Doctor Zhivago is a 1965 British-Italian epic romantic drama movie directed by David Lean. It’s set in Russia between the years prior to World War I and the Russian Civil War of 1917 and 1922, and is based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel of the same name. Take a look below for 30 more fun and interesting facts about Doctor Zhivago.
1. While the original Doctor Zhivago novel was immensely popular in the West, the book was banned in the Soviet Union for decades. Because of this, the movie couldn’t be made in the Soviet Union and was instead filmed mostly in Spain.
2. Contemporary critics were generally disappointed with the movie, complaining of its three hour length, and claiming that it trivialized history, but acknowledging the intensity of the love story and the movie’s treatment of human themes.
3. At the 38th Academy Awards, Doctor Zhivago won five Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
4. Doctor Zhivago won five awards at the 23rd Golden Globe awards including Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama for Omar Sharif.
5. As of 2018, Doctor Zhivago is the eighth highest-grossing movie of all time in the United States and Canada, when adjusted for ticket-prince inflation.
6. The movie was ranked by the American Film Institute in 1998 as the 39th greatest movie on their 100 Years… 100 Movies list, and by the British Film Institute the following year as the 27th greatest British movie of all time.
7. The movie wasn’t shown in Russia until 1994.
8. Omar Sharif shaved off his real hair as it looked too Middle Eastern, and wore a wig to play Zhivago.
9. Omar Sharif had to undergo the daily inconvenience of having his eyes taped back and his hair straightened to disguise his Egyptian looks. He also had his hairline shave up about 2 to 3 inches and his skin waxes, a process which had to be repeated every 3 days.
10. The actor who plays the young Yuri Zhivago at his mother’s funeral is Omar Sharif’s son Tarek Sharif.
11. After Gone with the Wind, Doctor Zhivago is the second most profitable movie in MGM’s history.
12. Omar Sharif asked David Lean to consider him for the role of Pavel Antipov and was surprised when Lean instead offered him the title role.
13. In an interview years after making the movie, Rod Steiger said that he was almost the only American among so many great British Actors. He said, “All I wanted to do was not embarrass myself.”
14. Strelnikov’s armored train was a very accurate replica of actual trains that were used during World War I and World War II to patrol areas with heavy snow that were inaccessible to trucks or tanks.
15. Among its highly diverse international cast, Doctor Zhivago contains almost no Russian actors or even actors of Russia heritage.
16. The inside of the ice palace was mostly made up of specifically formed wax.
17. When asked if he thought that Sarah Miles would make a good choice for the part of Lara, screenwriter Robert Bolt said, “No, she’s just a north country slut.” Bolt would later marry Miles.
18. Not only did the mild winter mean no snow; the fields started turning green too early. The crew used white paint, plaster dust and even white plastic sheets to create many of the movie’s snow-filled vistas.
19. Julie Christie hated having to wear the infamous red dress. Initially, she refused to even put it on until production designer John Box assured her that she looked beautiful in it.
20. The soundtrack sold more than 600,000 copies during the movies initial release.
21. David Lean’s first choice for the title role was Peter O’Toole who declined, citing the grueling experience of having made Lawrence of Arabia with Lean. This created a rift between the two that was never full healed.
22. When David Lean told the studio that he wanted Maurice Jarre to provide the score, he was told, “Maurice is very good on sand, but I’m sure we have someone better on snow.” Jarre, of course, won the Oscar for best original score for Doctor Zhivago.
23. Omar Sharif claimed that he was so close to breakdown throughout most of filming due to stress over playing such a high-profile role and David Lean’s demands on him.
24. Even though Maurice Jarre’s score is probably the best remembered feature of the movie, David Lean himself wasn’t a fan of it, considering it to be overly romantic.
25. Producer Carlo Ponti originally bought the rights to the novel so that he could cast his wife, Sophia Loren, in the role of Lara. However, David Lean didn’t want to use Loren, claiming that she was too tall for the role.
26. Geraldine Chaplin modeled her performance of Tonya on her own mother, Oona Chaplin.
27. Over 4,000 daffodils were imported from the Netherlands and placed on the outskirts of the mountain town of Soria, where Zhivago’s father-in-law’s country estate was located.
28. David Lean wanted Audrey Hepburn to play Tonya, but was so impressed by Geraldine Chaplin’s audition that he cast her on the spot.
29. A ten acre replica of Moscow was built in Canillas, a suburb of Madrid. It included a cobbled 800 yard street with trolley cars, a train viaduct, a replica of the Kremlin and 60 shops and houses circling a giant plaza.
30. Zhivago’s and Lara’s first lines of dialogue with each other don’t happen until 1 hour and 21 minutes into the movie.