The Untouchables is a classic gangster film that was directed by Brian De Palma, written by David Mamet, and produced by Art Linson, this film captures the thrilling story of real-life events.
What else? Well, it’s interesting to note that two of the lead characters were based on real-life people – Eliot Ness (Robert De Niro) and Frank Nitti (Robert Prosky). There are even rumors that Al Capone (played brilliantly by Sean Connery) asked for a walk-on role in the movie!
Plus, did you know that most of the buildings used during filming were genuine 1930s buildings? The Untouchables didn’t require many sets or special locations – everything took part within existing structures.
Thanks to its minimalist style when it comes to set up and design, The Untouchables often looks like it could have been shot today!
Whether you’re already familiar with The Untouchables or if this is your first time hearing about it – these are 10 facts you should know about this crime classic!
1. Italian-Americans, Particularly Frank Sinatra, Protested The Series
When The Untouchables first aired, some Italian-Americans were dissatisfied with how the show portrayed their community.
The Outfit book claims that mafia leader Sam Giancana asked Sinatra to speak with Desi Arnaz about the program, which led to an altercation between the two Hollywood legends during which Arnaz called Sinatra a “television failure” and insulted him.
Following that incident, Frank Sinatra relocated his offices to Samuel Goldwyn Studios.
To acknowledge and address these Italian-American protests, The Untouchables added an Italian-American hero as well as diverse characters who could be portrayed as ‘the bad guys’ on the show.
2. During Filming, Billy Drago Used His Tommy Gun To Break Up A Gang Fight
During the filming of The Untouchables, Billy Drago had the opportunity to show off his immaculate villain character, even outside of the Coppola classic. The actor, who was dressed in full costume, joined the police and headed toward the location of the fight.
His intimidating appearance and presence worked like magic as the gang members immediately ceased their brawling when they caught sight of him. It is said that no
punches were thrown because Drago had grown an intense reputation within local Chicago circles as Frank Nitti from The Untouchables! Even after pretending to meet his demise at Ness’ hands in the movie, Nitti kept handling Capone’s operations for 6 years until finally committing suicide.
3. Sean Connery Won An Oscar, While Robert De Niro Was Slammed
It’s no secret that the 1987 Academy Awards saw some impressive performances: Sean Connery nabbed the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and Robert De Niro was highly praised for his work. However, only Connery walked away with a golden prize that night, while De Niro received nothing but criticism in return.
Despite being nominated for his leading role as Al Capone in The Untouchables, the jury didn’t appreciate his commitment to character “acting.” Surely if the Academy had followed through with its assessment of the film, De Niro would have been considered for at least one award.
But sadly it wasn’t meant to be and Connery alone earned himself an Oscar win that night.
4. The Original Script Called For A Train Gunfight Between Ness And A Henchman For Al Capone
In the original script for The Untouchables, a gunfight was originally intended to take place on a 1930s-era train between lawman Eliot Ness and a henchman of Al Capone.
However, due to expense, the excursion had to be abandoned. Instead, it was moved to the steps of Chicago’s Union Station. This unfortunate change in scenery did not hinder director Brian De Palma from developing one of the most famous shooting scenes in cinematic history.
Even with over thirty years since its initial release and millions of viewers from across the world, the fight between Ness and the henchman remains one of the best-remembered sequences from The Untouchables.
5. Sean Connery Suggested Holding The Blood Oath Between Ness And Malone In A Church
When it came time to decide where the pivotal blood oath between Ness and Malone Would take place in The Untouchables, Sean Connery had a unique suggestion.
He felt strongly that for the two men to make such a commitment to taking Capone down, the only heaven from the turbulence of the Chicago Mafia would be a Catholic church.
Director Brian De Palma listened to Connery’s advice, and this iconic scene ended up being one of the movie’s most memorable moments. Taking place inside a beautiful chapel, Ness and Malone talked about their mission with great reverence – a far cry from if it had taken place on the street as originally planned.
6. Desi Arnaz Attended The Same School As Al Capone’s Son
Albert “Sonny” Capone, Jr. and Desi Arnaz went way back. They attended the same school when they were teenagers – St. Patrick Catholic School in Miami Beach, Florida. Sonny Was one year younger than the Cuban star but their friendship was strong.
It’s interesting to know that even though he is famously associated with his father’s crime empire, Albert “Sonny” Capone had such innocent connections with a star like Desi Arnaz. It is quite amazing how two people from such different backgrounds could attend the same school and be lifelong friends.
7. According To A Mafia Hit Man, The Mob Attempted To Kill Desi Arnaz Because Of The Show
In a shocking twist of events, it appears that the Mafia attempted to target Desi Arnaz due to his involvement in The Untouchables. According to Alabama “ Jimmy the Weasel” Fratianno, who was a confessed mafia hit man and informant, he and other gangsters met at La Costa resort in California with plans to kill Desi Arnaz because the Mafia was unhappy about The Untouchables.
However, Fratianno could not name La Costa’s location or provide proof that he’d ever been there when recalling this story and so whether or not this attempt happened is still up for debate. Either way, it still shows how strongly The Untouchables impacted pop culture at the time by making their presence felt even amongst notorious criminals.
8. Robert De Niro Insisted On Gaining Weight For The Film
When it came to the Untouchables movie, Robert De Niro was determined to put on 30 pounds to make his character, Al Capone, look spot-on. This was no strange feat for DeNiro; he famously gained 60 pounds for Raging Bull in 1980.
From then on, De Niro Became known for not just gaining weight for roles but also being insistent on them. For The Untouchables, even though director Brian De Palma may have had reservations at first, in the end, De Palma overcame them and allowed De Niro to gain the necessary weight he was requesting.
In the end, it paid off as this commitment by Robert De Niro made sure that his portrayal of Al Capone was as realistic and accurate as possible.
9. Sean Connery Suggested Filming The Blood Oath Scene In A Church
When it came time to decide on a location for the iconic blood oath scene in TheUntouchables, Sean Connery suggested that they shoot it in a church.
His idea ended up being a perfect choice since the solemn atmosphere of a church echoed the momentousness of the scene — two men coming together to fight crime with more than just words.
It also added an extra bit of gravitas and set up Unser’s quote: “They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue.” This decision ultimately made this scene one of The Untouchable’s most memorable moments and was all thanks to Sean Connery’s recommendation.
10. Brian De Palma, The Director, Considered Collaborating With Nicolas Cage On A Prequel
After the success of The Untouchables, Brian De Palma and Paramount wanted to continue the franchise.
To do this, De Palma proposed making a prequel to the movie titled Capone Rising that would explore Al Capone’s rise to power and provide a backstory for his clash with Elliot Ness. Incredibly, he even suggested collaborating with Nicolas Cage on the movie!
This would have been an interesting collaboration between two talented directors. It is sadly still unknown why this never happened, but it would have certainly been exciting to see what these two could create together.