Top 10... - August 10, 2015

#hmvDecades: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About… The Graduate
by Tom
Tom
by Tom hmv London, Bio hmv.com Editor. Peanut butter, punk rock and pillows.

#hmvDecades: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About… The Graduate

It produced two of cinema’s most famous lines, one of the most beloved songs of all time  and is never far from the top of every list written about the greatest movies ever produced, it’s the 1967 masterpiece The Graduate.

Directed by Mike Nichols and starring a then unknown Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, the movie tells the story of Benjamin Braddock, a disillusioned college graduate who begins a torrid affair with Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner, an affair that comes back to haunt him when he later falls for her daughter Elaine.

Beautifully acted, scripted and directed with a rare flourish, the film remains an all-time classic and is now on offer as part of hmv’s Decades, so we thought we’d revisit and present 10 things you didn’t know about The Graduate...

 

Getting the film financed was a struggle…

Despite the fact that Charles Webb’s book was selling well, getting The Graduate to the big screen was not as easy as you might imagine. Producer Lawrence Turman had made it clear he only wanted Nichols to direct it, that was despite the fact that the young director was really only known for his work on the stage at the point. As a result Turman was continually turned down for financing, until eventually Joseph E. Levine, who’d helped produce Zulu, stepped in and arrange financing for the movie.

 

Dustin Hoffman was nowhere near first choice for the role…

Originally Nichols wanted Robert Redford to take the role, but eventually decided that he wasn’t a suitable candidate as he believed viewers would have difficulty imagining that the handsome actor was something of a loser in love.

After they decided against Redford, a plethora of other names were put in the frame including Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, Albert Finney, Gene Wilder, Steve McQueen, Jack Nance, Anthony Perkins, Robert Wagner, and Jack Nicholson, but eventually Nichols settled on the relatively unknown Hoffman.

 

And neither was Anne Bancroft…

Getting an actress to play Mrs Robinson, cinema’s most famous seductress, was always going to be difficult, not least because the part required a good deal of nudity. Nichols originally wanted Doris Day to play the role, but she declared that role offender her and was clearly a non-starter. After that Nichols went through a series of meetings with just about every major actress in Hollywood. Lauren Bacall was considered, but had a problem with the nudity, Natalie Wood and Patricia Neal both said no, in the end, after an exhaustive search, he settled on Bancroft.

 

Casting the roles of Elaine and Mr Robinson were just as hard…

Mrs Robinson’s daughter Elaine was equally hard to cast; Faye Dunaway, Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine all said no, while the likes of Goldie Hawn and Jane Fonda both made it as far as screen tests, before Nichols decided to go with Katharine Ross.

He’d wanted Gene Hackman to play the grumpy Mr Robinson and had him all but signed on before a change of heart told him Hackman was too young for the role. After then considering Marlon Brando, Howard Duff, Brian Keith, George Peppard, Jack Palance, Frank Sinatra, Walter Matthau and Gregory Peck, he selected Murray Hamilton for the part.

 

Even when he got as far as the screen test, Hoffman didn’t exactly ace it…

Acting opposite Katharine Ross, Hoffman had a tough time on his screen test. He fumbled his lines and when he went to grab Ross’s behind, she reacted furiously. Leaving the room thinking he’d lost the part for sure, Hoffman’s awkward performance had in fact convinced Nichols that he was the right man for the role.

 

But that wasn’t nearly as bad as his casting interview…

Hoffman arrived at producer Joseph E. Levine’s office for a casting interview, but, at that time, he was so unknown that Levine mistook him for a window cleaner. Ever the method actor, Hoffman cleaned the windows, in character…

 

The ages in the film were a long way away from reality…

When Anne Bancroft’s Mrs Robinson tells Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock “Benjamin, I am twice your age”, she could only mean on screen. Hoffman’s character is meant to be 21, in actual fact he was 29, while Bancroft was in reality only 35, only six years older than Hoffman. Katharine Ross, who is meant to be 19, was actually 27. But even more staggeringly, Elaine May, who played Elaine Robinson’s college room mate and delivers a note to Benjamin, was 35, just a few months younger than Bancroft.

 

The film’s iconic song was actually inspired by a First Lady…

Ask most people what comes to mind when you ask about The Graduate and Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’ won’t be far away from their thoughts. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t written for the film at all, at least not originally.

Paul Simon wrote two songs specifically for the film, but Nichols said no to both. Looking around for something else, he played him a demo of a new song he was working on called ‘Mrs. Roosvelt’, which was written about Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of US President Franklin D. Roosvelt. Nichols decided to include it and Simon adapted it suitably…

 

The film had a tough time at the Oscars…

Although nominated for a full seven awards at the 1967 Oscars, the film only ended up winning one, Best Director for Nichols. Hoffman and Bancroft both lost out in the acting categories, while the movie lost out to In The Heat Of The Night in the race for Best Picture.

 

It inspired one of Jennifer Aniston’s biggest hits at the box office…

2005’s Rumor Has It sees Aniston play Sarah Huttinger, a young woman who discovers that her family might well be the inspiration for the book and film The Graduate and that she just might be the offspring of the well-documented event, so, naturally she sets out to investigate it. Unsurprisingly, life ends up imitating fiction...

 

The Graduate is available in-store and online as part of hmv’s decades promotion. Click here to see the full range of titles available.

The Graduate
The Graduate Mike Nichols

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