1 9 8 6 (USA)
4 x 90 minute episodes
NBC’s made-in-Russia $30 million epic Peter The Great was billed as the most extravagant and magnificent Hollywood miniseries ever made.
With Austrian heart-throb Maximilian Schell in the title role of the 17th-century Tsar, co-stars including Omar Sharif and Vanessa Redgrave and half the Red Army as extras, they had much to boast about.
But what they tried to keep secret was that Schell walked out four weeks before completing his contract and the producers hired a double to replace him.
The double was unknown English actor Denis DeMarne, who was flown to Rome where an Italian make-up artist took a mould of his face. From this he built a false chin and false nose, and back on the set in Russia, after daily make-up sessions lasting from three to five hours, DeMarne became Schell as the Tsar.
This was not just for long shots – DeMarne had to learn fifty pages of dialogue and filmed for 14 hours a day for three weeks, eventually appearing in the leading role for over one hour in the six-hour series.
Until he blew the gaff trying to improve his fee, the switch was undetected. It made little difference of course.
The series (shown on the BBC in Britain) seemed to last as long as the Romanov’s themselves.
Peter the Great it wasn’t. All that money, all those miles of film and it rated just Peter the so-so.
Peter the Great
Prince Feodor Romodanovsky
Sir Isaac Newton
King William III of Orange
Young Peter the Great
Old Peter the Great
Günther Maria Halmer
Prince Vasily Golitsyn
Colonel Patrick Gordon