Cast: Steve McQueen, PN, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard
Directed by: John Guillermin, Irwin Allen
Summary: PN plays the architect of a high-rise hotel and office building that
is set ablaze due to substandard materials in the undisputed king of the
disaster movies of the 1970's. An all-star cast came together for this
big-budget thriller set in San Francisco.
Trivia: Newman's son Scott plays a firefighter in the film. At star Steve McQueen's insistence, himself and other star Paul
Newman had to have
exactly the same number of lines of dialogue in the script!
Allen originally wanted Steve McQueen to play the part of building
architect Doug Roberts.
McQueen however, fought for and got the role of fire chief
O'Halloran. The role of Doug Roberts went to Paul Newman.
Newman and McQueen were both paid the same: $1 million and 7.5% of
box-office each. Newman and McQueen's names are staggered in the opening credits, closing credits, and on the posters, so that depending on which way you read it (top to
bottom or left to right)
both appear to get top billing. This is known as "diagonal
billing". Two stars, McQueen and Faye Dunaway left strict instructions not to approached by visitors to the set. McQueen also refused to give any interviews. Paul Newman asked only that he not be 'surprised'. Although fairly common these days, Towering Inferno was the first movie to be co-produced by 2 separate studios (Warner Bros. and Fox).
The Newman Factor: It's not a stretch to say that Paul saved this movie from
being just another piece of Disaster Fluff. He often calls his performance
uninspired, but still, his characterization is believable (even if the plot
isn't). Paul gets an 8 for this one.
Rating: 7 out of 10, I'm sure the rating would have been higher had I seen
the movie in it's original release. Of course the problem was, I wasn't born
yet. The movie does, however, manage to hold it's suspense, even after 20 years.