Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today with some of the answers to our quiz about director William Friedkin’s durable “policier,” 1971’s The French Connection. Let’s see how much you actually knew about this picture.
1) Question: The French Connection had such a strong script based on the Robin Moore book about two New York cops versus a French heroin importer that the major studios were enthusiastic about the project from the start. True or false?
Answer: False. Friedkin shopped a script he didn’t much like to every major Hollywood studio, and got turned down. For more than two years, the project remained in limbo until the script was re-written and 20th Century Fox’s Richard Zanuck (son of the legendary Darryl) expressed interest with these words: I’ve got a million and a half dollars hidden away in my budget…I’m on my way out. They’re gonna fire me, but I’ve got a hunch about that ‘French Connection’ script.
2) Question: The movie was one of the biggest budget thrillers ever approved by a major studio at the time. True or false?
Answer: False. As indicated above, the budget was pegged at a mere $1.5 million. Remember, this was more than 40 years ago. But even then this was a modest Hollywood movie budget.
3) Question: Gene Hackman was the director’s first choice for the key role of Eddie Egan, the more aggressive of the two gumshoes pursuing the drug smugglers. True or false?
Answer: False. Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Peter Boyle and even (then) New York newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin were considered for the part. Hollywood agent Sue Mengers lobbied hard for her client Hackman, and he finally got the role.
4) Question: Hackman immediately embraced his role because he admired the excellent real life police work of the movie’s two protagonists. True or false?
Answer: False. The actor disliked the real life protagonist he played, detective Eddie Egan, and had a lot of trouble getting into his part. Much coaching was required from Friedkin.
5) Question: New York City authorities approved the filming of the movie’s dangerous car chase scenes after requesting that the production a) make a substantial financial contribution to the Police Athletic League; b) donate to a political party; c) provide an under the table bribe of $40,000 to a Transit Authority official; or d) provide ironclad protection to pedestrians on the streets involved in the film’s shooting.
Answer: c) A bribe was provided to a New York City Transit Authority official who, Friedkin reports in his recently published memoir (The Friedkin Connection, HarperCollins), was fired when the movie came out.
More answers — specifically to our final five questions posed in our July 18 blog, ‘The French Connection’ Quiz — due shortly. Stay tuned.