The five month kidnap saga before the Mafia chopped off the ear of J Paul Getty’s grandson after the billionaire REFUSED to pay a ransom – and how it was the heir’s penniless mother who saved his life
• All The Money In The World tells true story of the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, 16, who was held captive for five months by members of the mafia
• Two days after he was taken off the streets of Rome and driven 300 miles south to Calabria, his mother Gail Harris received a ransom demand for $17 million
• The boy’s grandfather J Paul Getty was worth close to $2 billion thanks to his oil fortune at the time, but refused to pay the ransom
• The Gettys and Italian police believed that the boy was faking the kidnapping to get money because he and Gail were cut off from the family fortune
• In November, four months after the kidnapping, a box was sent from the kidnappers containing the boy’s ear and a lock of hair
• A month later a $2.9 million ransom was paid, with Getty paying $2.2 million and loaning his son $700,000 at six percent interest to cover the rest
• When he called his grandfather to thank him at the insistence oif his mother, J Paul Getty refused to come to the phone
• J Paul Getty III would go on to marry and have a son, actor Balthazar Getty, before a 1981 drug overdose left his quadripilegic and unable to speak
By CHRIS SPARGO FOR DAILYMAIL.COM
The terrifying tale of how an heir to the billion-dollar Getty fortune was kidnapped and then held captive for five months has been brought to the big screen by Ridley Scott in the new film All the Money in the World.
J. Paul Getty III was just 16 years old and living in Italy when members of the Italian mafia grabbed him off the street on July 10, 1973 as he returned home from a night out with friends.
He was thrown in the back of the van and taken 300 miles south to the mountains of Calabria, with his captors soon informing the teenager’s family that the boy would be safely returned after they paid a $17 million ransom.
The boy’s mother, Gail Harris, and father, J. Paul Getty Jr, had been cut off from the family fortune, and so they asked J. P Getty if he would be willing to cover the amount of money demanded by the kidnappers.
At the time, J Paul Getty was worth a little less than $2 billion, making him not only the richest man in the world but also the wealthiest man in history.
That is when the already shocking incident took the most bizarre twist of all, with J Paul Getty refusing the pay the ransom money.
J Paul Getty said at the time that if he agreed to the demand made by the kidnappers for the return of his grandson, there was nothing to stop financially-motivated individuals from abducting his other grandchildren.
‘If I pay one penny now, I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren,’ he told reporters at the time.
He was known at the time as much for his oil fortune as for his frugality, and some believed at first that J Paul Getty III may have staged the entire kidnapping to get money from his grandfather.
J Paul Getty Jr had been cut off after his drug addiction led to him leaving the family business and wife Gail, who was quickly cast aside by the Getty family.
It was Gail however who pushed back on her former father-in-law, and used the press to launch subtle attacks that eventually shamed the man into paying the ransom.
That took four months however, and after the kidnappers showed just how far they were willing to take the negotiations.
A package was delivered on November with a note that read: ‘This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits.’
Inside was the teenager’s ear, and a request for $3.2 million if the family wanted to see him come home safe and not returned in ‘little bits.’
This forced J Paul Getty to the negotiating table, and he agreed to pay $2.2 million for the return of his grandson while loaning an additional $700,000 to his son which would have to be paid back with interest.
The money was quickly handed over to the kidnappers, who had been keeping their captive in the tiny village of Cicala, and on December 15 J Paul Getty III was dropped off at a gas station in Potenza, just north of where he was being held in the mountains.
Nine people were ultimately arrested for the kidnapping but only two were convicted, and the ransom money was never located despite police efforts.
There was also no great reunion between grandfather and grandson, with J Paul Getty refusing to take a phone call from the recently released captive when he called from Italy.
The Gettys play a major role in Scott’s film, with British actor Charlie Plummer playing the young victim and Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer tackling th role of the world’s richest man.
It was a part that had initially been filmed by Kevin Spacey, but Scott made the decision to cut him from the picture after allegations of his sexual misconduct with underage boys became public earlier this year.
The star of the film however is not the Getty men, but rather the woman responsible for getting the boy back – his mother Gail.
She is portrayed by Michelle Williams in the film, who along with Plummer and Scott has been nominated for a Golden Globe award.
Gail was followed by the press and did everything in her power to get her son back despite having no access to any of the Getty funds and no support from her drug-addicted ex-husband.
‘Get it from London,’ she was told by the kidnappers when she explained her predicament, suggesting she call her former in-laws.
That was later followed by a letter from her son, which read: ‘Dear Mummy, Since Monday I have fallen into the hands of kidnappers. Don’t let me be killed.’
With no money and little timer, Gail began to very adroitly use the press to shame her former father-in-law and his refusal to hand over any of his fortune.
It was also Gail who had to convince the entire Getty family that this was not some prank her son was pulling in a bid to get a multi-million dollar payday.
Through this all, Gail was forced to communicate through an intermediary as her former father-in-law refused to speak directly to her or her ex.
That man was J. Fletcher Chase, a former CIA operative played in the movie by mark Wahlberg.
He arrived in Italy to try and get the kidnapped teen back without paying any ransom at J Paul Getty’s insistence, and was ultimately accused of almost botching the operation by making a number of foolish moves.
Chase arrived in Rome five weeks after the kidnapping and soon began sleeping with a woman who was reportedly being paid to feed him false leads while suggesting the entire kidnapping was a hoax.
He also botched his first attempt to hand over the ransom to the kidnappers.
‘The aftermath of the ordeal left Mr. Getty as a reckless personality; the year after his release he married a German photographer whose name has been variously reported as Gisela Zacher and Martine Zacher,’ read J Paul Getty III’s obituary in The New York Times when he passed away back in 2011.
‘They lived for a time in New York, where they consorted with the art crowd of Andy Warhol. Mr. Getty became a drug user and a heavy drinker.’
He was survived by his son, actor Balthazar Getty, and his mother, who cared for him until his death following a 1981 drug overdose when the young man consumed a cocktail of Valium, methadone and alcohol that left him quadriplegic and partially blind.
His grandfather J Paul Getty died in 1976 and left his son $500 in his will, and his grandson nothing.