20 Epic Facts About “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy

Rebecca Pahle and Mental_Floss present 20 Epic Facts About The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  Here are three of my favorites

2. SEAN CONNERY DIDN’T UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPT.
Sean Connery read for the role of Gandalf but admitted that, “I never understood it. I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don’t understand it … I would be interested in doing something that I didn’t fully understand, but not for 18 months.” Connery’s deal, if he had taken the role, would have been for a small fee plus 15 percent of the films’ income. Incidentally, the entire trilogy went on to earn just shy of $3 billion worldwide.

7. VIN DIESEL, LIAM NEESON, AND UMA THURMAN WERE UP FOR ROLES.
Among other could-have-beens in the casting department: Vin Diesel auditioned for Aragorn; Jackson called his performance “very compelling” but said that it didn’t “feel like Aragorn.” Jackson approached Richard O’Brien, best known as Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which he also wrote), for the role of Gríma Wormtongue, but his agents turned it down, believing the films would be unsuccessful. Liam Neeson passed on the role of Boromir.

There were also “discussions,” recalls Jackson, about then-married couple Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman playing Faramir and Éowyn; “Ethan was a huge fan of the books and was very keen to be involved. Uma was less sure and rightly so, because we were revising how we saw Éowyn’s character literally as we went. In the end, Ethan let it go—with some reluctance.”

5. VIGGO MORTENSEN TOOK SEVERAL BEATINGS.
A variety of injuries beset the cast during production, but Mortensen had it particularly hard: inThe Two Towers, that scream he let out upon kicking a helmet after discovering the burnt corpses of the Orcs who abducted Merry and Pippin might have something to do with the fact that he had just broken two of his toes. “Normally, an actor would yell ‘Ow!’ if they hurt themselves,” noted Jackson. “Viggo turned a broken toe into a performance.” Elijah Wood remembers Mortensen “getting half of his tooth knocked out during a fight sequence, and his insistence on applying superglue to put it back in to keep working.”

Joe Lansdale’s “Hap & Leonard” Trailer and More!

Hap and Leonard is a new series coming to the Sundance Channel.

Based on the novels by Joe Lansdale, Hap and Leonard stars James Purefoy (The Following), Michael Kenneth WIlliams (Boardwalk Empire) and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men).

The Wrap has some exclusive photos and The Sundance Channel has a trailer and more.

Z-View: “In Cold Blood”

In Cold Blood (1967)

Director: Richard Brooks

Screenplay: Richard Brooks (based on Truman Capote’s book of the same name)

Stars: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson and John Forsythe

The Pitch: “Let’s make a movie based on the best-selling book In Cold Blood!”

The Tagline: “Written for the screen and directed by Richard Brooks.”

 

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Dick Hickcock [Scott Wilsion] and Perry Smith [Robert Blake Perry] have a plan to steal $10,000 cash from a rich farmer’s safe and then high-tail it to Mexico where they will live out their days safe from extradition.  The two ex-cons violate their parole and drive through the night to Holcomb, Kansas where according to one of Hickcock’s past cellmates, a fortune sits in the Cutter safe.

 The only thing Hickcock and Smith find at the Cutter house are Mr. Cutter, Mrs. Cutter and their two teenage children.  Hickcock and Smith place the family members in separate rooms, tie them up and search for the safe.  There is no safe, no fortune and just a little over forty dollars in cash in the house. Hickcock and Smith brutally kill the Cutter family and then head back towards Kansas City.

The discovery that the Cutter family was brutally murdered makes national news and as the investigation grows, Hickcock and Smith decide to head to Mexico.  They pass bad checks, pawn the items they buy and use the money to get across the border.  It isn’t long before they’re low on cash and decide to go to Vegas to raise more. In Vegas  Hickcock and Smith are picked up on a parole violation.

The cops interrogate them separately.  Neither admits to knowing anything about the Cutter family murders.  As the evidence begins to pile up, Hickcock suddenly tries to pin the murders on SmithSmith then turns on Hickcock and the case is made.  A trial, a death sentence and the gallows are all that Hickcock and Smith have left to look forward to.  Sadly, one is left with the feeling that either man alone would not have committed the murders.

Wilson (probably best known to folks as Hershel from The Walking Dead) and Blake (probably best known as the crazy old celebrity acquitted of killing his second wife in 2005) are excellent as the leads.  Robert Brooks deserves kudos for his screenplay and direction.

