Amadeus was, and still is, one of the best films to ever take home Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The 1984 musical biopic is fresh and energetic, telling the story of the rambunctious and brilliant composer, and the villainous envy of a fellow composer, Salieri. The film won a total of 8 Academy Awards, and here are 11 things to know…
1. The original Broadway production of Amadeus opened at the Broadhurst Theater on December 17, 1980 and ran for 1181 performances starring Ian McKellen and Tim Curry. The movie was based on the Peter Schaffer play which won the 1981 Tony Award Best Play and who also wrote the movie screenplay. Patrick Hines was in the original Broadway production but played a different role in the movie version.
2. It has been claimed that the concept for Mozart’s annoying laugh was taken from “references in letters written about him”, including a description of him having “an infectious giddy” laugh, and sounding “like metal scraping glass”. No citations have been provided for these letters, however. There is no indication as to who wrote them, to whom or when. And in the absence of further citations, these claims of historical evidence for Mozart’s laugh should be regarded as dubious at best.
3. Milos Forman insisted that his lead actors retain their American accents so that they could concentrate on their characters and performance instead.
4. Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham had a deliberately distant working relationship during the making of the film, much as Mozart and Salieri had in real life.
5. When shooting the scene in which Salieri is writing down the death mass under Mozart’s dictation, Tom Hulce was deliberately skipping lines to confuse F. Murray Abraham, in order to achieve the impression that Salieri wasn’t able to fully understand the music he was dictated.
6. Originally, a very young Kenneth Branagh was cast as Mozart, but Milos Forman changed his mind and decided to go with American actors for the principal roles.
7. The young boy Mozart smiles at in the party scene as he plays the piano is young Beethoven.
8. Meg Tilly originally was cast as Stanze but tore a leg ligament in a street soccer game the day before she was to film her first scene. Elizabeth Berridge and Diane Franklin were both screen tested as replacements, with Berridge getting the role.
9. During the start Confutatis section dictation, a miscue from John Strauss (who was cuing the music phrase for both actors via AM wave hearing aids) got Tom Hulce lost and confused because he was waiting for the exact pitch and phrase coming in. The miscue was included in the final film – when F. Murray Abraham repeats the phrase ‘A minor’, Hulce was not responding for a while as he was actually waiting for the cue.
10. Milos Forman and Peter Shaffer spent four months adapting the very stylized play into a workable script. They added characters such as the priest, maid, archbishop, and mother-in-law; Mozart’s character was enlarged beyond Salieri’s perceptions, and Salieri’s monologues were reworked visually.
11. Understandably, no major studio was interested in financing a three-hour biopic about a classical music composer.