Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

A big press agent explains how they made a big movie

Cleveland Press March 3, 1971

One of the unwritten rules in this business is that you don't write about press agents, a press agent being a guy whose business it is to get his client's name in print any way and never mind any personal glory.

You throw the rule out the window for Tom Carlile however. He's an impressive fellow to begin with, as anyone who stands 6' 8" is bound to be. And besides that he's parlayed himself into the role of associate producer to Dino De Laurentiis for the movie "Waterloo" which was filmed in Italy and the Soviet Union.

Carlile, associate producer or not, was in town yesterday to make certain everyone was aware of "Waterloo," press agentry still being his first calling.

His credentials are good. He was director of publicity for the James Bond films, pulling out of that adventure the same time Sean Connery did. The last time I saw him was in Cartagena, Colombia, where he was shepherding visiting reporters through the filming of "The Adventurers," secretly hoping-he admits now- that one of us would get highjacked to Cuba because that would mean extra publicity for his movie.

He would have had a large press contingent in Russia except that the Soviet officials kept smiling and saying yes while they held up everyone's visa.

Selling "Waterloo" in Europe is no trouble, he explains, since that is part of everyone's history over there.

"For Americans there are several misconceptions I keep running into." he complained. "One is that Napoleon was a looney. Any man who could come out of exile and rally an entire nation is no nut.

"And people think Waterloo is a town in Iowa where they make clocks. Or they have the notion that Waterloo was a lost cause to begin with, like hitting a brick w all. Actually, Napoleon was winning until the last hour.

"Rod Steiger plays Napoleon and he's an actor who tries to get inside a role. He not only read everything he could about Napoleon, he got his doctor to interpret Napoleon's autopsy report. He was convinced he was a sick man and he played him that way. He learned that Napoleon was suffering from cancer, stomach ulcers, venereal disease and hemorrhoids so bad he couldn't sit on a horse.

"Steiger got purposely overweight and proceeded to portray a dirty, sloppily dressed man of 45.

"Waterloo" is a co-production with the Soviet government with the Russians putting up $11 million in goods and services (uniforms, transportation, equipment ,cannon, lodging for the unit while in the USSR), plus the services of the Red Army.

"They provided 16,000 infantry and 3,500 cavalry," Carlile explained. "We had no expenditures in Russia ever. The soldiers were better than extras.

"We drew up battle plans the night before, commanders gave their orders the next morning and we finished the battle sequences two days ahead of schedule. There was only one retake and that was because of an accident.

"Movie distributors from Western nations have invested $12 million. If the movie had been made in the West it would have cost $80,000,000.

"Hiring the extras would have been prohibitive. The cheapest extras in the world are in Yugoslavia where one costs $3.50 a day plus a box lunch."

In exchange for its investment, Carlile, went on, the Soviet Government gets exclusive distribution rights in all the Iron Curtain countries plus Egypt. He said that the Russians have made 2,500 prints of the movie. The average number of prints for American distribution of a major movie is about 150 to 180.

Carlile disagrees that the day of the big spectacular movie is over. The problem is to do them without going bankrupt.

"This is why we went to Europe in the first place- to get all those people," he said. "I don't believe audiences are interested in films that offer nothing more than two people in bed."