Doctor Zhivago (1965) Movie Poster

Trivia for Doctor Zhivago (1965)

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  • Critics tore the film apart upon release. Newsweek commented about "hack-job sets" and "pallid photography". Director David Lean was so deeply affected that he swore he would never make another movie. Thanks in part to MGM's marketing campaign and strong word of mouth, this became the second highest-grossing movie of 1965, behind The Sound of Music (1965). It received ten Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture and Director) and won 5 awards, giving Lean the confidence to continue making movies. His next movie, Ryan's Daughter (1970), received a poisonous reception from critics and bombed at the box office. Lean made his next film, A Passage to India (1984), over 14 years later.
  • Rod Steiger was on-set filming for twelve months.
  • Over 4,000 daffodils were imported from The Netherlands and placed on the outskirts of Soria, where Dr. Yuri Zhivago's father-in-law's country estate was located.
  • This movie was shot in Spain during the regime of General Francisco Franco. One day, while filming the scene with the crowd chanting the Marxist theme (at 3:00 a.m.), police showed up on set thinking a real revolution was taking place, and insisted on staying until the scene was finished. Apparently, people who lived nearby had awoken to the sound of revolutionary singing, and mistakenly believed that Franco had been overthrown. The secret police surveyed the crowd as the extras sang the Internationale for a protest scene, so many extras pretended they didn't know the words.
  • The shooting exceeded the ten month schedule because David Lean wanted to capture the different seasons. Filming took place during one of Spain's mildest winters, leading to delays and the need to use marble dust and plastic snow in the height of summer.
  • Although the film was an epic on the scale of David Lean's previous movie, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), it was shot in standard 35mm Panavision. The 70mm prints were blow-ups from the 35mm negative. Lean wanted to shoot the movie in 70mm, but claimed that MGM refused because of cost. In the early 1960s, the studio had outstanding critical, box office, and Academy Award success with Ben-Hur (1959), which had restored the studio's legacy and financial fortunes for a few years. At the time, an year's production schedule relied on the success of one big-budget epic. In 1959, Ben-Hur was profitable enough to carry the studio through 1960. However, Cimarron (1960), King of Kings (1961), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), big-budget epics filmed in a widescreen 70mm format, failed. In 1963, MGM vowed never again to invest in 70mm film making.
  • This movie grossed more than every other movie David Lean had directed put together.
  • David Lean's first choice for the title role was Peter O'Toole who declined, citing the grueling experience of making Lawrence of Arabia (1962) with Lean. This created a rift between the two that never fully healed.
  • When Lara slaps Victor, who slaps her back, Victor's slap was not in the script or discussed during filming. Rod Steiger did it only during filming, and Julie Christie's stunned reaction was genuine.
  • The film used thousands of extras, including including Spanish soldiers and Finnish Sami (for the scenes in Siberia).
  • David Lean cast Julie Christie as Lara after seeing her in Billy Liar (1963), and on the recommendation of John Ford, who had directed her in Young Cassidy (1965).
  • Most of the exteriors were completely built inside, to serve as interiors.
  • Rita Tushingham filmed her part in two weeks.
  • Screenwriter Robert Bolt recommended Albert Finney for the role of Pasha, and wrote Finney a long letter to convince him to accept. David Lean refused, largely because Finney had turned down the title role in Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
  • Alec Guinness and director David Lean quarreled frequently on the set. According to Guinness, Lean was "acting the part of a super-star director" and frequently insulted Guinness' performance and him personally. They didn't work together again until A Passage to India (1984).
  • Producer Carlo Ponti originally bought the rights to the novel so that he could cast his wife, Sophia Loren, in the role of Lara. David Lean, however, claimed that she was "too tall" for the role.
  • In an interview several years after making this movie, Rod Steiger said he was one of very few Americans among so many great British actors. "All I wanted to do was not embarrass myself."
  • According to Freddie Young, before he agreed to take the director of photography job following an exhausting collaboration on Lawrence of Arabia (1962), David Lean had a major falling-out with the previous director of photography, Nicolas Roeg, over creative differences. After Young took over, an additional two weeks of photography was required to re-shoot the scenes that Roeg had shot.
