Kellerman Remembers M*A*S*H

For Sally Kellerman, M*A*S*H was a dream.

“Working on the set was like going to summer camp.”

The film shot on 20th Century Fox’s Century Ranch in Malibu, and she found herself working with a talented cast and crew at a time when she was ready for her career to take off.

“For someone like me, it was heaven. I was out in the open air, working with a director I now knew to be brilliant.”

Read more of her memories below!


She originally auditioned for the part of Lieutenant Dish. However, director Robert Altman saw her potential and told her that he was going to give her the best part in the movie – Hot Lips. Kellerman, who was hoping for her big break, was surprised, however, to find that the “best part” only had a few lines. Her hesitancy at taking the part subsided though after Altman explained the part more. She never regretted taking the role, and it became a stand-out in her career.


Sally was especially nervous about her nude scene – for obvious reasons. So to be mentally prepared, she decided to try it out and revealed herself to her shrink. His response: “That’s it?” Kellerman wrote in her autobiography, “As long as he didn’t recoil in horror, that was good enough for me.” When the time came to do it for the film, other cast members such as Gary Burghoff and Tamara Wilcox-Smith joined in on the fun by being naked in solidarity or doing goofy bits off camera.


Hot Lips was originally going to leave after her embarrassing shower incident. However, Altman was inspired by Kellerman’s performance and the vulnerability that she brought to the character. As a result, he incorporated her character into additional scenes. One of her favorite moments was the football game. She wrote, “Cheerleading was maybe the most fun I have ever had in my life. I got to be goofy and silly.”


Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould teased Kellerman on the set by inviting her to do something and then pretending they had never made plans. They even pretended to stand her up on her birthday, but then they popped out at the last minute with chocolates. Kellerman wrote, “Six months after the picture wrapped, we had a reunion lunch. We all kissed and made up, joking about how mean they were to me. I think I laughed. Maybe.”

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