Watch for cameos by: Will Geer [Grandpa from The Waltons] and music by Quincy Jones!

Award Nominations:

Academy Awards –

  • Best Director
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Original Music Score
  • Best Adapted Screenplay

Rating:

Z-View: “Anatomy of a Murder”

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Director: Otto Preminger

Screenplay: Wendell Mayes, John D. Voelker (based on his novel written as Robert Traver)

Stars: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazarra, Arthur O’Connell and George C. Scott

The Pitch: “Let’s make a movie based on the best-selling novel Anatomy of a Murder!”

The Tagline: “Last year’s No.1 best-seller … This year’s No.1 motion picture.”

 

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Stewart plays small town attorney Paul Biegler who’d rather be fishing than practicing law.  Biegler’s mentor is Parnell McCarthy (Arthur O’Connell) who’d rather be boozing it up than just about anything.  When Biegler is offered the chance to defend Fredrick Manion (Ben Gazara), against a murder charge, he sees it as a way to get McCarthy off the booze.  Manion is a soldier accused of murdering the man who raped his wife (Lee Remick).

We spend the first part of the movie learning about the case.

Biegler meets Manion, a quick-tempered, hard-to-like soldier who admits to killing the man who raped his wife about an hour after finding out about it.  This wasn’t a heat of the moment murder.  After meeting Manion’s wife who is sporting a beat-up face and a casual attitude, Biegler finds himself in a case where nothing is clear cut.

Manion is a jealous, thuggish man who likes his wife to dress provocatively and then gets jealous when men give her attention.  Laura Manion likes men, booze and fun.  Being married doesn’t stop her from having a good time where she can find it.  She married Manion three days after divorcing her first husband and admits that Manion was the reason for the divorce.

Was Laura raped?  She was beat-up, but did that happen during the rape or when he husband found out she had been with another man.  The clinical evidence is inconclusive.  Something happened but under what circumstances?

The second part of the movie takes us into the courtroom for one of the best courtroom dramas ever filmed.

The acting across the board is excellent.  Stewart (Best Actor), O’Connell (Best Supporting Actor) and Scott (Best Supporting Actor) were all nominated for Academy Awards.  I’m surprised Lee Remick wasn’t as well, because she is that good.  The film went on to be nominated for seven Oscars as well as other honors.

To the movie’s credit, the jury comes back with a verdict, but knowing the evidence of the case and the things that we see that the jury doesn’t, the audience may come away with a different verdict.  At the very least, there is room for discussion.

The last scene is a treat and adds another layer to the puzzle.

Watch for cameos by: Howard McNear [Floyd the Barber from The Andy Griffith Show] and Duke Ellington!

Awards Won:

New York Film Critics Circle Awards –

  • Best Actor, James Stewart
  • Best Screenplay, Wendell Mayes; 1959.

Venice International Film Festival –  

  • Volpi Cup
  • Best Actor, James Stewart; 1959.

Grammy Awards –

  • Best Performance by a Dance Band
  • Best Musical Composition First Recorded and Released in 1959
  • Best Sound Track Album.

Producers Guild of America Awards –  

  • Top Drama
  • Top Male Dramatic Performance, James Stewart
  • Top Male Supporting Performance, Arthur O’Connell; 1960.

 

Award Nominations:

Academy Awards –

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role: James Stewart
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Arthur O’Connell
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: George C. Scott
  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White: Sam Leavitt
  • Best Film Editing: Louis R. Loeffler
  • Best Picture: Otto Preminger
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium: Wendell Mayes; 1960

British Academy Film Awards –

  • Best Film from any Source Otto Preminger, USA
  • Best Foreign Actor James Stewart, USA
  • Most Promising Newcomer Joseph N. Welch, USA; 1960.

Directors Guild of America Awards –

  • DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film, Otto Preminger; 1960.

Golden Globe Awards –

  • Best Motion Picture – Drama
  • Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture – Drama: Lee Remick
  • Best Director – Motion Picture: Otto Preminger
  • Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture: Joseph N. Welch; 1960.

Rating:

13 Spirited Facts About “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

Andrew N. Wong and Mental_Floss present 13 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Here are three of my favorites

4. ITS BUDGET WAS MASSIVE.

Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).

8. CHUCK JONES HAD TO FIND WAYS TO FILL OUT THE 26-MINUTE TIME SLOT.

Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.

