Getting your first big break in Hollywood is one thing; finding a role in film that earns accolades come awards seasons is another thing entirely. Add on top of that a scandal that turns into acclaim, notoriety that turns into charity, and Giuseppe Bonifati’s first feature film role is anything but normal.
The Italian actor has studied at prestigious schools in Italy, works around Europe, is fluent in a multitude of languages, and is proficient at many dances styles. He portrays Giovanni Iacovoni in All the Money in the World, a Ridley Scott film about the infamous 1970s kidnapping of a billionaire’s grandson. John Paul Getty Sr. wasn’t just rich; he was the richest man in the world, a status he earned in part by being particular thrifty. When his grandson Paulo was kidnapped in Italy, Getty refused to pay the ransom. Complicating matters is that he was estranged from and offended by his daughter-in-law Gail Harris (played by Michelle Williams), who now had custody of Paulo. Complicating matters further was the fact that Getty’s fixer Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) initially believed the kidnapping to be a fake.
“I knew about the story, but only the big headlines, as it happened many years ago before I was born,” Bonifati told KHACHILIFE. “When I asked my family about it, I found out that my parents and their generation had several memories about the case, as the story received a lot of attention during that time. The events happened in the region of Calabria, an area not far from my hometown, so it was particularly interesting for them.”
In the film, Bonifati plays a lawyer forced to walk a very fine line. He is hired by Harris while they hole up in Italy to find her son, but she is soon working with Chase, a man who doesn’t have the same cold heart as Getty and is determined to fix his mistake. There is also the prying public, the nosier paparazzi, and a slew of lawyers and threats from the Getty estate. In short, it’s chaos — and this was before social media.
In playing a real life person, albeit in a supporting role, Bonifati opted to learn as much as he could about the man he would play, as well as the case. “I did extensive personal research with the precious help of the Iacovoni family. Enrico, who first contacted me, lent me all the newspapers about the Getty case that had been carefully collected by his father, Giovanni Iacovoni, forty-four years ago. The original articles and photographs, through which I got to know more about the months of Paul’s kidnapping, were invaluable.”
Of course, as wild and dramatic as the story in the film is—a tale of family, friendship, betrayal, and money, complete with humour and twists and chases and even a scene of torture—the story surrounding the making of the film is compelling as well.
Kevin Spacey was first cast as Getty. Being much younger than the real Getty at the time, Spacey donned lots of makeup to assume the role. The film was shot and set to be released some six weeks before sexual abuse allegations were made public against Spacey. It was quickly decided that he would be cut from the film, and in less than two weeks, Ridley Scott reached out to actor Christopher Plummer. A good portion of the film was reshot with Plummer as the new Getty.
“All of this happened very fast, but again, thanks to the amazing Ridley Scott, everything was very relaxed. Ridley knew exactly what he was doing and the whole team was very professional and efficient during the reshoot, in both Italy and England,” recalled Bonifati. “It was a great experience to go back for the reshoot and to work with all the cast. Despite what people may think because of the tight nine days, after the famous ‘second call,’ I returned to a really familiar and pleasant working atmosphere.”
Scott, Williams, and Plummer all earned Golden Globe nominations for their work. Plummer, to his great credit, nabbed an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Spacey’s performance is gone, and most likely forgotten. Only those who worked on set can speak a bit about the difference.
“I wasn’t able to see both versions to know if the change made the film better, but from what I experienced on set, I liked the work of both actors,” said Bonifati. “Each of them had a very different approach to the character. While Spacey played the role as a very cold and firm businessman, Plummer ‘inhabited’ his character immediately and perfectly, just after stepping in. Plummer showed an emotional side of the grandfather, which made his figure even more terrifying.” That side is shown early on in the film and reinforced throughout, as Getty proves himself selfish time and again; Scott embraces the emotional misdirects that will get the viewer.
“At the same time, I really appreciated Spacey’s performance because he was able to completely transform in the role, too,” continued Bonifati. “Sometimes it took my colleagues and I ten minutes to realize he was already on set and ready to shoot.” Bonifati added that he was thankful that the reshoot could happen, that his work, and that of so many others, was not lost and buried because of the actions of one person.
What’s more, news was made following the reshoost when it was discovered that Wahlberg received a much, much higher reimbursement than his costar Williams. Upon public outrage and outcry, Wahlberg donated his $1.5 million reshoot fee to Time’s Up, a movement and defense fund formed following a watershed of sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood.
Surely a unique experience, All The Money In The World stands to be just the beginning for Bonifati. While he is eager to work on a film in the US, the talented actor has many other interests and skills, and looks to art and theatre for much of 2018.
“I plan on leading an interdisciplinary project, called Art As Defense, in Denmark, within the first part of the year,” said Bonifati. “This project includes many actions, site-specific performances, workshops, and video installations. I will also direct a theatre play in the fall of 2018 in Hungary, based on a text that I wrote in 2012 called The Last Blow. It is about an Amish family with a hyper-technological approach.”
It’s likely, though, that nothing will quite compare to working with Ridley Scott for a first film credit. “On the very first day he came over to me and began messing up my hair, to give me an ‘eccentric lawyer’ look,” said Bonifati. “He gave me a ‘Maestro´s touch!’”