The film version was originally going to be directed by Roman Polanski for United Artists in 1969, with Polanski writing the script. However, while Polanski was in London, England, looking for filming locations in August 1969, his pregnant wife, the actress Sharon Tate, was murdered in their Beverly Hills home by disciples of Charles Manson. Polanski returned to the United States and abandoned the project.
Merle's novel, a satire of the Cold War, is supposedly the basis for this film, but the film's plot was substantially different from that of the novel. The movie is instead inspired in part from the scientist John C. Lilly's life. A physician, biophysicist, neuroscientist, and inventor, Lilly specialized in the study of consciousness. In 1959, he founded the Communications Research Institute at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and served as its director until 1968. There he worked with dolphins exploring dolphin intelligence and human-dolphin communication.
Mike Nichols the director of 'The Day of the Dolphin' and Charles Manson would both pass away on November 19th, but three years apart.
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Buck Henry wrote the screen adaption of 'The Day of the Dolphin' and starred in 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' a few years later with David Bowie -Buck Henry Dies on David Bowie's Birthday ... Ain't Life Funny?