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The Omen (1976) Poster

(1976)

Trivia

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Having changed its title from "The Antichrist" to "The Birthmark," the film seemed to fall victim to a sinister curse. Star Gregory Peck and screenwriter David Seltzer took separate planes to the UK...yet BOTH planes were struck by lightning. While producer Harvey Bernhard was in Rome, lightning just missed him. Rottweilers hired for the film attacked their trainers. A hotel at which director Richard Donner was staying got bombed by the IRA; he was also struck by a car. After Peck canceled another flight, to Israel, the plane he would have chartered crashed...killing all on board. On day one of the shoot, several principal members of the crew survived a head-on car crash. The jinx appeared to persist well into post-production... when special effects artist John Richardson was injured and his girlfriend beheaded in an accident on the set of A Bridge Too Far (1977).
When the fishbowl falls to the ground, (dead) sardines painted orange were used in place of actual goldfish, which director Richard Donner refused to kill for the sake of making a movie.
The biggest problem with shooting with Mrs Baylock's ominous dog was that the animal was nothing like the creature he was supposed to be portraying. He wanted to lick and play with his co-stars rather than threaten them.
To make the baboons attack the car in the Windsor Zoo park scene, an official from the zoo was in the back seat of the car with a baby baboon, but the baboons had no response at all. They then took the head of the baboons, and the baboons outside went crazy. Lee Remick's terror as the baboons attack the car was real.
One of the reasons why Gregory Peck accepted the role of a tortured father, conflicted with guilt, was because he hadn't been around when his son Jonathon committed suicide in 1975.
According to at least one biography of Gregory Peck, he took this role at a huge cut in salary (a mere $250,000) but was also guaranteed 10% of the film's box office gross. When it went on to gross more than $60 million in the U.S. alone, The Omen (1976) became the highest-paid performance of Peck's career.
Richard Donner and Harvey Bernhard asked Alan Ladd Jr. then the head of Twentieth Century Fox for extra money during the film's post-production period to hire composer Jerry Goldsmith, whose music they strongly felt was right for the movie after seeing him perform a live concert at the Hollywood Bowl earlier that year. Ladd was finally talked into giving Donner and Bernhard around $25,000 to hire Goldsmith, who would deliver his first and only Academy Award win for his score in 1977. Donner credits the success of the film to Goldsmith's score which made the film scarier than it would have been without him.
The site used for the Megiddo archaeological dig is a real dig, just not in Megiddo. It is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, on the southern end of the Temple Mount.
Jerry Goldsmith didn't want to attend the Academy Awards that year as he had already lost multiple times before and didn't want to go through the ordeal of losing again. The Omen (1976) was Goldsmith's only Oscar.
Harvey Stephens, as Damien, was largely chosen for this role from the way he attacked Richard Donner during auditions. Donner asked all the little boys to "come at him" as if they were attacking Katherine Thorn during the church wedding scene. Stephens screamed and clawed at Donner's face, and kicked him in the groin during his act. Donner whipped the kid off him, ordered the kid's blond hair dyed black and cast him as Damien.
One of Richard Donner's first requests to screenwriter David Seltzer was to remove all suggestions of the supernatural, such as cloven-hoofed demons and witches' covens. The golden rule was that nothing was allowed in the script that couldn't happen in real life. The idea was that there should be some degree of doubt over whether or not Thorn was deranged.
Richard Donner's take on the film was not to make a crackerjack horror film but a realistic one of a family at a crisis point where insanity takes over briefly.
Supposedly David Seltzer's screenplay was inspired by a passage in Revelations about the destruction of the world and the rising of the devil. The Bible actually contains no such passage; it was simply a product of 20th Century Fox's publicity department.
Many writers refused to work on the project because of the subject matter.
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David Warner was suffering terribly with psoriasis during filming to the extent that Gregory Peck took pity on him and paid for him to fly to Switzerland for treatment.
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Gregory Peck had essentially been retired for seven years when he quite unexpectedly agreed to make the film. By doing so, he effectively validated the production and other members of the cast and crew soon came on board.
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Mrs Baylock was originally written as a warm, effusive Irish nanny. For her audition, Billie Whitelaw significantly changed the dialogue to create the cold, slightly sinister character that was subsequently used in the finished film.
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Up until the release of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) the following year, this was 20th Century Fox's biggest grossing film.
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Because Harvey Stephens was so young, Richard Donner found that the best way to direct him was to provoke genuine reactions before the camera. For example, when Damien is angry at being taken to church, Donner got his peeved facial expression by shouting to Stephens off camera "What are you looking at you little bugger? I'll clobber you."
The taxi driver who takes Thorn around Italy was the son of a Mafioso in real life and was very keen to get into the movies. In one scene, he can quite clearly be seen sporting a large bandage on his thumb - this was because Gregory Peck accidentally slammed a car door on his hand, nearly taking off his finger.
As part of its pre-release publicity campaign, and to point out the significance of "the three sixes" as The Sign of Satan, the movie was sneak-previewed nationwide in the USA on 6 June 1976. While audiences inside the theatres were being scared witless by the film, theatre employees were out front, busily putting up specially made posters declaring: "Today is the SIXTH day of the SIXTH month of Nineteen-Seventy-SIX!" Hokey though it was, the gimmick worked quite well, as many a theatre patron literally "freaked-out" upon seeing those posters as they left the previews.
More than twice the film's original $2.8 million budget was spent on the film's advertising and promotion.
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Father Brennan's quotation about the "eternal sea" is completely non-Biblical, and was written for the movie.
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Terry Walsh who was stunt double for David Warner was badly injured while filming the dog attack scene despite being properly prepared for the stunt.
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David Seltzer has claimed he only wrote the script because he needed the money at the time. He has also asserted that he set it in London as he fancied a trip to England.
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The film's ad campaign warned citizens to take special note of any odd occurrences happening around them.
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Damien was originally going to be called Domlin until writer David Seltzer's wife suggested a name change.
