All the Money in the World: True story of billionaire John Paul Getty who refused to pay kidnappers $17m to save grandson’s life

Olivia Petter

The subject of the upcoming film All the Money in the World might just be as controversial as the production itself.

It originally starred Kevin Spacey; however, the Hollywood actor was recently cut from the project after allegations against him emerged surrounding sexual assault.

Christopher Plummer steps in to replace Spacey in the lead role of J.Paul Getty, the American billionaire who famously refused to pay $17m (£12.5m) for the release of his kidnapped teenage grandson.

The movie tells the true story of how Getty’s resistance to pay his grandson’s abductors a dime led him to overdosing on drugs at the age of 25.

It was in 1973 that the then 16-year-old John Paul Getty was kidnapped in Rome.

Knowing all about his family’s wealthy legacy – which had its roots in the oil industry – his kidnappers demanded $17m from J. Paul Getty, who was the wealthiest man in the world at the time.

Known to his contemporaries as “Old John”, Getty had five wives during his lifetime in addition to a string of mistresses whom he spoke to via a personal payphone which was installed at his 75-acre Surrey estate.

Getty did not meet his kidnapped grandson, who was known to friends and family as Paul, until he was 11-years-old and when they met again four years later when he was 15-years-old, Getty was reportedly unimpressed by his bohemian lifestyle.

At the time of the abduction Paul had been living in Rome where he had worked as painter.

Aware of his family legacy, his identity was well known by the local media and he was subsequently scrutinised by them and dubbed “the Golden Hippie”.

Paul was purchasing a comic book at a newsstand when he was abducted by three men who knocked him out by hitting him with a gun.

The men drove him to a cave in the southern part of the country and tied him up while they probed the Getty family for the hefty ransom.

Initially, they suspected it was a hoax that Paul had contrived in order to ascertain more money from his family.

At the time, Old John told the media that he didn’t believe in paying kidnappers.

“I have 14 other grandchildren and if I pay one penny now, then I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren,” he said.

After three months of silence from the Gettys, the kidnappers took action by cutting off the wealthy teenager’s right ear with a razor and sending it in a bag to a newspaper in Rome.

After close inspection, Paul’s mother, Gail, recognised that this was her son’s ear from his freckles and began trying to raise funds to pay the ransom money that Old John had refused to pay.

The family were ultimately able to negotiate the ransom down to $2.2m (£1.6m) and Paul was released five months after he’d been taken.

Nine years later, an overdose on methadone and valium left Paul quadriplegic and he died in 2011 at the age of 54.

Today, Forbes estimates that the Getty family – who remain prominent figures in the US and the UK – boast a net worth of $5.4bn.

Independent News Service

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