‘Ingrid Bergman fancied me but Lauren Bacall scared me’ admits co-star

Watch the trailer for Cactus Flower

Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman were two of the Hollywood Golden Age’s most famous leading ladies. During the 1960s, when both were in their middle age, they ended up playing the same part in the farce Cactus Flower. Bacall starred as Stephanie Dickinson, the dentist’s spinster assistant, in the 1965 Broadway show version. During the production, a young up-and-comer called Rick Lenz was the understudy for the part of Igor Sullivan. When the main actor in the role moved on he, had a chance to audition for the part and luckily charmed Bacall into helping him secure the role. Although he admits he was pretty frightened of her.

Speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk, Rick shared: “When I was doing Cactus Flower on the stage with Lauren Bacal, I was always a little afraid of her. I never knew exactly why.” And when they were reunited in John Wayne’s final movie The Shootist a decade later, the actress told Duke that she’d discovered him. The gruff old star replied, “Aw, shut up a Betty”, which Rick puts down to his poor health on set.

Yet despite Bacall’s critically acclaimed performance in Cactus Flower, she was furious when producer MJ Frankovich cast Ingrid Bergman instead of her in the 1969 film version since she was 10 years older than her. Lucky for Rick though, he bagged the Igor part opposite the older woman who he soon fell for.

Cactus Flower was Bergman’s first time on a Hollywood soundstage since the 1940s and she was just as taken with Rick, who was much younger than her. Her co-star told us: “Even though she was twenty years older than I was, I had a crush on her—I knew it was silly. She was a beautiful movie star, already a legend. I was lucky to have my role.

“I played the same intimate scene with her that I had with Bacall on stage. We danced in the scene. My character, Igor, says something about her being a sexy lady. She says, ‘An old sexy lady.’ I say, ‘Good, let’s run away and live on your Social Security.’

“Lauren Bacall had liked me in the role, but Ingrid liked me personally. You can tell these things. Sometimes. We talked for hours during the times Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn were doing their scenes and while we were learning our dance number for the final nightclub sequence. I guess I thought it was probably kind of a mother thing she felt toward me, but I was extremely flattered that she was interested in me.”

Rick continued: “Then I read a little and found out that she’d had relationships with several of her leading men. It was obvious she wasn’t attracted to Walter Matthau in that way. And then I began to feel that maybe it was more than just a mother thing. She spent more of her off-camera time with me than with anyone else on the film. There was no doubt about it; Ingrid Bergman had a crush on me.

“After we wrapped, the next time I saw her was at the New York premiere several months later. I came down the aisle, spotted her and grinned, “Hi, Ingrid.” She looked into my eyes, searching, then said, “Hi, Nick.”

Rick Lenz’s new novel A Town Called Why is out now and more information can be found here.

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