Television Incarnate: Making Network

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The 1977 juggernaut Network featured an all-star cast of William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, and more. The satire not only poked fun at the commercialization of the news industry but the influence that television would have on the future of America.

Go deeper into the Oscar-winning picture below.

1. Real life inspired the film.

Some suspected that the film was inspired by reporter Christine Chubbuck, who actually committed suicide on the air. However, screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky had actually already written the script’s core before it happened. In actuality, the film was inspired by news that a major corporation was in talks to purchase ABC. Producer Howard Gottfried said, “What Paddy realized was that once one of these multinational corporations took over a major network, they would immediately try to make the news area into a profit center…and make it into a total entertainment situation.”

2. Howard Beale was hard to cast.

In fact, production was stalled so they could find the right person. Sidney Lumet originally wanted William Holden for the news anchor part, with Peter Finch playing Max Schumacher. However, Holden preferred the other character. After Finch sent in an audition tape of him playing a Walter Cronkite-esque anchor, Lumet agreed to the switch. Holden and Finch were both nominated for Best Actor, with Finch winning. However, Finch died before he could receive the honor, becoming the first posthumous winner in the category.

3. Dunaway might have turned down the role.

 “I was advised by all my friends who cared about me not to do it because she didn’t have a soul,” Faye said, recalling the fear that such a part would lead to type-casting. “But it was something I couldn’t not do.” Jane Fonda was also up for the role, but she did say no. Dunaway won an Academy Award for her performance.

4. Two short performances got big recognition.

Ned Beatty was not the original actor cast in the part of executive Arthur Jensen. When the other actor was sacked, Director Robert Altman suggested Beatty. Once cast, Beatty had approximately two days to memorize and perform his scenes – for which he got an Academy Award nomination. Similarly, Beatrice Straight, who played William Holden’s wife, only had a few scenes (approximately one week’s worth of work), and yet, the talented pro won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.