Rediscover: All the Money in the World

On July 10, 1973, 16-year-old John Paul Getty III, grandson of billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, was kidnapped in Rome. His abductors, the 'Ndrangheta organized crime group, demanded a $17 million ransom. John Paul Getty Jr. asked his father for the money, to which the infamously frugal patriarch replied that paying this ransom would endanger his 13 other grandchildren. In November, the kidnappers sent Getty III's severed ear to a local newspaper, threatening more mutilation if no money was forthcoming. J. Paul Getty finally conceded, to an extent: he negotiated a $2.9 million total ransom, paying $2.2 million himself--the largest tax-deductible amount--and lending the rest to John Paul Getty Jr. at a 4% interest rate. Getty III was released, several of the kidnappers arrested, but most of the money never recovered. The trauma of his captivity sent Getty III on a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse. In 1981, an overdose of Valium, methadone and alcohol caused a stroke that left him quadriplegic and partially blind. He died in 2011 at age 54.

English author John Pearson's 1995 book, Painfully Rich: the Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, is the basis for Ridley Scott's new film about the Getty kidnapping. All the Money in the World stars Mark Wahlberg as Fletcher Chase, a former CIA agent turned adviser; Charlie Plummer as John Paul Getty III; Michelle Williams as his mother, Gail Harris; and Andrew Buchan as John Paul Getty Jr. The role of J. Paul Getty had been filmed with Kevin Spacey, but his recent sex scandals led to last minute re-shoots with Christopher Plummer. The film opened yesterday. A tie-in edition of Pearson's book, renamed after the movie, is available from HarperCollins ($15.99, 9780008292041). --Tobias Mutter

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