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Trivia / Backdraft

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  • Acting for Two: Kurt Russell also played Dennis McCaffrey, his character's father.
  • All-Star Cast: Robert De Niro, Kurt Russell, Donald Sutherland, a Baldwin brother.
  • California Doubling: Mostly averted. All the scenes at Bull's boat were shot on the bank of the Chicago River; the big drawbridge in the background still exists, and operates, in Chicago as of 2013.
  • Cast the Expert:
    • Cedric Young (Grindle), Kevin Casey (Nightengale), and Richard Lexsee (Washington) are former Chicago firefighters. Jack McGee was a firefighter as well.
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    • Many of the extras in the film are actual Chicago firefighters. A casting call was put out in a Department memo prior to the start of shooting. In addition, many suburban firemen participated in the funeral procession.
  • Doing It for the Art: Robert De Niro put in an incredible amount of research for his role, speaking extensively with real CFD arson investigators and even had the shooting for his scenes delayed for a week so he could adequately prepare. Ron Howard recalls being amazed at how De Niro showed up on set having combined the gait, speech patterns, and mannerisms of three real firefighters to create a fully-formed character. It was seeing this dedication to the craft that led Ron Howard to begin doing meticulous research, and encourage his actors to do the same, for all of his projects.
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  • Dyeing for Your Art: The cast trained with real CFD firefighters and did much of their own stuntwork. Scott Glenn noted that while shooting the climactic scene where he's on fire, the fire had eaten through his coat and several layers of fire-resistant clothing. There was only a single layer left by the time he yelled cut on the scene and he was doused.
  • Name's the Same: Victim Donald Seagrave shares his last name with the oldest fire apparatus manufacturer in the US.
  • No Stunt Double: Kurt Russell, Kevin Casey, Scott Glenn, and William Baldwin did a lot of their own stunts, and the Stunt Coordinator Walter Scott was so impressed by their performances, that he credited them as stunt performers in the credits.
  • Real-Life Relative: Following tradition, Ron Howard cast his brother Clint Howard as Ricco the pathologist.
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  • What Could Have Been: Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Matt Dillon, and Val Kilmer turned down the role of Brian McCaffrey. Robert Downey Jr. and Keanu Reeves auditioned for the role. Brad Pitt was initially cast, then dropped out in order to be in Thelma & Louise.
  • Write What You Know: The film was based partly on writer Gregory Widen's experiences as a Chicago firefighter, a position he left after one of his best friends died on the job.
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