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The Wicker Man (1973) Poster

Trivia

This film was intended as a vehicle for Christopher Lee. Lee himself has said that he considers this to be one of his greatest ever roles.
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Christopher Lee agreed to appear in this film for free.
The current version available in the USA and UK is still incomplete, despite its 'director's cut' status. Still missing is a lengthy speech made by Lord Summerisle on apples.
The film was inspired by an engraving called "The Wicker Image" in Britannia Antiqua Illustrata by Aylett Sammes in 1676. Some people have doubted the historical existence of the Wicker Man suggesting that it came from Roman propaganda by people such as Julius Caesar. There is, however, undeniable evidence that the Druids and the Celts practiced human sacrifice.
The 'evil eye' rowing boat, which takes Howie to and from his plane, was not constructed for the film. It belonged to a resident of Plockton. Upon seeing it, the producers decided it would suit the film. The boat survived until 2004 when it was destroyed in a storm.
The lyrics for the popular song 'Corn Rigs Are Bonnie' in the film was actually written by Robert Burns in 1775. The music was written especially for the film.
Despite being set in the Hebrides, which were still largely Gaelic speaking in the 1960s, very little Gaelic appears in the film, and some of the folk customs alluded to are English rather than Scottish, let alone Highland. The Wicker Man, however, is firmly tied in with Druidism.
Was filmed in 1972 in Galloway in South West Scotland, and there was some controversy when Britt Ekland labelled it as the "bleakest place on Earth". The producers were forced to apologize to the locals.
Lord Summerisle's speech beginning with "I think I could turn and live with the animals" in the full version of the film is based on a poem by Walt Whitman.
The negative and the outtakes of the film were stored at the vault in Shepperton studios. When it was bought, the new owner gave the order to clear the vault to get rid of all the old stuff. Foolishly, the vault manager put the negatives, which just arrived from the lab, with the ones which were to be destroyed.
Although the film is set in Scottish territory and all the characters are meant to be of Scottish nationality, all five of of the leading cast are not Scottish: Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward are English, Diane Cilento is Australian, Ingrid Pitt is Polish and Britt Ekland is Swedish.
Most of the Summerisle residents are named after trees, flowers and plants.
Although Rowan was played by Gerry Cowper it is her twin sister Jackie Cowper whose photograph is handed around by Howie, and in fact during the chase through the caves Jackie appeared in a couple of shots instead of Gerry.
Many years after making the film, Edward Woodward re- visited some of the locations and claimed that he found the makeshift cross (that Howie makes out some pieces of wood) still intact where it was left in the original scene.
Britt Ekland was dubbed by Annie Ross.
In The Directors Cut, there is a scene in which we see Howie and McTaggart in their police car, that was filmed in a garage. The illusion of passing cars was created by two crew members waving torches past their windscreen.
It is rumoured that the original negative of the full length version was used as landfill in the M3 motorway in England. Actor Christopher Lee has said that this was apparently done on purpose, because of Michael Deeley's dislike of the film.
As filming occurred between October and November, there were no trees in blossom. The trees in the scenes with the pregnant women had to be brought in and were all handmade. Edward Woodward admitted one of the memories of filming that stuck out in his mind was watching the trees being brought in on the back of a truck as he had never seen anything like it.
It is said that the wife of an American TV executive saw this film, and gave Edward Woodward his famous role in The Equalizer (1985).
