Lawrence of Arabia is old-school epic filmmaking at its best. It’s widely — and rightly — regarded as one of the greatest motion pictures ever made. Over the years myths have built up around the gargantuan task of making the film, with stories about the trials and tribulations of the cast and crew being almost as fascinating as the picture itself. Here are 40 of the best ones!
40. Lean's incredible discovery on his first scouting trip
In the movie, as in real life, T.E. Lawrence wages a guerrilla war on the Ottoman Empire by blowing their trains and railroads to smithereens. Incredibly, when David Lean went on his first location scouting trip to Jordan, he found the destroyed remnants of these vehicles and railroad tracks in the desert. Low rainfall and humidity levels meant that even after almost half a century in the baking hot sunshine they reportedly hadn’t rusted a bit.
39. Spielberg put the budget at $285 million today
The film’s budget was $15 million, which would be somewhere in the ballpark of $127 million these days. That puts the picture squarely in blockbuster territory. Still, Steven Spielberg — a man who knows a thing or two about contemporary blockbusters — once estimated the film would cost a whopping $285 million if it was put into production today!
38. Both Brando and Finney refused the Lawrence role
Marlon Brando was first choice for the role of T.E. Lawrence, but he turned it down. It’s alleged he simply didn’t fancy the prospect of spending two years riding a camel in the hot desert! Albert Finney then shot a screen test — which cost the studio an enormous $100,000 — before saying “No thanks” because he wouldn’t sign a seven-year contract with the producer.
37. T.E. Lawrence’s brother was not a fan
A.W. Lawrence — T.E.’s younger brother, a Cambridge University professor — was not a fan of the fictionalized account of his brother’s life. He reportedly dubbed it “an unholy marriage between a Western and a psychological horror.” He even stopped the filmmakers using the title Seven Pillars of Wisdom — the name of T.E.’s own autobiography.