When it comes to Kevin Costner movies, there are some really good ones (Dances With Wolves, Field of Dreams) and some that should have never seen the light of day (basically everything from 1995-2002). With Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opening this weekend, now seems like the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at one of his best movies — and a mob movie classic — The Untouchables.
Historical inaccuracies aside, the all-star cast under the direction of Brian De Palma turned in one of the best dramatic films of the 1980s. Here’s 12 facts you may not have known about the gangster classic. Enjoy.
1. De Niro wore Al Capone-styled underwear. Robert De Niro took his method acting to a new level for Al Capone, insisting that his underwear be of the same style and silk that Capone wore. It didn’t matter that it would never be seen on camera. The producers gave in and tracked down some of Al Capone’s former tailors to make the special undies for the actor.
2. Bob Hoskins made $15K for not appearing in the movie. Hoskins may have made the easiest money in the history of Hollywood when he was approached by Brian De Palma about playing the role of Al Capone. The two met in Los Angeles and Hoskins agreed to play the part if he were free at the time since De Niro was on the fence about taking the role. Of course, De Niro eventually said yes to the part. De Palma sent Hoskins a thank you note for the meeting and the studio paid him £20,000 (around $15,764 in 1987) for his time. Hoskins asked De Palma if the director had any other movies he could be rejected for.
3. Kevin Costner got coaching on his part by a living Untouchable. Albert H. Wolff was the last surviving member of the real-life Untouchables and worked as a consultant on the film, coaching Costner with his portrayal of Elliot Ness. Wolff died in 1998 at the age of 95.
4. Billy Drago stopped a gang fight during filming with his tommy gun. During filming, Drago was alerted by the Chicago Police that several street gangs were preparing to fight nearby. Dressed in full costume with his prop tommy gun, Drago went with police to the location of the fight. The gang members were in such awe of Drago’s appearance that the fight never happened.
In the film we see Drago’s Frank Nitti meet his demise at the hands of Ness — in reality, Nitti would continue to handle Capone’s operation for six years after the mob boss’s death before committing suicide.
5. Sean Connery won an Oscar while De Niro got trashed. Sean Connery walked away with a an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor at the 1987 Academy Awards, but De Niro wasn’t so lucky. Roger Ebert felt De Niro’s portrayal of Capone came off isolated from the rest of the story:
“But the big disappointment is Robert De Niro’s Al Capone. All of the movie’s Capone segments seem cut off from the rest of the story; they’re like regal set-pieces, dropped in from time to time.”
6. Kevin Costner wasn’t the first pick for Elliot Ness. Harrison Ford was De Palma’s first choice for the role, but he turned it down. Mickey Rourke, Mel Gibson, Don Johnson, Jack Nicholson, and Michael Douglas were all considered by De Palma before the role finally going to Costner.
7. The bloody baseball bat scene is based on an actual incident with Al Capone. The scene with De Niro bludgeoning his dinner party guest with a bat is one of the movie’s standout moments and is based on Capone’s beating of three men at a party in 1929. After evidence began to mount that several of his colleagues were causing troubles for the gangster, Capone invited them to a lavish dinner. After they were done eating, Capone’s bodyguards tied the men to their chairs while Capone strolled up to them with a bat and began swinging. His bodyguards then shot each man in the head to ensure they wouldn’t cause any more trouble.
8. The original script called for a gunfight between Ness and Capone’s henchman on a train. The gunfight was later moved to the steps of Chicago’s Union Station after Paramount told De Palma that finding a 1930s era train would be too expensive.
9. Paramount intended the film to be a big screen adaptation of The Untouchables television show. At the time of filming, Paramount still had the film rights to Elliot Ness’ biography and studio executives wanted the film to be the big screen version of the popular TV show. Brian De Palma and writer David Mamet wanted it to stand alone from the TV series and went with their own dramatic interpretation of the events.
10. It was Sean Connery’s idea to have the blood oath between Ness and Malone in a church. The meeting between Ness and Malone was originally going to take place on the street, but Connery approached De Palma about the idea of filming it inside a church. He felt a Catholic church would be the only place safe enough in Chicago for the two men to make such a commitment to bringing Capone down.
11. The film exaggerates Ness’ role in bringing Capone to justice. Ness did bring non-tax related charges against Al Capone, but he had nothing to do with the income tax evasion charges that ultimately took the crime boss down. His raids on the alcohol manufacturing were more of a diversion tactic. It’s understandable why the studio decided not to focus as much on Capone’s tax evasion. Bootlegging just sells more tickets.
12. Like all great movies, it would go on to spawn a video game. Ocean Software released a PC game based on the movie in 1989 and later version for Nintendo and Super Nintendo.