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Hard Times (1975) Poster

(1975)

Trivia

In a 2006 interview director Walter Hill mentioned that he had been critical of the performance of Jill Ireland, who was Charles Bronson's wife at the time. When Hill went to Bronson's home to discuss this, Bronson wouldn't shake Hill's hand - he just showed Hill in and poured him a drink. Hill said that he would have liked to work with Bronson on other films, but that Bronson refused to work with Hill again.
Star Charles Bronson was nearly aged 53 when he appeared in this movie.
Originally Chaney, who is portrayed by Charles Bronson, was supposed to be a much younger man played by Jan-Michael Vincent, who would had previously starred with Bronson in The Mechanic (1972).
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The movie was shot in 38 days in September 1974 in New Orleans, of which the final fight took more than a week alone.
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The movie did $5,000,000 in rentals according to show-business trade-paper 'Variety'. This figure has widely been reported as "Hard Times" total U.S. box office. However, the true figure is in the $10-$11 million dollar range.
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Chick Gandil, the gambler in the film, was also the name of one of the Black Sox players who conspired with gambler Arnold Rothstein to fix the 1919 World Series.
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Director Walter Hill originally wanted Warren Oates to play Walter 'Speed' Weed who in the end was cast with actor James Coburn.
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Actor Charles Bronson did most of his own stunts on this picture.
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Reportedly, Charles Bronson's salary on this picture was allegedly around US $1 million. Writer-director Walter Hill once said Bronson received "very close to a million" dollars for his lead role as Chaney.
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Debut film as a director of then screen-writer Walter Hill.
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Charles Bronson's Chaney is a man of few words speaking barely five hundred of them in the entire course of the film.
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The producers were going to release the film under the title "The Street Fighter", but when the Shin'ichi Chiba film of the same name came out first (The Streetfighter (1974)), they reverted to the original screenplay title.
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New Orleans landmarks featured in this movie included the Algiers Ferry, the Chalmette Railroad Yards, Chartres Street, the Cornstalk Hotel, Desire Street, the French Quarter, the Irish Channel, Jackson Street, Magazine Street, and the St Vincent de Paul Cemetery.
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The original cut of the movie was around two hours long. When it was cut down to around 90 minutes, several fights scenes were deleted. Some stills however, show some of the deleted fights.
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The home of Speed Weed (James Coburn) in this movie was actually New Orleans' Cornstalk Hotel.
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The steamboat seen in the movie was the 'Mark Twain'. The sequence where it was filmed was shot in Cajun County, Louisiana (near Lafitte).
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Many scenes in "Hard Times," from the opening scene where Charles Bronson jumps off a freight car near the Chalmette Railroad Yards, to the startling sight of Bronson with his wife & co-star Jill Ireland walking down Magazine Street in their costumes of the 1930s, are recognizable local sites of New Orleans in the American state of Louisiana.
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The colorful Irish Channel area was utilized for a few of the more seedy locations, while the St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery on Desire Street, with its above-ground tombs, served as the forlorn setting of Charles Bronson's first meeting with Poe, the drug-addicted cut specialist played by veteran character actor Strother Martin. Even the rough-and-tumble Ninth Ward is on display, particularly the freight yard of an old warehouse on Chartres Street near the Mississippi River, where Bronson polishes off not only his scheduled opponent but also a chain-wielding poor loser who bet on the wrong fighter.
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The film's production notes state that the seamy side of contemporary New Orleans was not glossed over, but rather celebrated in a bordello sequence shot in the city's Jackson Street. Naturally enough, the residence was not really used for such goings-on, although one crew member allegedly claimed that "about 80% of the girls employed as atmosphere extras were the genuine article". The press kite goes on to say "interiors, by the way, were shot elsewhere and it would not be fair to reveal where".
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Charles Bronson spent the time between camera takes either by sitting off in a corner or turning his nervous energy loose on such feats as flexing his biceps and running up the side of a wall. James Coburn, Strother Martin, and the others would drift over to where some of the technicians were watching football games on a portable television set. Finally, the actors would be gathered together for shooting, and both Bronson and Nick Dimitri were sprayed generously with water to make their fisticuffs look realistically fierce and sweaty.
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According to Walter Hill, Charles Bronson was easier to work with than James Coburn: "[Bronson was a] very angry guy... Didn't get along with a lot of people. The only reason I can tell you he and I got along well was he respected that I wrote the script. He liked the script. Also I didn't try to get close to him. Kept it very business-like. I think he liked that. Jimmy Coburn who everybody liked and got along well with, he and I did not get along well. I think he was not in a good mood about being in a movie with Charlie, it was second banana. He had been up there more, and his career was coming back a bit. I don't think he was wild about being second banana. But Charlie was a big star, perceived to be low rent. That was part of his anger... He thought there was a cosmic injustice when he was not a movie star at 35. He didn't get there till 45 or whatever... [However] When things had seemed to not be working well, or there was some impasse, Charlie would come down hard on my side. That was tipping point".
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In the movie's story, the way Charles Bronson's street-fighter Chaney character was said to punch was like the way a mule kicks.
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Charles Bronson received top / first billing on this picture, James Coburn received second billing.
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This movie is equally well-known in English speaking territories under two different titles: 'Hard Times' and 'The Streetfighter'.
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'DVD.net.au' reports that "Obtained by producer Lawrence Gordon in March 1974, 'Hard Times' was an original screenplay by Bryan Gindoff and Bruce Henstell; financed independently by tax shelter dollars, production on the film commenced later that same year, with shooting conducted on location in New Orleans, Louisiana. The film project was renamed 'The Street Fighter', however, in a surprising irony, its name was reverted back to its original title, when Gordon and Hill discovered, whilst their film was still in production, that a martial arts epic was due to be released - Shigehiro Ozawa's The Streetfighter (1974)."
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A local New Orleans dealer and restorer of antique cars provided several autos for "Hard Times," including James Coburn's beloved black 1936 Packard One-Twenty Sedan [120B] car. The dealer, Gabriel Puccio, was such a frequent visitor to the set, that he was eventually cast as a hood on the payroll of James Coburn's rival. But Puccio's interest in "Hard Times" would apparently carry over beyond the end of location shooting as he planned to display the Packard in the lobby of the New Orleans Theater where the film would be shown.
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According to Walter Hill, Charles Bronson "was in remarkable physical condition for a guy his age; I think he was about 52 at the time. He had excellent coordination, and a splendid build. His one problem was that he was a smoker, so he didn't have a lot of stamina. I mean, he probably could have kicked anybody's ass on that movie, but he couldn't fight much longer than 30 or 40 seconds."
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Writer-director Walter Hill's story begins cryptically enough with the legend: "This story is true. The names have been changed. There is no moral'.' The tale is not set in any particular place so much as in a particular time and could very well have been filmed anywhere according to the film's production notes.
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Producer Lawrence Gordon, a native of Yazoo City in Mississippi, and who was graduated from New Orleans' Tulane University with a BBS in Business Administration, insisted that the film be set in The Crescent City. Gordon said: "I wanted the film here for two reasons. First, the background is very, very special. You get a great look from the extras and a great accent that you can't get anyplace else in the country". "And second", Gordon laughed, "I simply wanted to come back to a place I consider home".
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No film shot in New Orleans would be complete without a few glimpses of its famous French Quarter. "Hard Times" features the usual quota. The Cornstalk Hotel, a familiar sight to Quarter residents, appears in the background when Charles Bronson tells Jill Ireland the nature of his profession - street-fighting - and also as the residence of the slick gambler-promoter played by James Coburn. Another scene shot in the Quarter is that in which Coburn makes the mistake of trying to thrash Bronson for making a play after Coburn's girl, a charge as ill-conceived as Coburn's lunges at the powerful street-fighter.
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According to cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop, more than a few difficulties had to be surmounted in order to shoot on actual sets rather than on a soundstage. Lathrop said: "It's a wholly different type of treatment because you're working on actual sets and you have to invent a lot of different things that you need not do in the studio, where you can remove a wall or have lights above on the scaffolds. But it gets done".
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The most grueling filming for the movie was the climactic fight match between Charles Bronson and the fighter promoted by Michael McGuire who plays a respectable seafood merchant with a yen for sports and illegal gambling. The scene, which took more than a week to shoot, because of the fight's complicated movements, was filmed in a riverfront warehouse on Tchoupitoulas Street, a rough area where even the street-fighter played by Bronson may have feared to venture. For days on end, Bronson and Nick Dimitri would square off under the hot lights, watched intently by McGuire and his hoods, James Coburn, and Strother Martin - and a few dozen cameramen, technicians, and crew members. The first thing a visitor to that set would have noticed was the overwhelming smell of the place. To create the illusion of being a seafood warehouse, several Styrofoam oyster bins were stocked with several very real - and very odiferous - oyster shells. An attempt to cloak the fumes with a commercial disinfectant made matters worse.
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Walter Hill wrote and directed for scale even though "the truth is, I would have paid them for the chance."
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Walter Hill thought the project could become more "up market" if he made it more like a Western and set it in the past; Lawrence Gordon was from New Orleans and suggested setting it in that city. Hill says the script incorporated elements of an earlier Western he had written, Lloyd Williams and his Brother. He wrote it in a style inspired by Alex Jacobs - "extremely spare, almost Haiku style. Both stage directions and dialogue."
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Walter Hill wrote one draft, then rewrote it "five or six times before I finally got it. But I did get it and I knew it. I knew it was going to get an actor and get made."
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Walter Hill says his cinematographer Philip H. Lathrop was incredibly useful during the shoot:

