Behind The Camera on THE FORTUNE COOKIE
Monday July, 8 2013 at 11:15 PM
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Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau bonded early in the production process, finding a connection in their mutual love of football. They would remain friends the rest of their lives.
Wilder shot the opening sequence of The Fortune Cookie during an actual Vikings-Browns game on October 31, 1965. The Vikings won 27-17.
When the Browns' LeRoy Kelly scored a spectacular punt return in the game's third quarter, Wilder decided to give Ron Rich's Boom Boom Jackson the same uniform number, 44.
The Browns' poor performance in the game prompted Cleveland fans to boo quarterback Frank Ryan. At a press conference afterwards, Wilder stated, "...after my last picture, I know how [team owner Art] Modell feels. But he shouldn't worry. There'll be further disasters."
When Wilder re-created Kelly's run for The Fortune Cookie, Browns halfback Ernie Green performed the feat in long shots.
For later shots of the game, the Browns were playing elsewhere, so Wilder substituted the Kent State football team. Spectators were lured to the stadium to serve as unpaid extras with the promise of free prizes, ranging from transistor radios to a new car. The latter was awarded to Wilder's wife, Audrey.
Besides the Municipal Stadium, other Cleveland locations included St. Vincent Charity Hospital and Terminal Tower. The rest of The Fortune Cookie was shot in the Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood.
Matthau had never worked with a director as precise as Wilder, particularly when it came to the script. Although the director allowed the actors to rehearse as much as they wanted and to make suggestions, he insisted they stick closely to the script.
The third day of filming, Wilder gave Matthau a direction with which he disagreed. Instead of arguing, Matthau said, "You speak kind of funny, Billy -- are you from out of town."
The three and a half minute shot of Lemmon dancing in his wheelchair to "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" was completed in a single take.
With ten days left to shoot, Matthau suffered a major heart attack. Knowing the cost of production delays, and that Wilder had been forced to replace Peter Sellers when he suffered a heart attack while filming Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), Matthau got his wife to lie for him, trying to pass his illness off as indigestion or hepatitis and then calling it only a mild attack. He was off the film for seven weeks, during which time production shut down.
After weeks of accepting Carol Matthau's lies about her husband's health, Lemmon told her at the end of a phone conversation, "Carol, there's something I want you to know. You never have to level with me" (Lemmon, quoted in Hunter). He knew she was lying to protect her husband and wanted her to know it was all right.
When Cliff Osmond asked Wilder how to play the private detective, Wilder, always a man of few words where actors were concerned, said, "Incessant pursuit. Relentless. Play Javert [from Les Miserables]".
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