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Trivia / Caligula

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The film

  • Banned in China:
    • The film was banned in Australia until 1981.
    • To this day, this movie is still banned in Belarus.
    • The film was banned in Russia until 1993.
  • Cast the Runner-Up: John Gielgud was originally offered the role of Tiberius, but declined. He only accepted the smaller part of Nerva after being sent a letter by Gore Vidal.
  • Creator Backlash: Hoo boy, Caligula. Gore Vidal walked away from production because he hated how director Tinto Brass wanted satire in the film. Brass was then cut loose because producer Bob Guccione wanted hardcore sex involving his Penthouse Pets. Neither Vidal or Brass are officially credited in their roles, both disowned the final film (for different reasons). Most of the actors (with the unsurprising exception of shame-challenged Helen Mirren and John Gielgud, who had a blast making it and saw it three times in the cinema) now look upon it as an Old Shame due to its reputation as a high-budget porno; Anneka Di Lorenzo eventually won a lawsuit claiming the film damaged her career (though the punitive damages were overturned on appeal).
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  • Dawson Casting: Malcolm McDowell was in his thirties playing Caligula starting in his early twenties.
  • Deleted Scene: See here.
  • Development Hell: Caligula MMXX, was announced back in 2020, but so far nothing has come out aside from a book discussing the production of the film and the plans for the original cut. For context, Caligula MMXX is planned cut/edit that restores most of Gore Vidal's original script and the planned production between him and Guccione and presenting the movie as how Vidal wanted, all done by archivist Thomas Negovan and edited by E. Elias Merhige. Yes, that Merhige.
  • Genre-Killer: The "porno chic" movement of The '70s came to a screeching halt with the film's critical failure and overwhelming controversy. Known more for its incredibly heated production, characterized by constant infighting between Gore Vidal, director Tinto Brass, and producer Bob Guccione, the film was chastised as being directionless and exploitative due to the immense Creative Differences between Vidal (who wanted to make a straightforward historical drama that strongly focused on homosexuality in a time when mainstream LGBT acceptance was still painfully low), Brass (who wanted to make a black comedy that satirized modern politics), and Guccione (who ordered rewrites to remove Vidal's homosexual elements and wanted to make a Porn with Plot film that paid homage to the campiness of 1950s historical epics). Roger Ebert infamously walked out when he saw the film— one of the only times in his career that he did so— and slammed it as "sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash." While the film was a commercial success and has started to become Vindicated by History with the help of recuts that reorient the film closer to Brass' vision, the combination of the sheer vitriol directed towards it and the emerging conservative revolution in the Anglosphere put the kibosh on the mainstream fashionability of pornographic films.
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  • Hostility on the Set: While Malcolm McDowell got along well with director Tinto Brass, Peter O'Toole immediately disliked him, while John Gielgud and Helen Mirren were indifferent; they focused on their own performances. O'Toole did not endear himself to producer Bob Guccione when he told the producer that he planned to launch his own magazine to rival Penthouse. It was to be called Basement and would include such features as 'Rodent of the Month' and 'Toe Rag of the Year'.
  • Looping Lines: Because this movie was intended for release in English, and much of the dialogue was recorded in Italian, the soundtrack had to be looped. Peter O'Toole was reluctant to re-record his dialogue. He kept away from the producers until he re-recorded his dialogue in a Canadian recording studio.
  • Old Shame: Pretty much anyone who was involved with the production (except Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and Bob Guccione) would like to forget all about it.
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  • The Other Marty: Maria Schneider was originally cast as Drusilla, but became uncomfortable with appearing nude and in sexual scenes, and left the production, to be replaced by Teresa Ann Savoy, whom Tinto Brass had previously worked with on Salon Kitty. Schneider had also apparently angered Brass by sewing up the open tunics she was supposed to wear on camera.
  • Pop Culture Urban Legends: Contrary to popular belief, the infamous three hour and thirty minute pre-release version of the movie never existed. The mix-up came from an erroneous movie program printed for the first public screening of this movie at the Cannes Trade Festival (not to be confused with the Cannes Film Festival that occurs around the same time of the year) that stated that the entirety of the "Caligula Screening" runs three hours and thirty minutes. What it forgot to say, however, was that the movie (in its two hour and thirty-six minute edition) and the one hour making-of featurette were shown back to back that night, thus creating the three and a half hour running time.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: Gore Vidal gave an interview for Time magazine where he described directors as "parasites" and a film's author was its screenwriter. Tinto Brass demanded Vidal's removal from the set and Bob Guccione agreed. It was the first and last time the two ever agreed on anything.
  • The Shelf of Movie Languishment: The film was completed in 1976, but wasn't released for three years due to post-production and censorship issues.
  • Throw It In: Malcolm McDowell ad-libbed putting a flower in Procclus' ass after fisting him.
  • Troubled Production: To make a very long story short (unabridged version here), rewrites and scenery improvisions were aplenty as the aggressive shooting schedule imposed by producers Bob Guccione (of Penthouse magazine fame) and Franco Rossellini didn't fit a film of such scope, and Guccione was also part of an endless three-headed feud between himself, writer Gore Vidal and director Tinto Brass - Vidal was expelled by Brass from the set, while Brass was fired by Guccione for running up huge costs (Guccione claims Brass shot enough film to "make the original version of Ben-Hur about 50 times over"; says something Rossellini wanted to make something out of the $20 million spent on sets and costumes and used them in the parody Messalina, Messalina - which is often listed as Caligula II for this reason) and filming plenty of unappealing sex stuff, leading Guccione to hire his friend Giancarlo Lui to reedit the film, while incorporating approximately six minutes of hardcore sex shot by Guccione and Lui. In the end, the final cut of the film had strayed far afield from what Brass had intended. Ironically, perhaps, it bore little resemblance to what Vidal had scripted as well.
  • Underage Casting: Peter O'Toole was in his forties when he played the 77 year old Tiberius.
  • Wag the Director: After raping Proculus' wife, Caligula was meant to sodomize Proculus. Malcolm McDowell refused to do it, and Tinto Brass instead suggested the off-screen fisting, which is seen in the movie.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Peter Firth was offered the role of Caligula, but was busy appearing in Equus. Jack Nicholson and Helmut Berger were also considered.
    • Charlotte Rampling said in an interview that she was also offered a part.
    • Sylvia Kristel was offered a part.
    • Orson Welles claimed he had declined a role in this film for "moral reasons", despite being offered a very generous paycheck.
    • Bob Guccionne asked John Huston to direct, but he declined.
    • Gore Vidal's script originally presented Caligula as a good man who is corrupted by power.
  • Written by Cast Member: The scene where Caligula endures a nervous breakdown during the thunderstorm was written by Malcolm McDowell.