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The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) Poster

Trivia

The opening time lapse photography shot was taken from the roof of the Chrysler Building in New York City.
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Morgan Freeman replaced Alan Arkin, when director Brian De Palma decided to change the judge's ethnicity, from Jewish to African-American, to moderate criticism of the film's racial politics.
Steadicam operator Larry McConkey coordinated the complex, nearly 5-minute opening tracking sequence that included a cramped ride in a service elevator. It was the first of McConkey's collaborations with Brian De Palma.
A swordfight between Sherman McCoy and Peter Fallow was shot for the end of the film, but was never used.
The Steadicam tracking shot of Bruce Willis entering the World Trade Center lasts for 4 minutes and 50 seconds.
Melanie Griffith left production and came back with a breast augmentation.
Brian De Palma felt that John Lithgow would have been a better choice to play Sherman McCoy.
Bruce Willis was added to the cast to provide box office clout despite the fact that very few of his non-action movies had ever turned a profit. His fee was five million dollars, four million dollars more than top-billed Tom Hanks.
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.
At the very beginning of the opening tracking shot, as the limousine carrying Bruce Willis enters the basement, 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.
Jack Nicholson turned down the role of Peter Fallow.
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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.
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.
Steve Martin was the original choice to play Sherman McCoy. Director Mike Nichols left the project and was replaced by Brian De Palma, who also wanted Martin for the role. The producers wanted Tom Hanks cast instead.
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The scene with the Concord landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport cost 30,000 dollars to be filmed, but lasts for less than thirty seconds on the screen.
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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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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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Walter Matthau originally was offered the role of the judge but demanded a fee of one million dollars, 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 dollars.
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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 security guard. It was technically impossible for the camera crew and Brian 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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Kim Cattrall dieted for over two months to slim down to a size four to play the emaciated Judy McCoy.
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Michelle Pfeiffer was reportedly the original choice to play the female lead by the studio and Brian De Palma. However, she turned the role down.
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In an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! (2003), Morgan Freeman confessed he had never seen the actual movie.
John Cleese was offered the role of Peter Fallow but turned it down (in the original novel, Fallow is English).
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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 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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Final film of John Hancock.
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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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Kristin Scott Thomas personally screen-tested, for Brian De Palma, for the role of Judy McCoy, but when invited to Los Angeles 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).
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A courthouse scene, showing a riot in slow-motion, had been shot at the Essex County Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey, but was omitted from the film, following negative reaction from test screenings.
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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 feet, get off of it, track backwards 234 feet, get into the elevator, get out, and track for another 250 feet.
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The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman, and F. Murray Abraham; and two Oscar nominees: Melanie Griffith and Gary Jones .
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Adrian Lyne turned down the opportunity to direct, in favor of Jacob's Ladder (1990).
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This film is the second time that a Tom Wolfe novel has been adapted for the big screen. The previous one was The Right Stuff (1983).
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Mentioned by Sophia Petrillo on Golden Girls. Sophia's line goes "I'm 94 years old, I've seen everything, twice. Except Bonfire of the Vanities, woof." - a jab at the films poor reviews.
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Tom Wolfe wanted Chevy Chase to star as Sherman McCoy.
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Edward James Olmos was considered for the role of the judge.
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Christopher Reeve turned down the roles of Sherman McCoy and Peter Fallow.
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Jon Voight turned down the role of Sherman McCoy.
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Kevin Costner was considered for the role of Sherman McCoy.
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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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The judge role was based on famous Bronx judge Burton B. Roberts - in the book, the judge is called Myron Kovitsky and like Roberts, he's also Jewish. With high hopes, the real judge actually auditioned for the role and despite not having any acting experience he almost got the part. However, Brian De Palma wasn't fully convinced with his casting and decided to go with Walter Matthau, who wanted a million dollars as salary, which the studio refused; then went to Alan Arkin who accepted the role and would get 120.000 as salary; but later on De Palma felt the movie needed a different racial perspective feeling that it was all so negative up to that point and demanded that the judge should be played by a black actor. Morgan Freeman was the chosen actor but since at the time he was just coming from a second Oscar nomination, his salary got bigger and after a tough negotiation with the studio he settled for 650.000 - a lot more than Arkin would get had the role was kept as its origins. After the film's release, judge Roberts thought the movie stunk and that he would be a better judge than what Freeman did. (Source: Julie Salamon's book 'The Devil's Candy').
