Trivia / Dr. Strangelove

  • Acting for Two: Peter Sellers as Captain Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove, and it was meant to be 4 but a sprained ankle prevented him from getting into and out of the B-52 set, so Slim Pickens was added to the cast to play "King" Kong.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Meta-example. Stanley Kubrick tricked George C. Scott into overacting for his role as Turgidson, and went to use these takes in the final film. Though Scott swore not to work with Kubrick again after this, he found this deceptive trick clever and eventually saw this as one of his favorite performances.
  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Backed by the Pentagon: Not in this case.
  • Defictionalization: In probably the most disturbing example of defictionalization, the Dead Hand system constructed by the Soviets in the '80s is essentially a real-life version of the Doomsday Device.
  • Disowned Adaptation: Author Peter George, who wrote Red Alert, detested the conversion of his book to a satire, but wrote a tie-in novelization of the film anyway.
  • Dueling Movies: Fail Safe, a dead serious take on this Failsafe Failure premise, was also released in 1964. The straight film is good (though it performed poorly at the box-office), but Kubrick's film has become iconic.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • Slim Pickens was unaware that the film was a comedy. This is possibly because previous actors, including John Wayne, had turned the part down because they saw the film as "pinko." That said, Pickens didn't have any problem with the film, especially since he became so famous for it, though this may be because Kubrick only gave him his parts of the script.
    • Also, George C. Scott was unwilling to go over the top in his portrayal of General Turgidson, so Kubrick tricked him by telling him to do a few over the top takes as "practice" and that they would never be put into the real movie. Kubrick lied, creating one of the best Large Hams ever but also causing Scott to swear he'd never work with Kubrick again. Scott did end up admiring Kubrick's genius behind all that deception.
  • Executive Meddling: The geniuses at Columbia Pictures were for some reason under the impression that the only reason Lolita was a success was the gimmick of Peter Sellers playing multiple roles. They would only greenlight Dr. Strangelove on the condition that Kubrick agree to cast Sellers in at least four roles.
    • Especially strange since in Lolita, Sellers does not actually play multiple roles. He plays a single character who briefly pretends to be someone else.
  • Fake Nationality: British-born Peter Sellers plays the American President and the eponymous German scientist, as well as the British Group Captain.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: Many of the scenes with Peter Sellers were improvised, most famously the phone conversation with the Soviet premier and "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!" This is especially impressive when you consider this was a movie by Stanley Kubrick, one of the most infamously controlling directors of all time.
  • Irony as She Is Cast: Sterling Hayden, who plays a paranoiac who fears communists, was himself an American Communist Party member at one time.
  • Mid-Development Genre Shift: This was originally meant to be a straight drama, much like the original novel, but Stanley Kubrick found the situations so ridiculous and over-the-top that he decided to play it for dark laughs.
  • The Musical: Strangelove: The Musical, which has toured fringe comedy festivals. The Red Phone Rag is a highlight.
  • Referenced by...: The war room in X-Men: First Class is almost identical to the one in this movie.
  • Stillborn Franchise: In 1995, Stanley Kubrick enlisted Terry Southern to script a sequel titled Son of Strangelove. Kubrick had Terry Gilliam in mind to direct. The script was never completed, but index cards laying out the story's basic structure were found among Southern's papers after his October 1995 death; it was set largely in underground bunkers, where Dr. Strangelove had taken refuge with a group of women.
    • In 2013 Gilliam commented, "I was told after Kubrick died-by someone who had been dealing with him-that he had been interested in trying to do another Strangelove with me directing. I never knew about that until after he died but I would have loved to."
  • Throw It In:
    • Much of Peter Sellers' dialogue was improvised (Kubrick had three cameras on Sellers at all times to take full advantage of this), including the hotline telephone conversation; similarly, Strangelove's Evil Hand's rampage at the end was largely improvisation (it was also Sellers' idea that it should be gloved). Keep in mind that Kubrick was the most insane perfectionist in the history of filmmaking. And Sellers got to ad-lib.
    • During the shootout in Ripper's office, Peter Seller's line was "I've got this thing in my leg." When he said it, it sounded like "This string in my leg's gone." Naturally, it was kept in.
    • At one point, George C. Scott is emphatically trying to convince the president (Sellers) to launch an attack when he suddenly trips and collapses to the ground before quickly picking himself up and continuing the scene. It fit so well with the deliberate ridiculousness of the rest of the movie that Kubrick left it in.
  • Too Soon: The release date was slightly delayed after JFK's assassination due to the story involving a fictional president:
    • In the scene where Major Kong reads the description of a survival kit's contents out loud, he originally says "Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff!" Dallas was redubbed to Vegas because of the connotations carried by Dallas in a post JFK-assassination America. It actually worked out well, as Vegas makes more sense in this context, especially today — no-one would think of Dallas as a "party destination" any more, but Vegas is still the king of "What happens here stays here".
    • The original ending was to have everyone in the war room end up in a pie fight (don't ask). The President would be knocked down from the impact of the pie hitting him, with Gen. Turgidson saying "Gentlemen! Our gallant young president has been struck down in his prime!" Despite it being filmed before the assassination... wow. Just wow. (That wasn't why the scene was deleted, though — they just couldn't film it with the necessary "gravity.")
  • Trope Maker:
  • Trope Namer:
  • Ur-Example
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Peter Sellers originally was also asked to play Maj. T.J. "King" Kong, and practiced intensely with the American screenwriter to get the American Accent right. After the first day of shooting, he sprained his ankle, and could no longer work in the cramped airplane set. So they recast the role with Slim Pickens.
      • According to some accounts, Sellers was also invited to play the part of General Buck Turgidson, but turned it down because it was too physically demanding.
    • John Wayne was considered for the part of Major Kong as well.
    • In one version of the script, aliens from outer space observed all of the action.
    • Merkin Muffley originally had a bad cold and a slightly effeminate manner. Peter Sellers played this up so hilariously that the cast kept cracking up during filming. Stanley Kubrick decided to make him a foil for everyone else's craziness instead, and re-shot the scenes with Sellers now playing the role straight, serving as an oasis of reason amidst all the madness.
    • As mentioned before, the film originally ended with a huge pie fight, but Kubrick found it too farcical and cut it. So far the footage has only been screened once at London's National Film Theatre after Kubrick's death.
  • Working Title: The Edge of Doom, The Delicate Balance of Terror and Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying, Dr. Strangelove's Secret Uses of Uranus, and Wonderful Bomb.

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