Late Getty Heir's Directorial Debut 'The Evil Within' Lands After 15 Years

The Evil Within - Still - H 2017
Credit: Vision Films

Andrew Getty — grandson of J. Paul Getty — sank an estimated $4 million to $6 million of his own fortune into the horror film, which he obsessed over right up until his death in 2015.

Among the many peculiar titles that made their market debut at the American Film Market late last year, Vision Films’ The Evil Within may well have been the strangest.

Now released in the U.S. available on VOD and DVD, the psychological horror stands out in no small part because of its somewhat protracted production (almost 15 years), and also its director: a Getty oil heir who died at age 47 before seeing the film completed, becoming another chapter in his family's tragic history.

The story may seen standard genre fare: a mentally challenged boy has his dreams haunted by demonic creature who orders him to embark on a murderous rampage, collecting the bodies in his basement.

But for Andrew Getty — grandson of J. Paul Getty — his first and only feature wasn’t just a passion project; it was something borne from his own powerfully twisted nightmares.

“Essentially, I’m playing Andrew,” Fred Koehler, who stars as the boy, tells THR. “When he talked about the construction of the script, he would often say that a lot of the content came from his own personal dreams. He was battling with a lot of demons.”

Koehler adds that he has the “strangest relationship to [The Evil Within] probably that one can have,” having started on it when he was just out of college (he’s now 41).

Principal photography started in 2002. But production would stop, start and stop again, dragging on for five years as Getty labored over every frame, and every element of the filmmaking, insisting on making his own unique camera rigs, and building elaborate animatronic robots and expensive sets.

Cast and crew would change (Koehler says only he and fellow actor Michael Berryman made it through the various alterations), but even when shooting wrapped the film was far from completion as the director painstakingly crafted his own special effects (mostly from his mansion, where he had built a postproduction room).

Producer Michael Luceri estimates that Getty sank $4 million to $6 million of his own money into the film, crippling him financially despite his being a member of one of America’s richest families.

“Rather than have a steak dinner one night, he’d spent so much on the movie that I saw him eat cereal,” he says. “He’d eat cereal for a couple of weeks.”

Getty died March 31, 2015, from an ulcer-related gastrointestinal hemorrhage. His ex-girlfriend found him in his mansion; reports later indicated he had toxic levels of methamphetamine in his body.

But Luceri says he’d been working diligently on The Evil Within “right up to the very end,” with only the coloring and editing left to do (unorthodoxly, he’d insisted on coloring everything before the editing process).

Not wanting to see the work go to waste, Luceri says he then “made it his mission” to complete the film.

“He was a good guy, but also obsessively creative and obsessed with creativity,” he adds. “Where that came from, I don’t know. It’s a gift, but sometimes it can be too overwhelming.”