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In Memory Of William Finley (1942-2012), 5 Things You Might Not Know About 'Phantom Of The Paradise'

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist April 16, 2012 at 11:05AM

Sad news came in over the weekend, as it was announced yesterday that actor William Finley, best known for his work with Brian De Palma, had passed away on Saturdayat the age of 69. The actor was a long-time friend of De Palma, having appeared in his early films "Woton's Wake," "Murder a la Mod" and "The Wedding Party," before turning heads as Emil Breton, the husband of Margot Kidder's character, in the director's breakout picture "Sisters."
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3. Finley came close to being crushed for real in filming the Phantom's origin.
Winslow is horribly disfigured after being cought in a record press that he's trying to destroy, turning him into the Phantom, but the scene nearly went badly wrong. The scene was shot in a real pressing plant at the Pressman Toys factory (the company founded by producer Edward R. Pressman's father), with foam pads and chocks put in between to stop it from closing. But on one take, the chocks snapped from the pressure, and the press began to close gradually. Fortunately, Finley was pulled out long before he was in real danger.

4. Sissy Spacek worked as the set dresser on the film.
Stick around through the credits and you'll find one rather surprising name among the technical crew, with future Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek named as a set dresser -- particularly odd, considering that she's just starred in her breakout role, in Terrence Malick's "Badlands." The reality of it is quite simple: Malick had met her boyfriend Jack Fisk the previous year when he was working as the art director on "Badlands." Fisk then got the opportunity to make his debut as Production Designer on "Phantom of the Paradise," and Spacek went with him, working with him during the shoot. The pair would marry not long after production wrapped, and a year later, Fisk would suggest to Spacek that she audition for the lead in De Palma's "Carrie," on which he was art director. Spacek would go on to win an Oscar nomination for her indelible performance in that film.

5. It was a box-office disappointment, but huge in Winnipeg.
Hopes were high for "Phantom of the Paradise:" 20th Century Fox bought the negative for $2 million, which was then a record for an independently-produced film. But for the most part, the film received poor reviews, and died at the box office. And yet, there was one place where it became a monster hit: Winnipeg, Canada. Even in the rest of the country, the film didn't play for long, and yet in Winnipeg, it was a monster hit, playing continually in theaters for four-and-a-half-months, with 20,000 copies of the soundtrack being snapped up. To this day, it's unsure why the film performed so well when it opened on December 26th (two months after the full release), although it's believed that the luxury Garrick cinema, and an atypically young audience, of around ten or so, helped it become a cult that continues in the city to this day.

William Finley - "Faust" (from the "Phantom of the Paradise" soundtrack)

This article is related to: On This Day In Movie History, Brian De Palma, Phantom of the Paradise, William Finley, Edgar Wright


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