21 November 2015

In Pursuit of Movie Trivia

by John M. Floyd

I think I've always been in pursuit of movies, and anything involving them. I confess to having watched more movies in my lifetime (both in theatres and at home) than any sane person should watch, and I own so many videos they're beginning to compete for shelf space with my beloved books. My recent suggestion to my wife that we might have to move because my DVD collection needs more room didn't go over well, but she has tentatively agreed that we might add a couple hundred square feet to my home "office." We'll see if that comes to pass, but I'm not optimistic.

A reel addiction

This attraction to filmed fiction might seem, to you, to be a bit immature. If you said that to me outright, my honest response would be, "Of course it's immature." I am fully aware that I haven't yet grown up, and if I do, I hope it doesn't happen anytime soon.

A direct result of all this, of course, is my fondness for movie trivia. I love discovering little-known facts about films and actors and filmmaking--most of them found in those fascinating DVD "bonus features"--and for today's column, I've put together a list of this incredibly worthless information. (Since most of these little nuggets came as a surprise to me, I hope some of them might surprise you as well.)

The unscientific observations of a movie maniac:

- The original title of Star Wars was The Star Wars.

- The main theme song for Unforgiven ("Claudia's Theme") was composed by Clint Eastwood.

- "Goldeneye" was Ian Fleming's name for the Jamaican beachfront home where he wrote all the James Bond novels.

- The Blair Witch Project was filmed in eight days.

- Michael Myers's mask in Halloween was a two-dollar Captain Kirk mask, slightly altered and painted white.

- Actor Sam Shepard, who's also an author, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1979.

- Tom Selleck was offered the role of Indiana Jones but had to refuse because of his contract with Magnum, P.I.

- The cigarettes smoked by the boys in Stand by Me were made from cabbage leaves.

- The original title of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy. The names were reversed when Newman decided to take the role of Butch rather than Sundance.

- In Raiders of the Lost Ark, a drawing of R2D2 and C3PO appears on a column in the Well of Souls.

- Sean Connery wore a toupee in all of his James Bond movies.

- Most of the cast and crew of The African Queen got sick from the water. Humphrey Bogart and director John Huston were unaffected because they drank only whiskey.

Deep Throat cost less than $ 25,000 to make, and earned an estimated $ 400 million.

- Steve Buscemi was once a New York City firefighter.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

- The charcoal drawing of Kate Winslet in Titanic was actually drawn by director James Cameron.

- The Jaws line "You're gonna need a bigger boat" wasn't in the script, and was improvised by Roy Scheider.

- When a hurricane hit the set during the filming of Jurassic Park, the pilot who choppered the crew to safety was the same man who had played Indiana Jones's pilot, Jock, in Raiders.

- Several battle scenes in Braveheart had to be refilmed because of extras wearing sunglasses and wristwatches.

- Actor Christopher Lee was an undercover agent for British Intelligence in World War II.

- The final Lord of the Rings movie, Return of the King, was nominated for 11 Oscars and won all of them.

- The announcer who replaced Armed Forces Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer (played by Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam) was Pat Sajak.

- Steven Spielberg waited 33 years to finish college. When he did, he turned in Schindler's List as his student film requirement.

- For John Carpenter's 1982 movie The Thing, the entire cast and crew were male.

- The roles of Woodrow Call and Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove were originally written for John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.

- In The Secret Life of Ian Fleming, Fleming was played by Sean Connery's son Jason.

- To make some of the spacecraft seem larger in the movie Alien, director Ridley Scott filmed his own two children outfitted in miniature space suits.

- The roles of both John McClane in Die Hard and Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry were first offered to Frank Sinatra.

- The martial arts instructor for the the Bond movie Never Say Never Again was Steven Seagal.

- The original tagline for posters of the movie Twister was "It sucks."

- Marlon Brando refused to memorize his lines in Superman. When he spoke to the superbaby, he read words written on a diaper.

- Haley Joe Osmont, the boy who "saw dead people" in The Sixth Sense, played Forrest Gump's son five years earlier.

- Samuel L. Jackson's Pulp Fiction quote from Ezekiel (which is inaccurate and mostly fictional) was originally written for Harvey Keitel's character in From Dusk Till Dawn.

- Alfred Hitchcock was placed under CIA surveillance for his use of uranium as a plot device in Notorious.

- Among the actors considered for the role of Han Solo were James Caan, Jack Nicholson, Christopher Walken, John Travolta, Kurt Russell, Billy Dee Williams, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Sylvester Stallone, Bill Murray, Burt Reynolds, and Robert DeNiro.

- Many of the extras in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest were really mental patients.

- Dooley Wilson (Sam, in Casablanca) didn't know how to play the piano.

- Peter Sellers' salary for Dr. Strangelove was more than half the budget of the entire film, and the movie Titanic cost more than the Titanic itself.

- The names of the cab driver and the policeman in It's a Wonderful Life were Bert and Ernie.

- Both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were extras in Field of Dreams (the Fenway Park scene).

- The view-through-the-gunbarrel sequence at the beginning of James Bond films was invented by title designer Maurice Binder, who really did aim the camera down a gunbarrel.

- Kevin Spacey was cast in Seven only two days before filming began.

- Charles Durning, a WWII veteran, was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart.

- In the coliseum scenes in Gladiator, only the bottom two decks contained real people. The other thousands of spectators were computer-generated.

- Gregory Peck's closing "Do your duty" speech in To Kill a Mockingbird was done in one take.

- In High Plains Drifter, one of the headstones in the graveyard was inscribed with the name Sergio Leone.

- One of the voices of E.T. was that of Debra Winger.

- In The Abyss, many of the underwater scenes were filmed in smoky air instead, using fake bubbles.

- Tippi Hedren (The Birds) is the mother of Melanie Griffith and the grandmother of Dakota Johnson.

- The carpet in the Overlook Hotel in The Shining had the same design as the carpet in Sid's hallway in Toy Story.

- The Nakatomi Tower in Die Hard was really the (at that time) recently-built Fox Plaza, the headquarters of the studio that produced the movie.

- Martin Balsam was originally hired as the voice of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Stanley Kubrick replaced him because he feared Balsam's voice might be too familiar to audiences.

- Actor Donald Pleasance was a POW in World War II.

- In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford was supposed to have fought with the Arab swordsman in the marketplace. Instead Ford was ill with dysentery that day, and just shot him instead.

- Hannibal Lecter appeared on screen for only 16 minutes in The Silence of the Lambs, and Darth Vader was on-screen for only 12 minutes in Star Wars.

- The "You talkin' to me?" scene in Taxi Driver was improvised by Robert DeNiro. The scripted scene had consisted of only one line: "Bickle speaks to himself in the mirror."

- Cecil B. DeMille originally wanted William Boyd (TV's Hopalong Cassidy) to play Moses in The Ten Commandments.

- Pierce Brosnan was forbidden, by the terms of his contract, from wearing a tuxedo in any non-James Bond movie from 1995 to 2002.

- Dolph Lundgren has a master's degree in Chemical Engineering.

- George Lucas's dog was named Indiana.

- The working title for North by Northwest was In a Northwesterly Direction. 

A final piece of trivia:

I watched a movie last week called The Salvation (2014). It was a Western filmed in South Africa, with a Danish director and actors from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, the U.S., and England. And it was good.

Who says truth isn't stranger than fiction?


  1. John, I didn’t know most of those and I love being enlightened.

    It’s difficult to imagine some of the actors originally envisioned… Frank Sinatra? I remember him in some private eye film but Die Hard?

    I didn’t know about the improvising in the sword fight in Raiders of the Lost Ark and that’s the one scene that really stuck in my mind. Why? Because it was so unexpected. It’s the definition of antihero.

  2. Great stuff, John, and lots of fun, some of which I knew and some I didn't. BTW, I believe the part of Dirty Harry was also offered to John Wayne.

  3. Leigh, Sinatra did star in (I think) The Detective, back in that same time period. Pretty good movie, but I don't think he'd have worked well as Harry.

    Paul, I had forgotten that. I think DH would've been a far different movie with the Duke playing the lead.

    I remember going to see Dirty Harry with my wife in Oklahoma City on New Year's Eve in 1971, back when we were dating--she was a nurse and I was in the Air Force. The clock struck midnight about the same time Harry plugged the villain, near the end of the movie, and I loved it. She said later that she couldn't believe that was the way we rang in the new year (we got married in '72).

  4. Good trivia, John. I always enjoy stuff like this.

  5. Both Die Hard and the Detective were based on novels by Roderick Thorp about a cop named Joe Leland. But this is the first I ever heard about Sinatra being offered the part in the second movie, though. http://criminalbrief.com/?p=16418

  6. Love the trivia, John! I think, however, that North by Northwest should have gotten a special award for worst scenery - Mount Rushmore was very, very bad....

  7. Thanks, Bill! Great to hear from you. As for enjoying this crazy stuff, you probably haven't grown up yet either--and I think that's a good thing!

    Rob, I've forgotten where I heard that--apparently Sinatra was actually cast as Harry, but then suffered an injury while filming The Manchurian Candidate, which prevented him from taking the role. Thankfully.

    Eve, I agree!! But you have to admit it was memorable . . .

  8. John, I can't talk about immature, I'm watching an episode of "Where's Huddles" right now! As for trivia, remember Pinocchio (1940)? One of the animators was Bill Melendez, later producer of the Peanuts cartoons and the voice of Snoopy. Melendez' career lasted about 66 years (a year longer than Walt Disney actually had lived!)Oh, and speaking of Pinocchio, actor Christian Rub, who did the voice of Geppetto, was a Nazi sympathizer who went on and on about his admiration for, uh, a certain Austrian politician!

  9. Interesting, Jeff--I didn't know ANY of that. Let's hear it for useless (but fascinating) information!

  10. Loved it. One of my favorite types of articles!

  11. Thanks, Dale! I must admit, it was fun trying to remember (and gather) all these crazy "facts."

  12. Thanks, John, great fun. And in defense of Peter Seller's salary, didn't he play five of the characters?

  13. Thanks, Michael. Yep, Sellers played multiple roles in Dr. S (three, I thought). I remember a quote by someone, maybe Kubrick, saying (regarding Sellers's huge salary) something like "Hey, I got three for the price of one."


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>