LAFF Panelist Recalls Dog Day Turnaround

Last night at the Los Angeles Film Festival, LA Times film critic Kenneth Turan hosted a panel discussion about the late director Sidney Lumet. Joining him at the front of LA Live’s Regal Cinemas Theater 12 were actor Andy Garcia, composer Quincy Jones, and writer-producer Frank Pierson, who won the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award in 1975 for the Lumet drama Dog Day Afternoon.

That movie was originally intended to be more comedic. In fact, in the Columbia Pictures executive suite, it was dismissively nicknamed The Boys in the Bank. But everything changed one day when Pierson and Lumet were confronted by the sight of star Al Pacino, trying to make his point very dramatically by walking around on all fours and barking like a dog. “True story,” Pierson reminded.

Pacino was unhappy with the script’s overtly sexual references to his relationship with robbery partner Sal (John Cazale). He convinced Pierson and Lumet to tweak the script, and even more unusually, got the director to later reshoot the entire first day of filming, after the actor watched the dailies and felt there was the hint of a “limp wrist” creeping in.

Among the other remembrances shared warmly on this night: 95% of Garcia’s collaboration with Lumet, Night Falls on Manhattan, was shot in a single first take; nothing got in the way of the filmmaker’s weekly Friday afternoon departures for the Hamptons; Lumet loved planting big kisses on the lips of male collaborators such as Garcia and Jones; and the five-time Oscar nominated director definitely had a dark sense of humor. For example, when Anna Magnani, one of the stars of Lumet’s 1960 drama The Fugitive Kind, died in 1973, the director told Pierson he couldn’t help but smile a little upon first hearing the news.