Monday, May 7, 2012

Otto Preminger, Jane Fonda and Michael Caine

Then came Jane Fonda and Michael Caine. It was during the "HURRY SUNDOWN" filming in 1966 that Director Otto Preminger advised me on much of what should be pursued if a successful film development program for Louisiana was to come to fruition. He agreed to give me an hour of his time on the set of HURRY SUNDOWN in St. Francisville. He invited me to join him for lunch on the set. Fortunately for me... while we were dining together the skies opened up and a severe rain storm hit us. Preminger then told his First Assistant director to tell everyone to just enjoy an extended break while he “chatted with Mr. Leggio”.

A little later he asked if I liked watermelon, to which I replied “yes, very much”. He said he did too, but very seldom had an opportunity to enjoy watermelon in New York. He then sent an assistant off to get us a fresh watermelon. Our “one hour” lunch wound up being 4 hours. The storm had let up about 2 hours after we first sat down to lunch, but he became so engrossed in the subject matter that he chose to devote 4 full hours to my inquiries ….while cast and crew sat around waiting (including Jane Fonda and Michael Caine)... a definite “gift of fate” for me, which led to my being able to draft a research proposal for presentation to the Louisiana State Science Foundation.

Preminger asked if I would like to appear in the movie to which I said “I’d love to.” He cast me as an ER doctor who tends the injuries of the lead couple’s son who had been seriously injured. The couple was Jane Fonda and Michael Caine.

The hospital was an old wood structured facility in Plaquemine. The shoot was in the heat of the 1966 summer. Fonda and Caine were to run into the ER as I examined and treated their small son who had been a victim of an accident. It was brutally hot and sweat kept pouring from my brow and cascading into my mouth as I tried to deliver my lines. On seeing my plight, Preminger cast an accusing eye toward the make-up lady while reaching for a Kleenex to give me. He then said to her “Can’t you see that Mr. Leggio is sweating?” Here I am a mere 31 years old, but he called me Mr Leggio, a carry-over from our 4-hour meeting a few days earlier. Anyhow, the poor make-up lady was mortified and was considerably more attentive after that.

Preminger had a reputation for requiring numerous takes of scenes before finally getting what he wanted. My scene had been shot about 6 times before we all experienced a catastrophe. The camera lighting set off the building fire sprinkler system and we all got soaked. Preminger said “let’s shut this set down. I’ve got a good take on this scene.” Thank God! I was miserable during the takes of that scene. My only diversion between scenes was having to deal with the advances of Jane Fonda who kept begging me to check her heart beat with my stethoscope.  Hmmm, think maybe she was “hitting on me"?  Michael Caine merely grinned and winked at me during these little episodes. And when I told Gloria, my wife, her only response was “Well she has good taste.” How sweet!


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