Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher
The budget for the first Star Wars (1977) was limited and George Lucas felt it would flop, so he decided that all the American cast and crew (including himself) would fly ‘coach’ to Britain instead of first class to save on air fares. When Carrie Fisher’s mother Debbie Reynolds learned of this she exploded and rang Lucas, telling him he was insulting her daughter making her travel ‘coach’. Carrie was present when George took the call and asked him to hand her the phone. ‘Mother’, she said, ‘I want to fly coach. Fuck off!’
Marilyn Monroe & Joan Crawford
Los Angeles prosecutor John H. Miner claims he listened to tapes recorded by Marilyn Monroe shortly before she died; tapes in which she claimed that she and Joan Crawford had a one-night affair. ‘Next time I saw Crawford, she wanted another round’, said Marilyn. ‘I told her straight-out I didn’t much enjoy doing it with a woman. After I turned her down, she became spiteful.’
Emma Thompson & Anthony Hopkins
If you have ever wondered why Anthony Hopkins as the butler Stevens in The Remains of the Day (1993) irons his master’s newspaper each morning, the answer is a simple but not generally known one. Our forefathers genuinely believed there was a danger of catching a fatal chill from handling a damp newspaper!
Jean-Claude Van Damme Tatum O’Neal
Jean-Claude Van Damme met Tatum O’Neal when she auditioned for The Quest (1996). He laid on the charm and she was soon sleeping with him. ‘He told me that he loved me and would never hurt me’, she wrote, ‘that he needed to take care of me and even wanted to go on a ski trip with me so our kids could play together. He promised to call me the following week, when he would be in New York. But he didn’t. Instead, four days later, he left a message with my agent, claiming that he was no longer sure he wanted me for the movie.’ Another actress was cast.
Taylor Hackford Debra Winger in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
Star Debra Winger and director Taylor Hackford became romantically involved soon after filming began on An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). Before long Debra was being allowed to wing her way to the set at whatever hour suited her and the picture quickly fell behind schedule. Paramount moved just as quickly, threatening the director with replacement unless he terminated their affair. He ended it at once. Ah, true love rarely runs smooth.
Richard Harris as Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise
Initially, Richard Harris turned down the role of Professor Dumbledore in the first Harry Potter film, but a single phone call changed his mind. His grand-daughter, Ella, called and begged him to be in the picture because the Harry Potter books were her favourites. Not only did she get him to change his mind, but she also ended up being in the movie herself, a small uncredited role as one of the Hogwarts children in the banquet hall. As for Harris, he negotiated for more money and a percentage of the profits of this and any other episodes in the future!
Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981)
Faye Dunaway was despised by most of the cast and crew of Mommie Dearest (1981) because of her rudeness and unpleasant attitude to all and sundry on the set. Costume designer Irene Sharaff was more specific. ‘Yes, you may enter Miss Dunaway’s dressing-room’, she said, ‘but first you must throw a raw steak in – to divert her attention.’ Faye was certain she would win an Oscar for her stint as Joan Crawford, but that was never going to happen after the critics savaged her and the picture. Even Christina Crawford, the author of the book on which the picture is based, thought she was horrendous. ‘My mother didn’t deserve that. Dunaway’s performance was ludicrous’, she said. A lot of Joan’s friends felt the same way about Christina writing the book in the first place.
Bernard Law Montgomery
Undoubtedly, the most remarkable ‘oversight’ in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far is the total absence of the man who cooked up Operation Market Garden in the first place – Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. One could almost be forgiven for assuming that the makers were so hell bent on blaming others for the disaster that they deliberately overlooked the main culprit. In reality, after the event Montgomery offered up a half-baked apology for having ‘made a mistake’, but then proceeded to blame a ‘lack of support’, adding that the operation was ‘90% successful’, whatever that means. The thousands of Allied soldiers who found themselves 100% dead might disagree. And Winston Churchill backed him up. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands perhaps summed up the disaster best. ‘My country can never again afford the luxury of another Montgomery success.’ After the war Montgomery was asked who he thought were the three greatest commanders in history. Without hesitation, he named Alexander the Great, Napoleon – and himself. And he meant it.
Ridley Scott’s first feature film The Duellists (1977) is an intriguing fact-based story about two French Hussars of the Napoleonic era who duelled each other thirty or more times over a twenty year period. One man was a prisoner of his own hatred who must kill or be killed. The other was a man of honour and, therefore, honour-bound to fight whenever challenged. They duelled on horseback, on the ground, with guns, sabres, rapiers and swords. This unusual picture brought Ridley Scott’s name to the forefront of new directors.
Sean Connery turned down the then astronomical sum of $5,500,000 to play James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973). The producers then approached Clint Eastwood who was red hot following the success of Dirty Harry (1971), but he, too, declined. Clint was steadfast in his belief that James Bond had to be played by an English actor. Enter Roger Moore.
Sidney Poitier & Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones (1958) Carl Switzer in The Defiant Ones Our Gang’s Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer
A lot of big-name actors turned down the Joker Jackson role in The Defiant Ones (1958) for one reason or another, but mostly because a picture about a black man and a white man, escaping prison chained together, was potential political and social dynamite that could wreck one’s career overnight. One actor, Robert Mitchum, declined the role that eventually went to Tony Curtis because, as a former real life prisoner on a chain gang himself, he knew there was no way that a black man and a white would ever be chained to each other. It was just not done. Curtis, on the other hand, jumped at the chance to get away from his ‘pretty boy’ roles and to work with Sidney Poitier whom he admired. He was also keen to meet Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer, the former Our Gang child star. Switzer was making his last movie. He would be shot to death in January 1959 over $50 he believed was owed to him. He was just 31. His 42 year-old brother Harold (also an Our Gang veteran) would take his own life in 1967 after killing a man.