“Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb” completes Dr. Strangelove‘s official title. While Stanley Kubrick was never known as a comedic director, the one time he fully turned his attention to directing a comedy film (even though it began as a serious story), he made a brilliant film. Dr. Strangelove is full of wonderful and hilarious performances, many of them from Peter Sellers alone. Here are 13 things to know about the film and its history…
1. Peter Sellers, who plays three parts in the film, was paid $1 million, which added up to over half the film’s overall budget.
2. George C. Scott was reputedly annoyed that Stanley Kubrick was pushing him to overact for his role. While he vowed never to work with Kubrick again, Scott eventually saw this as one of his favorite performances.
3. The War Room contains a large table of food because Stanley Kubrick intended to end the film with a custard pie fight between the Russians and the Americans. He decided not to use the footage because he found it too farcical to fit with the satirical nature of the rest of the film. The only known public showing of the pie fight scene was at the 1999 screening of the film at London’s National Film Theatre, following Kubrick’s death.
4. In an earlier version of the screenplay, aliens were watching all of the chaos unfold from outer space.
5. Strangelove was the film debut of James Earl Jones, who Stanley Kubrick cast after seeing him in a production of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
6. Stanley Kubrick usually gave directions to actors without cracking a smile. However, during the shooting of this film, Kubrick was laughing a good deal of the time while Peter Sellers was performing, often so hard that he brought himself to tears.
7. For the role of Gen. Jack D. Ripper, Stanley Kubrick was able to talk Sterling Hayden into coming out of retirement to make his first film in five years. Kubrick had previously used Hayden in The Killing.
8. When Slim Pickens was cast as Major Kong, he had never traveled outside the United States in his life. Production was delayed for over a month while he applied and got a passport to travel to England to film his scenes which were the very last scenes to be shot.
9. While shooting aerial footage over Greenland, the second unit camera crew accidentally filmed a secret US military base. Their plane was forced down, and the crew was suspected of being Soviet spies.
10. Stanley Kubrick wanted the tablecloth on the War Room table to be green, so it looked like the world leaders were playing poker with the world’s fate. However, this makes little sense, since the film’s budget required it to be shot in black & white, so color of the tablecloth would make no difference on the final film release.
11. Peter Sellers, who was nominated for Best Actor, was the first actor to be nominated for a single Academy award for a film in which he portrayed three different characters in the same film.