It has since been recognised as a cult classic and one of the greatest made-for-television films ever made.
At the time, Spielberg was a young director honing his craft on various television series.
His secretary showed him the script and Spielberg liked what he saw.
Back to the casting.
The plot for Duel revolved around a travelling salesman, driving across America but menaced along the way by a maniacal truck driver.
Dennis Weaver was quickly chosen to play the role of the travelling salesman, David Mann.
The next to be selected was the truck (not the truck driver, whose face was never seen in the movie).
Spielberg was looking a menacing looking truck. He looked at several 1960s and 70s style trucks.
Spielberg wanted a truck that looked both menacing and a little bit human.
He chose a 1955 Peterbilt 281, which was nicknamed the ‘needle nose’.
He felt that the long nose, dual front windows and large headlights gave it something of a face — an almost human look.
For the car, Spielberg was not overly fussed.
He just wanted it to be red so it would stand out in the mainly desert locations.
But he didn’t want the car to be too big, to emphasise the difference in size between the large menacing truck and the smaller friendly car.
The car Spielberg chose was a 1970 Plymouth Valiant with a 318 cubic inch V8.
Because his face wouldn’t be seen, there was no real need to cast the truck driver, although we do catch a glimpse of his boots at one point.
Veteran stuntman, Carey Loftin was chosen to drive the truck. When Loftin asked Spielberg to explain his motivation for harassing the car’s driver, he replied: “You’re a dirty rotten no good son of a bitch”.