But scandal swirling around colleague Kevin Spacey set in motion one of Hollywood’s all-time boldest gambles: completely excising and replacing an A-list star.
Allegations of the “American Beauty” actor’s sexual misconduct first broke on Oct. 29, less than three weeks before the gala Hollywood premiere for Sony’s fact-based kidnap thriller.With public outrage mounting, postponing release to 2018, or even beyond, wasn’t out of the question.
But producer-director Ridley Scott was determined his team’s work would get a fair shake in the marketplace, sending a script over to the more age-appropriate actor he’d first sought. Scott assembled stars and crew over Thanksgiving to recreate Spacey’s 10 days of critical scenes, with footage daily edited into the film so as to meet critics’ and awards groups’ deadlines.
Controversy over reshoot pay disparities arose and just as quickly subsided when Mark Wahlberg donated $1.5 million to the Time’s Up legal fund in the name of Michelle Williams (paid $800 in per diems).
Missing its original Dec. 22 debut by only three days, the movie may not have earned all the money in the world. But the director’s seamless stitchery was widely hailed, and Plummer enjoyed the reviews and the awards recognition Sony had hoped for Spacey in less-tumultuous days.
Actors’ deaths have often required doubles and other trickery, notably by Scott himself when Oliver Reed passed during production on “Gladiator.”
But a potential career death blow, sending Plummer in for Spacey, is something else again. Circumstances, technical wizardry and producers’ guts combined to pull off a feat that may not soon be duplicated, but is sure to be remembered.