The Italian Job is 50 years old in 2019. TopGear.com caught up with the film’s original producer, Michael Deeley, to find out how they made one of the most famous British films of all time
TG: So, Michael, why were Minis chosen for the original film?
MD: It was the car every young person wanted to have, and we were making a picture which we hoped would be attractive to young people. So it was really an obvious choice. You couldn’t use an Austin A30 or an A40 for a movie like this. It just was the right car.
What were British Leyland like to deal with at the time?
Not much good. We did eventually get six cars from them, but we had to buy them at trade price.
We needed two sets of perfect condition cars but British Leyland never did anything at all. They were pathetic really, no wonder they went out of business. Although actually they weren’t wrong because the film never did anything for Mini in America, but they didn’t know that at the time.
For all the rest of the Minis that were to be crashed, we bought secondhand ones every time we needed to film a scene.
And what about the other cars in film? The DB4, the E-Type and the Muira are all pretty special…
They were just the available cars at the time. I mean, it became that Lamborghini because we managed to buy a crashed one [that eventually went over the cliff]. All we had to do, I say all we had to do, was to get the company to paint the one that they had in stock—a new one—with the orange color, which they did and then we could shoot it [for the driving scenes].
So why Turin and the Fiat factory?
Nobody had ever shot a picture in Turin, and we needed to cause a great deal of trouble to traffic and the city and such like. So, one of the rules of film is to always try and shoot in a virgin city when you’re going to make a lot of trouble.
Milan knew too much, Rome almost certainly knew too much.
The other thing was that a great close friend of mine was a very good friend of Gianni Agnelli, who was head of Fiat, Turin, and basically head of everything at that time.
When I met with Gianni he actually offered to switch the Minis for Fiats, and he said you can have as many as you want and various monies and other things. But he understood perfectly well when he read the script why it couldn’t be that way.