  • After a month went by with Marlon Brando failing to respond to David Lean's written inquiry into whether he wanted to play Viktor Komarovsky, he offered the part to James Mason, who accepted. Lean, who had wanted to cast Brando as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and offered him roles in Ryan's Daughter (1970) and his unmade "Nostromo", decided on Mason, as he did not want an actor to overpower the character of Dr. Yuri Zhivago. Mason eventually dropped out, and Rod Steiger accepted the role. Steiger eventually was involved in the filming of this movie for the better part of a year, which may have been a reason that Brando and Mason shunned the role.
  • Producer Carlo Ponti wanted to shoot this movie in the Soviet Union, but the government refused. Director David Lean visited Yugoslavia and Scandinavia in search of filming locations. Both areas were too cold, and Yugoslavia's bureaucracy was prohibitive.
  • David Lean wanted Audrey Hepburn to play Tonya, but he was so impressed by Geraldine Chaplin's audition that he cast her on the spot.
  • The inside of the ice palace was mostly made of specifically formed wax.
  • This movie wasn't shown in Russia until 1994.
  • (Cameo) Tarek Sharif: Omar Sharif's son plays young Yuri Zhivago at his mother's funeral.
  • Omar Sharif asked director David Lean to consider him for the role of Pavel Antipov (Pasha). He was surprised when Lean offered him the title role.
  • The film ranked number seven in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions: America's Greatest Love Stories (2002), and number 39 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies: America's Greatest Movies (1998). It was also nominated for AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores.
  • When David Lean told the studio that he wanted Maurice Jarre to provide the score, he was told, "Maurice is very good on sand, but I'm sure we have someone better on snow." Jarre won the Oscar for Best Original Score for this movie.
  • Several producers and studios bid for the rights to the novel, which producer Carlo Ponti won in 1963. He wanted this movie to be as grand as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), so he recruited the crew of that movie, including director David Lean, screenwriter Robert Bolt, cinematographer Freddie Young, production designer John Box, and composer Maurice Jarre.
  • The soundtrack sold more than 600,000 copies during the movie's initial release.
  • A ten-acre replica of Moscow was built in Canillas, a suburb of Madrid. It included a cobbled 800-yard street with trolley cars, a train viaduct, a replica of the Kremlin, and 60 shops and houses circling a giant plaza.
  • Pasha Antipov's armored train was an accurate replica of trains that were used during World War I and World War II to travel across areas with heavy snow that were inaccessible to trucks or tanks.
  • Lili Muráti was seriously injured while shooting the scene in which she runs beside the train and grabs Omar Sharif's hand to be hauled aboard. Sharif had been instructed to grab and hold on to Muráti's hand. "She started panicking", said Ernest Day, who was watching it all through the camera, "but he didn't understand her. She was trying to make him let go, and when she did finally wrench her hand away she stumbled and disappeared out of the viewfinder." Muráti was wearing thick clothes, and she curled up into a ball as she fell, so the train wheels didn't sever her limbs. Her stumble appears in the finished movie.
  • Yvette Mimieux was rejected for the part of Lara.
  • When asked if he thought Sarah Miles would make a good choice for the part of Lara, screenwriter Robert Bolt said "No, she's just a north country slut." Bolt later married Miles.
  • Ingrid Pitt appears in five different uncredited bit roles.
  • Despite its highly diverse international cast, the movie contains almost no Russian actors and actresses, or even actors and actresses of Russian heritage.
  • As of 2010, adjusted for inflation, this is the eighth-biggest grossing movie of all time.
  • David Lean wanted to make a more intimate, romantic piece after the big budget, action-oriented Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
  • The costumes inspired the "Zhivago Look" for designers like Yves St. Laurent and Christian Dior. Fur trims, silk braiding, and boots came back into fashion. Beards and mustaches were also fashionable, just in time for the counter-culture revolution of the late 1960s.
  • The charge of the Partisans across the frozen lake was filmed in temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). A cast iron sheet was placed over a riverbed and covered with fake snow.
  • The scene where Dr. Yuri Zhivago and Lara meet amid the Army deserters is a deliberate homage to The Big Parade (1925), one of David Lean's favorite movies.
  • Boris Pasternak's source novel is 592 pages long. When Robert Bolt's screenplay was published, it came to 224 pages.
  • This is Geraldine Chaplin's English language movie debut.
  • Omar Sharif claimed that he was close to a breakdown throughout most of filming due to stress over playing such a high-profile role and David Lean's demands on him.
  • The budget ballooned from $5 million to $15 million.
  • After Gone with the Wind (1939), this is the second most profitable movie in MGM's history.
