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Cast of Thousands


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Not every film uses as many on-camera performers as CLEOPATRA or BEN HUR.

 

But there are quite a few movies with large ensemble casts.

 

- Other biblical epics like THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

- Civil War epics like GONE WITH THE WIND and GLORY

- GRAND HOTEL and DINNER AT EIGHT

- Mysteries like MURDER BY DEATH, CLUE, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS...

- SHORT CUTS & THE PLAYER...anything by Robert Altman usually has a huge cast.

- Heist films tend to have a large number of players, like OCEANS 11 (both versions)

- IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD has a mad, mad silly mad cast!

- Dramas from the 80s, like THE BIG CHILL, THE OUTSIDERS, STEEL MAGNOLIAS, etc.

- Mel Brooks flicks use many actors

- So do some Woody Allen films, like SHADOWS AND FOG

- And what about those spoofs like AIRPLANE! and NAKED GUN!

- Or disaster movies...one big film had a TITANIC budget and cast

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Don't get offended, MFF, but since you're bringing up the subject, I have to say that with very few exceptions, I cannot abide "Cast of Thousands" movies. They tend to be epics (naturally), a genre I disdain. They tend to be big fat long overwrought works, too long, too serious, too dull.

 

The exceptions might be the spoofs you mention, although *Airplane* actually does not have a very big cast at all.

 

I'm a huge fan of both Woody Allen and Robert Altman, but neither used large casts -they both focus very much on character, so almost perforce they are going to work with only a handful of actors. I agree that they both use "ensemble" acting, but wouldn't that belong in a different thread than one entitled "Cast of Thousands"?

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jan 31, 2011 4:24 PM

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> According to the Guinness Book of Records, 1965 War and Peace had a cast of 120,000 people, it must be the record.

 

That definitely must be a record. King Vidor's version from 1956 used a lot of extras, too. Obviously, there aren't going to be 120,000 speaking roles, unless you count shouting in a crowd as speaking. LOL

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I understand your dislike of serious drawn-out epic dramas. LOL

 

You're right. An ensemble cast would not be the same as a cast of thousands. Obviously. I was exaggerating in the original post, to make a point. But sometimes these ensemble casts do get rather large.

 

Altman and Allen are in their own category. However, in NASHVILLE, Altman does use extensive crowd scenes and that was probably his most peopled film. I would think that M*A*S*H had a lot of background or ambience players, though it's been awhile since I've watched it.

 

And speaking of Altman, GOSFORD PARK sort of combines multiple ensemble casts, since the action is divided among tiers of household staff and the owners.

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I'll go along with Samuel Bronston's massive, ill fated epic, "The Fall of The Roman Empire." After all is said and done, Sam's production team recreated the Roman Forum, "to scale!" All the sets and buildings were constructed in the round, no false fronts, backdrops or the use of an optical printer! In what can be considered innovative, the interior of several of the Forum sets, served as actual studios! It's no wonder, Sam went broke and then had to file for bankruptcy. The movie all but ruined him and ended his career. Over the passing years, the Roman Forum set stood abondoned and decaying outside of Madrid, Spain. The set Sam had built was so huge and beautiful, Spanish officials didn't want to demolish it. Somehow, the set managed to become something of a tourist attraction, until it finally met its end from the wrecking ball.

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Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights and Magnolia had very large casts. His next two films Punch Drunk Love And There Will Blood had smaller casts, (especially Punch Drunk Love.) This is a director who owes a alot to Robert Altman.

 

On a M*A*S*H the unseen intercom announcer once described a movie as having a cast of several.

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Another choice in this category would be, one of the last, most expensive, silent film productions ever produced in Hollywood, Warner Brothers ?Noah?s Ark.? It was the most costly film up to its time. Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by Michael Curtiz, one critic wrote, ?The Warner staff showed everything conceivable under the sun ? mobs, mobs and mobs!? The production was besieged with the usual technical problems that come with such a gigantic undertaking. It was during the great flood scene, that several extras drowned, when a huge tank of water was used to create a gushing wave that descended upon the multitudes of extras.

