10 Things You Didn’t Know: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
September marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which we’re celebrating with a special Vintage Screening in partnership with Averys Wine Merchants. Have a look at some of our wild facts about this classic movie.
1 – “No Second Acts in American Lives”
William Goldman’s fascination with the real Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid led to eight years of research before he penned the screenplay. He claimed that his love for the duo came about after reading the story of their escape to South America:
“The whole reason I wrote the thing, there is that famous line that F Scott Fitzgerald wrote, who was one of my heroes: ‘There are no second acts in American lives.’ When I read about Cassidy and Longabaugh and the super posse coming after them, that’s phenomenal material. They ran to South America and lived there for eight years, and that was what thrilled me: they had a second act.” (William Goldman)
2 – First Time’s the Charm
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was writer William Goldman’s first original screenplay. It sold for $400,000, which was the highest price ever paid for a screenplay. It also won Goldman an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay – not bad for a first attempt! Goldman went on to write a host of other successful screenplays, including All The President’s Men, Misery and The Princess Bride.
3 – Casting Conundrums
Several actors were considered for the titular roles, including Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. The eventual casting of Paul Newman and Robert Redford was obviously a winning combination!
4 – The Wild Bunch
The real-life gang of Butch and Sundance was called ‘The Wild Bunch’. However, producers became aware of another Western in production at the time: The Wild Bunch, directed by Sam Peckinpah. To avoid confusion, the gang in Butch Cassidy was renamed to ‘The Hole-In-The-Wall Gang’, after an old hideout they used in Wyoming.
5 – The Lead Actress was Banned from Set
Katharine Ross was banned from the set by director George Roy Hill after being caught operating one of the cameras. She later claimed her favourite scene to shoot was the silent bicycle ride, because it was run by the second unit team, and “any day away from George Roy Hill was a good one”.
6 – Death-Defying Stunts
Both Paul Newman and Robert Redford performed some of their own stunts on set. However, whilst Newman’s consisted of tamer activities such as bike-riding (as the original stuntman couldn’t stay upright when he tried to cycle), Redford’s were a lot more ‘daredevil’. These included the scene where Sundance jumps onto the roof of a moving train and runs across the cars. Newman was horrified – he was sure that Redford would injure himself or worse, and the pair argued about it before Redford backed down, and left the stunts to the professionals!
7 – An Inspiration for a New Generation
Several filmmakers credit Butch Cassidy with inspiring a love of film, or an interest in directing. Amongst these are Chris Columbus, who saw the film aged ten, and David Fincher. Fincher said of the film “so I watched this and thought, you get to blow up full-size balsa wood trains, you get to have cowboys on horseback and you get to hang out with Katharine Ross. This sounds like a pretty good job.” (Filmstage)
8 – Sundance
In 1978, Robert Redford’s company founded the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah – named after the Sundance Kid, of course! Today, it is America’s largest independent film festival and is known around the world.
9 – A Family Affair
Katharine Ross had catapulted to fame for her role in The Graduate when she was cast as Etta Place. She went on to have a successful career, and married five times. She started work on Butch Cassidy alongside her lover, Conrad Hall, who was working at the film’s cinematographer. Hall went on to become Ross’s third husband, but the pair divorced in 1975. Butch Cassidy was also the film debut of Sam Elliott, who went on to become Ross’ fifth and final husband in 1984.
10 – Lasting Legacy
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid remains highly regarded, and in 2007 the American Film Institute ranked in at number 73 on the list of the Greatest Movies of All Time. The Writers Guild of American have ranked the screenplay as eleventh on its list of the 101 ‘Greatest Screenplays’, and in 2008, the AFI ranked it as the seventh greatest Western of all time.