Grant Almost Turned Down Charade

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Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant never met before making Charade. It was arranged for them to be introduced over dinner in Paris, and the actress was so nervous that she accidently spilt wine all over his cream suit.

“He took it so well, rather like he did in Charade when I dropped the ice cream on his suit. That scene came out of the experience,” Hepburn remembered. And just in case she thought there were any hard feelings after, Grant sent her a box of caviar the next day with a note.

“He was very gentle and very dear with me. Working with him was a joy. There was something special, which is quite undefinable, about Cary,” she said.

Go further behind the scenes of Charade below!

1. No studio wanted it at first.

Peter Stone wrote his first draft of Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in mind for the leads. However, the script went nowhere. In fact, studio after studio turned it down. That is, until it became a novel. Prompted by his wife and his agent, Stone turned his screenplay into a novel, which was then partially published in Redbook Magazine as “The Unsuspecting Wife.” Suddenly, the same studios that said no were calling to secure the rights. Among them was also director Stanley Donen, who hadn’t seen the script the first time it went around town. Stone decided he was the perfect fit since he could most likely get the best cast on board and because he knew the movie would be made aboard (since he lived in England).

2. The leads could have been very different.

Audrey Hepburn agreed to do the film if Cary Grant was on board. However, Grant read the script and declined, as he was preparing to team up with director Howard Hawks for the sixth time for Man’s Favorite Sport, a film which eventually starred Rock Hudson. As a result, Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood were considered to replace them as the leads… until Grant changed his mind. Unhappy with Sport’s script, he called and committed to Charade.

3. Grant wanted a big change.

Cary Grant may have been on board, but he wanted a big change to the script due to his age. The actor was dangerously close to turning sixty, and as such, he didn’t think it would be appropriate for his character to be chasing the younger Audrey Hepburn, twenty-five years his junior. As a result, Stone reworked the script to make Hepburn the pursuer.

4. Matthau asked to eat.

Donen decided to cast Walter Matthau after seeing his performance in 1962’s Lonely Are the Brave. At the time, Matthau wasn’t well-known, which was another benefit in Donen’s mind. It was Walter’s idea to eat sandwiches while speaking with Audrey Hepburn because, in his words, “I’m funny when I chew.” He ate approximately 40 sandwiches while filming. His one regret about the film was that he didn’t get Grant’s part. He said, “It would have been a much better picture if I had played the role… Grant was too handsome. If you read the script, the role called for someone with small eyes and a bulbous nose.”

5. The CIA was hiding.

For authenticity purposes, they had to determine where the CIA’s office would be. It was believed that they were housed in the American Embassy building, so Donen decided to call to inquire. Their response: “We’re not allowed to tell they’re here.”

6. They tricked the studio.

Universal Pictures was worried that the film was too violent and debated removing the killer opening and the funeral scene – something Donen and Stone knew would hurt the film. The studio agreed to test the film with the scenes intact and with the scenes removed to see how audiences would react. Donen and Stone decided to tip the scales in their favor. They each filled out several preview cards at the screenings and raved about the “violence” in the film. The studio agreed to keep the scenes in, since the “audience” liked them.

7. Audrey and Grant said a controversial word.

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the nation was still in mourning when Charade was released in December. The film included two uses of the word “assassinate.” Out of concern for the tragedy, they were redubbed with “eliminate.” Stone recalled, “It’s hard to imagine how sensitive the word ‘assassinate’ was at that particular moment. But I felt it had to be changed.”