13 behind-the-Scenes Facts About Shark Tank

Jake Rossen and Mental_Floss present 13 behind-the-Scenes Facts About Shark Tank.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. CONTESTANTS CAN SPEND OVER AN HOUR IN FRONT OF THE SHARKS.
While product pitches are typically aired in 10-minute segments, business owners are often hashing out details with the Sharks for an hour or more. “The first time, I was in there 45 minutes,” says Aaron Marino, who appeared in a season four episode with his Alpha M image consultation business and will appear a second time in this season’s finale on May 20. “The second time was an hour, hour-and-a-half. When you get into the minutiae of business numbers, they cut a lot of that stuff out.”

8. EVERYONE HAS TO SEE A PSYCHIATRIST.
Once entrepreneurs are done filming, they’re immediately whisked off-set and into a meeting with a show-appointed psychiatrist for an off-air evaluation. “They just want to work through how you’re feeling,” says Bandholz. “I’ve heard from other contestants that they can be devastated by their performance, or by what the appearance might mean for their business. It’s a very intense emotional roller coaster.”

9. MOST OF THE ON-AIR DEALS DON’T GO THROUGH.
While contestants who accept an offer from one or more of the Sharks seem to have it made, it’s little more than a handshake deal. Owing to the due diligence process, Hale estimates that more than two-thirds of deals that are agreed upon in the show fall through. “It’s more like a first date,” he says. “You go back and find things you don’t like. Sometimes the deal terms change.”

16 Things You Might Not Know About Rambo

Sean Hutchinson and Mental_Floss present 16 Things You Might Not Know About Rambo.  Here are three of my favorites…

 4. RAMBO DOESN’T ACTUALLY KILL ANYONE IN THE FIRST MOVIE.
Despite his notorious reputation for shooting first and asking questions later, Rambo doesn’t actually do anyone in in First Blood—he only severely wounds the people trying to hunt and harm him. This was a conscious effort on Stallone’s part in his script to change the character into an underdog from the character in the book who, due to his PTSD, goes on a wild killing rampage, which Stallone felt would alienate the audience.

The one character who does die is Deputy Galt, who tracks Rambo through the mountains in a helicopter. Galt, who attempts to shoot Rambo with a rifle, loses his balance and falls from the helicopter after Rambo merely throws a rock toward it to defend himself.

Like the book, Rambo himself was to die at the end of the movie at the hands of Colonel Trautman. The scene where Rambo is killed was filmed, but was scrapped after test audiences hated the fact that it seemed to imply the only way for veterans returning home to cope was by dying.

5. KIRK DOUGLAS WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY COLONEL TRAUTMAN.
The veteran movie star actually made it to set and appeared in early advertisements for First Blood, but left the production when he demanded the right to rewrite the script. Douglas favored the ending of the book, and felt that Rambo should die in the end. The actor gave the filmmakers an ultimatum: if the production didn’t let him do what he wanted with the script he’d quit. Kotcheff and Stallone wanted to leave the door open for the possibility for Rambo to live or die at the end of the movie, so they let Douglas quit.

Actor Richard Crenna was then cast with a single day’s notice to fill Douglas’ shoes as Rambo’s mentor and father figure, Colonel Trautman. Crenna would reprise his role in two more Rambo movies before he passed away in 2003. He is the only actor besides Stallone to appear in multiple Rambo movies.

The unused alternate ending of First Blood, in which Trautman shoots and kills Rambo, can be seen briefly in the dream sequence in the fourth film, Rambo.

2. HE’S BASED ON A REAL-LIFE WAR HERO.
Morrell first thought of writing a book about a decorated war hero struggling to assimilate back to civilian life when he read about the real-life exploits of World War II soldier Audie Murphy. Murphy was the most decorated American soldier in World War II, earning every possible U.S. military decoration for valor as well as five separate decorations from foreign countries including France and Belgium.

Following the war, Murphy starred as himself in the film adaptation of his own autobiography,To Hell and Back, and would go on to have a film career, appearing in 44 feature films. Murphy—who later suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which also inspired Morrell’s characterization of Rambo—tragically died in a plane crash in 1971. The Canadian-born Morrell decided to update his novel to the post-Vietnam era due to the political and cultural climate he saw as a grad student at Penn State in the late 1960s.

Morrell would go on to write the novelizations of the second and third Rambo movies. Since he had Rambo die at the end of the first book he had to retroactively change that to have his hero alive and well in the subsequent books.

