'Hot' memories drive Tony Curtis' new book

For screen legend Tony Curtis, making his signature film, the cross-dressing comedy "Some Like It Hot," was anything but a drag.

The behind-the-scenes antics of the Billy Wilder classic were filled with enough laughs, drama, sex (co-star Marilyn Monroe invited Curtis to her hotel room one night) and mystery (all those rumors that Curtis was the father of Monroe's unborn child) for a whole other movie.

Instead, they're the page-turning material for Curtis' new book, "The Making of 'Some Like It Hot'" (Wiley), written with Mark A. Vieira, which arrives just in time for the movie's golden anniversary. The Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, N.Y., also is getting in on the celebration Friday with a 50th-anniversary screening of the movie. But the star attraction will be Curtis, 84, who will answer fans' questions and sign copies of his book.

Next week, he'll serve as grand marshal at the Veteran's Day Parade in Manhattan. We recently spoke by phone with Curtis from his home in Las Vegas.

Since this all happened 50 years ago, did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

I could remember all of the things that happened; I didn't have to research anything. I had the guy who helped me write it. He would ask me questions, and I would tell him.

Originally, Frank Sinatra and Mitzi Gaynor were supposed to be in the movie. I can't picture Frank Sinatra dressed up as a woman.

I didn't see it, either. Billy Wilder didn't think so, either, after thinking about it. ... For Jack (Lemmon) and me to dress up like girls was really an intriguing experience. There'd been some earlier movies where guys dressed up like girls, but never to the extent that we did. We had a wonderful time together, Jack and me. Marilyn was a lot of trouble. She didn't come to work some days. Other days that she did, she didn't know her lines. There was a lot of trouble going on with Marilyn. She had lost a lot of her intensity about working in movies. And she never recovered from that, did she?

How difficult was it for you to get around in women's clothes and walk in high heels?

Billy Wilder had hired a couple of female impersonators, and they came in and showed us how to walk and tighten our bottoms, how to keep our arms elevated, how to carry ourselves, how to walk in 3-inch heels. We learned, and it worked out perfect. Or as well as we thought.

Seeing the movie, how did you think you looked as a woman?

I wasn't fully satisfied with my female attributes. I didn't wiggle my bottom enough, and there was something about my shoulders. They were a little bigger than I would have liked to have seen them as a girl. And my bosoms, we had them padded up with a lot of Kleenex or cotton or whatever they used. But it was a lot of fun doing it. I thought of myself as a little bit of Grace Kelly and a little bit of my mother.

You did a Cary Grant impersonation when you pretended to be the millionaire. What did Cary Grant think of it?

When the picture was over, Billy Wilder ran it for Cary Grant, and Billy said, "How did you like the impression Tony did of you?" and Cary said, "I don't talk like that." ... When we were making "Operation Petticoat," Cary Grant mentioned it. He was happy I had done it. He never was upset or disturbed by it, so that made me feel good.

Jack Lemmon got nominated for an Academy Award for the film. Were you surprised when you didn't get nominated?

I wasn't surprised - I was (ticked) off. I felt really bad. I couldn't understand why. It was such an outrage to me. When I did "The Defiant Ones," Sidney Poitier and I were nominated for the Academy Award. I said at that time, if one of us won, we'd have to cut the statue in half. And with my luck, I would get the part that eats.

In the book, you spend quite a lot of time talking about Marilyn's pregnancy. Did you think about what would happen if Marilyn had the baby?

I don't know anything about Marilyn's life at that point. Who she was going with. What she was doing. I certainly didn't consider myself the father of any child she was having. It's simple and uncomplicated.