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The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) Poster

Trivia

Jack Nicholson turned down the role of Peter Fallow.
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Alan Arkin was replaced by Morgan Freeman when it was decided to change the judge's ethnicity from Jewish to African-American in order to moderate criticism of the film's racial politics.
According to the book "Devil's Candy", Bruce Willis was "was generally disliked by most of the cast and crew [due to his ego]." In one instance, during the filming of a scene in which Willis was with Alan King (the scene in which the character played by King dies), Willis challenged the crew to make the whole scene move along faster, allegedly because it was very hot on the set. Although Willis was called out of the set by Brian De Palma to discuss the incident, this particular scene ended up being considerably shorter and simpler than originally intended.
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A swordfight between Sherman McCoy and Peter Fallow was shot for the end of the film, but was never used.
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Steadicam operator Larry McConkey coordinated the complex the near 5-minute opening camera tracking sequence that included a cramped ride in a service elevator. This was McConkey's first of a number of memorable collaborations with Brian De Palma as his steadicam operator.
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Brian De Palma felt that John Lithgow would have been a better choice to play Sherman McCoy.
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Steve Martin was the original choice to play Sherman McCoy by original director Mike Nichols. Nichols left the project and was replaced by Brian De Palma who also wanted Martin for the role but the producers disagreed and wanted Tom Hanks cast instead.
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When the role of the Judge was still going to be Myron Kovitsky in pre-production, as he was in the novel, Joel Grey was considered. Judge Burton Roberts, who was the original inspiration for the character in the book, also was considered and even had a good audition with Brian De Palma. De Palma balked at casting him because of his inexperience in acting and doing multiple takes of a scene.
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The Steadicam tracking shot of Bruce Willis entering the World Trade Center lasts for 4 minutes and 50 seconds.
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Actresses considered for the role eventually played by Melanie Griffith include Lena Olin, Lolita Davidovich, and Uma Thurman, (who tested for the part and actually came close to getting it.) Brian De Palma preferred Thurman to Melanie Griffith, but Tom Hanks reportedly felt uncomfortable over Thurman's relative inexperience and persuaded the director against her casting.
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Walter Matthau originally was offered the role of the judge but demanded a fee of $1 million, according to Julie Salamon in "The Devil's Candy". The producers balked at meeting his price and signed Alan Arkin instead for a modest $150,000.
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Bruce Willis was added to the cast to provide box office clout despite the fact that none of his non-action movies had ever turned a profit. His fee was $5 million, $4 million more than top-billed Tom Hanks.
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At the very beginning of the opening tracking shot, as the limousine carrying Bruce Willis enters the basement, director Brian De Palma is the first person seen on screen - as the security guard saying "Now arriving Area A" into a walkie-talkie. He hurries off-screen and is next seen seated on the rear of the golf-cart, behind Bruce Willis and Rita Wilson, still "talking" into his walkie-talkie. When the cart stops, DePalma once again runs off ahead of the actors. It was necessary to put himself into this sequence due to the logistics of directing the lengthy and complicated take, and in order to remain unrecognizable he shaved off his trademark beard.
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Michelle Pfeiffer was reportedly the original choice to play the female lead by the studio and director Brian De Palma (who had directed several years before in Scarface (1983)). However she turned the role down.
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Morgan Freeman claims he knew during filming that the movie would be a commercial disaster. He likened it to a series of mishaps leading up to a plane crash.
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The cover of Peter Fallow's book at the end is based on the original hardcover design of Tom Wolfe's novel "The Bonfire Of The Vanities."
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"Reverend" Reginald Bacon was modeled after Al Sharpton.
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Tom Hanks was chosen to play the lead as he was considered "likeable" by the producers and would dampen the negativity of the character he would play, Sherman McCoy, thus hopefully improving the movie's commercial chances. The casting of Hanks was widely criticized at the time, according to "The Devil's Candy", as he was considered a light comedian. Though he had recently received an Oscar nomination for Big (1988) he had yet to prove himself as a dramatic actor. Hanks hoped this would be his chance to prove himself in drama, but he would have to wait until Philadelphia (1993) to make his mark as a "serious" actor.
