Paul Newman blasted Steve McQueen as ‘chicken s***’ on The Towering Inferno set

The contemporary Hollywood leading men were both incredibly successful in their acting day jobs but also their racing. In the late 1960s, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were set to co-star opposite each other in the Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. However, the Great Escape star demanded top billing and wanted the same amount of lines as Newman.

In the end, McQueen left the project and Robert Redford was cast as the Sundance Kid.

But just a few years later he would indeed co-star with Newman in 1974 disaster epic The Towering Inferno.

According to the latter’s lifelong friend A E Hotcher, he called McQueen “a chicken s***” for counting the number of lines he had compared to him.

If that wasn’t enough, both stars and William Holden all wanted top billing on The Towering Inferno poster and credits.

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Holden had no chance since his box office had since been surpassed by the star power of Newman and McQueen.

In the end, the duo had dual top billing with The Great Escape star’s name coming first but his co-lead’s being higher up.

This therefore gave the impression that both were the main star depending on if you were reading the poster left-to-right or top-to-bottom.

This staggered or diagonal billing was the first of its kind, although it had been considered for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid before McQueen left the project.

Meanwhile, McQueen’s name came first in The Towering Inferno trailer, but Newman’s appeared first in the end credits even though the names were arranged diagonally again.

Additionally, both Hollywood stars were paid an equal fee of $1 million for their roles as Doug Roberts, the Glass Tower architect (Newman) and Michael O’Halloran, SFFD 5th Battalion Chief (McQueen).

Filming took place over 14 weeks and according to director John Guillermin both were very good to work alongside and added much to their parts.

The ensemble cast also included Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, OJ Simpson, Robert Vaughn and Robert Wagner.

The Towering Inferno was the highest-grossing movie of 1974 and received eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture.

The movie went on to win three Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Original Song in We May Never Love Like This Again by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn.

Fred Astaire played Harlee Claiborne, a conman who flirts with Jennifer Jones’ Lisolette Mueller.

The Hollywood singer and dancer was best known for his musical movies, but received his only Oscar nomination for the disaster epic and he won both the BAFTA and Golden Globe for his part.

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