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After the success of Roman Holiday, director William Wyler and Gregory Peck planned to work together on an art heist film. While it never came to fruition, Wyler did eventually get to do a similar film with How to Steal a Million, based on the short story “Venus Rising” by George Bradshaw, and worked with another Holiday star, Audrey Hepburn.
According to her co-star, Peter O’Toole, she was “delightful,” and Eli Wallach sang her praises saying, “Audrey was wonderful. She was so sweet.”
1. Hepburn owed a lot to Wyler.
Audrey Hepburn’s breakout performance in Roman Holiday came thanks to Wyler, who was looking for an unknown. “I had never seen a camera and I didn't know who William Wyler was,” remembered Hepburn years later, who credited “Willy” for the launch of her career. "She had everything I was looking for: charm, innocence and talent. She also was very funny,” said Wyler.
2. The film actually used fake paintings!
Part of the reason director William Wyler directed the film was due to his love of art, which he collected himself. Wyler hired production designer Alexandre Trauner who engaged artists to create pieces which seemed like they could have been painted by the greats. The cost for fake Rembrandts, Van Goghs, Monets, and more was $100 thousand. For comparison, the frames that they were placed in cost half that amount. Quite the steal!
3. An actor was fired…
George C. Scott was the first actor hired to play David Leland. However, Scott was late on the first day of filming (supposedly thanks to a party the night before), and Wyler made the tough choice of canning him. Before Scott, Walter Matthau was sought for the role, but negotiations broke down over money. Eli Wallach was cast instead.