Britt Ekland was pregnant with her son Nikolaj Adler while filming and as such, would only agree to shoot her nude scenes from the waist up. A body double was secretly used for the naked rear shots of Willow dancing. The scenes were filmed after she had left the set. After shooting was over, not only was Ekland furious to learn she had been doubled in some shots but that she was also a few weeks pregnant in that scene. Robin Hardy says it was Ekland herself who did not want her bottom to be filmed, as she did not like it. To this day, whenever she is approached by fans to autograph still photo's of the full nude scene, Ekland always refuses, because, as she continually points out, it is not her.
Although the film is set in May it was filmed in October and November 1972.
Apples feature prominently in Celtic mythology, and may give their name to "Avalon", in Arthurian myth.
The final song, sung by the islanders around the sacrifice, is a thirteenth century 'reverdie' song celebrating the return of Spring. It would typically, as in this case, be sung in the round e.g. it keeps repeating over and over with different singers joining in at different stages: 'Sumer is i-comen in! Ludé [louder] sing cuckoo! Groweth sed [seed] and bloweth med [mead, plants in the meadow] and springeth the wood nu! [new]! Sing cuckoo nu, sing cuckoo' etc.
The UK trailer has hardly any footage of Christopher Lee, bar a couple of shots of half of his head.
All the songs in the film (barring the location-shot "Tinker of Rye") were prerecorded, so it was to their surprise that the musicians found themselves summoned to attend filming and appear in shot.
The standout song on the film's soundtrack was fully expected to be "Gentle Johnny", which was then notoriously cut from the finished print.
In the extended version of the film, Lord Summerisle's speech about living with animals is a paraphrase of a poem by Walt Whitman.
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During a break in the filming of the final scene, a member of the wardrobe department ran out to provide coats to the three leading actresses. Ingrid Pitt noticed that the extras gathered around them were not being given any protection from the blisteringly cold weather, and decided she decided, out of solidarity, that she didn't have to wear her coat.
There is actually a small archipelago in Scotland called "the Summer Isles" (Na h-Eileanan Samhraidh). However, this is apparently unconnected with the film, at least consciously. Bermuda was also formerly known as "Somer's Isle".
Director Robin Hardy originally wanted Michael York for the role of Sgt. Howie. When it turned out he was unavailable, David Hemmings was considered before writer Anthony Shaffer and producer Peter Snell recommended Edward Woodward who had always been Snell's first choice to play the part.
Christopher Lee paid for his own press tour out of pocket, and hit every stop willing to interview him about the movie. According to rumour, some farmers in Iowa were surprised to see him on live, early morning public access shows.
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In 1989, Anthony Shaffer wrote a thirty-page film script treatment entitled The Loathsome Lambton Worm, a direct sequel to the film, for producer Lance W. Reynolds. It would have been more fantastical in subject matter than the original film, and relied more heavily on special effects. In this continuation of the story, which begins immediately after the ending of the first film, Sergeant Neil Howie is rescued from the burning Wicker Man by a group of police officers from the mainland. Howie sets out to bring Lord Summerisle and his pagan followers to justice,[4] but becomes embroiled in a series of challenges which pit the old gods against his own Christian faith. The script culminates in a climactic battle between Howie and a fire-breathing dragon - the titular Lambton Worm - and ends with a suicidal Howie plunging to his death from a cliff while tied to two large eagles. Shaffer's sequel was never produced, but his treatment, complete with illustrations, was eventually published in the companion book Inside The Wicker Man.

