Ridley Scott and Danny Boyle are Tackling the Same Subject

A film by Scott and a TV Show by Boyle chronicle a 1970s kidnapping.

Fresh off The Martian and Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott is returning to earth for his next project, and to the all-too-human subjects of greed, power, and family. Scott will be directing All the Money in the World, a Black List script by David Scarpa that recounts the real life kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. Getty was the grandson of J. Paul Getty Sr., one of the world’s wealthiest men at the time, but had become estranged from his grandfather after his mother, Gail Harris, had divorced John Paul Getty II. When, one night in 1973, Getty III (known as Paul) didn’t return home, a ransom note soon appeared demanding $17 million for his return. Getty Sr., suspecting that the young man may have staged his own kidnapping, initially refused to pay – until a lock Paul’s hair and his severed right ear were sent as proof. The notoriously callous Getty Sr. nevertheless continued to negotiate with Paul’s captors until eventually settling on a sum of $2.9 million (divided into the $2.2 million tax deductible maximum, and an $800,000 loan to Gail Harris).

Such a lurid and tragic story virtually cries out for Hollywood adaptation – which is presumably what Danny Boyle thought when he announced last year that he’d be chronicling the same events in a TV series for FX. As of one week prior to Scott’s announcement, Boyle was still in development on the project, which he has reimagined as a five-season, fifty-year saga about the Getty family. The series, fittingly titled Trust, would begin in the 70s with the kidnapping of Getty III and chronicle a different decade in each of its five seasons. Boyle plans to direct “the first two or three” episodes of the series, which means that (so long as one team doesn’t bail out) two of the finest directors working today will be tackling the same story in two different media at the same time.

This isn’t the first time that the cultural zeitgeist has produced two adaptations of the same material in rapid succession: biopics of Alfred Hitchcock, Truman Capote, Yves Saint Laurent, and Steve Jobs have all come in pairs in recent years (Boyle directed the better of the two Jobs films). But the Getty story provides something unique. Given that Scott’s film and Boyle’s show wouldn’t be in direct competition, fans may revel in the chance to see how the same story is channeled through two different masters’ visions. Will Boyle’s feature a frenetic style, while Scott’s veers more classical? Will performances differ on the big and small screens? And what of the moral stance? Will Boyle focus more on the class critique, while Scott seizes upon the intrigue of the kidnapping? Or will it be the reverse?

If, fingers crossed, both adaptations continue to move forward, the result may be a rare opportunity to see directly how medium and filmmaker affect the treatment of a particular subject. Though both Scott and Boyle are famously visual, their styles differ greatly, and a story as rich as this affords numerous opportunity for selection and interpretation. Suffice it to say, we’re excited.

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