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Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981) Poster

Trivia

Richard Dreyfuss claims to have no memory of making this film. This was a side effect to his heavy drug use during the early 1980s.
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Richard Dreyfuss was considerably ill during most of the shoot. He would only be able to film at least 2 to 3 hours at most and would be sent home for the rest of the day. People have stated that it was caused by his heavy drug use at the time and one of the reasons he does not remember that even participated in this film despite his great performance.
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This film was also shot in and slated to be released in Black & White.
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Director John Badham wanted and fought for the film being shot in black and white. MGM balked at the idea and to appease Badham, MGM suggested that they shoot the film in color and during post-production produce a black and white negative as a compromise.
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Janet Eilber, who plays Richard Dreyfuss' girlfriend in the film, is a real life dancer for Martha Graham. She has since taken over for troupe since her passing.
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Since the film was being filmed in color, Director John Badham decided that the sets would have more muted colors such as browns and whites for example. This would make other things in the film stand out more. Like Janet Eilber's gold necklace during her hospital visit for example. As a sentiment to his original black and white idea and a way for Badham to protect himself stylistically.
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Originally Edward Herrmann as Richard Dreyfuss' lawyer, and Blythe Danner as Dr.Claire Scott were cast in the film. Herrmann was replaced by Bob Balaban and 'Christine Lahti' replaced Danner due to scheduling conflicts.
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The hospital depicted in the film is actually a set on the old MGM lot. Production Designer Gene Callahan designed it in a way that was accessible for the characters to see one another and actually feel comfortable being there. For example, he would have glass windows in the patients rooms so the doctors and nurses in the film could actually see their patients, in this case mainly Richard Dreyfuss.
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The thought of filming in an actual hospital was considered. However, MGM thought it make the film look cheesy since a lot of television shows were being filmed in actual hospitals at the time, so they decided to spend extra money to create their own hospital that would be more of a controlled and easier set to shoot in.
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'John Cassavetes' is an improvisational actor/director, and he at times got fed up with having to be precise in his dialogue and was quoted as saying to Director John Badham, "Kid you're getting more out of me, than anyone has in a lifetime."
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Two different test screenings for this film were held. One in San Jose, California where the color version of the film was being shown and the other in San Francisco, where the black and white version was shown. This was a way that Director John Badham would prove to then MGM head David Begelman, that his version in black and white would be the one to have the best screening. Ultimately, Begelman prevailed and the film was released in color.
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The film was originally intended to be shot completely in black and white. The only scene to be left in this state was the flashback sequence where Richard Dreyfuss' character is sculpting his girlfriend Pat, played by real life dancer Janet Eilber. The sequence would continue in a sort of ballet where she's ultimately seen completely nude. This was a compromise between John Badham and David Begelman, the head of MGM since the film was being released in color after the test screenings proved to be in Begelman's favor.
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At Richard Dreyfuss' suggestion, John Badham directed Dreyfus in the stage version of this film as a way for both of them to get familiar with the material. The production was produced at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the summer of 1980, and co-starred Blythe Danner in the role ultimately played by Christine Lahti.
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Tom Conti won the 1979 Tony Award (New York City) for Actor in a Drama for "Who's Life is it Anyway?" as the patient Ken Harrison.
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The original Broadway production of "Whose Life is It Anyway?" by Brian Clark opened at the Trafalgar Theater in New York on April 17, 1979, ran for 223 performances and was nominated for the 1979 Tony Award for the Best Play.
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