Trivia / The Towering Inferno

  • Adaptation Distillation: The film was based on two different novels about burning buildings, The Glass Inferno and The Tower. To prevent unnecessary competition between similar projects, the production companies merged them into one film!
  • All-Star Cast: Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Fred Astaire, Faye Dunaway (before her wire hanger days), William Holden and OJ Simpson. Jennifer Jones was borderline, as she had been a star during the 40s and 50s, and this was one of her last films before retiring completely.
  • Creator Backlash: Paul Newman regretted doing the movie after the intense rivalry between himself and his co-star Steve McQueen.
  • Dueling Movies: A very rare subversion, by the studios joining forces and combining the novels they bought the rights to.
  • Dueling-Stars Movie: They actually invented Diagonal Billing just for this movie, due to the star power of its leads Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, who were professional rivals at the time.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • In a scene where a bunch of people are fighting to get onto an elevator, the extras were really fighting to keep off the elevator, since anyone who did get on it was pretty much done, and anyone who stayed off it was guaranteed a job for the next couple of months.
    • In the scenic elevator scene, the explosions were bigger than the actors were anticipating, so they really were panicking.
    • The director fired a handgun into the air to get a genuine look of surprise from the actors' faces.
  • Life Imitates Art: A real fire broke out on set, and Steve McQueen found himself briefly helping out real firefighters. One of them didn't recognise him and said "my wife isn't going to believe this", to which Steve responded "neither's mine."
  • Playing Against Type:
    • Richard Chamberlain made a career out of playing heroes, anti-heroes or sensitive guys. Here he's the Jerk Ass.
    • By this point Robert Vaughn was mostly playing villains, however here he plays a heroic character.
  • Production Posse: Many bit players from The Poseidon Adventure also star here.
  • Prop Recycling:
    • The pink satin cape worn by the mayor's wife was part of a costume worn by Jean Simmons in Desiree.
    • The large sculpture in the Promenade Room was used in Hello, Dolly!.
  • Real-Life Relative: Paul Newman's brother Scott stars as a fireman. This is the only film they did together.
  • Reality Subtext: Fred Astaire was genuinely terrified during the explosions, so his look of fright is real.
  • Science Marches On: Since the making of this film, there was the notorious MGM Grand Hotel fire when it was discovered and publicized once and for all that in a major structure fire, it's not the flames themselves that is the major killer, it's the smoke.
  • Significant Anagram: Meta. "The Towering Inferno", as is often noted, is an anagram of "not worth fire engine".
  • Wag the Director: Steve McQueen, a veteran of this trope by then, requested that he and Paul Newman have the exact same amount of lines in the film. Also he insisted that he not appear until forty three minutes in, by which point Newman would have used up a lot of his lines. William Holden attempted to - demanding he be billed first. But as he'd been in a few flops lately, he gets third billing.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Lisolette was originally offered to Olivia de Havilland.
    • Katharine Ross and Raquel Welch were considered for the role of Susan. Natalie Wood was approached too, but declined as she was pregnant at the time.
    • The original script gave the fire chief a smaller role, with Steve McQueen offered the role of the architect. McQueen insisted on playing the fire chief and thus the role was expanded.
    • Simmons was killed by trying to escape to the stairs in the original script. After his role got expanded, this death was given to Senator Parker instead.

General Trivia:

  • In the documentary film of the real events of Nine Eleven, a man in the street looks up at the World Trade Center burning and says "...this is just like The Towering Inferno, like in a movie."
  • While this film was playing at the El Rey Theatre in California, a real fire struck on August 6th 1975. The poster survived the fire and is still on display at the Manteca Museum.
  • Both Jennifer Jones and Steve McQueen would retire from films after this one.
  • There were about four different units filming at once, due to the large scale of the production.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Trivia/TheToweringInferno