  • Initially, this movie failed to make much impact at the box office, probably due to the critics' lukewarm reception. The first three weeks returns were considered a disaster, despite $1 million spent on publicity. Director David Lean remarked that "you could hurl boulders in the theater and not hurt anyone." Gradually, audiences started to pick up, probably due to the popularity of Maurice Jarre's "Lara's Theme".
  • David Lean had heard a piece of Russian music that he felt was perfect for the movie. He wasn't able to secure the copyright, so he asked Maurice Jarre to create a suitable theme. After rejecting all of Jarre's submissions, Lean told him to take off for the weekend, hole up with his girlfriend in a cabin in the mountains, and make love for the entire weekend. Jarre returned from the weekend with "Lara's Theme".
  • Omar Sharif had to have his eyes taped back daily and his hair straightened to disguise his Egyptian looks. He also had his hairline shaved up about two to three inches and his skin waxed, a process which had to be repeated every three days.
  • Julie Christie hated having to wear the infamous red dress. She refused to even put it on until production designer John Box assured her that she looked beautiful in it.
  • David Lean discovered Geraldine Chaplin when he spotted her on the cover of a magazine. She was modeling at the time.
  • Geraldine Chaplin's first filmed scene was when her character Tonya reads out a letter to Alexander. Although she pulled off the scene, the camera didn't pick up the fact that she was shaking throughout.
  • Although Maurice Jarre's score is probably the best-remembered feature of the movie, David Lean considered it too romantic.
  • Geraldine Chaplin modeled her performance of Tonya on her mother, Oona Chaplin.
  • The re-creation of Moscow on a Spanish studio lot took 18 months to achieve.
  • The cheering sailors on the side of the railroad before Pasha Antipov's train passes by are wearing hats from the cruiser "Aurora", written in Cyrillic.
  • Although publicity material said that the Moscow set built in Canillas was half a mile long, the actual length of the street with tram line was 160 meters (0.1 miles). To make this street look longer, it was built on a slope the end was narrower, and buildings at the end were shorter. David Lean only allowed photos of the set to be taken with wide-angle lenses to avoid revealing the actual size.
  • Dr. Yuri Zhivago's and Lara's first lines of dialogue with each other don't happen until one hour and 21 minutes into the movie (counting the overture and opening credits).
  • In his autobiography, Michael Caine said he also read for Dr. Yuri Zhivago, but after watching the results with David Lean, he suggested Omar Sharif.
  • Dirk Bogarde, Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster, and Max von Sydow were considered for the title role, but they were never actually offered the part before David Lean offered the role to Omar Sharif.
  • Igor Girkin, the leader of the Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine, who was prosecuted for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight 17 in 2014, adopted the nom de guerre "Strelnikov "after Pasha.
  • A Sergei Rachmaninoff prelude is heard at the salon concert when Komarowski summons the Medical Professor. Rachmaninoff was a personal friend of Boris Pasternak's family.
  • Klaus Kinski's dialogue was dubbed by Robert Rietty.
  • With the exception of an uncredited role in Limelight (1952), this was Geraldine Chaplin's first appearance in an English-language movie. Her two previous movies had been made in France.
  • Making the movie took 2 years and over 800 craftsmen in three countries. The final production budget was $15 million, three times what the movie's backers had agreed to.
  • This movie's principal location in Spain was the C.E.A. Studios, near Madrid's international airport. Production designer John Box and his crew spent six months turning the ten-acre studio into a reproduction of Moscow between 1905 and 1920. Included in the set were a 160-meter long paved street, trolley lines, an authentic replica of the Kremlin, a viaduct with real train engines, a church, and more than fifty businesses. Publicists touted the set as the largest ever built for a movie.
  • For Dr. Yuri Zhivago's trip through the Russian Steppes, production designer John Box constructed sets in the mountains north of Madrid. This required diverting the course of a river and building miles of railroad tracks.
  • Many winter scenes were shot in the summer, with actors and actresses wearing heavy Russian furs in temperatures as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit (46.7 degrees Celsius). Costume designer Phyllis Dalton had to keep strict watch over the extras to make sure none of them shedding layers of clothing to cool off. Omar Sharif later noted, "We had an army of make-up assistants who every two minutes came and dabbed you because we were sweating profusely."
  • For the scenes in which Dr. Yuri Zhivago and his family suffer through a torturous train ride to their summer home in the Urals, the company shot in Finland and Canada with the full cooperation of Finnish State Railways and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.
