Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Penelope Allen
Plot: Based upon a real-life story that happened in the early seventies in which the Chase Manhattan Bank in Gravesend, Brooklyn, was held siege by a gay bank robber determined to steal enough money for his male lover to undergo a sex change operation. Sonny finds that there's actually nothing much to steal, as most of the cash has been picked up for the day. Sonny then gets an unexpected phone call from Police Captain Moretti, who tells him the place is surrounded by the city's entire police force. Having few options under the circumstances, Sonny nervously bargains with Moretti, demanding safe escort to the airport and a plane out of the country in return for the bank employees safety.
The real bank robber (John Wojtowicz) had watched The Godfather (1972) to get ideas the day he robbed the Chase Manhattan bank. Both Al Pacino and John Cazale were in "The Godfather".
Sal at one point berates one of the bank tellers for smoking, saying he doesn't smoke because "I don't want to get the cancer". John Cazale was a heavy smoker who died from lung cancer three years later.
Another notable improvisation in the film was John Cazale's answer to Al Pacino's question of where in the world he'd like to fly to. Pacino's surprised response was absolutely genuine as he had no idea what Cazale was going to say.
John Cazale was cast at Al Pacino's insistence, despite being nowhere the age of the real Sal, who was 18 at the time. Sidney Lumet was opposed to the idea because the actor was clearly inappropriate for the part. However, when Cazale came in to read for the part, Lumet was sold on him within 5 minutes.
During production, Al Pacino reportedly only slept a couple hours a night, ate sparingly, and would sometimes take cold showers; this was in order to emphasize Sonny's disheveled, exhausted and yet wired appearance.
Al Pacino's now legendary shouting to the crowd of "Attica! Attica!" was an improvisation. Pacino credits assistant director Burtt Harris with giving him the idea. Charles Durning's confused reaction was completely natural, as he wasn't sure what his character was supposed to do next.
Penelope Allen, who plays the blonde chief bank teller, was a surrogate mother to Al Pacino. When he first left home in his teens to pursue acting, he lived with Allen and her husband for several years.
In the 1972 "Life" magazine article that inspired the film, P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore describe robber John Wojtowicz as "a dark, thin fellow with the broken-faced good looks of an Al Pacino or a Dustin Hoffman". Al Pacino, of course, played the role based on Wojtowicz, and when he nearly quit the film early on, the role was offered to Dustin Hoffman.
The original working title was "Boys in the Bank." Director Sidney Lumet hated it because he thought it made the film appear to be a "light, fluffy comedy," and he had it changed to "Dog Day Afternoon." He wanted a title that suggested a hot, stuffy day near the end of the summer.
Several people arrived at the bank set and tried to open an account, not realising that it was set.
Over three decades after playing a bank-robbery hostage named Miriam in this film, Marcia Jean Kurtz played a bank-robbery hostage named Miriam in Inside Man (2006).
Right after Sal fires his gun because they think the cops are sneaking in through the back of the bank, Sonny comes outside and gets yelled at by Sergeant Moretti. For this scene, Sidney Lumet told Charles Durning to improvise, and to immediately get Sonny on the defensive. He had three cameras rolling to capture whatever happened; watching the scene, you can feel the spontaneous energy and confusion from both actors. It was an effective use of improvisation
Writer Frank Pierson was unable to personally interview Sonny Wojtowicz because the latter wasn't able to reach an agreement on how much he should be paid for his story.
The bank where the robbery took place was a branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank, at 450 Avenue P on the corner of East 3rd Street, in Gravesend, Brooklyn. It is today the home of the Brooklyn Medical Imaging Center.
Based on the real-life story of John Wojtowicz. On 22 August 1972 he and Salvatore Naturale attempted to rob a branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank on the corner of East Third Street and Avenue P in Brooklyn. They held nine bank employees hostage for over 14 hours. Wojtowicz was trying to get money for his lover, Ernest Aron, to have a sex change operation. Naturale was killed in the standoff and Wojtowicz received 20 years in a federal penitentiary. Wojtowicz was paid $7,500 plus one percent of the net movie profits for the movie rights for his story. He gave $2,500 to Aron to have the operation. Aron had the surgery and changed her name to Liz Eden. She died of AIDS in 1987. Wojtowicz was released from prison after serving 5 years of his 20-year sentence. He died of cancer in 2006.
The phone scene was filmed for a full day without air conditioning to better capture Sonny's fatigue.