Film producer Michael Deeley tells Jon Perks how the Mini was almost cut from the film The Italian Job.

It was the film that made it a Sixties icon – but the Midlands-built Mini was almost cut from The Italian Job.

Unimaginable though it may seem now, producer Michael Deeley has revealed how he turned down a Ferrari and thousands of dollars to replace the Mini with a fleet of its Italian rival, the Fiat 500.

The 72-year-old, who visits Birmingham to promote his autobiography, Blade Runners, Deer Hunters & Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: My Life in Cult Movies, recalls how they had to buy every one of the 30-plus Mini Coopers used in the 1969 cult classic – while Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli offered to supply his fleet of Fiats and Lancias for free.

“The only cars that cost us any money were the Minis; the British Motor Corporation only agreed to sell us three Minis at trade price and the other 30-odd we bought,” said Deeley.

 “You would think that this had to be a major commercial for a product, but the BMC didn’t see it.?“I’ll tell you about product placement; if I would switch from Minis to Fiat 500s – they were Abarth souped-up models – Agnelli offered me every car for free, other Fiat cars we needed with drivers for free, he offered me a Ferrari and $50,000 towards the picture.

Now that’s product placement.

The difference between Agnelli and BMC is extraordinary.?“I couldn’t do it; the whole point about this movie was it was ‘us’ against ‘them’,” he added.?

“Even though I couldn’t do that, Agnelli still gave us awesome co-operation,” said Deeley, who appears at a Producers’ Forum evening tonight (December 5) at The Electric Cinema, which includes a book signing and screening of The Italian Job.?

“We shot a lot of stuff around his factory and testing tracks like that jump across the rooftops, and he gave us all those old Lancias to smash up, he was brilliant.

“He just gave us the town; nobody had ever shot a movie in Turin before so it was really quite original. You always want to go to places which are managed by dictatorships or are virgin and never had the misery of having a movie coming in there!”?

The Italian Job, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2009, starred Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill in a story of a gang of likeable British crooks who travel to Turin to steal $4 million of gold bullion.?

Filmed on location in the Italian city, the Alps, London and Coventry (where the famous sewer scene was shot), it is one of the many highlights on Deeley’s impressive CV, which also includes The Deer Hunter, Blade Runner, Murphy’s War and The Man Who Fell To Earth.?

Producers’ Forum Manager Laura Breakwell said: “It’s fantastic that we will be welcoming one of Britain’s most successful producers to Birmingham.

"This is a great opportunity for anyone working in film in the region to hear from a leading producer whose experience spans decades and a range of classic films.”??

To book tickets call the Electric Cinema box office on 0121 643 7879 (£10/£8 to Producers’ Forum members). ?The evening starts at 6pm.?