The Academy-Award winning film “To Kill a Mockingbird” is returning to theaters in March, thanks to a partnership between Turner Classic Movies, Universal Pictures and Fathom Events. You can experience the beauty of this 1962 classic on the big screen on March 24 and 27. Just go to the Fathom Events website to see showtimes at your closest participating theater and purchase tickets.
Think you know everything there is to know about this beloved piece of American cinema? Here are eight things you may not know about the making of this classic film.
1. Harper Lee And Gregory Peck Were Friends
Did you know that “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee and lead actor Gregory Peck were good friends? She even gifted him with a pocket watch that belonged to her deceased father. “My Daddy had a pocket watch that he wore at all times in court,” Lee told The Guardian in 2015. “I gave Greg the watch, and showed him how Daddy used to use it.”
2. Peck’s Potbelly Made Lee Weep
After the first day of shooting, in which a scene was shot with Atticus Finch returning home from court and hugging his children, Peck noticed that Lee was teary-eyed and emotional. She confessed to Peck that this was because he reminded her so much of her own father in that scene and that he even had a little potbelly just like the Lee patriarch. Peck good-humoredly defended himself, saying, “That’s not a potbelly, Harper. That’s great acting.”
3. It Was Robert Duvall’s First Film
Despite not having a single word in the film, Duvall gained attention for his measured and powerful performance as Boo Radley. He dyed his hair bright blond and stayed out of the sunlight for weeks in order to help him look the part of Boo, who was a recluse and described as being “sickly white” with “feathery hair” in the book.
4. James Earl Jones Lost Out On The Role of Tom Robinson
Later famous for his work on “Star Wars” and “The Lion King,” James Earl Jones wanted to play the role of Tom Robinson in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” However, he lost the role to Brock Peters. “I never actually knew who made the decision,” said Peters about the close competition for the role and his ultimate casting. “But to whoever it was…I am ever grateful.”
5. The Movie Ruined Bacon And Eggs For One Actor
Phillip Alford, who played Jem Finch, couldn’t eat bacon and eggs for a long time after filming wrapped on “To Kill a Mockingbird.” They had to reshoot meal scenes several times — which Alford blamed on fellow child-star Mary Badham, who played Scout — meaning that the child actors had to keep eating the same meal over and over. “I had to eat lunch 26 times and breakfast 22 times because of Mary,” Alford said. “We despised each other.”
6. A Disgruntled Studio Employee Burned Down The Finch House
After the film wrapped, an angry guard torched the set-piece that served as the Finch house in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It had been painstakingly put together by designer Henry Bumstead with pieces of real homes from the time period. The revelation that the home had been destroyed caused Badham to burst into tears. Still, the art directors Henry Bumstead and Alexander Golitzen won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction for their work on the film.
7. Oprah Winfrey Desperately Wanted to Interview Harper Lee
Oprah Winfrey said that Lee was her first favorite author, and she was eager to interview the reclusive writer. However, Winfrey said Lee always turned her down, saying, “Honey, I already said everything I had to say.”
8. Mary Badham Memorized Everyone Else’s Lines
Badham, who was 10 years old when she played Scout, memorized everyone’s lines — and mouthed them back to them, which Alford said threw off his concentration.
“I was just a normal, stupid kid from Birmingham, Alabama, but I memorised all the lines. Somebody would hesitate on a line, and be thinking about how to deliver it, and I would think that they were having trouble, so I would mouth it,” Badham wrote. “And they’d say, ‘Cut. You can’t do that, Mary. We can see you on film doing that.’ It was bad. Phillip got so mad at me for that. I just didn’t know.”
Badham might have been green to the world of movie sets, but she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. Still, if you want to see her mouthing other actors’ lines, watch the scene at 44:37, when you can see her mouthing Peck’s lines as he drives the children to talk to Helen Robinson.
Keep your eyes peeled for that Easter egg when you check out the revival of “To Kill a Mockingbird” on the big screen in March!