Did Richard Chamberlain "do it" with Faye Dunaway ? Was Steve McQueen's character called "Mario Infantino ? What's the
difference between "Dan" or "John" Bigelow (Robert Wagner's character) ? Who the hell was "Zib" ?
Didn't I tell you I got NEWS for you !
There are big differences between the names of the characters in the original script (I have the
second draft-december 12, 1973) and the ones in the movie. Most names were originally taken from the
two books the script was based on (for example: Paul Simmons, Zib, Bob and Paula Ramsay and
senator Wycoff were taken from "The Tower"). Some changes I can understand (Do you know anyone
named "Zib" ?), but others are unbelievable. Is "Doug Roberts" (Paul Newman) an improvement over
"Craig Wilson ? Robert Wagner can keep his last name "Bigelow" but "John" had to be changed in
"Dan" (anyone ???). Richard Chamberlain also got to keep his last name "Simmons", but when they
replaced "Paul" by "Roger" he also had to die (would there be a connection ?).
Here is what Joe Musso - one of the storyboard artists - has to say about this in an e-mail:
"I enjoyed reading some of your comments regarding the casting choices and character name changes. Since I attended most, if not all, of the production meetings, I can shed some light on your questions. Neither Irwin or the studios felt that Zib Wilson was feminine enough for Faye Dunaway's character. Robert Wagner's character was changed from John Bigelow to Dan Bigelow because because of Irwin's touching homage to his personal attendant at the time, Don Bigelow. Don was an extremely polite and downright nice 20th Century-Fox African American janitor in charge of the Producer's Building where Irwin had his offices on the second floor. Irwin took a great liking to Don and arranged with Fox to make him his personal attendant. Unfortunately, when Irwin put the name change through, those in charge mistakenly cleared"Dan", instead of "Don", for the next script draft. Don left Irwin around 1978 because of the now long drive to Warner Bros. Studios after Irwin moved his staff there from Fox around March 1976. Don wanted to spend more time with his wife and children. It's quite a long drive through a lot of heavy traffic from the the West Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Century City areas of the Fox Studios to the Warners Studios in Burbank, which is over the mountains in the San Fernando Valley. Irwin's favorite set designer and model maker, Harold Fuhrman, also eventually left Irwin for the same reason.
I'm the one that suggested that they bump off Carlos the Bartender. The studio heads felt that some other important sympathetic character should die in the Promenade Room flooding at the end for a little more emotional impact. They were considering that either Steve McQueen, Paul Newman or William Holden's character should die. However, after deliberating on it, Irwin called his staff together. Irwin was rightfully concerned that since he killed off Gene Hackman's character in "The Poseidon Adventure," that the critics would accuse Irwin of always killing off his hero. Who else, Irwin asked us, can we kill off? To which I replied, "How about Carlos the Bartender, Carlos is an equally sympathetic character, but not one of the three main heroes." Irwin liked the idea and the studio heads bought it, so Carlos was sacrificed, while Steve, Paul and Bill lived on.
Irwin's original casting choices were that Steve McQueen would play the architect and Ernest Borgnine the fire chief as you correctly noted, but with Burt Lancaster as the builder, David Niven as the con artist, Olivia de Havilland as the art dealer and either James Franciscus or John Forsyth as the senator. Then Steve suddenly decided that he wanted to play the fire chief and personally suggested Paul Newman. Fox and Warners then ruled out Burt in favor of Holden. Olivia turned Irwin and the studios down and Niven wasn't available on the filming dates, nor was their next choice, Peter Ustinov--obviously Fred and Jennifer filled in rather nicely. And yes, Ginger Rogers was sugested, but we were told that Fred should costar with someone else. I honestly don't know if that was Fred's decision or that the studios feared it would seem like a cliched parody to the critics. Franciscus and Forsyth were both turned down because it was felt that they closely resembled the then California senator, John Tunney, and governor, Ronald Reagan. Since Tunney was a Democrat and Reagan a Republican it was felt that politics should be kept out of it--hence Robert Vaughn, who didn't resem ble anybody political at the time."
