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Trivia / The Wicker Man (1973)

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  • Actor-Inspired Element: Howie singing Psalm 23 as the wicker man starts burning was Edward Woodward's idea.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: As soon as Ingrid Pitt heard about the film, she rang Robin Hardy asking if there were any parts left. She took the small part of the librarian just to be in the film.
  • Blooper: Surprisingly, a blooper reel does exist, and it has only been shown twice in public.
  • California Doubling: Scotland Doubling—the aerial shots from the sequence in which Howie flies into Summerisle were actually filmed in South Africa, because the film's budget wouldn't allow them, according to director Hardy, "to glue blossom to that many trees".
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  • Cast the Runner-Up: Katie Gardener was shortlisted for the part of May Morrison. She wound up being cast as a prostitute in a scene that ended up on the cutting room floor.
  • The Cast Showoff: Christopher Lee did his own singing on "The Tinker of Rye", a duet with Diane Cilento. He can also be heard at the end when the villagers sing "Sumer is icumen in".
  • Completely Different Title:
    • Argentina and Venezuela: The Sinister Cult
    • Finland: Sacrifice
    • Greece: The Cursed Scarecrow
    • Norway: King of Fools
    • Poland: Cult
    • Portugal: The Sacrifice
    • Sweden: Deadly Harvest
    • Taiwan: Pagan
  • Creator-Chosen Casting:
    • Anthony Shaffer and producer Peter Snell both wanted Edward Woodward for Sgt. Howie.
    • Shaffer lured Diane Cilento out of semi-retirement after seeing her on the stage.
  • Creator's Favorite Episode: Christopher Lee regarded this as the best film he ever did.
  • Cut Song: "Gently Johnny", which was expected to be the standout song on the film's soundtrack. It was notoriously deleted from the final product.
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  • Dan Browned: A minor example; the film begins with a caption thanking the people of Summerisle for their co-operation in the making of this film. There is, of course, no such place. Also an example of dramatic irony, as the islanders are anything but helpful towards Howie.
  • Dawson Casting:
    • If you go by the 1978 novelization, Sergeant Howie is 26 as it begins. The story doesn't last more than a year, so he's 27 by the end at most. Edward Woodward was 43 the year the movie came out, and 42 during filming. Howie's age is probably why Robin Hardy's first two choices for the part were each a full decade younger than Woodward (see What Could Have Been).
    • The girls in the classroom are supposed to be around age 12, but Daisy was played by Lesley Mackie, who was 21 at the time. You can tell she seems a bit older than the others, which adds to her Creepy Child demeanor.
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  • Deleted Scene: The extended version is still missing a speech by Lord Summerisle about apples.
  • Distanced from Current Events: The US re-release was scheduled for November 1978, but after a real-life tragedy involving a cult with a charismatic, sinister leader in a remote location, it got pushed down to January.
  • Doing It for the Art: Anthony Schaffer and Robin Hardy put in a lot of research into Celtic myth and legend while devising the plot—they knew next to nothing about it at the start. Also, Christopher Lee was so keen to see it finished and released, he waived his fee for playing Lord Summerisle to keep the budget in check, and then called round all his friends and associates to drum up support, and hit the talk circuit to promote the film.
  • Enforced Method Acting: On his off days, Edward Woodward was repeatedly asked if he wanted to go to the spot where the climax was to be shot to see the wicker man structure; he declined every time, preferring to see it for the first time when the scene was shot. So, Woodward saw the structure for the first time as Howie was dragged over the top of the hill. Howie's iconic cry of "O, GOD! O, JESUS CHRIST!" was half Howie, half Woodward. As the cameras were moved around to film the burning scene, Woodward asked Robin Hardy if he was actually going to be put into the wicker man, which Hardy answered in the affirmative. As he was carried up the steps to the structure's midsection by Scottish actor Ian Campbell (Oak), Woodward repeatedly told Campbell, "Don't you drop me! Don't you dare drop me!", with Campbell laughingly reassuring that he wouldn't. Then, came the burning scene. Woodward repeatedly said that, in his entire career, which spanned over six decades, he was never more scared than when he was inside the wicker man as it burned, telling British film critic Mark Kermode in an interview that his terror forced him to "act his socks off."
