What Happened To John Paul Getty Jr.? 'Trust' Shows His Real Life Struggles
As FX's Trust portrays it, Gail Harris Getty was the most motivated person to get her son back after John Paul Getty III was kidnapped. His father was alive at the time, but Trust shows that John Paul Getty Jr. had his own demons to face. Michael Esper portrays the son of Donald Sutherland's patriarch J. Paul Getty and showcases how Jr. struggled with own dad, and his own role as a father. As for what happened to John Paul Getty Jr., unlike his ex-wife Gail, he's no longer alive. But before he died, he had turned his life around from his former drug-addicted days and even received a British knighthood.
Paul Jr.'s New York Times obituary stated that he had moved to London in 1972 and lived in the U.K. for the rest of his life. But when he started his family with Gail Harris, he lived in America. The New York Times reported in an article about Paul III's son, actor Balthazar Getty, that Paul Jr. married Gail Harris in California in 1956. The couple had four children — Paul III, Aileen, Mark, and Ariadne — and moved to Italy in 1959 so Paul Jr. could run Getty Oil Italia in Rome.
Eventually, Paul Jr. left Gail for model Talitha Pol, whom he married in 1966. As The Independent reported, Paul Jr. and Pol had a freewheeling lifestyle and entertained people like Mick Jagger. (Paul III has mentioned knowing The Rolling Stones' lead singer on Trust.) Paul Jr. had another child with Pol — a son named Tara Gabriel Galaxy Gramophone Getty. But they were both addicted to drugs and Paul Jr. quit his position at Getty Oil Italia. In 1971, Pol died of an accidental heroin overdose in their Rome apartment.
In his obituary, The New York Times notes that Pol's death led to Paul Jr. to turn his life around. He moved to England, became somewhat of a recluse, and began collecting art. In Trust, he is shown to be clean at this time too, but the series supposed in "John, Chapter 11" that he relapsed at the time of his son's kidnapping. Whether or not that's true is unclear, but Forbes reported that his drug addiction significantly deteriorated his health and that he spent a lot of time in The London Clinic in the 1980s.
As for helping his son out when he was kidnapped, The Independent noted that Paul Jr. didn't have the money to pay the ransom. Paul Jr. eventually secured Paul III's freedom by obtaining a loan from his notoriously stingy father. The Independent reported that Paul Jr. never saw his father again after that and Getty Sr. died in 1976. As for Paul III, he struggled with drugs like his father and an overdose in 1981 left him paralyzed. People reported that Gail claimed in court that Paul Jr. would allegedly not pay for any of their son's medical expenses. In an article about Paul III's death in 2011, The Independent wrote that Paul Jr. had said, "Anyone who believes I am unmoved by my son's tragedy, or willing to see him become a public charge, simply does not know me."
Paul Jr. was knighted in 1986 for his charity and The New York Times reported he donated more than $200 million to institutions like the National Gallery of Britain. Paul Jr. married again in 1994 to Victoria Holdsworth (who he is shown being with in Trust) and he became a British citizen in 1997. He died at the age of 70 on April 17, 2003.
John Paul Getty II is remembered for his philanthropy. But before he can get to that calmer era of his life, Trust will continue to show the struggles he and his family went through before and during Paul III's kidnapping.