In poor health during most of the filming, Richard Burton had great difficulty remembering his lines and sometimes had to film a scene dozens of times before he could get it right. The scene in O'Brien's apartment where O'Brien is talking to Winston about Goldstein's book took a record of forty-one takes for Burton to say his speech without fumbling his lines.
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Many of the scenes were shot on the days noted in Winston Smith's diary. The scene where Smith enters his apartment and writes in his diary, dating the entry April 4, 1984, was filmed on April 4, 1984.
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The movie was filmed during April, May, and June 1984. The closing credits declare that "This film was photographed in and around London during the period April-June 1984, the exact time and setting imagined by the author (George Orwell)."
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This was Richard Burton's final movie before his death on August 5, 1984, at the age of fifty-eight.
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Director Michael Radford and cinematographer Roger Deakins originally wanted to shoot this movie in black and white, but the financial backers of the production, Virgin Films, opposed this idea. Instead, Deakins used a film processing technique called bleach bypass to create the distinctive washed-out look of the movie's color visuals. This movie is a rare example of the technique being done on every release print, rather than the inter-negative or inter-positive; as the silver is retained in the print, and the lab is unable to reclaim the silver, so the cost is higher, but the retained silver gives a "depth" to the projected image. The 2003 DVD release (the only release to restore Dominic Muldowney's full musical score) was mastered from the original negatives (not a release print), and thus inadvertently restored the movie's original color saturation.
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Richard Branson's Virgin Films, the production company bankrolling the movie, had wanted a commercially viable pop act to compose the music for this movie to increase its market potential. Originally, they approached David Bowie, who had used Orwell's novel as inspiration for some songs on his 1974 album, "Diamond Dogs", but he demanded too much money for the job. They opted instead for Eurythmics, who had initially turned down the offer, but later accepted. Michael Radford was unaware of this plan, and had already hired Dominic Muldowney to compose the entirety of the score. Virgin Films exercised their right of final cut, and replaced most of Muldowney's score with the Eurythmics' score, for the theatrical release (some of Muldowney's score remained, particularly the state anthem, "Oceania, 'Tis for Thee"). Radford was displeased with this development, and retaliated by withdrawing this movie for consideration for BAFTA award for Best Picture. When the movie did win the Evening Standard award for Best Film of the Year, Radford used his acceptance speech at the nationally televised ceremony to denounce the Eurythmics involvement. The Eurythmics released a statement that they were unaware of the dispute, and would not have accepted the commission if they had known it was done against Radford's consent. The Eurythmics' soundtrack was released as the album "1984 (For the Love of Big Brother)" in 1984; the complete Muldowney score was finally released as a limited-edition CD "Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Music of Oceania" in 1999, to commemorate this movie's 15th Anniversary. All home video versions have used the theatrical Eurythmics score, except a 2003 DVD release that featured the Muldowney score; this version quickly went out of print. All releases of this movie, with both versions of the score, have jointly credited The Eurythmics and Muldowney in the opening and closing credits.
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Director Michael Radford once said of this movie: "There are attitudes of doublethink all around us. (George) Orwell pointed it out in a very extreme form. He was writing when the world had just experienced an upheaval from the Right (Nazism), but since then we have an upheaval from the Left (Soviet Communism), and now we can see both sides of it. What I have tried to do is tread a delicate path between satire and parody, and make it clear that Orwell was offering a vision of totalitarianism derived from the world he knew. The film is not a pseudo-documentary about what might happen if the Soviets took over Britain. At the bottom, 1984 is about a human being, and that's all. Orwell was a philosopher of human decency. There are no references to anything that happened after 1948. This is, in a sense, a period movie. I have tried to make the story utterly real, although the setting is utterly unreal. Everybody behaves as normally as possible, which produces a strange, surreal effect. That's how you feel when you read the book. I think this is the first ever naturalistic science fiction movie."
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Marvin J. Rosenblum once said that this movie had "The greatest marketing hook that there ever was for a movie: a film of 1984 made in 1984."
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In this movie, Inner and Outer Party members call each other "brother" or "sister" instead of "comrade" like in the novel.
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The director and the producers were opposed to the casting of Richard Burton as O'Brien, particularly since he had not made a movie in five years, and was no longer considered a box-office attraction. His last movies, Lovespell (1981) and Circle of Two (1981), were both filmed in 1979, and did not have a theatrical release.
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Richard Burton was the fourth choice for the role of O'Brien. Paul Scofield, Rod Steiger, Sir Sean Connery, and Sir Anthony Hopkins were also considered for the part.
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Executive producer Marvin J. Rosenblum, a Chicago lawyer, secured the movie rights to the novel from Orwell's widow, Sonia Brownell, shortly before she died in 1980. It took a lot of persuading on Mr. Rosenblum's part before Mrs. Orwell eventually agreed to allow him to produce the movie, only under the stipulation that no futuristic science fiction special effects be used to tell the story. Mrs. Orwell was said to have hated 1984 (1956), starring Edmond O'Brien and Jan Sterling. She was also appalled when David Bowie proposed turning the book into a rock musical in the mid 1970s.
