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The story was adapted by James Clavell, W.R. Burnett, and Walter Newman from Paul Brickhill's book The Great Escape. Brickhill had been a prisoner at Stalag Luft III during World War II.

The screenwriters increased the importance of the roles of American POWs; their role was minor and the escape was a largely British affair.[1] While Americans in the POW camp helped build the tunnels and worked on the early escape plans, they were separated from the Europeans before the tunnels could be completed. Fictional elements were added, such as Hilts's dash for the border by motorcycle. This was done at the request of McQueen, who did the stunt riding himself except for the final jump.[citation needed]

Ex-POWs asked filmmakers to exclude details about the help the POWs received from their home countries, such as maps, papers, and tools hidden in gift packages, lest it jeopardize future POW escapes. The filmmakers complied.[2]

[edit] Casting

Steve McQueen with Wally Floody, a former POW who was part of the real Great Escape plan and acted as technical advisor on the film.

Steve McQueen's Virgil Hilts, "remains one of the film's most enduring characters, his cooler king having become an icon of cool who continues to inform popular culture."[citation needed] Critic Leonard Maltin wrote that "the large, international cast is superb, but the standout is McQueen; it's easy to see why this cemented his status as a superstar."[3]

Richard Attenborough was cast as Sq Ldr Roger Bartlett RAF ("Big X"), a character based on Roger Bushell, the South Africa-born British POW who was the mastermind of the real Great Escape.[4] Flt Lt Colin Blythe RAF ("The Forger") was based on Tim Walenn and played by Donald Pleasence.[5] Pleasence himself had served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. He was shot down and spent a year in German prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft 1.

James Garner had been a soldier in the Korean War and was twice wounded. He was a scrounger during that time, as is his character Flt Lt Hendley.[6]

Hannes Messemer was cast as the Kommandant of Stalag Luft III, "Colonel von Luger," a character based on Oberst Friedrich Wilhelm von Lindeiner-Wildau.[7]

Angus Lennie's Flying Officer Archibald Ives, "The Mole", was based on Jimmy Kiddel, who was shot dead while trying to scale the fence.[8]

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Quick Tip by . August 24, 2010
This is probably my favourite WWII movie, one of the main reasons that I love it is because it's one of the only films which shows a realistic viewpoint of both sides. It made me want to go and learn more about the different organisations, and I think that any film that continues to impact you outside of its runtime is a winner.
review by . September 05, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
For whatever reasons, this immensely popular film did not receive the critical praise it deserved when it was first released in 1963. Before seeing it again recently, I obtained an abundance of information from the Rob Davis Web site about the historical circumstances on which Paul Brickhill's novel (1950) and then this film are based. Specifically, when 76 Allied airmen on March 24 and 25, 1944, completed a "great escape" from Stalag Luft III, located in Sagan about 100 miles southeast of Berlin. …
review by . August 04, 2001
posted in Movie Hype
I would be hard pressed to name a bad thing about this movie. Even the musical score is awesome. The "A" list stars from McQueen to Bronson and all the ones in between earn their "A" in this film.Each step of the way you have the tension of the moment, the plan, the prep, the attempt, the triumphs and losses of the process. All keep you at the edge of your seat.It is a moving movie with moving lessions. A good movie to teach kids what people fight for. If you have kids who are 15 or less watch this …
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