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Steven Spielberg was briefly considered as a director due to its influence with the studio, who according to many insiders and Julie Salamon's book, he always gets the chance to see all the scripts sent at Warner. His personal friend Brian De Palma got the job and Spielberg even visited the set created for the movie in Los Angeles.
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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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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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Kyra Sedgwick and Robin Wright tested for the role of Maria Ruskin.
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Michael Cristofer's original script ended with the hit-and-run victim walking out of the hospital, suggesting that the whole scenario was false. That ending was dropped, because it didn't test well with audiences.
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Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis later appeared in Nobody's Fool (1994).
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Julie Salamon's book The Devil's Candy (about the making of the film) was named after a description made by executive producer Peter Guber when he was explaining to Brian De Palma and the casting director that the actress cast for Maria Ruskin role should be a devil's candy. Guber considered that role as the toughest one to be cast.
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Producer Don Simpson wanted to act in the film, as far as volunteer for the role of the TV producer who wants to turn Sherman McCoy's story into a movie. Simpson's lobby hard for the role consisted in sending a note to Variety magazine and to De Palma. Richard Belzer was cast instead. (Source: Julie Salamon's book 'The Devil's Candy').
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Tom Wolfe was always surprised that a Hollywood studio would be interested in making a film adaptation of Bonfire (his first fictional work). Though he had no complaints about the price he got for the rights and enjoying the fact he wouldn't have to write any screenplay for the film, practically abstaining himself from any involvement with it, he didn't like the film. He watched it three times and always felt there was something missing.
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Though Peter Guber is still credited as executive producer for the film (in fact, he was the person who pitched the idea for the movie adaptation of Wolfe's novel), he was actually dismissed from the movie in 1989, when he left Warner Bros. to reach a bigger position at Columbia Pictures, along with his creative partner Jon Peters. For a brief moment, the film had no producers and even Steven Spielberg was invited to be a producer - but due to his friendship with Brian De Palma he declined the offer. De Palma end up being the sole producer.
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Kevin Dunn, Saul Rubinek and George Plimpton later appeared in Nixon (1995).
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Clifton James, Mary Alice and Alan King also appear in Sunshine State (2002).
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First credited role of Camryn Manheim.
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Donald Moffat also appeared in The Right Stuff (1983), which is also adapted from a Tom Wolfe book. Warner Bros. produced both films.
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Peter Guber was the original producer of the film and hired three people, whom many insiders felt were wrong for the project: writer Michael Cristofer, director Brian De Palma, and star Tom Hanks. He quit before filming began to work for another company, and even though, he is credited as Executive Producer in the opening credits, the critics didn't mention him in their reviews as they blamed Cristofer, De Palma and Hanks for the fiasco.
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Andre Gregory and Melanie Griffith also appeared in Celebrity (1998).
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Andre Gregory and Morgan Freeman previously appeared in Street Smart (1987).
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The film cast includes many actors who are regular in Brian De Palma's films: F. Murray Abraham and Richard Belzer appeared in Scarface (1983); Melanie Griffith starred in Body Double (1984); Vito D'Ambrosio and Clifton James appeared in The Untouchables (1987); Barton Heyman was in Raising Cain (1992); and Kevin Dunn later appeared in Snake Eyes (1998) and The Black Dahlia (2006).
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The cast includes many actors who appeared in different films from Sidney Lumet: F. Murray Abraham was Serpico (1973); Melanie Griffith starred in A Stranger Among Us (1992); Alan King appeared in The Anderson Tapes (1971) and Just Tell Me What You Want (1980); Norman Parker was in Prince of the City (1981) and Daniel (1983); George Plimpton was in Garbo Talks (1984) and Bruce Willis was in The Verdict (1982).
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First credited role of Kirsten Dunst.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

According to the book "Devil's Candy", Bruce Willis was "was generally disliked by most of the cast and crew (due to his ego)." While filming a scene in which Alan King's character dies, Willis challenged the crew to move the scene along faster, allegedly because the set was very hot. Although Brian De Palma called out Willis to discuss the incident, the scene ended up considerably shorter and simpler than originally intended.
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 held until December 31, 2015.
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In this film, Patrick Malone's character is a robber who gets hailed by society as being a good kid while in Grand Canyon (1991) he plays a good kid who gets confused as a robber.
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See also

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

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