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No one quite expected The Dirty Dozen to be the box office smash it was. But the film rode the wave of counterculturalism and anti-establishmentism and other isms and went on to become the highest grossing movie of the year. While the movie's characters may have seen the group of Army men as expendible, the audience saw them as indispensable.
1. Their haircuts were contractually obligated.
Director Robert Aldrich insisted that the cast all get period-appropriate haircuts, but most of them merely got trims to their contemporary styles. Only Lee Marvin went all-out and got a full crew cut. Aldrich eventually told the cast that they better come in with the right haircuts or their lawyers would get a call.
2. The cast were real heroes.
In fact, many served in World War II, including Lee Marvin (Marines), Telly Savalas (Army), Charles Bronson (Army), Ernest Borgnine (Navy), Clint Walker (Merchant Marine), Robert Ryan (Marines), and George Kennedy (Army). Borgnine, Kennedy, Walker, and Jim Brown would reunite for another war movie, Small Soldiers, in 1998.
3. The Duke turned down a role.
John Wayne was first offered the part of John Reisman, but he turned it down. His refusal was due to his disapproval of the original script, in which the character has a brief affair with a married woman whose husband is fighting overseas. Lee Marvin was cast in the role shortly after.
4. The NFL tried to push their weight around.
Production on the film ran for so long that Jim Brown was in danger of missing training camp for the upcoming football season. The NFL threatened to suspend Brown if he did not leave and report to camp. Brown didn’t like being threatened, so he held a press conference and announced his retirement from football.