  • Although David Lean had championed Julie Christie to studio executives, during early days of filming, he had a hard time getting what he wanted out of her. Rather than give her time to explore the role, he kept at her to get exactly what he wanted. When filming returned to Spain after time in icebound Finland, she finally collapsed under the pressure. Gradually, however, they developed a working rapport. Lean visited her in her apartment in Madrid, and was quick to accept her suggestions for the script. By the time production had finished, they had forged a lasting friendship, though they never worked together again.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the source novel to be published in Russia in 1988, as part of his "glasnost" policy.
  • For the movie's 30th anniversary, the Turner Entertainment Company created a new print to be used for a theatrical re-issue, and new home videos. Over the years, heavy demand for prints around the world had left the original negative worn and scratched, forcing MGM to use duplicate negatives for some sequences. Fortunately, the original negative had not suffered from color degeneration, so technicians created new printing masters that eliminated the scratches. They also returned to the original sound elements to create a new soundtrack that was then recorded in DTS Digital Stereo. When the new version premiered at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, some viewers thought the movie looked even better than it had at its premiere.
  • This movie received an added publicity boost during post-production when Darling (1965) opened, making Julie Christie an international star.
  • Omar Sharif shaved his head and wore a red wig to play Dr. Yuri Zhivago.
  • Omar Sharif was a big fan of the novel.
  • Shooting the winter scenes did not go as planned due to the unusually mild weather. Instead, they were mostly filmed in summer in temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), with marble dust and plastic snow standing in for actual snow.
  • David Lean re-used some of the crew of Lawrence of Arabia (1962): screenwriter Robert Bolt, composer Maurice Jarre, production designer John Box, and actors Omar Sharif and Alec Guinness.
  • Some critics rejected Maurice Jarre's score, especially "Lara's Theme," as "syrupy".
  • Omar Sharif directed his son Tarek Sharif as a way to get closer to his character.
  • All of the locomotives used in the movie are Spanish locomotives, like the RENFE Class 240 (ex-1400 MZA). A RENFE Class 282 Mikado locomotive tows Strelnikov's armored train.
  • Dr. Zhivago's physician side is rarely shown. He writes poems for Lara near the end of their relationship, but the audience never hears them. In the source novel, Zhivago's poetry is included in a supplement at the end. Critics lamented the missing poetry, and said that showing a writer at work is inherently boring.
  • The final scene, in which a rainbow appears over a dam as the final credits roll, was criticized as "pro-Soviet" by some critics, who felt it implied that the Soviet Union had a bright future. Robert Bolt, who adapted the novel, was a one-time member of the British Communist Party (he left in 1947) and a well-known leftist prominent in the nuclear disarmament campaign, itself seen as a surrogate of the Cold War struggle between the West and the Soviet Bloc. David Lean was apolitical, so the shot likely was created due to the beauty of its image, not as political symbolism.
  • Lara talks to a pries that sounds a lot like Richard Burton, though it was likely someone else's voice.
  • This is Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
  • Jane Fonda turned down the role of Lara because she didn't want to go to Spain for nine months. Several weeks later she changed her mind and told her agent she wanted to do it. By then Julie Christie had been signed to play Lara. In 2014, Fonda said that of all the movies she turned down, this one is the one she regrets the most.
  • The cast includes three Oscar winners: Julie Christie, Rod Steiger, and Alec Guinness; and three Oscar nominees: Omar Sharif, Tom Courtenay, and Ralph Richardson.
  • Recording the score required a 110-piece orchestra, including 22 balalaika players.
  • The film is included on the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
  • The limousine at the hydroelectric plant at he beginning and end of the movie is a 1948 Packard. It stood in for a Soviet built ZIS because the Russian-built car is a replica of the Packard.
  • The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Original Score.
  • Tom Courtenay and Omar Sharif appeared in The Night of the Generals (1967).
  • When the movie opened in West Germany in fall 1966, it was so popular that it was still playing in June 1967 at the theater that had been set aside for that year's Berlin Film Festival. The run had to be suspended for a week and a half so that the festival could go forward.
  • Julie Christie and Rod Steiger shared the same birthday, April 14.
  • The film was produced in 22 different languages.

Spoilers

  • The film never reveals Lara or Katya's fates.
  • Dr. Yuri Zhivago's balalaika is never played in the movie.
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