  • Executive Meddling:
    • The film's DOP was forced by executives, who were worried about getting the final shot of the Wicker Man in front of the setting sun. Harry Waxman was the most experienced camera man in the UK with the ability to get this shot, and was brought in by executives who feared it would end up being done in a studio with green screen.
    • Yes. British Lion execs stated it was the worst film they'd ever seen (particularly Michael Deeley, who told Christopher Lee to his face that it was "one of the ten worst films [Deeley had] ever seen"; Deeley denies saying this, but Lee insists it happened; in his 2008 autobiography, Blade Runners, Deer Hunters And Blowing The Bloody Doors Off, Deeley referred to Lee as "chief whiner", and said he had "paranoia"), edited the film (which may have been justified; according to Deeley in the above-mentioned autobiography, no company would agree to release the unedited film), and released it with no advertising. Fortunately, Roger Corman saved an unedited copy.
    • The company's advertising executives were appalled by the film's ending, and wanted Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy to re-shoot the scene, suggesting a sudden rainstorm which would douse the wicker man's flames, and save Sergeant Howie's life. They refused.
  • Fake Scot: None of the five leads are Scottish. Edward Woodward was English; Britt Ekland is Swedishnote ; Diane Cilento was Australian. Christopher Lee (English) and Ingrid Pitt (Polish) use their natural accents.
  • Hostility on the Set: Let's see:
    • Robin Hardy clashed with director of photography Harry Waxman (who captured the iconic final shot of the burning head falling).
    • Anthony Shaffer clashed with Hardy over how he directed the film (Shaffer said that Howie and Summerisle should've been nose-to-nose when Howie proclaims that Summerisle would be sacrificed the next year).
    • The film's art director, Seamus Flannery, who designed the titular structure, found Hardy "unforthcoming."
    • Britt Ekland hated the filming location, Newton Stewart, angering the locals by saying it was "one of the bleakest places" she'd ever been to in an interview with the Sunday Express just after the shoot had ended. Oh, there was also the issue of her being mad over them using a "butt double" for the scene where Willow tempts Howie.
    • British Lion executives chased the shoot all over the place, trying to shut it down with no success.
    • Pretty much the only person who didn't come out of the experience hating someone (at least, not publicly) was Edward Woodward, who was much beloved by the many co-stars he worked with during his career.
  • Irony as She Is Cast: Edward Woodward was most definitely not a virgin, unlike Sgt. Howie.
  • Looping Lines: In the Director's Cut, Howie's line: "Will you call in at Mary's house? Tell her I'll be away overnight," seems to have been recorded outdoors and then dubbed over.
  • Making Use of the Twin: Geraldine Cowper, who played Rowan, had a twin sister named Jackie. It is Jackie in the photograph that is sent to Sergeant Howie, and she also replaced Geraldine in a couple of the shots during the cave chase scene at the beginning of the film's climax. Jackie Cowper died in 1995; Geraldine Cowper, who now goes by Gerry, is still alive.
  • The Merch: Includes lots of DVDs of the film, two soundtracks made by two different record companies (a 1998 release from Trunk Records, and a 2002 release from Silva Screen Records), and a massive set of trading cards which feature screenshots, behind-the-scenes photos, and sketches of different scenes from different artists.
  • Missing Episode: The film had something like twelve minutes of footage removed after an early screening. With the possible exception of the original Media-Home Entertainment release, they've never been seen since. Christopher Lee, who considered this one of his best films, was NOT happy about this. A 2001 home video release restored some of these scenes, including the original opening scene - from a clearly inferior print, but still. And there's still material that's missing.
    • One infamous example is a surreal dream sequence of Sgt. Howie's. Several musicians who worked on the film claim to have seen, but for there's no other evidence that it exists (including scripts or stills). One claimed that Robin Hardy was very enthusiastic about the scene, and he was surprised when it wasn't included in the director's cut.
    • There's also several actors who appear on some cast lists whose roles don't appear to correspond to anything in the actual film or in the shooting script, implying there might be yet more scenes that were either unfilmed or were unscripted and eventually cut.
    • This table breaks down all known missing scenes.
