The film, now 71 years old is relevant even today based on our perceptions of ourselves and those of others toward us. The movie, however, had many changes in the lead up to filming and had it not been for these changes, this well-loved cult classic may never have been as we know it today.
1. Sunset Boulevard was originally a comedy.
Those who have seen Sunset Boulevard will know it as a drama through and through, however, this was not always the case. Initially, Billy Wilder alongside writing partner Charlie Brackett had intended the film to be a comedy based on a has-been actress attempting to make a comeback. They had Mae West in mind for the role but West found the role unflattering an opinion which made the film very difficult to cast.
2. The role of Norma Desmond was turned down by many notable stars.
Considering the original genre set for the role, Wilder and Brackett approached many other stars as well as Mae West. Some prominent names from the silent movie era such as Mary Pickford, Pola Negri and even Greta Garbot declined to play the role of Norma Desmond.
3. George Cukor is to thank for the casting of Swanson.
George Cukor, Director and somewhat soft hearted when it came to his sensitivity towards actresses transitioning from silent era to spoken film. He had initially suggested Swanson who, coincidentally, had lived in a mansion on Sunset Boulevard during her silent film days. She was now working in New York in television, a new medium at the time and was offended at the suggestion she auditioned. Cukor convinced Swanson it would be the part she would be remembered for and joked that if she didn’t do a screen test, he’d have to shoot her. A little bit like fiction playing reality!
4. That monkey funeral.
According to film legend, the crew asked Wilder how he’d like the set-up for the bizarre deceased chimpanzee scene. Wilder replied “You know, the usual monkey-funeral sequence”. Yeah, gotcha, we know exactly what you mean…
5. The initial opening scene had to be cut for being too funny.
The opening scene was meant to be based in a morgue setting with all of the corpses awakening and explaining how they died, leading to Joe Gillis telling of his affair with Norma. When shown to test audiences however, the absurdity didn’t portray the seriousness intended and the entire test audience laughed far too hard! The scene was then cut leading to the scene we see of Joe in the pool today. They kept Joe as a dead narrator though, because why wouldn’t you?
So there you have it. Pretty astounding isn’t it? I suppose the thought process behind making a movie hasn’t changed much in 71 years and even then it was simply trial and error. They seemed to get it incredibly right in the end!
What’s your favourite silver screen rumour? What’s your favourite Sunset Boulevard scene? Let us know in the comments below.