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War Movie Back-Stories

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  • #16

    "Black Hawk Down" is a film by Ridley Scott ("Kingdom of Heaven") based on the bestseller by Mark Bowden. Bowden wrote the definitive history of the Battle of Mogadishu and the events surrounding it. Ken Nolan adapted the book with input from Bowden. The movie was filmed in Morocco. The Pentagon cooperated with helicopters and even provided Rangers to do the fast roping (some of whom had been in the battle). The movie was a critical and financial success. It won Oscars for Editing and Sound and was nominated for Cinematography and Director.

    Last edited by warmoviebuff; 08 Jul 18, 19:00.


    • #17

      Oh my God, where to start? No other film on the list comes close to having the problems that this film had. It was originally to be produced by George Lucas, but he went on to make the first "Star Wars". Francis Ford Coppola of "Godfather" fame inherited the endeavor and the script by John Milius. Milius was inspired by Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness but envisioned the film as more of a standard action film than Coppola ended up with. In fact, Coppola made lots of adjustments to the script to make it closer to the novel and deeper. He also called in John Herr of Dispatches fame to add dialogue and write the narration by Willard (Martin Sheen). The film was filmed in the Philippines. This was partly because the Department of Defense took one look at the script and said not no, but **** no. Ferdinand Marcos agreed to give the support of the Filipino armed forces. Coppola got the helicopters he needed, but sometimes they had to leave a shoot to kill communist guerrillas. It took 238 days of shooting and a total of 16 months from start to finish. The length of time was due to several factors: it was way over budget, a typhoon wreaked havoc, Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack, and Coppola was an obsessed perfectionist. It is absolutely amazing that the movie was not a colossal failure.

      Last edited by warmoviebuff; 08 Jul 18, 19:01.


      • #18

        "The Longest Day" is the granddaddy of the war movie epics. Its progeny include "A Bridge Too Far", "The Battle of the Bulge", "Battle of Britain", etc. It was a labor of love for famed producer Darryl Zanuck who purchased the rights to Cornelius Ryan's bestseller. Zanuck got multinational cooperation and brought in a international cast. At $10 million, it was the most expensive black and white film until "Schindler's List". Zanuck used several directors and was very hands-on. He insisted on shooting at the actual locations whenever possible which included Ste. Mere Eglise, Pointe du Hoc, and Pegasus Bridge. The Omaha landings were filmed on Corsica. The movie was a box office success and was the highest grossing black and white movie until "Schindler's List". It won Oscars for Cinematography and Special Effects. It was nominated for Picture ("Lawrence of Arabia" won), Art Direction, and Editing.

        Last edited by warmoviebuff; 08 Jul 18, 19:03.


        • #19

          "Full Metal Jacket" began its long journey to the screen when director Stanley Kubrick ("Dr. Strangelove", "Paths of Glory", "Spartacus") read about Gustav Harford
          's novel The Short Timers. Kubrick convinced his good friend Michael Herr to flesh out a screenplay. Herr had already written one of the great Vietnam War - Dispatches. Harford was also involved in the adapted screenplay that ended up with an Oscar nod (the only one the film garnered). The movie was filmed in England because Kubrick hated to leave home. The shoot lasted an exhausting 17 months. Kubrick eschewed a big name cast. Matthew Modine was coming off of "Birdie". Vincent D'Onofrio was making his debut. He set a record by gaining seventy pounds for the role (breaking De Niro's pigging out for "Raging Bull"). R. Lee Ermey was hired as the technical adviser and put the actors through a boot camp that included him yelling at them for ten hours a day. He angled for the DI role by impressing Kubrick with a fifteen minute profanity fueled rant while tennis balls were being thrown at him.

          Last edited by warmoviebuff; 15 Jul 18, 17:51.


          • #20

            "Patton" was based on the books Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago and A Soldier's Story by Omar Bradley (who served as a technical adviser). The screenwriters were Francis Ford Coppola and Edward North (who shared the Academy Award, but had never met). Coppola wrote the first draft, but was fired partly because the studio did not like the opening speech! The speech was a composite of remarks Patton made at various times. The use of words like bastard, ****, sons of bitches, and Hell were groundbreaking for a major feature. Rod Steiger, Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum, and Burt Lancaster turned down the role and the studio nixed John Wayne. George C. Scott was reluctant to take the role because he disliked Patton. He was upset about the positioning of the speech at the beginning feeling it was too powerful and the rest of the film would be a letdown. The movie was shot in Spain to take advantage of all its circa WWII equipment. The movie was a huge success and the Patton family loved it. It won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director (Franklin J. Schaffner), Actor, Original Screenplay, Editing, Sound, and Art Direction. It was nominated for Cinematography, Visual Effects, and Score. It is ranked #89 on AFI’s list of greatest movies and Patton is #29 on the list of heroes.


