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Trivia / Winter Kills

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  • All-Star Cast: Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Toshiro Mifune, Eli Wallach, Sterling Hayden, Richard Boone, Anthony Perkins, Ralph Meeker, Dorothy Malone, Tomas Milian and an uncredited Elizabeth Taylor. Five of said actors are Oscar winners.
  • Box Office Bomb: Made barely a million dollars on a six million dollar budget.
  • The Cameo: Elizabeth Taylor appears in flashback as a Washington D.C. madam implicataed in President Kegan's assassination. The role in question is completely silent, with her only line being a silently-mouthed declaration of "piece of shit".
  • Doing It for the Art:
    • The cast and the crew were so enthusiastic about making the movie that they even finished it without pay. According to them, they all felt like they were making something important. When the movie ended up being a huge flop and when the extremely negative audience reactions poured in, they were completely shocked and entirely devastated and disappointed.
    • Elizabeth Taylor took her uncredited cameo role after being fascinated by the script and the opportunity to take on a performance with no dialogue.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • During the scene where Nick interrogates Cerruti, Jeff Bridges accidentally hit Anthony Perkins with a real blackjack instead of the prop and injured his arm for real. Perkins didn't break character and continued the scene, with Bridges hitting his other arm, until Richert called cut, at which point he began screaming in pain.
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    • Tomas Milian reportedly spent four months rehearsing his one scene.
  • Executive Meddling: Distributor Embassy Pictures made significant cuts to the film, including all of Elizabeth Taylor's scenes (which were later restored for video and television edits), and did little to promote or distribute the film. No wonder it flopped at the box office.
  • Faux Fluency: Toshiro Mifune didn't know any English at the time and had to learn all his lines phonetically.
  • Irony as She Is Cast:
    • Tisa Farrow (of Zombi 2 and The Anthropophagus Beast fame) plays one of the two Naughty Nurses attending to Pa Kegan. Two years after this film's release, she would retire from acting and become a registered nurse in Vermont.
    • John Warner, the actor who plays President Kegan in flashbacks, was a government official who had served as Under secretary and then Secretary of the U.S. Navy during the Nixon Administration, 1972-1974, before he was appointed in 1974 to head up the federal government's American Revolution Bicentennial Administration. Richert was unaware of this political background, simply casting him in the role because he was married to Elizabeth Taylor at the time.
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    • John Huston had knew the real-life Joseph Kennedy, on which his character is based, and reportedly didn't like him.
  • Romance on the Set: Richert wrote the role of Yvette with Belinda Bauer specifically in mind, after seeing her modeling work. The two ended up in a relationship on set, which made Jeff Bridges extremely uncomfortable during the filming of their sex scene.
  • Title Confusion: No one is actually sure what the title is supposed to mean, and author Richard Condon refused to say.
  • Troubled Production: The movie ran into some unique production difficulties, as two of its producers, Robert Sterling and Leonard Goldberg, were mob-connected drug dealers. Filming began in 1976 and quickly exceeded its modest budget, grinding production to a halt as the producers struggled to find funds. Filmmaking soon became the least of their problems, as Goldberg was murdered by the Mafia and Sterling was arrested and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Writer-director William Richert abandoned the film at that point, making The American Success Company with Jeff Bridges (who starred in both movies) instead, which made enough money for Richert to fund Winter Kills out of his own pocket. The movie was finally released in 1979 and thanks to Embassy's cuts and lukewarm promotion, became a box-office bomb. Richard Condon, author of the original novel, went on to claim that Embassy Pictures had major defense contracts that the Kennedys were involved with. Since Ted Kennedy was about to run for president in 1980, the Kennedy's pressured the AVCO Embassy into abruptly pulling the film from theaters.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Miloš Forman was originally attached to direct, but dropped out for unknown reasons and was replaced by screenwriter Richert.
    • The role of Pa Kegan was originally offered to Frank Sinatra, who reportedly rejected it because he didn't want to appear on-screen as an aging family patriarch.
    • The casting of Dorothy Malone was actually a mistake. William Richert had originally intended to cast actress Dorothy McGuire. However, despite the error, the Richert went along it, and thought Malone was great in the part.
    • The film's third act had to be severely truncated and re-written after the production ran out of money.

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