It was an era of epics as Hollywood utilised widescreen techniques to compete with the growing threat of television, and Tolstoy's 1869 literary masterpiece War and Peace was the ultimate epic, set against the Napoleonic invasion of Russia. The naïve, waif-like heroine Natasha Rostov could have been written for Audrey Hepburn - producers Carlo Ponti and Dino De Laurentis secured her for the role by shrewdly offering the part of love interest Prince Andrei to her husband Mel Ferrer, with Henry Fonda as hero Pierre and King Vidor to direct. The lavish production, shot at Rome's Cinecitta' Studios, required eight scriptwriters, 15,000 Italian soldiers, 8,000 horses, 3,000 cannons, 5,000 rifles and 7,000 costumes. Although the resulting three hour spectacular received positive reviews overall, the $6 million production was not a financial success. The New York Herald Tribune declared Audrey's Natasha the best feminine performance of the year. Director Vidor agreed, insisting One thing is for certain, Audrey is Natasha. She is fresh out of the book. I know of no other actress who could have played that part.