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The day after filming was completed at the Longleat Safari Park, a zookeeper was killed in the lion area, thereby fueling the sense of a curse on the film.
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In the scene where Gregory Peck goes to see his wife's psychiatrist, at the beginning of the scene notice the inverted cross on the table.
David Seltzer's novelization was written at the same time as the screenplay (although it contains a number of differences to the film) and was in stores two weeks before the movie was released.
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Richard Donner made a TV movie prior to this with Jack Palance called Bronk (1975). When Palance heard that Donner's next project was to be made in England, he urged his director to seek out his daughter as she was a great actress. Donner did precisely that and subsequently cast Holly Palance as Damien's ill-fated first nanny.
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Richard Donner frequently had to reshoot close-ups of Gregory Peck because the star objected to being seen with double chins.
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Before he met Harvey Stephens, Richard Donner was even considering casting a girl as Damien, as the casting process for the child was proving to be so difficult.
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The Vatican was very opposed to the making of the film, claiming it was being made solely "towards ends absolutely consumeristic and economical".
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Richard Donner hated the first cut of the film but was convinced by editor Stuart Baird to go back and reassemble it in the editing room.
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Initially David Seltzer turned down Harvey Bernhard's offer to write the screenplay. Then he realized that he'd never actually read the Bible so he changed his mind.
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When Alan Ladd Jr. agreed to come on board as the film's producer, he insisted on Richard Donner joining the production as director. Donner - up to then, mainly a TV director - leapt at the chance to direct a major feature.
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Rottweilers experienced a surge in popularity in the US after the release of this film.
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Charlton Heston, Roy Scheider, Dick Van Dyke, and William Holden turned down the lead role. Gregory Peck, accepted the lead. William Holden starred in the sequel Damien: Omen II (1978). Heston starred in an Omen-like film The Awakening (1980) where the film's plot (similar to The Omen) involved the unearthing of an evil Egyptian princess which possesses his daughter from childbirth.
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Richard Donner decided that Harvey Stephens' naturally blond hair should be dyed black to give him a more sinister look in his role as Damien.
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Religious advisor Robert Munger was the first to suggest making a film about the Antichrist. He pitched the idea to producer Harvey Bernhard who immediately went home and wrote a 10 page treatment.
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This was originally set to run at Warner Brothers with Charles Bail directing. But then Warners decided to go with Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) so it was put in turnaround.
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Richard Donner had read the script in one sitting and had heard that 20th Century Fox had already passed on the project. He repitched it to studio head Alan Ladd Jr. when the two were sitting down to dinner one night. Ladd was impressed with his enthusiasm and committed to the project.
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Billie Whitelaw was performing in a play at the West End when the film was being made. She rang up to ask if she could get out of making the film but as it was late on a Friday afternoon there was no one in the production office to receive her call. Whitelaw had no option but to show up for filming on the following Monday.
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Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor encouraged Richard Donner to shoot the film in Panavision.
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Mike Hodges was offered the chance to direct the movie. He refused, but actually went on to direct three weeks of Damien: Omen II (1978) before he was fired over creative differences.
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One of the films included in "The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (and how they got that way)" by Harry Medved and Randy Lowell.
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According to director Richard Donner, he talked the noted cinematographer Gilbert Taylor into coming out of retirement to shoot this film.
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The last feature film of Anthony Nicholls.
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20th Century Fox originally passed on the film. Warner Brothers then optioned it for development but opted to make Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) instead.
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On the DVD at around 44 minutes just before the priest gets impaled he bangs on the door after banging the first door. Now if you look on the left of the second door it clearly says Muhammad and Allah in Arabic.
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Gregory Peck was given the role of Ambassador Robert Thorn after Charlton Heston turned it down in order to make Midway (1976).
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Curtis Harrington was set to direct the movie, but due to studio politics the film was taken away from him. Harrington later described this as the biggest setback of his career.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

David Warner kept his severed head for years until his divorce when his ex wife obtained custody of it.
In the closing scene, Richard Donner used reverse psychology on young Harvey Stephens telling him, "Don't you dare laugh. If you laugh, I won't be your friend." Naturally, Stephens wanted to laugh, and he instead smiled directly into the camera.
It was Richard Donner's intention to film and edit the scene where Jennings is decapitated in such a way that the audience, having closed their eyes at the beginning of the scene, would open them only to see the head still floating in the air.
David Warner refused to watch his decapitation scene.
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The shot of Lee Remick falling to the floor was done by building the "floor" on a (vertical) wall and dollying an upright Remick backward towards it.
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The original ending had all three members of the Thorn family killed at the conclusion. Studio head Alan Ladd Jr. felt that this was a mistake. After all, the devil is impossible to kill, he reasoned. He subsequently gave Richard Donner the additional funds necessary to shoot a more open-ending closing to the film.
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Richard Donner and editor Stuart Baird severely trimmed back Gregory Peck and Billie Whitelaw's final fight scene as they felt it was too excessive.
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Five cameras were used in the now-famous decapitation.
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