Here is the list of the
top 11 players:
actor...................................character in film...................character in script (draft 2)
Steve McQueen.................Michael O'Hallorhan.................Mario Infantino
Paul Newman....................Doug Roberts...........................Craig Wilson
William Holden..................James Duncan.........................Wyndom Liroux
Faye Dunaway..................Susan Franklin..........................Zib Wilson
Fred Astaire......................Harlee Claiborne.......................Harlee Claiborne
Susan Blakely...................Patty Simmons........................Patty Simmons
Richard Chamberlain..........Roger Simmons........................Paul Simmons
Jennifer Jones....................Lisolette Mueller......................Lisolette Mueller
Robert Vaughn...................Senator Gary Parker................Senator Wycoff
Robert Wagner...................Dan Bigelow............................John Bigelow
There were lots of changes in the storyline. With a strike of his pen someone (Irwin Allen
himself maybe ?) decided
who could live and who had to die.
Here is a short list of changes. Details will follow later.
- Fay Dunaway and Richard Chamberlain have a sneaky relationship
- Paul Newman is the one on top of the scenic elevator (RESCUE SCENE).
Maybe that's why the assisting fireman dies !
- Richard Chamberlain does NOT die.
- Paul Newman and Steve McQueen return (after placing the bombs) by helicopter.
- Carlos (the bartender) lives, but loses the wine.
- O.J. Simpson has a pregnant wife waiting for him (o my God........)
"Supplementing Silliphant's screenplay were 2600 storyboard paintings prepared by the art staff working
under production designer William Creber."
(from the inner sleeve of the Fox THX Laserdisc)
I have the astonishing amount of 3 pictures (from "American Cinematographer"). Have a look !
The, hard-to-read, text beneath the second picture, is from the script.
It says: "THE EXPRESS ELEVATOR - A MAN staggers out, his clothes on
FIRE, his face seeming to be MELTING."
That's pretty graphic, especially for 1974 !
What was Susan Flannery thinking ? That she would land softer on a matras ?
On a tv-special "The Building of a blockbuster" they showed another four drawings.
Click here for more storyboards, created by
(from the inner sleeve of the Fox THX Laserdisc:)
Casting announcements were made in March '74. Designed as an all-star vehicle, the biggest male action star in
Hollywood, Steve McQueen, was sought as The Towering Inferno's lead character. As the screenplay was originally
written, that character was architect Doug Roberts.
Guillermin: "Ernest Borgnine was originally asked to play the fire chief and McQueen was going to be the architect.
The fire chief had ten pages in the first draft, but Steve had tremendous instinct for the heart of the picture. He felt
the role of the architect was pasted together. Steve said, 'If somebody of my caliber can play the architect, I'll play
the fire chief.' That's where the idea to cast Paul Newman came in." (Steve McQueen, by Marshall Terrill).
Newman agreed to play Doug Roberts, and McQueen received equal compensation, as well as an equal amount
of screen dialogue. Counting Newman's lines in the script, McQueen requested Silliphant write him 12 additional lines of
dialogue to match his co-star's. He also had his lines adapted to his natural manner of speech.
Silliphant: "Steve has the nagging instinct of what is right for him based on his ability. He doesn't like long speeches.
He likes them to be terse, sharp, almost proverbial." (Women's Wear Daily)
For two stars of such magnitude, billing also had to be addressed. The solution was that McQueen's name would
appear on the left, Newman's on the right, but higher. Both now appeared to have equal status, although McQueen was
Other signings soon followed: Oscar-winners William Holden (1953, Best Actor, Stalag 17) and Jennifer Jones
(1943, Best Actress, The Song of Bernadette); screen legend Fred Astaire; film stars Faye Dunaway and Robert Wagner;
television's Richard Chamberlain, Robert Vaughn and Susan Flannery (Days of our lives), fashion model Susan Blakely;
football star O.J. Simpson.