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The Great Race was only supposed to cost $6 million, but director Blake Edwards had a way of convincing studio head Jack Warner to spend a little extra money – or another $6 million, that is.
Natalie Wood said, “I spent half my time acting and the other half running to Mr. Warner's office to stand by and look coy while Blake tried to get more money.”
But comedy was key for Edwards, and in order to get the best gags, he needed more money.
“Race is an accumulation of dozens of the great comedy clichés – the damsel in distress, the man on a flagpole, the great sheik lover, the crazy cops, and – of course, the pie fight.”
And was it a pie fight!
The Great Race’s pie fight goes down in film history as the largest ever filmed. Over 4 thousand pies filled with custards, fruit, or whipped cream were created for the fight which took five days to film! The total cost for the pies was $18 thousand, and the scene itself cost $200 thousand.
The key for the gag was having Tony Curtis’ character remain pristine until the right moment when he got a pie right in the kisser. As a result, Curtis had to keep changing into a set of clean clothes when he accidently got hit.
Along with wardrobe changes, the fight also required the make-up department to be meticulous in copying the actors’ “pie damage”, and they used photographs to make sure that the continuity matched for the next day’s shoot.
While the fight was fun in the beginning, towards the end everyone was a little pied out. Wood choked on a pie that hit her in the mouth, and Jack Lemmon allegedly got injured. He said, “I actually got knocked out a couple of times. Unless it’s thrown just right, a pie hitting you in the face feels like 10 tons of cement.”
Lest Blake Edwards miss out on the fun, when he called “Cut” for the final time, the cast and crew aimed pies at the director.