“I will be allowed to fulfill my destiny! His will be done.”
“An unplayable role,” said George C Scott, “and I’m not doing it too well…I know him as well as anybody.Politically naive; tactically, first class;strategically,neglected by his superiors…Whatever else he was, good or bad, he was an individual.Andthat’s mostimportant to me today, when everybody around seemsto be some kind of ostrich.”
A biopicof General George Patton was first mootedby Warners in 1951 -for Spencer Tracy. Then, they all chased it. John Wayne tried. “Oh how he tried,” producer Frank McCarthy told me in London. Burt Lancaster was an early, obvious idea. A more perfect choice was Lee Marvin – look at his Lieutenant-Colonel Bartlettin Attack, 1956. Lee refused it. the Francis Coppola script. As did Rod Steiger.
“Worst mistake I ever made.
For the right, moralisticreason.
I thought it was pro-military.
If I had made it, I’d probably
have been chosen for The Godfather.”
Samuel Fuller was asked to direct – by Patton’s son, a fan of his Merrill’s Marauders in the 50s. “I know you disliked my father, but at least you’ll make a hard-hitting movie.” Sammy agreed but never regretted refusing. “I’D BEEN TOO CLOSE TO EVENTS TO BE OBJECTIVE,” he growled in his usual CAPITALS. “TOO HARD FOR ME TO MAKE A FILM GLORIFYINGA MAN I DIDN’T LKE OR RESPECT. I told them ANOTHER DIRECTOR WOULD BE BETTER.”( Fuller also rejected The Desert Rats, The Longest Day, The Young Lions while waiting to make his own WWII movie, The Big Red One, in 1979 with Lee Marvn – a potential Patton).
Frank McCarthy, Patton’sformer military aide, wanted one star only: Robert Mitchum. “With me, it would turn out mediocre.” He passed on Coppola’s script. “I’d just spent five monthsin Europe for Anzio and I’d had it with tanks slamming down on my fingers.” McCarthy set up a meeting, Mitchum balked again, sent his secretary, Reva Frederick – who was shown a massive painting of Mitchum as Patton, pearl-handled pistols and all.
“Why would anybody do that?” said an incredulous Mitchum. “Because he sees you as Patton,” said Reva. He still refused and years later explained: “They’d want to fuck it up, water the man down and I’d let them – because that’s what I do. Someone like George C Scott would fight for the character, make the picture into something worthwhile.”
Darryl Zanuck, the ex-Fox chief, was greatl yimpressed with Scott as Abraham in The Bible.”That’s Patton!” Zanuck told McCarthy. Scott actually quit due to one script, until Fox returned to the Coppola version.
Even then, the actor tried “desperately to get away from the buffoon bullshit… the two-gun, shoot-’em-up, kill-kill-kill insane show-off that…F ox wanted to make him. There is a comedy phrase: ‘Never go for the obv.’ Well, they did – and I’m ashamed of being part of it.” He felt forced to use “pyrotechnics, smoke screens, every dirty, sneaky actor’s trick”to get some humanity into the man.
Scott proved his own individuality by refusing hisOscar nomination. He said the New York Critics award “was the only film acting award worth having.” He won that. So when she opened the envelope on April 15,1971, Goldie Hawns creeched: “Oh my God!George C Scott!”