Source: David Morrell.

15 Facts About “Twister”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 15 Facts About Twister.  Here are three of my favorites…

5. BOTH HELEN HUNT AND JAN DE BONT WALKED AWAY FROM OTHER MOVIES TO WORK ON THIS ONE.
Helen Hunt (Dr. Jo Harding) passed up working with John Travolta in John Woo’s Broken Arrow (1996). After more than six months of pre-production, de Bont left his Godzilla (1998 version) directing gig because of studio feuds over the budget and immediately agreed to direct Twister instead.

9. THE TORNADO SOUNDS ARE MADE UP OF VARIOUS ANIMAL NOISES.
According to Variety, an altered recording of a camel’s moan helped create the storm sounds. It was reported elsewhere that a lion’s growl and a tiger’s snarl were remixed as tornado audio.

14. BILL PAXTON THINKS THEY MADE THE “PEPSI LITE” VERSION OF THE MOVIE.
“I’d love to direct a sequel to that movie,” Paxton said. “I’ve always felt like there was a Jaws version of that movie. I always felt like we did the Pepsi Lite version of that movie.”

11 Terrifying Facts About “The Hills Have Eyes”

Matthew Jackson and Mental_Floss present 11 Terrifying Facts About The Hills Have Eyes.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. IT WAS BASED ON A TRUE STORY.
According to writer/director Wes Craven, The Hills Have Eyes was inspired by the story of Sawney Bean, the head of wild Scottish clan who murdered and cannibalized numerous people during the Middle Ages. Craven heard the story of the Bean clan, and noted that the road near where they lived was believed to be haunted because people kept disappearing while traveling on it. He adapted the story to instead be about a group of wild people in the American West, and The Hills Have Eyes was born.

8. MICHAEL BERRYMAN CONSTANTLY FACED HEATSTROKE.1-
Berryman, who became a horror icon thanks to this film, was apparently game for just about anything Craven and company wanted him to do, though he personally told the producers he was born with “26 birth defects.” Among those birth defects was a lack of sweat glands, which meant that the intense desert heat was particularly hazardous to his health. He soldiered on, though, even in intense action sequences.

“We always had to cover him up as soon as we finished these scenes,” Craven recalled.

11. IT STARTED AN INTERESTING CHAIN OF HORROR HOMAGES.
The Hills Have Eyes is admired by fellow horror filmmakers, so much so that one of them—Evil Dead director Sam Raimi—chose to pay homage to it in a strange way. In the scene in which Brenda is quivering in bed after having been brutalized by Pluto and Mars, a ripped poster for Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is visible above her head. Raimi saw it as a message.

“I took it to mean that Wes Craven … was saying ‘Jaws was just pop horror. What I have here isreal horror.’”

As a joking response to the scene, Raimi put a ripped poster for The Hills Have Eyes in his now-classic film The Evil Dead (1981). Not to be outdone, Craven responded by including a clip from The Evil Dead in his classic A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

30 Things We Learned from the “Planet Terror” Commentary

Rob Hunter and Film School Rejects present 30 Things We Learned from the Planet Terror Commentary.  Here are three of my favorites…

7. Bruce Willis enjoyed his time on Sin City so much that he told Rodriguez “any time, any where, I’ll come make anything with you.” The director called his bluff and convinced him to play the bad guy here knowing it would only be two days work. Tarantino visited the set — both to say hi and because he shot some 2nd unit for the film — and was surprised to Willis in costume.

17. Michael Biehn, who plays Sheriff Hague, approached Rodriguez at one point to say he had fired six shots from his revolver and his character would need to reload before firing more. “Don’t worry about it,” replied the director, “it’s not that kind of movie.”
23. The “missing reel” gag was inspired by the time Tarantino screened an Oliver Reed film at an Alamo Drafthouse that was in fact missing a reel. The idea of not knowing what scenes you’re missing appealed to Rodriguez and used it here both as a gag and because his script was already growing too long.

14 Epic Facts About “Gangs of New York”

Eric D. Snider and Mental_Floss present 14 Epic Facts About Gangs of New York.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. IT WAS 32 YEARS IN THE MAKING.
Martin Scorsese read Herbert Asbury’s 1928 nonfiction book The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld in 1970 and immediately thought it would make a good movie. He didn’t have any money or clout yet though, so he had to wait. He bought the movie rights to the book in 1979, and even got a screenplay written around that time, then spent the next 20 years trying to get the project off the ground before finding a willing financial partner in Harvey Weinstein at Miramax Films.