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This movie is dedicated to Richard Burton. The dedication during the closing credits states: "With love and admiration. Richard Burton 1925-1984."
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Richard Burton joined the production six weeks into filming. He filmed all of his scenes over a three-week period entirely in May 1984.
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The lab was unaware of the change in the soundtrack, and had started to produce release prints with the original soundtrack. All of the prints were destroyed, along with the original optical soundtrack negative.
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Publicity for this movie reported that Sir John Hurt was the only actor that producer Simon Perry and director Michael Radford ever considered to play Winston Smith.
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In V for Vendetta (2005), Sir John Hurt played the High Chancellor Adam Sutler, who appeared Big Brother-like on a massive television screen in several scenes.
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The confessions of the "Thought Criminals" Rutherford (Peter Frye), Aaronson (Joscik Barbarossa), and Jones (Anthony Benson) were based on the Soviet show trials of the 1930s, which included fabricated confessions by prominent Bolsheviks Nikolai Bukharin, Grigory Zinoviev, and Lev Kamenev to the effect that they were being paid by the Nazi government to undermine the Soviet regime under Leon Trotsky's direction.
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This movie features a salute which never was used in the novel. It is done by holding one's arms up and making the wrists cross each other in the shape of a small V. A similar salute is seen in Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982). Christine Hargreaves, who played the soup lady in this movie, played Pink's mother in "The Wall".
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Sonia Orwell, George's widow, signed the contract to allow this movie to be made on December 1, 1980 while in the hospital. Nine days later, she died. She had originally wanted to have full artistic control over the production, but in the end relinquished this when she agreed to the terms and conditions of the contract and signed it.
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The song "Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree" was based on an old English song called "Go no more a-rushing". The song was published as early as 1891. The song was a popular camp song in the 1920s, sung with corresponding movements. Glenn Miller recorded the song in 1939.
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According to director Michael Radford, Richard Burton insisted that his wardrobe be created by Savile Row Tailors, despite his character (along with the rest of the cast) O'Brien wearing only Boiler Suits throughout this movie.
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Alexandra Palace, London, was built in 1873 as a "pleasure palace of the people", and named after the Princess of Wales. It was destroyed by a fire two weeks after opening. The present building was built in 1875, and lasted a bit longer. It was gutted by fire in 1980, and the roofless shell provided the structure for the rallies in Victory Square.
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Producer Simon Perry once said of this movie: "The thought of making the film really excited me. I had read the book when I was fifteen, and it had impressed me enormously. Making it into a film would clearly be difficult, particularly the short time available, if we were going to release it in the year of the title, but it was the chance of a lifetime."
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The world of the State of Oceania was created by the production utilizing technology specially invented for this movie. This included "Speakwrites" (computers) and omnipresent ubiquitous television screens, featuring Big Brother.
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This movie won the "Best British Film of the Year" award at the Evening Standard British Film Awards in 1984.
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In the book, the "Ministry of Plenty" is called "mini-plenty" in the Newspeak. In this movie, its Newspeak name, is "mini-prod", which suggests that its full name is "Ministry of Production". Also, Winston's working place, which is called the "Records Department" in the novel, is referred to as "mini-rec" in the Newspeak language of this movie.
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The opening prologue states: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
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The Oceanian soldiers in this movie are wearing Soviet Red Army helmets, painted black.
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Christine Hargreaves, who played the minor role of "Soup Lady", died before this movie was released.
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Hal Ashby, Milos Forman, and Francis Ford Coppola were all asked to direct, but all declined. Hugh Hudson wanted to direct, but was turned down by the producers, as he was unknown at the time.
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When released on DVD during the 2000s, due to the popularity of reality television series Big Brother (2000) around the globe, several DVD covers featured an extreme close-up shot of "Big Brother" (Bob Flag) with the tagline "Big Brother is watching".
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The description of Emmanuel Goldstein, with a "small, goatee beard", evokes the image of Leon Trotsky. The film of Goldstein during the Two Minutes Hate rally in the opening scene is described as showing him being transformed into a bleating sheep. This image was used in a propaganda film during the Kino-eye period of Soviet film, which showed Trotsky transforming into a goat. Goldstein's book is similar to Trotsky's highly critical analysis of the U.S.S.R., "The Revolution Betrayed", published in 1936.
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The helicopter used by the police to peek into people's windows is a Bell 47 light helicopter that was widely used by the U.S. during the Korean war.
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Paul Scofield was unable to play O'Brien, because he had broken his leg.
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One of numerous dystopian, Orwellian, and Kafaesque movies made during the early to mid 1980s. The others being Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985), Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), and the 1984 Giorgio Moroder version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927).
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The omnipresent images of Big Brother, a middle-aged man having a mustache, bears resemblance to the cult of personality built up around Joseph Stalin in the U.S.S.R. during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
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Nineteen years earlier, Richard Burton (O'Brien) appeared with Cyril Cusack (Charrington) in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965). Cusack, who played his boss, says that, although they are civilized and democratic, this does not prohibit them from using unorthodox practices to extract information from their enemies. This mirrors Burton's torture of Winston Smith, which is done in a "civilized" way.