Robin Hardy was not asked to direct the sequel, and never read the script, as he did not like the idea of Howie surviving the sacrifice, or the fact that the actors would have aged by twenty to thirty years between the two films. In May 2010, Hardy discussed The Loathsome Lambton Worm. "I know Tony did write that, but I don't think anyone particularly liked it, or it would have been made.
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The company's advertising executives were appalled by the film's ending, and wanted Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy to re-shoot the scene, suggesting a sudden rainstorm which would douse the wicker man's flames, and save Sergeant Howie's life. They refused.
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Scenes filmed but not used:

. Howie and McTaggart enter a pub and Howie chastises the landlord for having singing, dancing and music without a licence. (Incidentally, Katie Gardner, who plays a prostitute in the scene, was once shortlisted for the part of May Morrison).

. The congregation segment originally had a scene where Howie and his fiancée meeting with a butcher and his wife. The cast includes two credits for a "Communicant", one played by Jan Wilson and the other by Ross Campbell.

. As Howie leaves the mainland, there's an exchange between two fishermen - "Do you think he might be going for good?" "It always does to look on the bright side".

. Howie's meeting with Mrs Morrison was much longer. They would have a longer conversation before he spoke with Myrtle and when she offered him a cup of tea.

. Howie's arrival at the Grimmond house. This scene was kept in the film until a reasonably late stage as evidenced by the redundant "Mrs. Grimmond" credit on the end of the finished movie. Due to the removal of this material, the Holly Grimmond character ends up not speaking, but she can still be seen as one of the pupils in the schoolroom scene (the girl in the blue and white jumper) and during the stones sequences. Likewise, her mother can still be seen in some of the crowd shots (for example, when Howie first walks into the pub and approaches the bar).

. Sandwiched between Howie's meal at The Green Man and his evening walk, a scene was originally shot where Howie observes some more strange happenings in the pub. Though this sequence was excised from the final film, the remnants of the wrestling match are still visible when Howie returns from his stroll. Paperwork indicates that the "onlooker" character was actually Broome (Lord Summerisle's attendant). The Duggald character (the smaller man in the fight, played by Jimmy MacKenzie) was renamed to Briar before shooting (hence the credit at the end of the film) and can be seen prominently later as one of the two men holding Howie as he is stripped and anointed (the other is Oak).

. In the first shot of Summerisle and Ash Buchanan in the garden, you can just about see that Summerisle is holding a sapling. The script describes the significance of this:

This is Lord Summerisle. In his hands he holds a willow sapling and a dress dagger. ... Lord Summerisle passes his willow sapling and dagger to the youth, who starts rhythmically to chop off all the branches, until the sapling is stripped. The youth then moves forward and plants it firmly, questioningly under Willow's window.

. The scene where Howie talks to Willow outside the pub on the morning of his first day on the island was originally longer. After she has directed him to the school, he remembers something else and walks back over to her.

. Howie's chat with Miss Rose was originally longer, with her challenging his authority.

. Howie's meeting with Dr. Ewan was originally longer.

. When questioning the keeper of the local chemist's, Mr Lennox, the scene originally started with Howie meeting him outside his shop.

. After the scene in the library, Howie was seen catching a lift up to Summerisle's castle. This scene is noted on production paperwork as having been filmed.

. Howie's meeting with Lord Summerisle was originally longer and featured Summerisle talking about the island's apples. Christopher Lee was very upset that this scene was cut.

. After Howie's forced entry into the chemist's shop, he returns to The Green Man and asks Willow about "The day of death and rebirth."

. Howie's searching the hairdressing-salon for Rowan was longer and he hairdresser had some spoken lines.

. Howie's scenes with the baker and the fishmonger were longer.

