Peter Collinson - The Director
Date of birth: 1st April 1936 Lincolnshire, England. Died 16th December 1980 Los Angeles. (cancer)
Peter Collinson was born into a theatrical family in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. Following his parents' divorce, he lived briefly with his grandmother before being sent to the Actors' Orphanage in Chertsey, Surrey. There he appeared in a number of plays, coming to the notice of the Orphanage's President, Nöel Coward, who watched over the young Collinson's career, even becoming his Godfather, arranging an audition at RADA and his first job as a stage-hand at the New Cross Empire.

Collinson brought a TV commercial-maker's eye to feature films and won attention, if not critical approval, with his first three films. The Penthouse (1967), dealing with rape, and The Long Day's Dying (1968), an intimate but muddy and messy war film, raised a certain amount of controversy, as did Up the Junction (1968), for different reasons as it broadened and coarsened a unique TV original.
Then Collinson went on to make The italian Job with a budget of just $3m, which was his most successful commercial film, although he did at just 44 years of age and never got to see The Italian Job grow into the much loved and cult film that it is today.

Peter Collinson on set

Producer Michael Deeley

Production Designer
Disley Jones

2nd Unit Director
Phillip Wrestler

A Colourful Cast
With Caine already on board, thanks to writer Troy Martin Kennedy, it was Peter Collinson who persuaded Noel Coward out of self imposed exile to act in what to was become his last ever film. Coward was pretty frail and needed the support of partner Graham Payn, who became Bridger's sidekick Keats in the film. Payn would help Coward out with everything from negotiating steps to prompting him when he forgot his lines. Many of Cowards original lines had to be re-worked so that they were shorter, the great man couldn't remember lengthy dialogues. Despite this fragility, his wit was as sharp as ever and would have the cast and crew in fits of giggles with his well timed quips on the set. Coward was paid a flat fee of £25k for his ten days of work which was filmed in Ireland.

Producer Michael Deeley wanted some well known faces in the film, so had small parts written in, even though this was not in troy Martin Kennedy's original script. So Deeley and casting director Paul Lee Lander found cameo roles for Fred Emney, Benny Hill and Irene Handl, all well known British artists at the time.

When it came to search for two Italian actors, the choices were obvious, as there was only a handful of well know and respected Italian actors at that time. Raf Vallone was cast as the Mafia boss, Altabani. Raf had worked on many Italian films and was a natural. The professional footballer-turned-laywer-turned-actor didn't have a great grasp of the English language and Collinson was not happy with the way some of his lines were delivered. The plan was to dub in the voice whilst editing the film, but this was avoided as Raf got the hang of it.

The other Italian actor cast was Rossano Brazzi, also an actor who had given up law and his love of sports for a life in the film industry. Brazzi has been in hundreds of films, but he'll always be remembered for his short but vital role as Roger Beckerman, the man behind the entire Italian Job.

A lot of the crew were also having a great time, many of them hadn't experienced a properly budgeted film before and everything was laid on for them, so they made the most of it. The colourful John Forgeham who played Frank(o), was having the time of his life, most of the time he was half cut and would deliver his lines drunk!

Many of the crew and actors had an input and passion for the film. Caine himself immersed himself in it's production, airing ideas and suggestions. Derek Ware, who played Rozzer was involved in the attack on the bullion van. His company Havoc provided the stunt work for this and various other parts of the film. Special effects man Ken Morris made a cameo appearance as the footy fan that closed the sewer gate on the police car. He had in his hand the control unit that activated the rig that blew the Alfa out of the sewer!

Benny Hill
(Professor Peach)

John Forgeham

Irene Handl
(Ms. peach)

Raf Vallone

Rossano Brazzi

Noël Coward
(Mr. Bridger)

Fred Emney

Derek Ware
(Rozzer & Stunt Adviser)

Tony Beckley
(Camp Freddy)

Norman Warwick
(2nd Unit Director of

All in the Detail
An invaluable and colourful addition to The Italian Job crew was Disley Jones, the Production Designer. Disley set the scenes up with great care and detail, he was exceptional at his job and everything had to look right. From the Alpine flowers on Beckerman's wreath, to making the rooftop jump scene look like a regular street scene, and not the top of Fiat's factory, to the livery on the Chinese plane that delivered the bullion. He had a great sense of humour on location and when given the task of finding suitable extras for the mafia, he went into prank overdrive. When rehearsal for the scene where the mob pops up out of the mountains when they intercept Charlie and his fast car team, the 35 mob members popped up and they were all 'screamers' as Hazel Collinson put it. Disley had gone around all the gay clubs in Turin and picked the 'prettiest' out, and put them in black suits and black hats, Hazel explained. The crew were in stitches, rolling around on the set.

Disley worked closely with Phillip Wrestler, the 2nd Unit Director who was responsible for most of the filming of the chase scenes. He was also responsible for the entire filming of the cliffhanger ending, as Collinson wasn't happy with the planned ending and refused to do it! They became friends again decades after the film was made in a chance meeting. Sadly Phillip passed away in 2003. Disley Jones wrote a touching obituary, which can be read here.