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Another one by Samuel Bronston: The 1961 production of ?El Cid.?

 

This is probably Sam?s best, overall effort in the field of an epic film. His production team did a fine job, (agreed by most critics) in recreating the style and scenery of Medieval 11th century Spain. The story was based upon Spain?s most cherished national hero, Don Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, known to history as ?El Cid,? or the lord warrior. Since the entire motion picture was filmed in Spain, the government gave lots of support to the production company. Sam gathered in a stellar cast, right across the whole international spectrum. It was all lead by Charlton Heston as the Cid and Sophia Loren as the hero?s romantic maiden. What made the production so interesting was the film crew utilizing actual locations and castles that played an important part of the historic story. A lot of time and money was able to be saved, thus this film has always been considered Sam?s greatest of all success. This situation allowed several of the battle scenes to be of the highest quality, with a fine realistic atmosphere. Perhaps the finest example of this was the impressive jousts and duel scene early in the movie. Everything about the fight scene was as authentic as possible, right down to the actual location where it was filmed! Heston did most of his own stunts, except for the jousts scene that had a professional rider hidden behind the costume of armor, after which, Heston then performed in the sword fight.

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> Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights and Magnolia had very large casts. His next two films Punch Drunk Love And There Will Blood had smaller casts, (especially Punch Drunk Love.) This is a director who owes a alot to Robert Altman.

>

 

I'm glad you mentioned the connection between Anderson and Altman. I completely agree.

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>

> Both Anderson and Altman liked to make films involving several different stories with different characters, which somehow connect. I like that.

 

Add to the mix:

 

- Paul Haggis' CRASH

- Lawrence Kasdan's GRAND CANYON

 

Both have a series of interconnecting stories using a large metropolitan canvas (Los Angeles).

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> Wasn't that concept originated with, e.g., GRAND HOTEL, WEEKEND AT THE WALFORF, TALES OF MANHATTAN, and SEPARATE TABLES?

 

Yes, I'd say all of the above. Guess they were doing it long before Altman came along (of course, Robert Altman had a unique directing style...)

 

MFF, I'd say *Crash* (the second one) and *Grand Canyon* do fall into that category too. Personally, I really like that type of film; of course, it has to be well-done or it can just end up being chaotic and messy. But I think all the ones listed here, both classic and newer, "work".

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> MFF, I'd say *Crash* (the second one) and *Grand Canyon* do fall into that category too. Personally, I really like that type of film; of course, it has to be well-done or it can just end up being chaotic and messy. But I think all the ones listed here, both classic and newer, "work".

 

And imagine if Altman had directed EARTHQUAKE or any of those all-star disaster films...he would've put his own unique stamp on the genre and elevated it higher than the shlock and camp most of it is now.

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This should actually be two different threads. The title says one thing (and the epics cited thus far fit this), but NONE of the much more intimate dramas with ensemble playing: GRAND HOTEL, THE BIG CHILL, etc.) should be linked with the gargantuan epics from the 1910s on.

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> {quote:title=Arturo wrote:}{quote}

> This should actually be two different threads. The title says one thing (and the epics cited thus far fit this), but NONE of the much more intimate dramas with ensemble playing: GRAND HOTEL, THE BIG CHILL, etc.) should be linked with the gargantuan epics from the 1910s on.

 

Arturo, I agree. Also, a film with a "cast of thousands", or even dozens, is hardly the same as a cast of, say, one dozen, which is pretty much the maximum number of characters Altman or Anderson ever used. A story about a handful of characters, 8 to 10, is very different from an epic.

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I have yet to see an Altman film that focuses only on 8 characters. He gives everyone, even the tiniest role, some important bit of business to do. His stories are expansive and while the big-name stars get more time on camera, they are usually still miniatures within the greater Altman universe.

 

NASHVILLE and PRET-A-PORTER have many extensive crowd scenes (mostly at airports, hotels, fan gatherings, etc.). These are intimate pictures because of how Altman shows the relationships of the characters to each other and their macrocosmic surroundings.

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