Things That Make You Go Hmmm - "Is It Safe?"
From this week's Things that Make You Go Hmmm....
But for a bailout of sorts, one of the most villainous performances in cinematic history would never have made it to the silver screen. Producer Robert Evans was set upon getting Laurence Olivier to play the part of Dr. Christian Szell in the movie adaptation of William Goldman’s book, Marathon Man. However, because Olivier at the time was riddled with cancer, he was uninsurable so Paramount refused to use im. In desperation, Evans called his friends Merle Oberon and David Niven to arrange a meeting with the House of Lords (the upper body of the UK’s parliament). There, he urged them to put pressure on Lloyds of London to insure Britain’s greatest living actor. The ploy succeeded and a frail Olivier started working on the film. In the end, not only did he net an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but his cancer also went into remission. Olivier lived on for another 13 years. The iconic scene in Marathon Man that, to this day has me squirming in my chair whenever I see it, involves Dr. Szell using particularly nasty dentistry techniques to torture poor Dustin Hoffman’s character, ‘Babe’, in order to establish whether the security of the stash of diamonds Szell has hidden has been compromised. Babe, however, genuinely has no idea what Szell is talking about. As Babe’s fear mounts, he tries giving Szell any and every answer to avoid the pain he is clearly about to face. He tells him ‘it’ is safe. He tells him ‘it’ is in grave danger - anything he thinks Szell wants to hear - but, unfortunately, Babe’s pain is inevitable and it is dispensed without compassion or humanity. Such is the way of the world.
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