The long-awaited dramatized retelling of J. Paul Getty III’s 1973 kidnapping takes place on FX series Trust.
What happened when one, if not THE richest men in the world, decided he would not pay his grandson’s ransom?
You get frustrated kidnappers who slice an ear off the victim in hopes the family will take it all seriously. Problem was, the ones with money took their time.
The man in question, oil tycoon Jean “J.” Paul Getty, played magnificently by Donald Sutherland, is depicted on Trust in decayed and decadent excess.
He is downright cheap regarding petty things like paying for phone calls. His family suffers greatly from his calculated emotional aloofness and his obvious disappointment he has in them all, shared vocally and without remorse.
What is Trust on FX about?
The TV series is about the real-life events of John Paul Getty III’s kidnapping gone wrong
J. Paul Getty III is the son of J. Paul Getty Jr. (Eugene Paul Getty) and grandson of J. Paul Getty.
He is a charming teenage kid living in Italy who caught the attention of Rome with his famous name and his propensity to pay his bills with paintings.
He lived like a hippie, often not wearing shoes and growing his hair quite long. He had moved out of his mother Gail’s house and shared a flat with two artists.
According to numerous reports, Getty III was approached by a car, accosted with a chloroform-soaked pad and gag, and driven to a hideaway.
J. Paul Getty initially refused to pay the ransom, but after a severed ear was sent by post he agreed and John Paul Getty III was released five months after he was first kidnapped.
Does it follow the film, All The Money In The World?
The film All the Money in the World is also about the case, but portrays the kidnappers more as random people whereas Trust is much more specific.
At the Television Critics Association winter press tour, executive producer Simon Beaufoy spoke to the differences between the two projects, saying: “There’s a very good book written by Charles Fox, who interviewed everybody in the family, including Little Paul Getty and Martine and Jutta, his girlfriend and her twin sister. And it became clear, reading in between the lines — and we did a lot of research ourselves — that he actually kidnapped himself. It was a hoax gone wrong.
“He owed money to some guys in Rome. Like all the Gettys, they were all multi-millionaires but couldn’t pay for a drink because they had no cash. And he’d run up quite a large debt, and couldn’t repay it. And the only thing he felt he could use was his name as a Getty. So he cooked up a kidnap plot, and when it went terribly wrong — not a great move to cook up a kidnap plot with some of the most financially mean people in the world.
“So when it went wrong, he was sold on to the Mafia in southern Italy, a whole other, much more serious bunch of people. And then — he had some control, apparently, over his own self-kidnapping, to begin with. And then when he was sold on, he obviously had no control over events whatsoever.”
Who are the players?
J. Paul Getty, played by Donald Sutherland
Brilliant when it came to dealings in the art world, Getty was also a linguist who was fluent in English, German, French and Italian and to a lesser extent Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Greek.
Obsessed with self-image and virility, the scion of Getty Oil was cheap and cruel to his family. Getty installed a coin-operated pay phone at his UK mansion Sutton Place for guests to use.
He loved women and pitted them against each other. Getty was married five times, to Jeannette Dumont (1923), Allene Ashby (1925), Adolphine Helmle (1928), Ann Rork (1932), and Louisa Lynch (1939); all of whom he divorced. He had five sons, two of whom predeceased him.
When you meet him in Trust, Getty Sr. lives in the English countryside, at Sutton Place, with five mistresses, a studious butler and one of several pet lions.
The often quoted line that sums him up? “I have 14 grandchildren, and if I pay a penny of ransom, I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.”
Getty died at Sutton Place on June 6, 1976, and was buried on his Malibu estate near his famous Getty Art Museum on the Pacific Coast Highway.
The sons of Getty
We meet George Getty (Filippo Valle) early on in Trust. He commits suicide with a barbecue fork while hopped up on pills and booze. His official death notices in the press were whitewashed to remove any inferences of suicide per the directives of Getty Sr.
Eugene “John” Paul Getty Jr. is played by Michael Esper. He was in charge of Getty Oil’s Italian division. After divorcing his first wife, he fell into addiction and alcoholism heavily, tried to rehabilitate himself but failed and eventually remarried Dutch actress Talitha Pol. Talitha died of a heroin overdose in Rome on July 14, 1971. His son, John Paul Getty III, is who is kidnapped.
Gordon Getty is played by Norbert Leo Butz, and in real-life he was the favored son of the lot. Despite that, his life was marred by tragedy as well. On April 1, 2015, Gordon’s son Andrew Rork Getty was found dead, at age 47, under a cloud of mystery and heart and digestive ailments at his home in the Hollywood Hills.
J. Ronald Getty (played by David Agranov) is out of favor with his father at the time Trust takes place.
Timothy Ware Getty is not seen in the series. He was the youngest son of Getty and Louise Lynch and died at age 12.
The Getty outliers
Gail (Harris) Getty (Hilary Swank) is the outcast former wife of J. Paul Getty Jr. and mother to John Paul Getty III. When he vanishes she’s convinced her son has met foul play but cannot get through to her former father-in-law for help.
John Paul Getty III (Harris Dickinson) is the barefoot con-artist teenager with charisma, who finagles his way around street people and descends into his grandfather’s opulent world with nonchalance and a cunning plan to get money.
It all backfires. In a revealing 1974 interview with Rolling Stone, J. Paul Getty III defended his grandfather’s decision not to initially pay the ransom.
He said: “When they asked me for my grandfather’s address, of course, I knew what the plot was. The thing is, I never thought my grandfather would pay any kind of ransom. Because of the way he is.
“Besides, I realized I would probably do the same thing. Because I don’t believe that somebody should work for 60 years to make his money and then have some little criminal who’s too lazy to get a job take his money away from him. And anyway you have to show by example to criminals that they can’t get their way all the time.”
Getty III eventually died on February 5, 2011, at 54 years of age due to complications from a 1977 stroke. He was survived by his mother Gail and his son, actor Balthazar Getty.
Meanwhile Brendan Fraser (James Fletcher Chace) is every Texas trope under the Lone Star sun. He acts as J. Paul Getty’s bloviating and loquacious Bible verse-spouting private investigator and fixer who tries to wheel and deal Texas style in Italy where he’s looked at as an oddity with lots of cash available.
Trust on FX: Cast and notable crew
The series stars Donald Sutherland as the imperious J. Paul Getty. Luca Marinelli plays Primo, Anna Chancellor plays Penelope Kitson and Brendan Fraser plays Getty’s private detective from Texas, James Fletcher Chace.
J. Paul Getty Jr. is played by Michael Esper and British actor Harris Dickinson plays John Paul Getty III. Hilary Swank plays his mother, Gail Getty.
The executive producers for the series is Simon Beaufoy, who wrote nine of the ten episodes. British director Danny Boyle directed the first three visually arresting episodes for FX.
Can the story of Trust continue after this season?
Trust creator Simon Beaufoy told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour it might be a possibility, saying: “That fascination could continue in further seasons that would cover the family’s story spanning the entire 20th century, from the formation of Getty Oil to its sale to Texaco in the 1980s.”
Trust premieres Sunday, March 25, at 10pm on FX.