Dr. Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove Cast List

Peter Sellers

Peter Sellers plays three roles in Dr. Strangelove. He first worked with Kubrick in the director's previous film, Lolita, and his talent as an actor impressed Kubrick so much that Kubrick gave him freedom to ad lib widely. In Dr. Strangelove, his working relationship with Kubrick was similar: he was given much leeway to act off-script, and many of his improvisations were retroscripted, or added back into the script for subsequent shoots. He was nominated for the academy award for Best Actor, and the BAFTA for Best British Actor for his roles in Dr. Strangelove. He was originally also cast in the role of Major Kong, but was replaced by Slim Pickens for that part after he sprained his ankle and could no longer work in the cramped set of the B-52. However, he was hesitant about the part of Major Kong from the outset because he worried that four roles might be too large a workload for him, and because he was not confident about performing a Texas accent. It has been suggested that he might have faked the ankle injury to get out of the role.

Sellers was already a famous comedian and actor by the time he worked with Kubrick on Lolita and Dr. Strangelove. He started in the theater and variety show circuit, having come from a family of entertainers. During WWII he served briefly in the Royal Air Force, before joining an entertainment troupe for the British military. After the war, his career began picking up when he created the radio comedy show, The Goon Show. Starting in 1951, it would run for 10 seasons and reach 7 million listeners at its height. His film career took off in the late 1950s, when he starred in Ladykillers, Up the Creek, and I'm All Right Jack, for which he won a BAFTA for Best British Actor. He is most well-known for his role as inspector Jacques Clouseau in the Pink Panther franchise.

Slim Pickens

Slim Pickens was a famous rodeo performer and actor in Westerns, who was reportedly not told that he was in a comedy so that he would play the part “straight.” His real name was Louis Burton Lindley Junior. He was the son of a dairy farmer and got his start as a rodeo performer at local rodeo competitions in California, eventually becoming well-known as a rodeo clown. He enlisted in the army in WWII and spent his enlistment at a radio station in the American Midwest. He continued performing after the war, eventually earning a roll in the Western film Rocky Mountain (1950) with Errol Flynn. He went on to star in several Westerns. He was selected by Kubrick because Kubrick thought his accent and mannerisms were perfect for the part. The part was originally meant for Peter Sellers, who wanted to back out because he worried that four roles was more than he could handle, and did not think he would be able to do the Texas accent. Sellers was removed from the role when he sprained an ankle in the cockpit set, and some have speculated that he faked the injury to get out of his contractual obligation to it. Dr. Strangelove launched Pickens to fame as a capable actor, and he went on to have a long career in film and television throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He is most famous for his roles in Dr. Strangelove and Blazing Saddles (1974). He was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame in 1982.

Sterling Hayden

Sterling Hayden plays Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, the cigar-chomping, communist-hating, trigger-happy head of command at the Burpelson Air Force Base, loosely based on the real US General Curtis LeMay. Hayden got his start as a print model, and then signed a contract with Paramount Pictures. He was successful early on due to his attractive features and height (6 feet 5 inches). He enlisted in the marine corps during WWII under the pseudonym John Hamilton and earned a Silver Star and a Bronze Arrowhead for his service. After the war he returned to Hollywood and joined the Communist party in America. During the Red Scare, he cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee, confessed, and named names of other Hollywood Communists. He would later repudiate his cooperation. His career as a leading man took off when he starred in The Asphalt Jungle (1950), and he went on to play lead roles in many Westerns and films noir. He was nominated for the BAFTA for Best Foreign Actor for his role in Dr. Strangelove. His most famous role after Dr. Strangelove was as Captain McCluskey in Scorcese's The Godfather.

George C. Scott

Turgidson is played by George C Scott, who did not want to play the character as over-the-top as Kubrick wanted. Kubrick tricked Scott into playing it that way by asking him to overact for “practice takes,” but then used many of the practice takes, later prompting Scott to swear never to work with Kubrick again. Scott was most famous for his work on the stage, appearing frequently in Shakespeare plays and on Broadway. He began appearing on several television programs in the early 1960s, including East Side/West Side, which was canceled after one season but earned an Emmy. His performance as Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove was Scott's most successful early role in a film, and he went on to star in several big Hollywood films in the 1960s and 1970s. His most famous role was as General Patton in Patton (1970), for which he earned an Oscar and refused the award. He was the first actor to refuse the award. Over his career, he would be nominated for several BAFTAS and Academy Awards, and was famous for his refusal of such nominations. He believed that each performance by an actor was unique and should not to be compared to other performances, and did not hide his contempt for the Academy Awards as an institution. In the 1980s his film career began to slow down and he appeared mostly in TV shows and made-for-TV movies, but he did earn several nominations and awards for his role as Juror #3 in the 1997 production of 12 Angry Men.

James Earl Jones

Lt. Lothar Zogg, a member of Major Kong's crew, is James Earl Jones’ first role in a theatrical film. He is most well-known for his roles as the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars, the voice of Mufasa in Disney's The Lion King, and Jack Jefferson in The Great White Hope (1970). He got his start on Broadway in 1957, and has had a 60 year career as a stage actor, TV actor, voice actor and film actor. After serving in a training battalion during the Korean War, he studied at the American Theatre Wing, working as a janitor to support himself. He won Tony awards in 1969 and 1987 for his roles in the plays The Great White Hope (which was adapted for film a year later) and Fences, and was famous for his work as a Shakespearean actor in Othello, King Lear, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Hamlet, among others. He has also earned 3 Emmys and a Golden Globe (New Star of the Year), as well as a Screen Actor's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award (2008) and an Academy Honorary Award (2011). He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1985 and awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1992, among several other awards.