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- Jo wanted to be pumped up before she went on to do a scene, she asked me to slap her... They did the scene over and over, never quite right. Every time she came over to me and asked me to hit her, and hit her harder.
- On working with Jo Van Fleet in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957); as quoted in Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies (2003) by Leslie Halliwell (ed. John Walker), p. 468
- As actors it is easy for us to play the hero. We get to fight the bad guys and stand up for justice. In real life, the choices are not always so clear. The Hollywood Blacklist, recreated powerfully on screen in Trumbo, was a time I remember well. The choices were hard. The consequences were painful and very real. During the blacklist, I had friends who went into exile when no one would hire them; actors who committed suicide in despair. My young co-star in Detective Story (1951), Lee Grant, was unable to work for twelve years after she refused to testify against her husband before the House Un-American Activities Committee. I was threatened that using a Blacklisted writer for Spartacus –– my friend Dalton Trumbo — would mark me as a “Commie-lover” and end my career. There are times when one has to stand up for principle. I am so proud of my fellow actors who use their public influence to speak out against injustice. At 98 years old, I have learned one lesson from history: It very often repeats itself. I hope that Trumbo, a fine film, will remind all of us that the Blacklist was a terrible time in our country, but that we must learn from it so that it will never happen again.
Interview by Roger Ebert (1969)
- The foreign directors are always fumbling about in obscurity, and the critics are always writing about the juxtaposition of black and white and the existential dilemma and all that shit, to disguise the fact that they don't understand the first damn thing about it either.
- I know Italians and I like them. A lot of my father's best friends were Italians. I responded to that in making the picture. I put a lot of warmth into that character. Those immigrants were tough, more intensive than people are these days.
- Of his film "The Brotherhood".
- I love champions. A champion has something special about him.
- Too often, I have not been what I wanted to be I've succumbed to pressures. Yes, I have. The things I've done that I liked, I've always done against advice. The bad films everybody was high on. The good films, they advised me against.
- Don't crucify me because of what your idea of a movie star is. I didn't start out to be a movie star. I started out to be an actor. You people out in the East have no idea what goes on out here. No awareness or knowledge whatsoever. You lose track of the human being behind the image of the movie star.
Interview by Ron Miller (1984)
- from Conversations with Classic Film Stars; Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era (2016) by James Bawden and Ron Miller, pp. 70–79
- I find characters with a little evil in them much more interesting to play than the good guy. I'd rather play Doc Holliday than Wyatt Earp.
- I don't know if they have to care. I'm only concerned if they're interested in me. I don't care if you love me or hate me, but don't be indifferent to me. That to me is the worst thing.
- I've worked with Mankiewicz, Hawks, Kazan, Wyler, Wilder. I've been very fortunate. All of them work differently. I've even directed a couple of pictures, so I have respect for the work. But no matter what anyone says, it's a collaborative art form. I think the problem is that we've been contaminated by the European concept of the Auteur System. I've had movies where I bought the book, developed the script and cast the whole picture, but then the director walks in and says, "It must be a John Smith film." I think sometimes we emphasize that too much.
- I told him, "Michael, you're the kind of producer I'd like to work with because you give everything to the other person even when you're in the movie." He did that in Romancing the Stone (1984). He focused all the attention on the girl Kathleen Turner. I haven't been that generous. I've been a producer, but I find a product like Spartacus or The Vikings or Seven Days in May or Paths of Glory and somehow there always seems to be a good part for me.
- I renet it when I hear some of these young actors say they won't sell a picture. I've always felt that's part of my responsibility—to help getting people to see a movie. Funny thing is I don't even remember any of these young guy's names. I want to spank them.