John Paul Getty III, the grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. The events in Trust surrounding John Paul Getty III's abduction are pulled from reality, but the Getty family has disputed the accuracy of Trust. Per Deadline, the Getty family is threatening FX with legal action for what John Paul Getty III's sister Ariadne Getty's attorney Martin Singer claims is a "false and misleading" portrayal of the events. (Bustle reached out to FX for comment, but has not yet received a reply.)
The kidnapping of John Paul Getty III is one of the most notorious cases of abduction in American history for many reasons — chief among them that he was a member of one of the richest families in the world. At the time of the kidnapping, J. Paul Getty had an estimated wealth of $1.2 billion, which is equivalent to $9.1 billion today per the New York Post. Despite this wealth, J. Paul Getty infamously refused to pay the initial ransom amount of $17 million dollars requested by the kidnappers. In a statement to the press, the elder Getty backed up his refusal to pay by stating that "I have 14 other grandchildren and if I pay one penny now, then I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren," per The Independent.
If that story seems familiar to you, it's likely because you were aware of the 2017 film All The Money In The World, which also tells the story of John Paul Getty III's abduction. Ariadne Getty also had issue with the film, telling Town & Country, "I think it’s a film that painted our family as only obsessed with wealth ... That’s not the way that I raised my children. We weren’t raised that way."
However, Getty didn't threaten the makers of All The Money In The World with legal action, so what is Trust allegedly doing so differently that the Getty family is in conflict with FX? The biggest difference comes down to the question of whether or not John Paul Getty III allegedly volunteered to be abducted for ransom.
In All The Money In The World, Getty is portrayed as a victim kidnapped by an organized crime ring for no reason other than being a member of a wealthy family. Trust, however, suggests that Getty allegedly was part of orchestrating his own kidnapping. Per Variety, Trust writer and executive producer Simon Beaufoy claimed to a crowd at the Television Critics Association winter press tour that his alleged research into Getty's story allegedly revealed this. Beaufoy claimed, "It became clear reading between the lines that [Getty] actually kidnapped himself ... It was a hoax gone wrong … He’d run up a debt, quite a large debt, and couldn’t repay it." Trust portrays the story of Getty's kidnapping as if the then 16-year-old Getty III was allegedly in on the act.
Singer, writing to FX as the lawyer for Ariadne Getty, broke down her feelings on the portrayal of her family in Trust. The letter to FX, obtained by Deadline, claimed, "It is ironic that you have titled your television series Trust. More fitting titles would be Lies or Mistrust, since the defamatory story it tells about the Gettys colluding in the kidnapping is false and misleading, and viewers rightly ought to mistrust it."
John Paul Getty III cannot comment on the accuracy of Trust, as he passed away in 2011 according to The New York Times. However, a 1974 interview he gave to Rolling Stone suggests that he would disagree with the series' portrayal of him. In the interview, Getty recalled the kidnapping as a victim and not an alleged accomplice. In his recollection of events, Getty claimed he did not immediately realize why he had been kidnapped, but "when [the kidnappers] asked me for my grandfather's address, of course, I knew what the plot was. The thing is, I never thought my grandfather would pay any kind of ransom. Because of the way he is. Besides, I realized I would probably do the same thing."
So, while Trust is focused on the same events as All The Money In The World, it imagines these events unfolding in a very different way.