7. THURL RAVENSCROFT DIDN’T RECEIVE CREDIT FOR HIS SINGING OF  “YOU’RE A MEAN ONE, MR. GRINCH.”

The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

Z-View: “The Wiz Live”

The Wiz Live  [2015]
Director: Kenny Leon
Based on the play The Wiz by William F. Brown
Starring: Shanice Williams, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo and David Allan Grier.

The Pitch: We need a new musical to do live on tv…. Hey, let’s do The Wiz!

The Tagline: “Ease on down the road to Oz!”

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Everyone knows the story of The Wizard of Oz.  This is an adaptation of that story.  Actually, this version is an adaptation of an adaptation of The Wizard of  Oz.

The Wiz first appeared as a Broadway play in 1975.  Then in 1978, The Wiz turned up in theaters as a movie starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson directed by Sidney Lumet.

This version was broadcast live with Shanice Williams as Dorothy, Elijah Kelley as the Scarecrow, Ne-Yo as the Tin Man and David Allan Grier as the Cowardly LionQueen Latifah plays the Wizard and there are appearances by Common, Mary J. Blige and Stephanie Mills.

I enjoyed The Wiz.  The cast was excellent and special mention to David Allan Grier as the Cowardly Lion and Elijah Kelley as the Tin Man for their performances.  Stand out scenes include Dorothy meeting the Scarecrow [loved the crows], when our group on the way to Oz come across the poppies, and the Lion singing “I’m a Mean ole Lion.”

If I were to pick nits:  I wish the show had been presented before a live audience.  I think it would have enhanced the viewing experience.  I was a bit let down by the tornado sequence, the creatures sent by the Wicked Witch to collect Dorothy and some of story shortcuts.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Wiz Live.  It was a fine way to spend a couple of hours in Oz.

Rating:

9 Little Known Facts About Mark Twain

Hayley Igarashi and Good Reads present 9 Little Known Facts About Mark Twain.  Here are three of my favorites

1. At the peak of his fame, a letter addressed to “Mark Twain, God Knows Where” was actually delivered.
This was not an isolated occurrence. Other successfully delivered letters were addressed to “Mark Twain, Somewhere,” “Mark Twain, c/o President Roosevelt. The White House,” and “Mark Twain, Somewhere, (Try Satan).”

3. In another world, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer might’ve been written by Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.
Most people know Mark Twain is the pen name of Samuel Clemens, but did you know about the author’s other pseudonyms? He also tried out the pen names W. Epaminondas Adrastus Perkins, Sergeant Fathom, John Snooks, and Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.

6. Nikola Tesla and Twain became friends because of a very effective electrical charge.
Few friendships have been forged under more unusual circumstances. Desperate to find a cure for his constipation, Twain visited one of Nikola Tesla’s salons, where the scientist conducted some of his more outlandish experiments. One electrical charge and a few x-rays later, Twain was cured. The two men remained friends for the rest of their lives.

18 Epic Facts About “Dances with Wolves”

Jeff Wells and Mental_Floss present 18 Epic Facts About Dances with Wolves.  Here are three of my favorites

1. IT STARTED AS A NOVEL THAT NOBODY WANTED TO PUBLISH.
Inspired by books he’d read about the Plains Indians, screenwriter Michael Blake (who died earlier this year) pitched Costner on the idea for Dances with Wolves. Costner told Blake, whom he’d met in a Los Angeles acting class, to write a novel instead of a screenplay, reasoning that a novel could generate studio interest more effectively than a cold script. So Blake spent months writing and sleeping on friends’s couches (including Costner’s). “I wrote the entire book in my car, really,” Blake said in a behind-the-scenes feature. Once finished, Blake submitted Dances with Wolves, to numerous publishers, all of whom passed on his manuscript. Finally, after more than 30 rejections, a small publisher called Fawcett accepted it.

2. IT BECAME THE FILM THAT NO STUDIO WANTED TO FINANCE.
Turned down by American studios, Costner looked abroad for help, eventually securing startup funds from a handful of foreign investors. With only a fraction of the movie’s $15 million budget secured, he began filming. Orion Pictures eventually stepped in with $10 million, but Dances with Wolves ended up going more than $3 million over budget. Costner covered the overage out of his own pocket.

