Though he grew up under the scrutiny of his famous family, Balthazar Getty rarely talks about the public struggles he’s endured, including infidelity that nearly broke his marriage, drug addiction and how the Getty legacy has shaped the world for him and his children.
Now, in a rare interview with the Evening Standard, the oil heir is getting as candid as he’s ever been.
In 2008, in the midst of a career revival on Brothers and Sisters, Getty found himself in the spotlight not for his work but for the revelation that he was having an extramarital affair with Sienna Miller. The pair were caught together in Italy, with topless photos of Miller making headlines.
Getty and his wife Rosetta separated for two years after the incident, and now the actor turned DJ believes that enduring that hardship ultimately made his marriage to the fashion designer “stronger.”
“Without going down, you can’t rise again,” he tells the Evening Standard.
The cheating scandal was just one catalyst for Getty, now 41, to overhaul his life and come to terms with his self-perception.
“I’ve gotten more comfortable with who I am, where I come from, and being ‘a Getty,’ ” he says. “I don’t see it anymore as something I need to run from, or prove to people that I’m not who they might perceive me to be. I’ve been able to own that and feel good about it.”
Around the time he turned 40, Getty decided it was “time to put fire under my ass” – he quit smoking cigarettes, took stock and stopped whining about being a multimillionaire and what others thought of him.
Despite the wealth that eventually came to him, Getty says he grew up modestly since his grandparents did not support his father John Paul III, who was just 18 years old when Balthazar was born.
“That is just the way it was back then,” Getty recalls. He and his half-sister Anna – now a 43-year-old author, yoga master and vegan chef – spent their early years in a “simple” two-room rented apartment in San Francisco and spent some time in “tepee in a Zen centre.”
From the time Getty was 5, John Paul III was paraplegic and bound to a wheelchair after a drug binge he suffered a stroke.
After years of turbulence, John Paul III’s mother Gail stepped in and enrolled Getty in prep school – but no amount of family intervention could save him from a genetic disposition geared toward substance abuse.
“It’s no secret that my father and grandfather had major drug addiction problems, and addiction runs rampant in many families,” he says. “If you add wealth and celebrity on top of that, it can be lethal.”
He found himself taking “too many” drugs, pushing the boundaries and repeating his mistakes. He says he would try anything “just to elevate” himself.
“A lot of people do drugs and alcohol to self-medicate,” he adds. “For me it was about the search for higher consciousness.”
Now a father of four, Getty confesses he does “fret about” his children befalling the same fate: “But I can’t control my kids,” he says of Cassius,16, Grace, 14, Violet, 12, and June, 8.
“They have their own journey and I’m doing my best to make them aware of the dangers, but also allow them to experience their own life.”
As for raising his children with great wealth, Getty does admit to a sense of guilt attached to the fortune he’s been handed. So, while he cops to spoiling his own kids in many ways, he also encourages them to embrace gratitude and a giving spirit by delivering boxes of food to homeless people in Los Angeles.
And above all, keeping lessons from his own tumultuous life experiences in mind, he tries to keep his family life as consistent as possible.
“At least five days a week we have supper together. No TV, none of that. We sit and talk,” he shares. “Everybody shares about their day. And I play with them – sports, games, play songs, drawing, painting, whatever it is.”
He continues, “I do have a very full, very blessed life, full of great people who allow me to be very comfortable, and for that I am very grateful. So probably some of the clichés are true, but it doesn’t define me.”