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The Thought Police in this movie was based on the Soviet N.K.V.D. (Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del; translation: People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs), a Soviet Secret Police force which operated from 1934 to 1946 and arrested people for random "anti-Soviet" remarks. The Thought Crime motif is drawn from Kempeitai, the Japanese wartime Secret Police, who arrested people for "unpatriotic" thoughts.
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The movie was released in the same year as its title. The novel was written in the digit reverse of this, in 1948.
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The actor and actress who played the roles of Parsons (Gregor Fisher) and the Telescreen Announcer (Phyllis Logan), appeared in director Michael Radford's first feature film, Another Time, Another Place (1983).
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Sir John Hurt played the villain in V for Vendetta (2005). The poster of this movie also has a V symbol with the numbers 1984 on it.
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Star billing had Sir John Hurt be billed first, while Richard Burton received second billing, and Suzanna Hamilton was third.
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Cyril Cusack had also played an O'Brien-type character, the Captain of the Fire Brigade, in Fahrenheit 451 (1966).
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This is the second filmed version of the novel.
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One of four movies in which Sir John Hurt appeared during the year of 1984. The others being Champions (1984), The Hit (1984), and Success Is the Best Revenge (1984).
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The news on the telescreens in Oceania emphasized production figures, just as it did in the Soviet Union, where record-setting in factories (by "Heroes of Socialist Labor") was especially glorified.
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This was the second consecutive year where Sir John Hurt starred in a "surveillance movie". He appeared in The Osterman Weekend (1983).
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Manic Street Preachers sampled Sir John Hurt saying "I hate purity, hate goodness, I don't want virtue to exist anywhere, I want everyone corrupt" for the song "Faster" from their 1994 album "The Holy Bible."
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This movie was released twenty-eight years after the first filmed version of George Orwell's 1984 (1956) had been released.
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The random bombing of Airstrip One by "rocket bombs" is based on the V-1 "Buzz bombs" and the V-2 ballistic rockets, which struck England at random during World War II from 1944 to 1945.
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The movie united Sir John Hurt and Cyril Cusack, who had in common playing the role of Control in two different adaptations of John le Carré novels: Cusack played Control in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), and Hurt played in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011).
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Costume designer Emma Porteous christens an ordnance as in "12,300 Porteous piloted missiles." Art department assistant Amanda Grenville christens an ordnance as in "3.1 million Grenville gas-operated light machine guns." Producer Simon Perry christens an ordinance as in "9 million Perry pineapple pin grenades." Executive producer Marvin J. Rosenblum christens unperson as in "Outer Party member 4392, Rosenblum, Miniprod, Light Industry Section." Associate producer John Davis christens an unperson as in "Outer Party member 66755, Davis, Miniprod, Women's Section." Art director Grant Hicks christens an unperson as in "Outer Party member 53922, Hicks, Minirec, Proletarian Affairs Section." Assistant editor Nicolette Bolgar christens an unperson as in "Outer Party member 947743, Bolgar, Minitrue, Records Section." Wardrobe supervisor John Brady christens an unperson as in "Outer Party member 5739, Brady, Minitrue, Records Section." Co-producer Robert Devereux christens an unperson as in "Outer Party member 984213, Devereux, Minitrue, Records Section."
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Michael Radford had members of the crew go down into the sewers and get real sewer rats that were used in the film.
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This movie was released thirty-six years after the novel was published.
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The novel and movie was the inspiration of the hit worldwide series, Big Brother (2000), by taking a select group of people and putting them into a house shut off from the outside world, where they are video taped and recorded. Some countries even have live feeds, where you can watch a live internet feed of all of the action in the house, run by "Big Brothers" (the producers).
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Released the same year as Red Dawn (1984) which was about communist forces invading America.
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This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #984.
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In the final scene, when Winston is playing chess in the Chestnut Tree Café, he picks up a white piece from the board and contemplates a move. The arrangement of the pieces on the chess board suggests that he is considering a tactic of going around and hitting the opposing black army from behind. Only a few minutes later, the television screen announcer reports that the Oceanian forces had just defeated the Eurasian enemy in Africa, by using the same tactic.
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The statement "2+2=5", used by O'Brien to torment Winston Smith during his interrogation, was a Soviet Communist Party slogan from the second five-year plan (from 1933 to 1937), which encouraged fulfillment of the five-year plan in four years. The slogan was seen in electric neon lights on Moscow house-fronts, public buildings, billboards, and elsewhere.
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The tortures that Winston endures in the Ministry of Love evoke the procedures used by the Soviet N.K.V.D. in their interrogations, which included beatings by the use of rubber truncheons, being forbidden to put your hands in your pockets, remaining in brightly lit rooms for days, torture through the use of provoked rodents, and the victim being shown a mirror after their physical collapse.
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