"Before we started I was in my office later at night and Lathrop came by, noted I wasn't in a good mood. "Anything wrong?" I had never done it, worried if I will make it look alright. He immediately said "Don't worry about that. We will make a film, make the shots. If you are having a problem we will make the shots. I can already tell you you are ahead of other directors." He said "Anything we shoot we will cut together." He said "The problem that you're going to have is making everybody getting along and you getting what you want." And he was of course 100 percent right. That is the problem with direction. Beyond my first or second film, I don't think I've ever had terrible dilemmas based upon resources, but shooting and figuring out how is not a problem, never was. The problems that you have are getting everybody to be on the same page".
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The film was profitable and in 2009, Walter Hill said he was still receiving money from it.
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This is the third and final film that Charles Bronson and James Coburn did together, the others being The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963).
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Walter Hill considered Mickey Rooney for the role of Spencer "Speed" Weed.
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The nick-name of James Coburn's Spencer Weed character was "Speed".
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This movie was retitled 'The Streetfighter' for its original UK theatrical release so that it wouldn't be confused with Charles Dickens 'Hard Times' story of the same name. This was despite the fact that there apparently hadn't been a filmed version of this Dickens novel for sixty years, since Hard Times (1915). However, Hard Times (1977), a new version, was made and released within a couple of years of this film debuting.
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