Wednesday night, ABC News’ Diane Sawyer blew the lid off the seething cauldron of secrets known as “The Sound of Music” and shined the cleansing light of truth into its darkest recesses. To witness star Julie Andrews squirm under Sawyer’s relentless questioning was second only to Andrew Jarecki’s chat with Robert Durst on HBO’s “The Jinx” for jaw-dropping revelations.
Actually, “The Untold Story of ‘The Sound of Music’” was exactly the kind of trivia-filled special that fans of the 50-year-old film love. To celebrate the semi-centennial anniversary of the five-time Academy Award-winning film, Sawyer traveled to Salzburg, Austria, where part of the film was shot on location to interview Andrews herself, who became famous playing the nun-turned-governess Maria Von Trapp.
The film was the subject of a special tribute at the Academy Awards earlier this year and its enduring popularity helped NBC choose that musical for its first live musical event that aired in 2013. Today, according to Sawyer, 6.5 million tourists visit the small city of Salzburg, mostly because of the film.
As with any good behind-the-scenes special for a film that’s been around for five decades, there were plenty of tidbits for even the hardcore fans.
Here are seven things we learned from the special.
-- Other casting possibilities: Julie Andrews was not yet a bankable movie star at the time she was cast as Maria. Still, she beat out Grace Kelly and Doris Day for the part. Of Day, Andrews said: “Well, she was the great star of the day who sang. How lucky can I get?” Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer was also an unknown, but he managed to land the role of Captain Von Trapp instead of Sean Connery and Richard Burton. Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss and Mia Farrow all auditioned for roles as the Von Trapp children.
-- The hills were alive with wind: The iconic opening shot of Robert Wise’s film was achieved using a helicopter with a cameraman hanging out the side. While that worked for the approach of Andrews walking up the mountain and beginning to spin, when the helicopter circled back around, the downdrafts would unceremoniously fling the star to the ground.
-- The two moments Andrews would love to film again: The Austrian folk dance between Maria and Captain Von Trapp and the scene when an unhappy Maria mounts the stairs, ready to quit, and Captain Von Trapp asks her to stay with the family. “I love that moment,” Andrews told Sawyer.
-- Andrews had never been to the real Von Trapp family home: Though the film was actually shot on location in Salzburg, Andrews had never visited the family’s real home there until Sawyer took her. Villa Trapp is a hotel.
-- The Von Trapp family’s escape from Austria was easy: In the film, the Von Trapps sneak out of their home after a performance and escape from the Nazi threat by hiking over a mountain. In real life, all the Von Trapps had to do was walk to the train station five minutes from their house. Sawyer helpfully re-created the escape for the at-home viewer.
-- What does the current Abbess of Nonnberg Abbey think about the film? Though she says she loves the film, she has some issues with the film’s Mother Abbess, played by Peggy Wood. Through a translator, she told Sawyer that when the abbess sings in the film, it “curdles the milk.”
-- “The Sound of Music” is famous. Like, really, really famous: How famous? Sawyer reported that even in North Korea, schoolchildren could sing, “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music” soundtrack.
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