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: Prior to shooting the final scene, Edward Woodward was in the Wicker Man and a goat was penned in above him. Because the goat was scared at being shut up, it urinated on Woodward.
  • Non-Singing Voice: Scottish jazz singer Annie Ross was brought in to dub almost all of Britt Ekland's dialogue.
  • Pop Culture Urban Legends: Conflicting reports surround who Britt Ekland's body double for the nude scene was. Some crew members say Lorraine Peters, who also plays the nude woman crying at the gravestone. Others say Jane Jackson - who lived in Castle Douglas at the time of filming. Robin Hardy said it was an exotic dancer they found in Glasgow.
  • Recursive Adaptation: The film is based on David Pinner's novel, The Ritual. Robin Hardy and scriptwriter Anthony Schafer wrote a novelization. Hardy also wrote a sequel called Cowboys For Christ which he adapted into a movie called The Wicker Tree.
  • Referenced by...: The music video for Radiohead's "Burn the Witch" readapts the film's plot through the lens of a Camberwick Green-style Subverted Kids' Show.
  • Romance on the Set: The film's writer, Anthony Shaffer, and actress Diane Cilento (whom, at the time, was on the verge of divorcing from Sean Connery) met during filming, and began a relationship that would last until Shaffer's 2001 death. Cilento returned to her native Queensland in 1975, and Shaffer went with her. They married a decade later.
  • Self-Adaptation: Director Robin Hardy and screenwriter Anthony Schaffer wrote a novelization and two sequels. Hardy directed a 2011 movie called The Wicker Tree based on the second book.
  • Stillborn Franchise: In 1989, with the film's cult following growing all the time, Shaffer suddenly decided to write a direct sequel to The Wicker Man, putting together a 30-page script treatment for what was to be called The Loathsome Lambton Worm:
    • The film would've hit the Reset Button on the final few minutes of the original, with Sergeant Howie being rescued from the wicker man at the last minute by a group of fellow police officers from the mainland. He would've then begun the process of bringing the islanders to justice (this time, carrying fellow officer Hugh McTaggart, who only appeared in the original opening scene cut from the first film's theatrical release, along with him), only to suddenly become embroiled in a battle between the old gods and his Christian faith. The film was to have had more fantastical elements than its predecessor, and rely very heavily on Special Effects. The climax? Howie was to battle the eponymous Lambton Worm (a fire-breathing dragon, unlike the acid-spewing monster of the original folkloric Lambton Worm story), before plunging to his death while tied to two large eagles.
    • Hardy never read the script, and wanted no part in the film for two reasons: he didn't like the idea of Howie surviving the sacrifice, and the fact that the actors had aged by more than 15 years. Could you imagine what it would've been like to see Woodward with wrinkles from being in the wicker man for almost twenty years? In 1989, Lee had a mustache. Surely, he would've had to shave it. Heck, Russell Waters, who played the harbour master in the first film, had died in 1982, and Geraldine Cowper, who played Rowan, was in her early 30s in the late 1980s. The planned sequel was never made, and the script treatment, illustrations included, was published in Allan Brown's 2001 behind-the-scenes book, Inside The Wicker Man.
  • Those Two Actors: Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt starred in The House That Dripped Blood together, as well as appearing in numerous Hammer Horror films. It's for this reason that The Wicker Man is often mistaken for a Hammer film too.
  • Throw It In:
    • The evil eye boat was found on location and filmmakers decided to use it in the scene.
    • Subverted in another case. A local man was found and asked to film a scene where he'd jump into the sea fully clothed. The scene never got filmed due to bad weather.
  • Word of God: Britt Ekland denied that her pregnancy was the reason she only appeared nude from the waist up - as she didn't know she was pregnant at the time (and she certainly doesn't look it in the film). She was self-conscious about showing her ass and regrets not doing so after seeing the double's.
    "They put in the ugliest, biggest bottom in the world. Mine was much smaller and much nicer."
  • What Could Have Been: Christopher Lee wanted his good friend Peter Cushing to play the role of Howie, but Cushing had other commitments (and would not have been considered anyway as Hardy explicitly had a young actor in mind for the role). Robin Hardy's first choice was Michael York.

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