. Howie searching the Summerisle butcher's shop for Rowan and talking with the butcher. The actor playing the butcher is still credited.
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Robin Hardy explained the meaning of the scene with the woman in the graveyard nursing a baby while sitting on a grave with an egg in her hand to Alan Cumming in Scotland on Screen (2009). According to Hardy, it's a fertility ritual and she was hoping for another baby.
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Christopher Lee offered Peter Cushing the lead role of Sgt. Howie. He turned it down due to scheduling conflicts.
During filming, Anthony Shaffer's brother Peter stood in for Howie's Mr Punch during one shoot.
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Cinematographer Harry Waxman was not Robin Hardy's choice and was forced upon the production by Black Lion.The reason was that the executive producers were concerned they would not be able to get the important final shot of the Wicker Man collapsing down in front of the setting sun and that it would have to be shot using the green screen projection process in the studio. At that time, Waxman was the most experienced cameraman in the UK with this format (having used it on: Five Million Years to Earth (1967) and The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)), and was brought in as insurance. Hardy was very unhappy about not being able to choose his own DOP (and didn't like Waxman personally) and as a result the two men did not get on and clashed frequently during shooting.
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The film takes place from April 29 to May 1, 1973.
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Christopher Lee's favourite film of his own.
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Film debuts of Barbara Rafferty, Tony Roper, and Richard Wren.
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On his website, Ian Cutler (one of the musicians in the film) writes: "The film has been badly cut over the years and Ian remembers doing scenes that have never appeared in any version of the film. One such scene is the 'Dream' sequence which Ian can remember parts of quite clearly. He believes that this was filmed when Sgt Howie is sleeping, whilst the Hand of Glory burns. During the dream, which is a kaleidoscope of images, a huge egg-shaped stone is revolving faster and faster. Also the woman in the churchyard who is feeding the baby has the egg in her hand and crushes it. All very symbolic stuff! This scene has never been mentioned anywhere to my knowledge. Has anyone out there ever heard of it?" The film's musical arranger, Gary Carpenter, remembers similarly: "I have a vivid memory of having to score a phenomenally complex dream sequence for Howie, which was like post-scoring an animation, it was so intricate. The fades and dissolves and extensive use of library footage for this sequence seriously dented the budget. Despite Robin Hardy's enthusiasm for it and its inclusion in what I assumed at the time to be 'The Director's Cut', I have never seen reference made to it again and it is in no existing version of the film."
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Willow's dance scene took 13 hours to shoot.
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The music for the film was recorded before the film was actually made.
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Final film of actor Ian Wilson.
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The girls in the classroom are supposed to be around age 12, but Daisy was played by Lesley Mackie, who was 21 at the time.
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The letter kick-starting the investigation (seen in the Director's Cut) is addressed to: Sgt Neil Howie, West Highland Police, Ullwater.
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The US re-release was scheduled for November 1978, but after a real-life tragedy involving a cult with a charismatic, sinister leader in a remote location, it got pushed down to January.
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According to Seamus Flannery in a subsequent documentary, Robin Hardy surprised the cast by suddenly announcing midway through filming that they were making a "musical".
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According to Christopher Lee, Michael Deeley told him to his face that this was one of the ten worst films he had ever seen. Lee added that Deeley didn't stand up when Lee's wife entered the room. Deeley denies saying this, but Lee insists it happened; in his 2008 autobiography, Blade Runners, Deer Hunters And Blowing The Bloody Doors Off, Deeley referred to Lee as "chief whiner", and said he had "paranoia".
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In his book, Inside The Wicker Man, author Allan Brown tells us: "There was one curious interlude: a local man, Jimmy Kirkpatrick, was approached by crew members to appear in a scene in which, dressed in a dinner jacket and acting at his wit's end, he walked across a bridge then jumped into the river fully clothed. The scene was abandoned the next day when weather conditions turned bad and because the river was at half-tide at the scheduled time. It is difficult to explain what this scene represented, for who on Summerisle would be wearing evening dress? Certainly there is no reference to it in the script."
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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John Sharp was second choice to play the island's doctor. The role was originally intended for Patrick Newell.
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Information concerning the film's checkered distribution history in the US: Opened 9/30/77 in Minneapolis MN with a PG rating; another run on 1/28/81. Variety reviewed it in their 5/15/74 issue. New Orleans run 10/28/78; San Francisco January 1979; Los Angeles with new ad campaign 3/9/79 and R rating; New York 3/26/80 with R rating and distributed by Dynamite Entertainment-Abraxas Releasing.
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Anthony Shaffer cast Diane Cilento after seeing her onstage. They lived together in Queensland from 1975, and married in 1985.
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In 1989, Shaffer wrote a thirty-page film script treatment entitled The Loathsome Lambton Worm, a direct sequel to The Wicker Man, for producer Lance Reynolds.[41] It would have been more fantastical in subject matter than the original film, and relied more heavily on special effects. In this continuation of the story, which begins immediately after the ending of the first film, Sergeant Neil Howie is rescued from the burning Wicker Man by a group of police officers from the mainland. Howie sets out to bring Lord Summerisle and his pagan followers to justice,[4] but becomes embroiled in a series of challenges which pit the old gods against his own Christian faith. The script culminates in a climactic battle between Howie and a fire-breathing dragon - the titular Lambton Worm - and ends with a suicidal Howie plunging to his death from a cliff while tied to two large eagles.[42] Shaffer's sequel was never produced, but his treatment, complete with illustrations, was eventually published in the companion book Inside The Wicker Man.[43]