Gianni Agnelli

Fiat vs BMC
Much of the films fluidity, and success was down to the generosity of Italian car giant Fiat. Producer Michael Deeley was chatting to his friend, Lord Harlech about the upcoming film project and Harlech mentioned that he knew Gianni Agnelli, who owned Fiat. A phone call was had and Fiat opened there arms to the entire production team, which in turn opened up Turin as Fiat basically ran Turin. The Turin authorities would try to accommodate the crew wherever they could. With the Police on board the chase scene went better than anyone hoped.
The entire crew were amazed at the hospitality of Fiat, especially as they had been so bluntly snubbed by BMC. Fiat helped in any way they could, offering up trucks, cars, extras, just about anything, even when their suggestion to use Fiats instead of Minis was politely rejected, they still helped out any way they could. As a second option, Agnelli made sure that there were plenty of Fiats in the traffic jam scenes, they're everywhere! Commentators noted the different approaches between Fiat and BMC and many weren't shocked when BMC were in serious financial trouble in the 70's. (Post Script: This is not in reference to the recent 2005 MG Rover Group going into receivership - which is a great shame - it's ironic that in The Italian Job the gold was from the Chinese, and in the end they played their part in sending MG Rover down the tubes - another case of life imitating art?!?!)

That ending...
Some people love it, some people hate it, but it's one of the most talked about film endings that there has ever been. The ending was always in question, the production didn't ever really have a proper scripted ending that everyone agreed on. Many have stated that the ending was shot like that as there was to be a sequel, but it's more likely that it came about as it was the best idea that they had.
Various ideas were penned, one which was given some serious thought was to have the 'jobbers' safely get away and place the bullion in a Swiss bank vault in Geneva. On leaving the bank Croker would see that his crew sitting in a nearby cafe didn't look happy - then he noticed why, Altabani's mafia were all over the place. Altabani requested the docket which had the security code for the bank deposit
, but Charlie burned it. Collinson wasn't at all happy with this ending either, so the coach balancing was the final choice. Still Collinson wasn't happy and had the 2nd unit film the entire scene.

In March 2003 an interview with Michael Caine was published in The Guardian that unearthed Caine's understanding of what was supposed to happen to the coach full of 'jobbers'...

A Cinema Cliffhanger Topples
March 5 2003
By Tania Branigan, London

It was cinema's greatest cliffhanger. But now Michael Caine has blown the gaff on the ending of The Italian Job.

More than three decades after the release of what has become a cult film, the star has solved the riddle playing on the minds of so many fans: what exactly happened after the credits rolled as his gang's getaway coach teetered on a precipice?

"Hang on a minute, lads. I've got a great idea," Caine's cockney rogue blurts as the robbers' £4 million haul of gold bullion threatens to send them over the side of a mountain.

In a BBC television documentary to celebrate his 70th birthday, the actor has revealed that the gang were meant to escape.

"The next thing that happens is you turn the engine on," he said. "You all sit exactly where you are until all the petrol has run out, which changes the equilibrium. We all jump out of the bus and the gold goes over the cliff.

"And at the bottom are the French mafia, sitting waiting for the gold."

Far from being a masterpiece of suspense, it emerges that the ending was intended merely to pave the way for a sequel. Once the gang has escaped, "we are off trying to get it back and that is the next movie", Caine told the Hollywood Greats documentary, to be screened next Tuesday. "(The sequel) was never made because the film didn't do well in America."

Nevertheless, The Italian Job is seen as epitomising its era, thanks to its style, sassiness and jaunty Quincy Jones soundtrack. The 1969 film, best known for its cheekily choreographed Mini Cooper car chase and the line "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" centers on a heist in Turin.
Caine and his gang organise a huge traffic jam, snatch the gold and escape in Minis, only for their bus to veer off a mountain road as they celebrate their success. With the back of the bus hanging over the cliff, the thieves are on board with a dilemma: the gold bars have slid to the back of the bus, but they must stay at the front to counterbalance the gold and stop the bus tumbling over the cliff.

Two years ago the film's scriptwriter Troy Kennedy Martin revealed that the cast and crew disliked the famous climax. Director Peter Collinson hated it so much that he made his assistant film it, Kennedy Martin said. "I never thought the film would be iconic; I don't think Michael did, either. The reviews weren't that good either, and of course it didn't have a traditional ending."

Fans now face the trauma of coping with a Paramount remake of the film, with Mark Wahlberg playing Caine's character, Croker.

- Guardian

Production Credits    
An Oakhurst Production
Written by: Troy Kennedy Martin
Director of Photography: Douglas Slocombe
Production Designer: Disley Jones
Associate Producer: Bob Porter
Music: Quincy Jones
Edited by: John Trumper

Production Manager: Derek Kavanagh
Camera Operator: Chic Waterson
Art Director: Michael Knight
Construction Manager: Terry Apsey
Sound Mixer: John Aldred
Dubbing Mixer: Gerry Humphreys

Chief Make-up Artist: Freddie Williamson
Chiel Hairdresser: Gordon Bond
Wardrobe Supervisor: Dulcie Midwinter
Wardrobe Master: Roy Ponting
Lighting: Lee Electric
Special Effects: Pat Moore/Ken Morris
Casting: Paul Lee Lander
Costumes: Bermans
Mr Caine's Suits: Douglas Hayward

'On Days Like These'
Sung by Matt Monroe
'Getta Bloomin' move on'

Lyrics by Don Black/Music by Quincy Jones

2nd Unit

2nd Unit Director: Philip Wrestler
Director of Photography: Norman Warwick
Camera Operator: Ronnie Maasz
Assistant Director: David Monroe
Italian Production Supervisor: Giorgio Miglianni
Italian Assistant Director: Mauro Sacripanti

Stunt Driving: L'Equipe Remy Julienne

Processed by: Humphries Laboratories

Produced by: Michael Deeley
Directed by: Peter Collinson

Made in location in Italy, Ireland and England, and at Isleworth Studios, London, England, and Twickenham Studios, London, England.

Filmed in Panavision ® Color

Our grateful thanks to the city of Turin and to Fiat for their help with this film.
© Copyright 2005 The Italian