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In the opening tracking shot, when Bruce Willis gets in the elevator, Brian De Palma can be seen, dressed up as a waiter. It was technically impossible for the camera crew and the director to stay off camera in that shot, so De Palma chose to do a cameo there. To be unrecognizable, he shaved off his trademark beard.
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F. Murray Abraham's contract for this movie stipulated that his name appear above the title in the advertising, or not at all. Since the producers already had Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith, Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman above the title, Abraham chose not to be credited.
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The opening time lapse photography shot was taken from the roof of the Chrysler Building in New York City.
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The staging of the scene outside of the courthouse with all of the umbrellas in the rain when Peter Fallow is waiting to meet Sherman McCoy is a reference to a scene in Foreign Correspondent (1940).
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John Cleese was offered the role of Peter Fallow but turned it down (in the original novel, Fallow is English).
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Kim Cattrall dieted for over two months to slim down to a size four to play the emaciated Judy McCoy.
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Melanie Griffith left production and came back with a boob job.
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Because of the delays of working on this project Brian De Palma lost the chance to direct Dead Again (1991).
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The making of this film was chronicled in Julie Salamon's best-selling book "The Devil's Candy."
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Final film of John Hancock.
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The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman, F. Murray Abraham; and one Oscar nominee: Melanie Griffith.
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Kevin Costner was considered for the role of Sherman McCoy.
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Edward James Olmos was considered for the role of the judge.
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A courthouse scene showing a riot in slow-motion had been shot at the Essex County Courthouse in Newark but was omitted from the film following negative reaction from test screenings.
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In the film, Bronx District Attorney and candidate for New York City Mayor Abe Weiss states that he hopes the city's black voters see him as the "first black District Attorney of Bronx County." In fact, in November 1988 (two years before the film was released), Judge Robert T. Johnson was elected the first black district attorney of the Bronx, a position he still holds.
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Adrian Lyne turned down the opportunity to direct in favor of Jacob's Ladder (1990).
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Kristin Scott Thomas personally tested for Brian De Palma for the role of Judy McCoy, but when invited to L.A. to test with Tom Hanks, she happened to be on vacation with her children and couldn't make it. De Palma didn't forget her when casting Mission: Impossible (1996) a few years later.
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Tom Wolfe wanted Chevy Chase to star as Sherman McCoy.
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In an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2003), Morgan Freeman confessed he had never seen the actual movie.
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The cover of Peter Fallow's book in the film has a similar design to the original first edition of the novel from 1987.
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According to "Devil's Candy", Melanie Griffith refused to read the novel. "I'm not going to read the book. I don't know why anybody would want to. Maybe I was demanding but that was a hard shoot too."
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The scene with the Concord landing at the JFK Airport cost U$30,000 to be made but only lasts for less than 30 seconds on the screen.
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Jon Voight turned down the role of Sherman McCoy.
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This film is the second time that a Tom Wolfe book has been adapted for the big screen. The previous one was The Right Stuff (1983) and actor Donald Moffat appears in both.
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Tom Killian is based upon Edward Hayes. Critics have suggested Christopher Hitchens or Anthony Hayden-Guest as the basis for Peter Fallow, though Guest and Hitchens have both noted the former shares more similarities with the character.
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Tom Cruise was considered for the part of Sherman McCoy.
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Christopher Reeve turned down the roles of Sherman McCoy and Peter Fallow.
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Kyra Sedgwick and Robin Wright tested for the role of Maria Ruskin.
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Michael Cristofer's original script ended cynically with the supposed victim of the hit-and-run walking out of the hospital, suggesting that the whole scenario was concocted. That ending did not test well with audiences and was dropped.
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The 330-second Steadicam shot of Peter Fallow arriving at the Palm Court of the Winter Garden was a tour de force for operator Larry McConkey. He had to track backwards, get on a golf cart, ride it for 380 ft, get off it again, track backwards 234 ft, get into the elevator, get out again, and track for another 250 ft.
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