18. THERE’S A SEQUEL.
A sequel to the book, that is. In 2001, Blake published The Holy Road, which continues the story of John Dunbar, now a full-fledged Sioux warrior, as he tries to protect his tribe from encroachment by white settlers. Critics praised the novel for the ways it portrayed westward expansion and the plight of Native Americans without coming off heavy-handed. There have been rumblings about a possible miniseries, but nothing is confirmed at this time.

12 Smooth Facts About “The Hustler”

Eric D. Snider and Mental_Floss present 12 Smooth Facts About The Hustler  Here are three of my favorites

2. JACKIE GLEASON DID HIS OWN TRICK SHOTS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
The comedian, best known for playing working-class loudmouth Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners (which he created), had grown up in Brooklyn. Like Rossen, Gleason mixed it up with neighborhood toughs and got to be a pretty good pool hustler. He required no assistance for his trick shots in the film, and Rossen always positioned the camera so we’d be able to see that for ourselves.

4. THERE WAS A REAL MINNESOTA FATS … BUT ONLY BECAUSE A GUY STARTED CALLING HIMSELF THAT AFTER THE MOVIE.
When the movie came out, Rudolf Wanderone was up there with Willie Mosconi as one of America’s best pool players. A hefty gentleman, Wanderone had several nicknames, including Double-Smart, New York Fats, and Chicago Fats. There was no Minnesota Fats; The Hustlernovelist Walter Tevis had made the character up. But in a promotional interview for the movie, Mosconi said Wanderone had been Tevis’s inspiration (which Tevis denied for the rest of his life, adamantly and with great annoyance). Wanderone seized the opportunity, perhaps flattering himself into thinking Tevis really had had him in mind. He embraced the nickname and declared himself the real Minnesota Fats for the rest of his career.

7. THE MOVIE ISN’T VERY LONG, BUT IT WAS WIDER THAN USUAL.
The Hustler was shot in Cinemascope, the widescreen technique that had been in use since 1953. But it was mainly used for lavish epics and colorful musicals, not black-and-white dramas set in dingy pool halls. Yet as film critic Michael Wood pointed out, Rossen used Cinemascope “to create an oppressive, elongated world in which ceilings always seem terribly low; and people terribly separate from each other; in one shot Newman is even separated from his own image in a mirror by the whole width of a very wide screen. It is a world in which the pool table seems the one natural shape, while human beings seem untidy intruders.” Neat, huh?

13 Judicious Facts About “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Eric D. Snider and Mental_Floss present 13 Judicious Facts About To Kill a Mockingbird Here are three of my favorites

1. ROCK HUDSON ALMOST PLAYED ATTICUS FINCH.
Universal Pictures offered the role to Rock Hudson when the project was first being developed, and the actor was prepared to take it. Things stalled, however, when the film’s producer, Alan J. Pakula, wanted an even bigger star: Gregory Peck. Universal basically said, “Well, sure! If you can get Gregory Peck, we’ll not only agree to it, we’ll finance the movie!” And that’s what happened. Sorry, Rock.

3. GREGORY PECK WANTED TO CHANGE THE TITLE.
He wasn’t the only person who felt the phrase “to kill a mockingbird” didn’t accurately reflect the content of the story. He was the most influential, though, and he pushed for a change before he’d even read the screenplay. Lee’s literary agent, Annie Laurie Williams, was furious at the suggestion, and wrote to the publisher (who naturally wanted the bestselling book’s title to carry over) to assure him that Peck “has been signed to play the part of Atticus, but has no right to say what the title of the picture will be.” Mulligan and Pakula publicly stated that the title would remain intact, and Peck dropped the subject.

8. THERE’S A REASON THE MOVIE FOCUSES MORE ON ATTICUS THAN THE BOOK DOES, AND THAT REASON IS NAMED GREGORY PECK.
After seeing a rough cut of the film early in the summer of 1962, Peck sent a memo to his agent and to Universal execs listing 44 problems he had with it. What it boiled down to was that the children had too much screen time, Atticus not enough. “Atticus has no chance to emerge as courageous or strong,” Peck wrote. He said in a later memo, “In my opinion, the picture will begin to look better as Atticus’ story line emerges, and the children’s scenes are cut down to proportion.” Universal wanted the star to be happy, but Mulligan and Pakula’s contract had stipulated they’d get final cut. Still, they made more changes to appease Peck, deleting some of the children’s scenes in favor of Peck’s. In the end, the trial occupies some 30 percent of the film, despite being only about 15 percent of the book

1 2 3 22