Trivia / The Great Escape

  • Cast the Expert:
    • Charles Bronson was a coal miner before he was an actor and advised John Sturges on how to move earth.
    • Donald Pleasence had actually been a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II, who was shot down, became a prisoner of war and was tortured by the Germans. When he kindly offered advice to Sturges, he was politely asked to keep his "opinions" to himself. Later, when another star from the film informed Sturges that Pleasence had actually been a RAF Officer in a World War II German POW Stalag camp, Sturges requested his technical advice and input on historical accuracy from that point forward.
    • James Garner had been a soldier in the Korean War and was twice wounded. He was a scrounger during that time, as is his character Flt Lt Hendley.
    • Richard Attenborough was an RAF air gunner/photographer who served in the RAF for three years unlike his character, based on Squadron Leader Roger Bushell who was a Spitfire Pilot in 92 Squadron in the early years of World War Two.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • Steve McQueen walked out demanding rewrites and John Sturges considered writing the character out of the story altogether but United Artists informed him they considered McQueen indispensable to the picture's success and financed a new writer to accommodate his demands. This led to a diminished role for Big X, who was supposed to be the main protagonist.
    • The most notable of McQueen's demands was for Hilts to have a scene on a motorcycle, which ended up being one of the most iconic moments of the film.
    • Early on in the production Sturges began receiving memos from United Artists requesting female roles and a Ms. Fanservice scheme was proposed. Sturges would have none of it.
  • Fake Nationality: James Coburn as Sedgwick, the Australian.
  • In Memoriam: "This film is dedicated to the fifty."
  • Playing Against Type: Donald Pleasance in a very poignant example.
  • Production Posse: Three of the actors, Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Charles Bronson starred together in ''The Magnificent Seven, also directed by John Sturges and scored by Elmer Bernstein.
  • Romance On Set: During filming Charles Bronson met David Mac Callum's wife Jill Ireland, whom he later had an affair with and married.
  • Star-Making Role: For Richard Attenborough. This would remain his best-known film for three decades until it was dethroned by Jurassic Park.
  • Throw It In: Goff's line "No taxation without representation" during the Fourth of July scene was an ad-lib, causing Steve McQueen to do a Double Take.
  • Wag the Director: The motorcycle chase was added at the insistence of Steve McQueen, who signed onto the film on the condition that he show off his biking skills. During filming, McQueen held up shooting by demanding his character be given more to do.
  • What Could Have Been: Richard Harris was originally cast as Roger Bartlett, but dropped out because filming ''This Sporting Life was behind schedule and he was displeased with the diminished role of Big X after script changes had been made.
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