7. SEVERAL CHARACTERS WERE BASED ON REAL PEOPLE.
Bill the Butcher was real, though Scorsese changed his surname from Poole to Cutting for the movie to reflect a creative liberty he’d taken, i.e., having the character live to see the Civil War (he was actually murdered in 1855). William “Boss” Tweed (Jim Broadbent) was a real politician who controlled the Tammany Hall political machine, as you may recall from your high school U.S. history class. So were the Schermerhorns, the rich people seen taking a tour of the misery and vice of Five Points. (Interesting footnote: Scorsese’s fifth wife, whom he married in 1999, is one Helen Schermerhorn Morris, a descendant of early New York elites.) Perhaps most surprisingly, Hell-Cat Maggie (Cara Seymour)—the vicious female fighter who bites off victims’ ears—was fact-based, being a composite of the real Hell-Cat Maggie (her real name is unknown) and a few other historical lady criminals.

13. THERE WERE LONGER CUTS OF THE MOVIE, BUT YOU WON’T SEE THEM.
The first cut, the throw-in-everything-and-see-what-works version, was three hours and 38 minutes, almost an hour longer than the final cut. Scorsese and his longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, tinkered with it relentlessly, ultimately producing 18 different versions that were screened for various audiences. Weinstein, rightfully nicknamed Harvey Scissorhands for his ruthless trimming of the movies he releases, no doubt urged Scorsese toward a shorter runtime, but Scorsese said he’s happy with the one everybody saw, which is two hours and 47 minutes.

“There’s not one version that I would say, ‘That’s my original version,’” Scorsese said on the DVD commentary. They were more like drafts: “This was all a series of changes and rewrites and restructuring, until finally it comes down to the movie you see in the theater.”

10 Towering Facts About “The Iron Giant”

Michele Debczak and Mental_Floss present 10 Towering Facts About The Iron Giant.  Here are three of my favorites…

5. THE TITLE CHARACTER WAS COMPUTER GENERATED.
Despite being considered one of America’s last great traditionally animated films, The Iron Giant’s title character was created entirely with a computer. The creators took careful steps to make sure the Giant blended in seamlessly with the hand-drawn world. They even went so far as to develop a computer program to make the character’s lines wobble slightly, producing a crude, hand-drawn effect. 

6. IT FEATURES A PRE-FAST AND FURIOUS VIN DIESEL.
Before making a name for himself as an action star, Vin Diesel provided his voice to the towering robot in The Iron Giant. Not counting groans and grunts, the Giant utters a grand total of 53 words in the entire film. When Diesel returned to feature voice acting 15 years later for Guardians of the Galaxy, he played Groot, a character whose vocabulary is even more severely limited. 

7. THE DESIGN WAS INSPIRED BY THE ART OF NORMAN ROCKWELL.
The Iron Giant takes place in an idyllic Maine town in the 1950s—a perfect contrast to the themes of McCarthy-era paranoia the film explores. To give the setting more of a wholesome, Americana look, the creators drew inspiration from the art of Edward Hopper, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell. Even the fictional town’s name—Rockwell—is a nod to the iconic American artist. 

10 Out-of-This-World Facts About “Plan 9 From Outer Space”

Mark Mancini and Mental_Floss present 10 Out-of-This-World Facts About Plan 9 From Outer Space.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. IT WAS BELA LUGOSI’S LAST MOVIE.
A lifelong Bela Lugosi fan, Ed Wood was able to cast his idol in 1953’s Glen or Glenda. Two years later, the director gave him a Dr. Frankenstein-like role in Bride of the Monster. For his next film, Wood once again wanted Lugosi to take center stage. At the California home of Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson—who’d also appeared in Bride of the Monster—Wood shot a handful of very brief scenes, all starring Lugosi. Depending on who’s telling the story, this footage was either intended for Plan 9 or for an unmade movie called The Vampire’s Tomb. Regardless, Lugosi sadly didn’t live to see any of it reach the silver screen. The horror icon died of a heart attack in August 16, 1956. Endlessly resourceful, Wood threw all of his existing Lugosi shots into Plan 9 from Outer Space.