Hardy was not asked to direct the sequel, and never read the script, as he did not like the idea of Howie surviving the sacrifice, or the fact that the actors would have aged by twenty to thirty years between the two films.[44] In May 2010, Hardy discussed The Loathsome Lambton Worm. "I know Tony did write that, but I don't think anyone particularly liked it, or it would have been made.
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Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland would co-star in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) a year later. Diane Cilento was previously married to Sean Connery.
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The film was shot in 25 different locations.
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According to Gary Carpenter, Paul Giovanni's first choice for the film's music was the band Pentangle, but Carpenter convinced him that his band, Magnet, knew more about folk music and were much cheaper.
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According to Gary Carpenter, Paul Giovanni suggested that he and his band smoke dope to try and get into the mood. They just fell about laughing and were unable to play their instruments.
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In between takes of Britt Ekland's nude dance scene, she was covered with a towel, which Gary Carpenter had to remove every time they filmed. "It's the weirdest job I've ever had - but certainly not the most unpleasant".
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Until 2009 this film was never officially released in Germany. Only then it was released on DVD by Kinowelt (however, since it was not released before, without a German dub).
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Rowan Morrison was born on June 23, 1958.
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In 2003, the Crichton Campus of the University of Glasgow in Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway hosted a three-day conference on the film. The conference led to two collections of articles about the film.
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According to Robin Hardy, while the film was largely filmed in Scotland, the aerial shots from the plane arriving were actually filmed in South Africa, because they didn't have the budget to glue blossom to that many trees.
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The amphibious aircraft that Sergeant Howie takes to the island was a Thurston Teal, owned and flown in the aerial sequences by Christopher Murphy.
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According to music director Gary Carpenter, British Lion wanted the film to be made quickly and cheaply, with students playing the music to save money. But the Royal College of Music blocked this, saying it would be too disruptive and time-consuming for its students. So they looked at recent graduates instead.
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Cameo 

Anthony Shaffer: (Screenwriter) was present during the filming of the final scenes and is said to be among the villagers.

Director Cameo 

Robin Hardy: the preacher in the mainland church scene.

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Prior to shooting the final scene, Edward Woodward was in the Wicker Man and a goat was penned in above him. Because the goat was scared at being shut up, it urinated on Woodward.
During his final scenes inside the wicker man, Edward Woodward was reading his lines from giant cue cards placed around the surrounding cliffs.
The actual Wicker Man was constructed and later burnt at Burrowhead, on the South West Coast of Scotland. The stumps remained at the location of the shoot for decades and became a landmark for fanatics. There was outrage by fans as the stumps were cut down and stolen in late 2006 by someone in a 4x4.
According to director Robin Hardy, Howie's final speech is based upon Sir Walter Raleigh's dying words.
According to Britt Ekland, some animals may have actually perished inside the burning Wicker Man. However, according to director Robin Hardy, the animals were not inside the Wicker Man when it was set alight (this scene was faked) and great care was taken that they were not in danger of being hurt.
The film gives its name to a music and arts festival (The Wickerman Festival) which has been held annually in the area where the film was shot (Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland) since 2004. At the end of the festival a giant Wicker Man sculpture is burned as a 'sacrifice to the festival gods'.
Edward Woodward never saw The Wicker Man in person until shooting the climax. Until that point, he had only seeing drawings of it.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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