Yes, John Paul Getty III was a real person — and here’s what you need to know about the man whose story is being told on ‘Trust’.
1.) John Paul Getty III died on February 5, 2011. He was the oldest son of his father’s, John Paul Getty Jr., and the heir to his oil tycoon grandfather’s massive fortune. John, who occasionally went by the name “Paul Getty”, was raised in Rome, Italy where his father, John Jr., worked for the family’s oil business. After his parents divorced and his father remarried, John III was eventually expelled from school and became better known for living a hard-partying lifestyle.
2.) ‘Trust‘ tells the true story about John III’s kidnapping. The series, which premieres on March 25 on FX, stars Harris Dickinson as the then 16-year-old heir who gets kidnapped in Rome in 1973. The teenager was allegedly blindfolded and moved to a mountain hideout in Calabria, Italy while a ransom note demanding $17 million was sent to his father. Unfortunately for John III, some members of his family believed the kidnapping was a ploy created by the teenager to get money out of his family.
3.) Even more unfortunate? John III’s grandfather, J. Paul Getty, refused to give John Jr. the $17 million to pay the ransom. The oil tycoon allegedly believed that if paid the ransom for one of his grandchildren that the other 13 could be kidnapped next. Things got messy as the kidnappers sent additional demands. A lock of hair, a human ear and a note was sent to a newspaper threatening that the Getty heir would continue to be mutilated until they were paid $3.2 million. The threat also claimed that if the family ignored this demand, in 10 days Getty’s second ear would be cut off. This is when the senior Getty men finally started to take things seriously.
4.) Getty negotiated a $2.9 million ransom for his grandson. He paid $2.2 million outright because it was the maximum amount that was tax deductible, and then he loaned the rest to his son, John Paul Jr., to pay the balance. The father-son duo created an agreement that John Paul Jr. would pau his father back with 4% interest over time. John III was eventually dumped alive at a gas station once his ransom was paid. Nine of his kidnappers were caught, including a carpenter, a hospital worker, and members of a local Calabrian mafia.
5.) John III went on to marry just one year later. They welcomed a baby boy, Balthazar, in 1975 and less than 20 years later in 1993 John and his wife divorced. Although he acted in a few European films over the years, John III suffered greatly from his kidnapping which led to a drug and alcohol addiction. In 1981 he suffered a stroke that left him partially blind, unable to speak and a quadriplegic.