“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
"I would have complicated the part out of existence," admitted Jon Voight. Right! Remember what he did to the next crass weepie, The Champ , nine years later.
Paramount production chief Robert Evans swears he offered all the potential actors 10% of the gross "because it was only a small budget, so any of them would've stood to make a fortune." Not even that convinced Beau and Jeff Bridges (not often up for the same role), Keith Carradine, Michael Douglas, Michael Sarrazin or Voight to share the cryathon of the year with Ali MacGraw.
"When my agent sent me the script, it came with an offer from another studio of $120,000 - an unheard of amount of money for me." But the girl from Goodbye Columbus loved Paramount. Or its production chief, Robert Evans. Not that any of the actors knew it at the time. Ali had a salary of $20,000. And no co-star .
Turning to the Brit pack, Evans was rejected anew by Michael York, the expert who had previously chosen The Guru, Alfred The Great, Justine.
“I wasn’t overly impressed with this...essentially American story
in which one’s tears, to my cooler British taste,
were rather forcefully jerked.”
Arthur Hiller's favourite, Christopher Walken was still a drama student when he auditioned. "Difficult to imagine - now or then," he laughed. "That's why I didn't get the part. They knew I wouldn't be any good in it."
Evans found more guys for Ali to test: David Birney (he later made the TV series of another Paramount hit, Serpico , 1976-77), Peter Fonda, Ken Howard, etc. "I had to kiss them all," said Ali. "Not a bad job, I must say." As one by one they all turned it - or, her - down, she asked: "Do I have a disease or something?"
Yes, the better role. And connections!
Shemarried Evans onthe weekend beforeshooting beganin the autumnof '69.The Evans' son, Joshua,was born a month after the film opened. “We were in such a rarefied atmosphere in those days - winners, each, for a moment and living a life together that had little time foranything but applause and success.”
Ryan O’Neal won the part and ruined his life and (second) wife, Leigh Taylor-Young.“Suddenly I was catapaulted. I didn’t take anybody with me, I wentalone.”
Ali had an affair with O'Neal during the shoot and soon enough left Evans for Steve McQueen - their subsequent marriage would also end in divorce. Hence, MacGraw insists that the film’s famous tag-line,
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry
... is an absurd lie. ”
Ryan O'Neal, eager to break out of his Peyton Place persona, should have settled for his 10% alone. Instead, he signed on for the sequel, the dreadful Oliver's Story , 1978... when positions were reversed and no woman wanted to be his lover. Candice Bergen agreed after numerous women fled.
"Not hard," said one of them, Meryl Streep, "to turn down dreadful material."