2. A CHIROPRACTOR PLAYED LUGOSI’S DOUBLE.
Production on Plan 9 from Outer Space began in earnest after Lugosi’s death. Since he was no longer around to film certain scenes, Wood recruited chiropractor Tom Mason as a substitute. Physically, he wasn’t a perfect stand-in; Mason was noticeably taller than Lugosi (a fact that Wood tried to disguise by having him hunch over). But the good doctor made sure to mask his face under a cape at all times.

4. IN SOME VERSIONS OF THE FILM, YOU CAN SEE THE SHADOW OF A BOOM MIKE IN THE BACKGROUND.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Plan 9 has numerous bloopers. For example, the grave scenes use plywood tombstones, which wobble throughout the movie. But Wood’s team wasn’t responsible for every error. Early on, we see our hero—pilot Jeff Trent—flying a plane when a huge burst of light almost blinds him. Viewers may also notice that, as he recoils, a boom microphone shadow appears on the back wall of the cockpit. Look carefully, and you’ll also observe that Trent’s co-pilot is holding a copy of the script in his lap. Both of these gaffes were created when Plan 9 was converted to a film and TV-friendly format. Neither the script nor the boom mike shadow appeared in the original theatrical version. Unfortunately, the aspect ratio changes made to Plan 9 for its video and TV releases suddenly rendered both of these things visible.

14 Up-Tempo Facts About “Saturday Night Fever”

Eric D. Snider and Mental_Floss present 14 Up-Tempo Facts About Saturday Night Fever.  Here are three of my favorites…

6. IT HAS SOME ROCKY CONNECTIONS.
First connection: It was supposed to be directed by John G. Avildsen, whose previous film was Rocky. Ultimately, that didn’t work out and Avildsen was replaced with John Badham a few weeks before shooting began. Second connection: Tony has a Rocky poster on his bedroom wall. Third connection: Saturday Night Fever’s 1983 sequel, Staying Alive, was directed by … Sylvester Stallone.

8. THE WHITE CASTLE EMPLOYEES WEREN’T ACTING WHEN THEY LOOKED SHOCKED. 
In the brief scene where Tony, his boys, and Stephanie are loudly eating at White Castle, those were the real burger-flippers, not actors. Badham told them to just go about their business. He also told his actors to cut loose and surprise the White Castlers in whatever way they saw fit. The shot that’s in the movie appears to be a reaction to Joey standing on the table and barking, but Badham said it was actually in response to something else: “Double J (actor Paul Pape) pulling his pants down and mooning the entire staff of the White Castle.”

11. THE COMPOSER HAD TO SCRAMBLE TO REPLACE A NIXED SONG.
For Tony and Stephanie’s rehearsal scene about 30 minutes into the movie, Badham had used the song “Lowdown” by Boz Scaggs, going so far as to shoot the scene, including the dialogue, with the song actually playing in the background. (That’s usually a no-no, for exactly the reasons you’re about to read about.) According to Badham, no sooner had they wrapped the scene than Scaggs’ people reached out to say they couldn’t use the song after all, as Scaggs was thinking of pursuing a disco project of his own. Badham now had to have the actors re-dub the dialogue (since the version he’d recorded was tainted by “Lowdown”); what’s more, he had to find a new song that would fit the choreography and tempo of the dancing. Composer David Shire rose to the occasion, writing a piece of instrumental music that met the specifications, and that’s what we hear in the movie.

16 Lively Facts About “Death Wish”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 16 Lively Facts About Death Wish.  Here are three of my favorites…

4. CHARLES BRONSON AND HIS AGENT DISAGREED ON THE FILM’S MESSAGE.
“It’s the only time Paul Kohner, my agent, ever disagreed with me about a film,” Bronson said in 1974. “Paul felt very strongly that it was a dangerous picture—that it might make people think it’s right to take the law into their own hands. This is what the hero of the picture does when he wants a one-man vigilante squad to kill muggers, after three of them have murdered his wife and raped his daughter. I told Paul I thought the message was the same there that runs through a lot of my pictures: That violence is senseless because it only begets more violence.”

6. DENZEL WASHINGTON MADE HIS ON-SCREEN DEBUT IN THE MOVIE.

Denzel Washington’s acting debut as a thug was, unfortunately, uncredited. He was 19 years old at the time.

16. SYLVESTER STALLONE WANTED TO REMAKE IT.
Sylvester Stallone was set to direct and star in a Death Wish remake for MGM back in 2008. While that project, uh, died, it was recently reported that Paramount and MGM are teaming up to remake the movie—with Bruce Willis starring.

