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Trivia / Cool Hand Luke

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  • Acting in the Dark: Joy Harmon had no idea how sexy the car wash scene would be.
    "I just figured it was washing the car...I was acting and not trying to be sexy. Maybe that's why the scene played so well. After seeing it at the premiere, I was a bit embarrassed."
  • Baby Name Trend Starter: "Luke" and "Lucas" skyrocketed in popularity in the late '60s following the film's releasenote . Today, "Lucas" is one of the top 10 most popular boy's names in the United States; before 1967, it was only in the top 1,000.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The captain's line "What we've got here is failure to communicate." is often misquoted as "What we have here is failure to communicate."
  • California Doubling: The story is set in Florida, and the film was originally planned to be shot there on location before budget considerations moved production to Stockton, California instead. The prison set was built from photographs taken of the actual Florida prison camp where author Donn Pearce had done time for burglary.
  • Deleted Scene: Scenes cut from the film featured dialogue setting up Dragline's sunglasses and the men ogling a woman driving by in a convertible. More details here.
  • Disowned Adaptation: In a 1989 interview with the Miami Herald, Donn Pearce said, "I seem to be the only guy in the United States who doesn't like the movie. Everyone had a whack at it. They screwed it up 99 different ways." For one thing, Pearce thought Paul Newman was "too scrawny" and completely wrong for the part.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Wives and girlfriends were banned from the set in order to make sure the cast internalised life on a chain gang. An Entertainment Weekly article on the 50th anniversary of the film also speculated that it was done to heighten their reactions when they had to act the car-washing scene.
  • Executive Meddling: Conrad Hall claims the studio made him re-shoot one scene about four times to properly showcase Paul Newman's Innocent Blue Eyes.
  • Method Acting:
    • Paul Newman learned how to play the banjo for this film. In order to develop his character, he travelled to West Virginia, where he recorded local accents and surveyed people's behavior.
    • Morgan Woodward, who played "The Man with No Eyes", remained in character between takes, wearing his mirrored sunglasses and not speaking to anyone.
    • The actors were legitimately tarring the road when their characters were. They black-topped a mile long stretch of road for the county.
  • Playing Against Type: George Kennedy had previously been stuck playing villains for the most part. He credits this film with helping him land more varied roles.
  • Those Two Actors:
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Jack Lemmon (whose production company made the film) was originally offered the role of Luke, but after reading the script, he felt that Paul Newman would be a much better fit. He acted as a producer instead.
    • Bette Davis turned down the bit part of Luke's mother.
    • Telly Savalas was offered the role of either Luke or Dragline.
    • Joy Harmon was planned to film the car wash scene on set with the other actors. However, her scenes ended up being filmed separately, while the reactions of the men were filmed later — with a cheerleader wearing an overcoat standing in for 'Lucille'.
  • Write What You Know: Donn Pearce drew on his experiences in a Florida chain gang.