Ann-Margret Got 27 Stitches While Working on The Who’s ‘Tommy’

The Who’s Tommy is one of the most famous classic rock musicals of all time. It’s also one of Ann-Margret’s more famous movies. However, one scene of Tommy took a toll on her. Here’s why she had to get 27 stitches during the making of the film.

Ann-Margret on a bed
Ann-Margret | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

How Ann-Margret felt about working with the notorious director of The Who’s ‘Tommy’

Ann-Margret is perhaps most known for her work on two light, frothy musicals from the 1960s: Bye Bye Birdie and Viva Las Vegas. However, in the 1970s, she appeared in Tommy, a darker musical based on The Who’s concept album of the same name. In the film, Ann-Margret plays Nora, the mother of the title character.

Speaking with Interview Magazine, Ann-Margret said she worked hard on the film, sometimes working seven days a week. In addition, she learned all of the songs from the album to make the film — even learning how to read sheet music. She found director Ken Russell to be very kind and normal — despite all the nasty things she heard about him.

Ken Russell, the director of The Who's Tommy, with a white backdrop
Ken Russell | Francis DEMANGE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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Why Ann-Margret got blood all over her during one scene

Although she enjoyed working with Russell, she had a hard time with a scene involving beans. “In the scene, I’m just going crazy and whacking my way through these bubbles, and then suddenly I hit something,” she revealed. “They had taken away all of the glass and the props, but they had forgotten about the glass in the TV set. So I hit that with a thud, and then I start to see pink appearing in the soap bubbles, which resulted in 27 stitches. 

“Then the Lycra catsuit that I was wearing started shrinking, and I had all this blood on me,” she added. “My hair is wet, my mascara is running … They threw a blanket over me and took me to the hospital. The doctor didn’t speak a lot of English—we were at a hospital in an industrial area of London—and he just looked at me like I was an insane person. I had to be back on set the next day, but they just filmed me with my arm under a desk so they couldn’t see the stitches.” During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Ann-Margret said she still enjoyed making the film, opining it was like nothing else in her filmography.

A trailer for Tommy

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How the world reacted to The Who’s ‘Tommy’

While Ann-Margret had some difficulty making Tommy, the film was a resounding success. According to Box Office Mojo, it earned over $34 million, remaining in theaters for 146 weeks. In addition, the movie was a minor critical success. It garnered a 77% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Alongside Pink Floyd – The Wall and The Who’s own Quadraphonia, it remains one of the most famous movies based on an album — even if Ann-Margret suffered during the filming of a scene.

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