Entertainment Fact and Fiction - The Towering Inferno


The Towering Inferno Movie Trivia

The Towering Inferno

During filming an actual fire broke out on one of the sets and Steve McQueen found himself briefly helping real firemen put it out. One of the firemen, not recognizing McQueen, said to the actor, "My wife is not going to believe this." To this McQueen replied, "Neither is mine."

Paul Newman later regretted his decision to co-star with 'Steve McQueen' (I) because of the rivalry between the two, created by Steve. As a result, the fireman role dominates over Newman's architect. Three contributing factors are 1) Both characters have the same number of lines (at McQueen's insistence); 2) McQueen's character doesn't appear until 43 minutes into the film. As a result, Newman had used almost half his lines before McQueen enters. And 3) the fire chief is the authoritative hero that outranks and captures center stage over all other characters. During filming, Newman was quoted as saying, "For the 1st time, I fell for the goddamn numbers. I did this turkey for a million and 10% of the gross, but it's the 1st and last time, I swear." He later collaborated with Irwin Allen on When Time Ran Out (1980).

According to the actor/stuntman Ernie F. Orsatti, Faye Dunaway was often late to the set or didn't appear at all. This made some scenes impossible to film and caused other actors such as William Holden and Jennifer Jones to become quite upset. William Holden reportedly shoved Faye against the wall one day and threatened her. For the next month, she had a perfect attendance record.

Based on two novels: "The Tower" by Richard Martin Stern, and "The Glass Inferno" by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. After the success of The Poseidon Adventure (1972), disaster was hot property and Warner Brothers bought the rights to film "The Tower" for $390,000. Eight weeks later Irwin Allen (of 20th Century Fox) discovered "The Glass Inferno" and bought the rights for $400,000. To avoid two similar films competing at the box office the two studios joined forces and pooled their resources, each paying half the production costs. In return, 20th Century Fox got the US box office receipts and Warners the receipts from the rest of the world.

This film marked the first ever joint production by two big-name movie companies; Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox.

Both novels were inspired by the construction of the World Trade Center in the early-1970s, and what could happen in fire in a skyscraper. In Richard Martin Stern's novel, "The Tower", the fictional 140-floor building was set next to the north tower of the World Trade Center. The climax of the novel was centered around a rescue mounted from the north tower of the World Trade Center.

The fancy "blinkenlights" computer which runs the Glass Tower is an IBM AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central, built in 1954 to protect the US from Soviet bomber attack. About a dozen of them were installed around the US. Based on vacuum tube technology, the 'Q-7 in action took up the whole first floor of a "bomb-proof" concrete blockhouse, and generated as much raw heat as five single-family houses. The whole system became obsolete when missiles replaced manned bombers as the main threat. Components of decommissioned systems were sold for scrap and bought by film and television production companies who wanted futuristic looking computers, despite the fact they were built in the 1950s. The components used in this film were previously used in _The Time Tunnel (1966)_ and _Earth II (1971)_, and later used in Futureworld (1976) and Independence Day (1996).

Steve McQueen was married to actress Ali MacGraw at the time. Right before filming the dangerous and climactic scene in the Promenade Room, he told everyone, "If anything happens to me, Ali gets my pickup truck."

For years, during the 80's and 90's, this is the movie Swedish TV used to show on New Years Eve, just after midnight.

Desperate to capture a truly surprised reaction from the cast, Irwin Allen actually fired a handgun into the ceiling without warning the actors, who were understandably "surprised". The trick worked and he got his shot.

Of the 57 sets built for the production, only eight remained standing when filming ended.

At Steve McQueen's insistence, he and co-star Paul Newman had to have exactly the same number of lines of dialogue in the script

Paul Newman's and Steve McQueen's names are staggered in the opening credits, closing credits, and on the posters so that, depending on which way you read it (top to bottom or left to right), both appear to get top billing. This is known as "diagonal billing", This strategy was being worked on when Newman and McQueen almost co-starred together in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), but McQueen eventually dropped out of the project and was replaced by the lesser known Robert Redford.

The building used in the film was a series of miniatures and matte paintings. Only sections of the building were actually constructed for the actors and stunt people to perform their scenes. Interior shots of the building were of San Francisco's Hyatt Regency. Exterior shots used the Bank of America building (at 555 California St.) with an additional 50 stories of matte paintings added.

