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As a member of the R.A.F., Donald Pleasence flew sixty missions over Europe in World War II before being shot down and spending 1944-45 in a P.O.W. camp, where he was tortured by sadistic Nazi guards. Undoubtedly, this real life horror helped add to the authinticity of his performances as a P.O.W. in John Sturges' THE GREAT ESCAPE and a tortured kidnapped President of the United States in John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.
There was a British animated version of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS made in 1939, though never completed. In 1955, what finished footage there was was put together by the BFI and shown as INDIAN FANTASY. Donald Pleasence is listed in the cast as a voice. Information provided by Tim Murphy!
Donald Pleasence was not the first choice for the character Ernst Stavro Blofeld in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967). He was brought in as a last minute replacement for actor Jan Werich, who had to back out of the production.
Donald Pleasence was director Michael Reeves' original choice for the title role in THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968). Reeves and co-author Tom Baker wrote the screenplay specifically as a Pleasence vehicle. When American-International agreed to finance the picture, they insisted that Reeves use their top star Vincent Price. This upset Reeves, but he agreed to their terms. Price and Reeves did not get along during filming. Price gave one of his finest performances in THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL, which was retitled THE CONQUEROR WORM for U.S. distribution.
While Donald Pleasence was never known to turn down many film parts, he did pass on the role of Britain's notorious murderer John Christie in Richard Fleischer's 1970 suspense drama 10 RILLINGTON PLACE. After having already played Dr. Crippen, Pleasence was afraid the role of Christie would further stereotype him as a film psychotic. The role was eventually played effectively by his co-star from THE GREAT ESCAPE, Richard Attenborough.
During the 1970s, an adaptation of Albert Speer's autobiography INSIDE THE THIRD REICH had been planned, but was, unfortunately, shelved for unknown reasons. Donald Pleasence had been slated to star in the film as Adolf Hitler. It was later filmed for television in 1982 by Marvin J. Chomsky (director of GOOD LUCK, MISS WYCKOFF) with Derek Jacobi as Hitler. Information provided by Julian Grainger!
Donald Pleasence was originally announced in the cast of the 1974 Canadian comedy THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ. The film starred Richard Dreyfuss, Jack Warden, Randy Quaid, and Denholm Elliott. Information provided by Tim Murphy!
In 1975, Arthur Hiller directed a film version of Robert Shaw's classic play THE MAN IN THE GLASS BOOTH. In the beginning, its producers had announced that Donald Pleasence would repeat his famous stage role of Arthur Goldman in the film version; they even bought a full-page ad in DAILY VARIETY to announce the fact. They, however, changed their mind and decided to go with a more mainstream romantic leading man. Maximilian Schell starred as Goldman in the finished film. Robert Shaw was so disatisied with the film version that he had his name taken off the film.
Donald Pleasence once wrote a children's book called SCOUSE THE MOUSE. He also followed it with a sequel called SCOUSE IN AMERICA.
Donald Pleasence was originally announced in the cast of the 1978 disaster epic METEOR. The film starred Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Henry Fonda, Brian Keith, and Karl Malden. Pleasence was unable to do the film, because he was still committed to Universal's SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. Information provided by Tim Murphy!
Christopher Lee was John Carpenter and Debra Hill's first choice for Dr. Sam Loomis in HALLOWEEN. They offered the role to Lee, but he refused it. Years later, during an Avco-Embassy function for ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, Lee told Hill that he regretted not taking the role. The role of Dr. Loomis gave Donald Pleasence his biggest horror film success and made him a cult horror icon. How well would have Lee performed in the role? We will never know. Lee also later refused the role of Father Malone in Carpenter's THE FOG, which went to Hal Holbrook.
Donald Pleasence originally did not want to play Dr. Loomis in the original HALLOWEEN. The only reason he did it was because one of his daughters had seen ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, which Carpenter made in 1976, and convinced him to do it.
Donald Pleasence's HALLOWEEN alter ego, Sam Loomis, was named after John Gavin's character in Alfred Hitchcock's landmark horror film PSYCHO (1960).
Donald Pleasence was originally announced in the cast of the 1979 Italian sci-fi film THE HUMANOID. The film starred Arthur Kennedy and Barbara Bach. Information provided by Tim Murphy!
Donald Pleasence was Lucio Fulci's first choice for the part that Patrick Magee played in THE BLACK CAT (1980). Information provided by Tim Murphy!
Donald Pleasence was originally announced in the cast of the 1981 Spanish/British co-production of ASALTO AL CASINO (aka: BLACK JACK). Donald was replaced by Peter Cushing in the role of Sir Thomas Bedford. Information provided by Tim Murphy!
Donald Pleasence was originally cast as Blair in John Carpenter's remake of THE THING (1982), but there was a scheduling conflict and Wilford Brimley ended up in the role. Information provided by Tim Murphy!
Donald Pleasence did not want to do HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988) and was supposedly tricked by producers into doing it. Producers told him that HALLOWEEN 4 had been read by John Carpenter, and he had hailed it as the best of the series. Carpenter had, in fact, not read it at all.
At one point there were plans to make PUPPET MASTER's 6, 7, 8 back to back to back. They all would have taken place during World War II, and Pleasence agreed to take the role of Toulon. He would have worked about ten weeks on all three films. Information provided by Tim Murphy!
In the 1997 comedy AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY, Mike Myers (the SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE alum---not the HALLOWEEN killer) patterned his villain Dr. Evil after Donald Pleasence from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.