Movie Fact #226 - July 9th, 2021

 

Robert Towne's script for 1973's The Last Detail, based on a 1969 novel of the same name by Darryl Ponicsan, went on to get nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (along with acting nominations for Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid), but the film nearly didn't get made. Not because of it's ideas or any scenes...but because of the language.


While producer Gerry Ayres convinced Columbia Pictures to produce the film based on his consultant's credit on Bonnie & Clyde but yet still Ayres had difficulty getting it made because of the studio's concern about the bad language in Towne's script. As Peter Guber (former vice-president of Columbia) recalled, "The first seven minutes, there were 342 'fucks'". While the head of Columbia asked Towne to reduce the number of curse words, the writer refused to tone down the language, responding, "This is the way people talk when they're powerless to act; they bitch". The film then remained in limbo until Jack Nicholson, by now a bankable star, got involved.


It was also Nicholson who reeled in director Hal Ashby, who initially had the script sent to him in fall of 1971 by Ayres who thought Ashby had the right "skewed perspective" that the project needed. Ashby found the story so appealing that he pulled out of his deal with MGM (and his in-development project Three Cornered Circle), though he barely go approved by Columbia who did not like Ashby because he had a reputation of distrusting authority and made little effort to communicate with executives. The $2.3 million budget was low enough for him to get approved though and the rest was history. Stay tuned!

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