|SOLIDARITY: Robert De Niro, Roman Polanski and Arnon Milchan|
|Robert De Niro, Arnon Milchan and Polish President Leach Walesa|
|Arnon Milchan with the "Hair Dresser" Warren Beatty.|
Close friend Meir Tepper is in the middle
|De Niro only later learned that McGovern was Milchan's girlfriend.|
As Milchan remembered:
"There was a scene in the movie where De Niro was supposed to rape Elizabeth McGovern in the back seat of a limousine, after she informs him that she’s leaving and moving to Hollywood to realize her dream. A real complicated scene. De Niro suddenly suggested that I should play the role of the limousine driver. I reacted with skepticism. After all, I’m not an actor. There were four pages of text in that scene; it was not inconsequential. In any event, the idea caught on, and Sergio conducted a formal audition for me. After that my skepticism suddenly disappeared and I found myself wanting to play the role more than anything in my life. It was like catching a bug. It became my lifetime ambition. Sergio, on the other hand, was not impressed and rejected my participation. I, the producer and financier of the entire project, was rejected! I was boiling. I was sure that everyone would come to me on their hands and knees but I was treated like the lowest extra on the set. They continued to do auditions for the part right in front of me and I was completely frustrated.
Then I received a call: “We are ready to film the scene, come on down.” But I was in Paris and the scene was to be filmed that same night in Canada. “No problem,” they tell me on the phone. “Tickets are waiting for you at the airport. There are three other candidates for the role that are also being called in.” I was genuinely hurt by now, but I arrived at the airport nonetheless. I couldn’t find my name listed in first class and not in business class. Where did they put me? In coach, all the way at the back next to the toilets!
I finally arrived in Canada and I went straight to the set. It was like magic. Everything was lit up, and there they were, God and his deputy, Leone and De Niro. Two personal friends who in this case were both paid by me. I reached out to them warmly: “Sergio, Robert, here I am!” They gave me a look as if I was the guy delivering the sandwiches, an actor-wannabe, a rank amateur. They were focused like lasers on their tasks. I was looking for direction. “You know this is my first role,” I mentioned to Leone, who ignored me. De Niro turned to me and said, “Look, this movie is not about you and it’s not about the limousine driver. It’s about my character. Remember that.”
It took thirteen takes to get the scene down. Leone literally showed De Niro how to rape Elizabeth McGovern and asked De Niro to physically repeat his instructions before filming commenced, and I couldn’t remember even once how to open the limousine door. On take two I forgot to stop the limousine where I was supposed to. In the meantime, De Niro was repeatedly “raping” my girlfriend in the back seat, for thirteen takes! And you know Robert De Niro, a real actor; every take was from the heart! He was totally committed to the realism of the scene. And I was supposed to stop the limousine and ask Elizabeth, “Are you all right?” as I exited the limousine, opened the door, and removed my hat. That’s it.
|Elizabeth McGovern after the rape scene in the limo.|
In the end, they cut the scene down so much that I was only left with that one line, “Are you all right?” And even after that, Leone did not like the sound of my voice so he hired another actor to do a voice-over. It was a completely humiliating experience, but it was exhilarating at the same time."Of course, Elizabeth McGovern is currently enjoying a new wave of success in her performance as Cora, the Countess of Grantham in the BBC/PBS smash hit, Downton Abbey.
|30 year's later: McGovern as Lady Grantham|