Faye Dunaway in Chinatown (1974)
Director Roman Polanski and his female lead in Chinatown (1974), Faye Dunaway, were embroiled in numerous on-set disputes throughout the shoot. At one time Polanski actually pulled out strands of her hair. Mostly, the arguments were about Dunaway demanding to know what her motivation was for various scenes. In the end, Polanski lost his temper altogether and exploded. ‘Just say the fucking words’, he roared. ‘Your salary is your motivation!’ This was Polanski’s final film made in the USA. He fled to France in February 1978, shortly before he was to be sentenced for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13 year-old girl. He has remained on the run in Europe ever since.
Jodie Foster & Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Gary Ridgway – the Green River Killer
The interaction between Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) and Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was based on the real life relationship between University of Washington criminology professor and profiler Robert Keppel and serial killer Ted Bundy. Bundy, who would be executed in 1989, helped Keppel investigate the Green River Serial Killings in Washington State. The killings were solved in 2001 when Gary Ridgway was arrested. Two years later he pled guilty to 48 counts of aggravated first-degree murder. Later still, he confessed to strangling 71 women, mostly prostitutes and under-age runaways. A plea bargain spared Ridgway from execution in exchange for his cooperation in locating the bodies of his victims.
Shelley Winters with one of her Oscars
Robert De Niro wanted Shelley Winters to play his mother in the 1990 film Awakenings, but the studio insisted she read for the part. She refused to do so and on meeting the young casting director, she placed her two Oscars on the table and said: ‘Some people think I can act.’ The role, nevertheless, went to renowned stage and screen actress Ruth Nelson.
Marilyn Monroe & Don Murray in Bus Stop (1956)
Bus Stop (1956) was the big screen debut of both Don Murray and Hope Lange, who fell in love and were married in April, about 6 months before the picture was released. The star of the film was Marilyn Monroe. She was at the height of her considerable beauty but racked with insecurities and nerves. Director Joshua Logan adored her, however, and showed commendable patience throughout filming. One problem was that every time he yelled ‘Cut!’ she took it as a personal affront, burst into tears and ran to her dressing room. He stopped using the word and simply let the cameras run while he talked to her about the scene. ‘She made directing worthwhile’, he said, in spite of the difficulties. ‘She had such fascinating things happen to her face and skin and hair and body as she read lines, that she was…inspiring.’
Inger Stevens & Clint Eastwood in Hang ’em High (1968)
Eastwood with Jean Seberg in Paint Your Wagon (1969)
Inger Stevens had never even heard of Clint Eastwood before she was cast opposite him in the 1968 western Hang ‘Em High. Not long into the shoot the couple began to hit it off and were soon heavily involved off-screen. The following year he became just as intimately involved with his Paint Your Wagon leading lady, Jean Seberg. Both ladies were deeply troubled and would ultimately take their own lives; Inger in 1970 and Jean nine years later.
Maverick film-maker John Waters provided the vehicle for transvestite Harris Glenn Milstead (screen name Divine) to etch himself into celluloid immortality by having him eat freshly produced dog excrement in a film called Pretty Flamingos (1972). ‘He didn’t think it was going to hurt his career’, said Waters. ‘He spat it out, brushed his teeth and then got on with his life.’ Variety accurately described it as ‘the most disgusting caper in film history’, adding that Pink Flamingos was ‘surely one of the most vile, stupid and repulsive films ever made.’ None of this seemed to bother the up and coming Johnny Depp, who eagerly pursued the opportunity to appear in the Waters film Cry Baby (1990). Divine was deceased by then, having passed away in 1988 from a disorder known as ‘sleep apnea’. He was 42. Oddly, the Disney people chose to model Ursula the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid (1989) on him.
Gable & Laughton
Irving Thalberg deliberately cast Charles Laughton as Bligh and Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), expecting the two stars to hate each other on sight. It would be good for their characters’ motivation, was Thalberg’s reasoning, because Gable was a known homophobe and Laughton was openly gay. Laughton even brought along his muscular gay boyfriend to whom he was clearly devoted. The British actor also felt he should have won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in The Barretts of Wimpole Street the previous year but the statuette had gone to Gable for It Happened One Night. Laughton had not even been nominated. Initially unaware of the Englishman’s homosexuality, Gable actually offered to take him to a brothel when they first met on the set. Chuck declined his offer.
Shirley MacLaine Beaty dropped the ‘Beaty’ from her stage name when she was understudy to dancer Carol Haney on Broadway in New York. Three months later Carol twisted her ankle and Shirley went on in her place in Pajama Game. ‘All I could think was, ‘I’m going to drop the hat in ‘Steam Heat’, she recalled. And drop it she did. ‘Shit!’ she exclaimed loudly, and the front row gasped. Despite the blunder (or possibly because of it), she received a standing ovation at the curtain call. A few months later, Shirley filled in for Haney again on the night Paramount producer Hal Wallis happened to be in the audience. He liked what he saw and signed her to a five-year contract with the studio. Within three months she was off making The Trouble with Harry, under the auspices of Alfred Hitchcock.
Celia Lovsky and her husband Peter Lorre
In the 1940s Peter Lorre’s career took a decided turn upwards when he found himself teamed with the bulky Sydney Greenstreet in no fewer than eight feature films, among them Casablanca (1942) and The Maltese Falcon (1941). Peter’s first and second marriages ended in divorce and the third would have as well, had he not suffered a stroke and died on his way to the hearing. Fans of the terrific 1964 wartime thriller 36 Hours, starring James Garner and Rod Taylor, might recall his first wife, Celia Lovsky, as Elsa, the wife of John Banner’s character.