8 Fascinating Facts About Butch Cassidy

Fiona Young-Brown and Mental_Floss present 8 Fascinating Facts About Butch Cassidy.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. HIS LIFE OF CRIME BEGAN WITH A PAIR OF JEANS.
Cassidy’s first recorded criminal offense occurred around 1880, when he stole a pair of jeans. To his credit, the teen left an IOU. The store’s owner pressed charges, but the soon-to-be outlaw was acquitted. According to Larry Pointer’s In Search of Butch Cassidy, Cassidy “had been raised with the frontier ethic that a man’s word was his bond. The IOU was an inviolate pledge. The merchant’s distrust was an unfamiliar response and, before the matter was settled, the humiliated youth was having mixed emotions over legal process and blind justice.”

5. HE DISLIKED VIOLENCE.
As odd as it sounds to think of an outlaw who disliked getting rough, records and personal recollections from the era all describe Cassidy as a very polite man who avoided violence whenever possible. He may have waved a gun around when robbing trains and banks, but he didn’t use it. Those who knew him said that one of his proudest claims was that he never killed a man.

8. THERE’S NO REAL EVIDENCE THAT HE WAS KILLED IN A SHOOTOUT.
Butch and Sundance were killed in early November of 1908 following a shootout with authorities in Bolivia … or were they? Some historians argue that there is no real evidence that the two men were involved in the payroll robbery that led to the shootout, or that they were even involved in the shootout itself. Several alternative theories have arisen, claiming that the outlaws were not killed that day.

Josie Bassett, an acquaintance of the Wild Bunch, claimed that Cassidy visited her in the 1920s and that he “died in Johnnie, Nevada … He was an old man when he died. He had been living in Oregon, and back east for a long time, where he worked for a railroad.”

By far, the most popular theory is that Butch may never even have gone to Bolivia. Rather, he left Argentina in early 1908, adopted the name William T. Phillips, got married, and passed away (anonymously) in Spokane, Washington in 1937. Butch’s younger sister Lula added credence to this in her 1975 book, Butch Cassidy, My Brother, saying that he visited her and their father at the family home in 1925. A handwriting analyst also claimed that Butch Cassidy, Robert LeRoy Parker, and William T. Phillips were one and the same. But the main proponent of this theory, Larry Pointer, has recently said that he was wrong and Phillips was not actually Cassidy.

In 2009, an unabridged copy of Phillips’ Bandit Invincible, a Cassidy biography, emerged. And following clues, Pointer came to the conclusion that William Phillips was actually another Wild West outlaw named William Wilcox. So for the moment, the mystery lives on.

13 Action-Packed Facts About “Rumble in the Bronx”

Anna Green and Mental_Floss present 13 Action-Packed Facts About Rumble in the Bronx.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. JACKIE CHAN WANTED IT TO BE HIS BREAKOUT AMERICAN FILM.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, success came easily to Chan in Asia, where his movies were consistently box office hits. But America was a completely different story. Rumble in the Bronx marked his fourth attempt to break into Hollywood. Previously he’d starred in Robert Clouse’s Battle Creek Brawl (1980) and appeared in The Cannonball Run (1981) and The Protector (1985). But none of those films made much of an impact for Chan. For Rumble in the Bronx, he decided it was time to take things into his own hands: Instead of looking for the right role in a big-budget Hollywood film, he decided to make a Hong Kong film that could work as a cross-over hit.

8. CHAN DECIDED TO MAKE RUMBLE IN THE BRONX AFTER TURNING DOWN A ROLE IN DEMOLITION MAN.
Before he decided to make Rumble in the Bronx, Chan was hoping to find his breakout role in an American movie. He was friends with Sylvester Stallone, who repeatedly offered him roles in his upcoming films—which Chan, for one reason or another, repeatedly turned down. In I Am Jackie Chan, Chan recalled, “Another film Stallone offered me was Demolition Man, a movie with Sandra Bullock from the movie Speed. He wanted me to play a super villain running loose in the far future, chased by a super cop, played by him. I didn’t feel right about that role either. It ended up going to Wesley Snipes—so the two people I’d wanted to work with, and couldn’t, ended up working with each other.”

11. ROGER EBERT COMPARED CHAN TO FRED ASTAIRE.
“Any attempt to defend this movie on rational grounds is futile,” Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the film. “Don’t tell me about the plot and the dialogue. Don’t dwell on the acting. The whole point is Jackie Chan—and, like Astaire and Rogers, he does what he does better than anybody.”

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