            • #21
              STALAG 17

              “Stalag 17” is considered one of the great WWII POW films. It is sometimes mentioned with “Bridge on the River Kwai” and “The Great Escape” as the triumvirate of top tier POW movies. It was released in 1953. It was based on a stage play by two veterans of Stalag 17B in Austria. Director Billy Wilder reworked the play for the better and got pretty boy William Holden to play the lead even though Holden was unhappy with the cynicism and selfishness of the Sefton character. Holden walked out on the play when he went to see it. Wilder refused to soften the character and Holden went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor. Wilder was nominated, as was Robert Strauss for Best Supporting Actor. The movie was shot in California and the mud was real. Wilder made the interesting decision to shoot the scenes inchronological order to where supposedly some of the main actors did not know who the stoolie was until the end (which sounds like bull **** to me). The movie was a smash hit in America and Europe.


              • #22
                SERGEANT YORK

                “Sergeant York” is one of the great American classic war movies. It was directed by Howard Hawks (“Air Force”, the original “Dawn Patrol”) and starred the biggest Hollywood star of that time – Gary Cooper. It was the first major American biopic that told the story of a living person. The desire to avoid law suits and controversy led to great efforts by the studio to keep the film accurate and authentic. Of course, the main effort was to keep Alvin York happy. York (true to his portrayal at the end of the movie) was not interested in taking advantage of his fame. However, persistence on the part of producer Jesse Lasky eventually wore York down. York drove a hard bargain and insisted on veto power over the screenplay and would accept only Cooper playing him. The movie was a huge success and was the highest grossing film of 1941. (The studio insisted on the outrageously high ticket price of $2.20!) The movie was also critically acclaimed and garnered eleven Academy Award nominations, winning for Best Actor (Cooper over Welles in “Citizen Kane”) and editing.


                • #23
                  WAR AND PEACE (1966-67)

                  Would you believe one of the longest novels was made into one of the longest movies? Sergei Bondarchuk’s version of Tolstoy’s novel is 431 minutes long, divided into four parts, and took six years to finish. There are 300 speaking characters. It was the most expensive Soviet film ever made. The Soviet government funded the film as a matter of national honor after the King Vidor version released in 1956 achieved some critical acclaim. The Soviet Army provided technical advisers and thousands of extras. Over 40 museums loaned historical artifacts. 60 Napoleonic era cannons were cast for the film. Bondarchuk took advantage of the Khrushchev Thaw to craft a new style Soviet film. The movie was a big success and won Best Foreign Film at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. It is the longest film to win an Oscar.


                  • #24
                    THE DIRTY DOZEN

                    “The Dirty Dozen” created the template for an entire genre of motley crew, suicide mission movies. It’s influence has been substantial. The movie was released in 1967 and was part of the wave of more realistically gritty war movies like “Patton”. Director Robert Aldrich adapted it from the bestselling novel by E.M. Nathanson, but made substantial changes. The film was made in England and took seven months to complete. Production included the construction of a chateau that was 240 ft wide and 50 ft high, surrounded with 5,400 sq. yds. of heather, 400 ferns, 450 shrubs, 30 spruce trees and 6 weeping willows. It turned out to be so substantially built that it could not be easily blown up so they had to construct a flimsier section for the climactic scene.

                    The cast was all-starish. The studio wanted John Wayne for the Reisman role, but Aldrich wisely insisted on Marvin (Wayne made “The Green Berets” instead). Jim Brown was still playing football, but when the owner of the Browns gave him an ultimatum – football or moviemaking – he announced his premature retirement. A huge mistake admitted by the owner later. Trini Lopez was cast because he was a hot pop singer at that time (“Lemon Tree”). When he decided his singing career was more important than the completion of the movie, his character suffers a premature death. The dozen actors were supposed to be divided between the stars and the “who the hell is that” group (known as the Back Six). However, one of the Back Six broke out to become a rising star. When Clint Walker refused to do the impersonating the general scene, the unknown Donald Sutherland was tabbed and parleyed it into higher billing and a role in a little film called “MASH”. Many of the cast were WWII veterans: Marvin (Marines – wounded on Saipan), Savalas (Army), Bronson (Army), Borgnine (Navy), and Walker (Merchant Marine).

                    The movie was a huge hit with audiences and with some critics. It was nominated for four Oscars; Best Supporting Actor (John Cassavetes), Editing, Sound, and Sound Effects (won).


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