William Friedkin: “I had seen The Wages of Fear and I thought it was a great film. It was really a theme about brotherhood. You had four guys, total strangers to each other, hated each other, and had to cooperate with one another or die. Make a last stand together or die. And I thought that this was really a metaphor for the world, for all the various nations of people who hated each other, yet had to find a way to live together, or perish. This theme should be continuously revived and presented to an audience. So I didn’t want to remake Wages. I wanted to take that theme and do a new version with my own kind of spin on it that was based on the Georges Arnaud novel. I just thought it was another interpretation of a great classic. At one time I had Steve McQueen, who wanted to do it. He read the script, by Walon Green and I, loved it, thought it was one of the best scripts he’d ever read. He asked where were we gonna shoot it. I said ‘I don’t know. Mexico, the Dominican Republic…’ He didn’t want to leave the country, thought we should shoot it here. He was just starting his relationship with Ali MacGraw and didn’t want to be away from her, so he said ‘Why don’t you write something for her.’ I said ‘You just told me it was one of the best scripts you ever read, now you want me to put a whole new character in there for her?’ ‘Well, make her associate producer or something.’ I said ‘Ah Steve, fuck off!’ One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made. I wasn’t thinking of the importance of the close-up verses the wide shot. The most beautiful location in the world doesn’t mean shit next to Steve McQueen’s face. I didn’t know that then, but I certainly do now and I just let it slide with Steve. And Roy Scheider is terrific in the film, just wonderful, but Steve…just had the whole baggage he brought with it. And there were other actors I had who would’ve done it with Steve, like Lino Ventura and Marcello Mastroianni would’ve done the film with him. That’s the cast I had if I could’ve gotten Steve. I said ‘I don’t need stars; I’ll just make it with four good actors.’ And I did.”
Hollywood Flashback interview, 1997.