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Trivia / The Defiant Ones

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  • Doing It for the Art: Tony Curtis believed in the movie so much, he helped raise the $1 million budget through Curtleigh, the production company he had formed with his then-wife Janet Leigh.
  • Playing Against Type: Tony Curtis was very keen to make the film as he saw it as an opportunity to break out of the mindless, pretty boy roles he was usually assigned. Stanley Kramer initially had some misgivings but ultimately relented.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Elvis Presley wanted the role of Joker Jackson, hoping to co-star with Sammy Davis Jr.. (who had been first choice for the role of Noah Cullen) but was persuaded by his manager not to do the film.
    • Stanley Kramer originally had Sidney Poitier and Marlon Brando in mind for the two protagonists. Both were interested but only Poitier was available. While Brando liked the integration message, he didn't like the way Kramer had produced The Wild One.
    • Robert Mitchum turned down the role of Joker. Mitchum, a real-life veteran of a Southern chain gang, said that he didn't believe the premise that a black and white man would be chained together, as such a thing would never happen in the very strictly segregated South. Over the years, this reason was corrupted to the point where many people believed Mitchum turned down the role because he didn't want to be chained to a black man, an absolute falsehood. Curtis repeated the inaccurate story in his autobiography, but recanted after it was explained to him. Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and Frank Sinatra also turned down it down.