Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Making of THE DESERTER


Chapter 5 My Diary

June 26, 1969
Arrived Rome to direct THE DESERTER. Called Karl Malden, Ernie Borgnine, Hank Fonda, Richard Boone, Marty Balsam, and Marty Landau. Western Costume: two hundred and twenty cavalry outfits. Boots, hats, belts, and twenty-five scouts. Lunch with Dino De Laurentiis at his studio.

June 28, 1969
Karl Malden wants $250,000; $1,500 a week expenses; two tickets to Rome. Call Richard Boone; Herb Solo at Metro.

July 2, 1969
Back at Los Angeles. Lunch at MGM with Herb Solo (worldwide head of MGM) and Paul Kohner (a top agent, handling mostly European actors and actresses). The cavalry outfits are $35.75 apiece; $60 per officer and $35.75 per scout. Sooner or later, we're gonna have trouble with boots, and are probably going to have to make them over in Rome.

July 7, 1969
Talked to Frank Sinatra in New York, reference DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE. Meeting him in New York on my way to Rome.

July 8, 1969
TWA to New York. Checked into the Waldorf Tower. Talked to Frank Sinatra - will see him tomorrow.

July 9, 1969
TWA flight to Rome/. Wire Frank Sinatra - remind him of MURPHY'S WAR, the book he wants to do.

July 11, 1969
Flew to Split, Yugoslavia. Private jet. Locations no good. Back to Rome. Flight 406. Wire Dick Lyons, reference Sinatra.

July 15, 1969
Leaving for Spain. Talked to Herb Solo at MGM. Looks good for January start. Sinatra. Talked to Herb Tobias, my agent. Trying to get Ricardo Montalban and Patrick Wayne for roles in THE DESERTER.

July 16, 1969
Arrived Madrid. Waited four hours for plane to Almeria. Arrived Almeria at six o'clock. Found locations and the fort. Leaving for Malaga tomorrow. Have to find river crossing.

July 21, 1969
Trying to get Jack Elam and Bobby Walker Jr. Found locations. Have a script from Frank Sinatra. Bobby Walker said no. Elam said no - they're both working.

August 1, 1969
In Madrid, trying to set Brandon de Wilde and Pat Wayne. Got 'em.

August 6, 1969
Meeting with Dino De Laurentiis. Got back script for Frank Wolff - an actor I wanted in the picture - but he killed himself while he was working on another picture. Problem at MGM. They're selling off the back lot and all the props. Heading for Dublin.

August 14, 1969
Looks like MGM deal is in trouble because of takeover by Krikorian. Arrived in Dublin. Called Bob Mitchum; John Huston to deliver script of BACKBONE.

August 17, 1969
Arrived John Huston's place. The big, bad, and the beautiful. Huston is a pompous pain in the ass - just right for the picture. He's playing a general in THE DESERTER. Leaving today for Dublin and the riots. Then to Rome Monday. Chuck Connors called - a younger pain in the ass. Staying at John Huston's estate is like dying and going to heaven by mistake. Returned to Dublin.

August 19, 1969
Huston conflict of start dates - trying to get Henry Fonda. Pepe Lopez arrived from Spain - my first assistant.

August 20, 1969
Just received a wire from Robert Evans saying he insists on Techniscope. First sign of a bad picture is when the company insists you do things their way. Bottom of the bill, here we come.Things I've learned in Europe: If there are clouds over St. Peter's, it'll rain in Rome. If there's a mist over the Irish Sea, it'll be clear in Dublin. If Dino De Laurentiis doesn't shake hands when you come into his office, there's gonna be a big storm.Talked to Bob Evans. He said stand firm on Huston and no one eight-five ratio (which is a form of wide screen, such as CinemaScope and Panavision).

August 22, 1969
Made a handshake deal with Dino De Laurentiis for a Rolls-Royce if I rewrite the script for nothing.

August 30, 1969
Rome. Two guys are here to sign me for a ten-million-dollar picture, and they ran out and left a bad check for the hotel. Clerk thinks I'm in business with them. Every time the manager sees me in the lobby, he yells, "What about that bad check?"I signed the MGM deal. To rewrite, produce, and direct DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE.Leaving for Madrid in the morning. Went to see Harry Jackson, who had the Time magazine cover of John wayne in TRUE GRIT. He's clever. Made me pay for his book - damn clever.

September 1, 1969
Arrived in Madrid. Went out to see the horses. Saddles are a problem. Seems we have one hundred horses and they bought twenty-five saddles.Staying the in room at Castellana Hilton, where I staying when I came here to make RETURN OF THE SEVEN. I hope that isn't a bad sign.

September 7, 1969
Left Madrid for Malaga location at Antequera. Drove from Malaga to Almeria - six hours, twenty-three hundred curves. Turned down the set and found another.Just discovered I'm only forty-seven. I thought I was forty-seven last year.My agent called to tell me we got a bad review on YOUNG BILLY YOUNG. Didn't surprise me inasmuch as it's a bad picture.We start Thursday - I'm ready.

September 10, 1969
THE DESERTER starts tomorrow - I'm ready.

September 11, 1969
First day on the picture - no problems. Our cast is gonna be good. Rained-out half day. Dino wants to know how I'm gonna cut the script to make up the time. Here we go again - no one in this damn business worries about the right thing. Called everybody a no-good sonofabitch and went back to work.

September 14, 1969
Free day - Sunday - I feel like a fighter between rounds. Hotel manager just informed me that Chuck Connors wants his water supply purified twice. Glad it's Sunday - that'll give me all day to get it done.Had lunch with Riccardo Montalban - a wonderful actor and a wonderful man.My agent, Herb Tobias, sent me a good-luck wire on the first day of the picture. Trouble is, it's in Spanish. He probably got a rate.

September 17, 1969
Did big action sequences today. I told the Italian cameraman to be careful around the horses - his first western. Cameraman stepped on by a horse - now he's careful.

September 19, 1969
Wardrobe Chuck Connors, Ian Bannen, Brandon de Wilde, Albert Salmi, and Woody Strode. Had to let them go early to see El Cordobes fight a bull. Tomorrow they all work.

September 20, 1969
Haven't seen any dailies. Seems there's an Italian law says you have to have four thousand feet to ship it out of the country. There's another law says you save money if you do it that way. I hope I never have to make another picture over here.

October 2, 1969
Two dogs in the picture had a fight. One had to go to the hospital.

October 3, 1969
Two actors had a fight. One went to the hospital.This is the worst crew I've ever worked with. The cameraman is trying to win an Academy Award. The picture is rotten so far, but I have a chance when we get to the scenes. Leaving for Malaga tomorrow.

October 4, 1969
Went to work in a driving rainstorm - road washed out. Cast spent six hours in car getting to location. Sun came out at three o'clock. My star Bekim Fehmin refused to work - he left for Malaga. Floodwaters cut us off from the hotel. Bekim went by boat; it capsized, and he swam ashore. We crossed the flood at eleven-thirty at night - damn near lost our car in the water.

October 16, 1969
The sun came out. A horse fell off a bridge. He lived - a miracle. The first one on this picture. I think we need another one - when it opens.

October 24, 1969
Finished mountain stuff. Rained fifteen days - leaving Almeria tomorrow.

Novemer 23, 1969
Finished picture. Was a struggle - I think I won, but you never know.Left for L.A., stopped in Paris and London - lost my goddamned bumper chute.

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