The scenic elevator is actually one of two in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco. This elevator was used in numerous movies including Time After Time (1979), High Anxiety (1977), Telefon (1977), and Freebie and The Bean (1974).

In the original script the role of the fire chief (known at the time as Mario Infantino) was considerably smaller. According to director John Guillermin, the role was offered to Ernest Borgnine with Steve McQueen playing the architect. McQueen later said, "If somebody of my caliber can play the architect, I'll play the fire chief," and Paul Newman was brought onto the project as the architect.

According to Susan Flannery, 20th Century Fox refused Irwin Allen to direct all of The Towering Inferno. Irwin Allen Directed all the Action Sequences and John Guillerman was hired only to direct The Actors only for Non-Action sequences. There were a total of Four Film Units Shooting at the same time.

Only feature film to co-star father and son Paul Newman and Scott Newman.

Screenwriter Stirling Silliphant took seven main figures from each novel and incorporated them into the screenplay, as well as the major climax of each novel: the lifeline rescue to an adjacent rooftop from "The Tower", and the exploding water tanks from "The Glass Inferno".

Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were both paid the same: $1 million and 7.5% of box office each.

In an interview given years after the film was released, writer Stirling Silliphant said that he always sat under a sprinkler system head when visiting a building. He said he did that because he learned it from a fireman he interviewed while researching this project.

The role of Lisolette Mueller (as played by Jennifer Jones) was originally offered to Olivia de Havilland.

At first Irwin Allen did not want to use music at the first 5 minutes of the Helicopter Sequence. John Williams told Allen that he could come up with 5 minutes of music for the beginning. When Allen heard it, he agreed with Williams.

Katharine Ross and Natalie Wood were both offered the role that was eventually played by Faye Dunaway.

Irwin Allen originally wanted Steve McQueen to play the part of building architect Doug Roberts. McQueen however, fought for and got the role of fire chief O'Halloran. The role of Doug Roberts went to Paul Newman.

An instrumental version of the song "The Morning After" from The Poseidon Adventure (1972) can be heard in the background in certain scenes.

According to Esther Williams in her memoirs, she was personally contacted by Irwin Allen and offered roles in both this film and The Poseidon Adventure (1972), but declined both.

Irwin Allen directed all the action sequences in the film, including the climactic final explosions to put the fire out.

In The climax Fred Astaire was not acting when the explosions happen he was very scared indeed.

The large sculpture that is part of the bar design in the Promenade Room was originally used in the Harmonia Gardens set in Hello, Dolly! (1969).

The upper 15 floors of The Glass Tower was built as a facade in the dirt parking lot of the 20th Century Fox Ranch in Malibu, California, including drapes for all the windows and an explosion hole at the outside elevator track. It remained standing in the same location for many years, even after the state of California bought the land and opened the ranch to the public.

Scriptwriter Stirling Silliphant combined the two novels to create one screenplay. The combined three words that make up the titles of the two novels were combined to give the name of the film, and the name of the building that is on fire (The Glass Tower).

William Holden demanded first billing. However his career had declined so much that his only hit in recent years was The Wild Bunch (1969), which was an ensemble project. Therefore he was billed after Steve McQueen and Paul Newman.

Released in the same year of the disastrous Joelma building fire in São Paulo, Brazil in February 1st, 1974, which caused for similar reasons (see Joelma 23º Andar (1980)). 191 people perished.

The HH-1N helicopters are in the original paint scheme used by NAS Lemoore's Search and Rescue Flight. Later on, they were painted Red and White. Up until the unit's disbandment in 2004, the Flight was still pointing out it was their helicopters used in the movie.

In the early drafts Simmons is killed early on when he escapes by the stairs instead it was Senator Parker who try to escape in the breeches buoy panic scene, but the role of Simmons was expanded and Senator Parker's role was heavily cut.

The Towering Inferno Movie Trivia2

The Towering Inferno (1974)
PG | 2h 45min | ActionDramaThriller | 1 January 1975 (Singapore)
At the opening party of a colossal, but poorly constructed, office building, a massive fire breaks out that threatens to destroy the tower and everyone in it.

Director: John Guillermin
Writers: Richard Martin Stern (novel), Thomas N. Scortia (novel)
Stars: Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden