David Bruce: Movies Anecdotes

• Harrison Ford shot to fame in George Lucas’ movies Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but he almost did not take the acting job he was offered in Mr. Lucas’ first big hit: American Graffiti. Mr. Ford was working as a carpenter, making twice as much money as Mr. Lucas offered him to act in the movie, so he turned down the job. Fortunately, Mr. Lucas offered him another $15 a week. Mr. Ford accepted it and began a very lucrative association with Mr. Lucas. The film had a small budget, and Elvis Presley’s music is not in it because Mr. Lucas could not afford the fee to use the music. Mr. Ford remembers this about shooting the film: “very little time, very little money, and very few doughnuts. I almost got fired for taking more than my share of doughnuts.” Mr. Lucas was a generous employer. When American Graffitibecame an unexpected smash hit, he gave away cars and money to some of the people who were involved in its making. Both the cast and the crew got a share of the profits. Actor Ron Howard remembers, “It was a totally and completely uncommon act. […] it was such a wonderfully gracious thing to do.” Mr. Lucas’ golden touch continued with the hugely moneymaking Star Wars. After Star Warsopened big, his friend Francis Ford Coppola sent him this telegram: “SEND MONEY.”

• People who make low-budget movies have to be problem-solvers. For example, the critically acclaimed film Crossover Dreamswas mostly filmed in a neighborhood in New York City. Often, people in the neighborhood would make meals for the filmmakers. To get apartments to film in, the crew used to paint those apartments in return. The actors mostly provided their own costumes. Unfortunately, the van in which the costumes were kept was stolen. A leather jacket worn by star Reubén Blades’ character was among the items stolen; he replaced it at his own cost. Due to money problems, it took two years for the filming to be done. Mr. Blades had a mustache when he began acting in the film. Much later, when he returned to shoot the final scenes, he had shaved it off, so he had to wear a fake mustache.

• In the movieTitanic is a scene in which the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio sketches the character played by Kate Winslet while she is nude. Before the scene was filmed, Mr. DiCaprio walked into the place where Mr. Winslet was being made up—while she was nude. Mr. DiCaprio said, “Whooa!” But Ms. Winslet said, “We’re going to spend the whole day like this. We might as well get used to it.” By the way, Mr. DiCaprio got his first name because while his mother was pregnant with him, she and her husband were walking through the Uffuzi Museum in Florence. While looking at a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, she felt her baby kick, so she decided to name him after the famous painter. Leonardo diCaprio’s middle name is Wilhelm; he was named after his maternal grandfather, Wilhelm Idenbirken.

• First-time filmmaker Marc Webb did not want to direct a romantic comedy—until he saw the screenplay for (500) Days of Summer, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. The first few lines were these: “Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely accidental. Especially Jenny Beckman. Bitch.” “I liked that,” Mr. Webb says. “It’s fun, and it says, this movie is going to be a little bit different. You might have to engage a little more.” The film was a hit and may someday be regarded as a classic—Roger Ebert gave it the top-rated 4 stars. Mr. Webb himself says, “I don’t think this is a profoundly probing movie, but it’s a simple movie that speaks a little bit of the truth, and just dances with reality and is fun.”

• When Quentin Tarantino was casting Kill Bill, he held a meeting with the actors. Ricardo Montalban was supposed to be present to read the part of a Mexican pimp who was Bill’s mentor, but he did not show up. Michael Parks, who was to play the role of a Southern sheriff, did show up, and he also read the part of the Mexican pimp. Mr. Tarantino liked the reading so much that he immediately hired Mr. Parks to act the part of the Mexican pimp as well as the role of the Southern sheriff. David Carradine, who played the role of Bill, was at the meeting. He remembers resolving never to miss a Quentin Tarantino meeting, and he thinks the other actors present made the same resolution.

• The second movie that veteran actor Saul Rubinek ever did was an independent movie titled Death Ship, although the cast referred to it as Death Sh*t. Mr. Rubinek remembers leaving the production trailer one day and seeing his fellow cast members immersed in water. This was shocking because of a production report that stated that no actors should ever be in the water because of really bad pollution. Mr. Rubinek says that “apparently nobody had told the actors. And that’s when I began to understand something about the nature of independent movies.”

• Hollywood Reporterpublisher Billy Wilkerson discovered Lana Turner at age 16 when she was drinking a Coke at a Beverly Hills soda shop. He asked if she wanted to be in movies, and she replied, “I don’t know. I have to ask my mother.” Of course, she did make movies, and she did get wealthy, allowing her to indulge her desire for shoes. According to Cheryl Crane, her daughter, at one time Lana owned 698 pairs of shoes. She also had a 20-foot jewelry vault filled with precious gems in her closet.

• Paul Newman was both a movie star (The HustlerHudCool Hand LukeButch Cassidy and the Sundance KidThe StingNobody’s Fool) and a man whose “Newman’s Own” business (which he started with A.E. Hotchner) donated multi-millions to charity. In his bathroom, a framed letter supposedly hung. The letter congratulated Mr. Newman for donating so much money to charity, then added, “P.S. I hear you’ve been in some movies. I’ll try to catch those sometime.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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