A Serving of Soylent Green

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When Charlton Heston first read the novel aboard a transatlantic flight, little did he know that he was about to board a cult classic that would have one of the top movie quotes in history.

1. Soylent Green wasn’t Heston’s first sci-fi film.

Two years before its release, Heston starred in Planet of the Apes (1968) and Omega Man (1971). Soylent Green was based on the novel, Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, which explored a world with too many people. Ironically, the movie was the last to be filmed on the backlot of MGM because it was destroyed and the land was turned into housing.

2. It was Edward G. Robinson’s 101st film.

MGM even honored the actor on October 20th with an event where celebrities and friends gathered. Heston read remarks by director George Cukor and actor Francis Albert. Robinson joked that he was “going for 120” films.

3. Robinson loved making the film.

He told his wife he wanted to do the film because it was “about something”, and he received $62,500 for the role. Despite his star status, he waited in line at lunch with his fellow castmates and didn’t want special treatment, even at the director’s insistence. Leigh Taylor-Young said, “Working with Edward G. Robinson was one of the thrills of my life.”

4. Robinson was ill during filming.

In fact, he was almost completely deaf, so he worked hard to memorize his blocking and lines. While filming the library scene, he didn’t hear the director call cut and completed the scene all the way to the end, when he walked out, not knowing other actors had flubbed their parts.

5. Soylent Green wasn’t in the book.

Though soylent steaks were. However, the “secret ingredient” in the film's food was an addition that didn’t come from the novel. “Soylent” was supposed to suggest soybeans and lentils. In actuality, the food was prop wood painted green and manufactured in a power plant that the film crew restored. Still, eating wood from a power plant is much better alternative to what it actually is in the movie.

6. Robinson improvised the meat scene.

The scene in which Robinson enjoys beef wasn’t in the original script. However, director Richard Fleischer felt something was missing, and they spent half-a-day creating the improvised scene.

7. They created fog for the film.

Of course, it was actually fog. Rather, the director wanted the atmosphere to be unique for the sci-fli flick, so they made their own filter. They shot water with green dye and then applied those shots to the film later on, creating a green air in the outdoor sequences.

8. It had a cordless phone before cordless phones.

In the scene where Heston call his boss, the phone’s cord wasn’t long enough for the director’s vision of the shot, so they cut the cord. Fleischer thought the audience would balk at the idea of a cordless phone, but liked the way the scene looked. Later, he said, “They would have laughed if I left the telephone wire in.”

9. Robinson made Heston cry.

Heston was brought to tears by Robinson’s performance – especially one scene in particular. The pair had worked in two prior movies and had continued a casual friendship since making The Ten Commandments. Heston called him “Eddie” and considered Soylent Green to be one of his best films because of Robinson.

10. Robinson liked being on set.

Robinson’s contract specifically stated that the actor’s work day ended at 5pm due to his condition. However, Edward liked to stay until his scenes were finished and even after he would sit in the director’s chair and watch. When politely reminded of his contract, he would say “I like it here.” Soylent Green was Robinson’s last film, and it was released four months after he died.