Billy Two Hats

some scenes during production

“Billy Two-hats” has had a checkered history.  First proposed to me by the brilliant screenwriter (and friend) Alan Sharp, I read it one rainy night in London from cover to cover and wanted to go ahead with it at once.  However, Alan was then at work on another project for me, a script that would become “The Hired Hand”, now a cult classic of sorts.  Also, it turned out that Alan had somehow gotten the rights to theBilly material muddled in a way that prevented the project from going forward. The script was put on the shelf.


Sometime later, when “The Hired Hand” had been completed and I began my association with Norman Jewison and his company which had just relocated to London, I showed the script to Norman, who quickly shared my enthusiasm for the material.  Heavyweight agents were activated and the rights situation clarified.  Alan flew to London to do rewrites—he was then working in Hollywood on a script for

Robert Aldrich, “Ulzanna’s Raid”.


Jewison was slated to direct the film version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” which was going to be shot in Israel.  To do a western out of London the choices were usually Spain or Italy. But we all felt that the landscapes in both places were too constraining—one never got a sense of the vast horizons of the Western United States.  Though one would be looking across international borders into Jordan and/or Egypt, Israel provided such landscapes.  Furthermore, a group of American investors had had built a western town set on the outskirts of Tel-Aviv with a view to enticing international productions to Israel. 


That clinched it.  We decided to shoot the picture back-to-back with the production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”.  Unfortunately, just as the unit was getting ready to leave for Israel the Munich massacre happened.  In the circumstances flights to Israeli destinations were under the strictest security—tanks surrounding them on the tarmac, that sort of thing. This caused a few nervous moments for some of the cast, but ultimately there were no problems and the film completed shooting on schedule.



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