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Previews & Reviews that are Z's Views

15 Punchy Facts About “Raging Bull”

Eric D. Snider and Mental_Floss present 15 Punchy Facts About Raging Bull.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. IT PARTIALLY OWES ITS EXISTENCE TO ROCKY.
Comparisons to that other Oscar-winning boxing movie from four years earlier were inevitable, but the two were actually connected. Rocky was produced by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, and released by United Artists. When those same producers approached that same studio about doing another boxing movie, the studio said, “A sequel to Rocky? Sure!” That wasn’t what they had in mind (though they did soon enough), but in the meantime, Rocky’s huge success was enough to sell UA on another boxing movie.

5. PAUL SCHRADER FIXED THE SCREENPLAY BY ADDING JAKE LAMOTTA’S BROTHER, JOEY.
It’s strange to imagine Raging Bull without the Joe Pesci character, but that’s how Mardik Martin’s first drafts had it. He was adapting LaMotta’s 1970 memoir, Raging Bull: My Story, co-authored by LaMotta’s lifelong friend Peter Savage (born Peter Petrella). The book didn’t feature Joey as a prominent character, and it had Savage doing most of the things that Joey would eventually do in the movie. When Schrader was hired to build on the work Martin had done and take another stab at the screenplay, he decided the story would be more compelling if it involved brothers rather than friends (blood ties and all that), so he introduced the Joey character and excised poor old Pete. This creative license proved problematic later, when Joey LaMotta sued for defamation because the movie had attributed to him a number of unwholesome deeds (like beating the crap out of a neighborhood mobster) that had actually been perpetrated by Savage.

9. JOE PESCI WAS RUNNING AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT WHEN DE NIRO AND SCORSESE APPROACHED HIM ABOUT BEING IN THE MOVIE.
Pesci had been a professional actor and musician (he sang and played guitar) off and on since childhood, but he called it quits in the 1970s. His 1975 Broadway show with comedy partner Frank Vincent (whom he would later recruit to play Salvy in Raging Bull) had closed after a week, and his first movie, 1976’s The Death Collector (also featuring Vincent), was a flop. But Robert De Niro happened to see that film in 1978, and was so impressed by Pesci’s performance that he pitched him to Scorsese. The two tracked Pesci down and called him at his restaurant to coax him out of showbiz retirement.

11 Things You Might Not Know About “Apollo 13”

Jake Rosen and Mental_Floss present 11 Things You Might Not Know About  Apollo 13.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. Steven Spielberg Made a Crucial Suggestion.
To simulate the weightlessness inside the module, Howard and his crew were contemplating using wires and harnesses, a logistical decision that would’ve had his cast suspended like marionettes for months of shooting. Instead, Spielberg (a friend of Howard’s and frequent collaborator with Hanks) suggested that he look into the KC-135, a NASA-owned airplane that’s able to simulate zero gravity by maneuvering 45 degrees up and then plummeting.

Howard’s test shooting went well enough—and his producer, Todd Hallowell, was persistent enough—that NASA granted permission for a crew to film while on board the plane. That meant that …

9. “Houston, We Have a Problem” Was Not the Exact Quote.
One of the most popular lines in culture, Lovell’s grim delivery of his module’s malfunctions to Mission Control was not quoted word for word in the film. In reality, NASA received the message, “Houston, I believe we’ve had a problem,” not, “Houston, we have a problem.” (Maybe present tense made it more impactful.) Filmmakers also decided to have Hanks’ Lovell deliver the line; in fact, it was Swigert who first said it, though Lovell repeated it immediately as “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

12. The Checklist Fetched $388,375 at Auction.
Because it was shown so prominently in the feature film, Jim Lovell’s original checklist book filled with equations and other notes addressing their mission’s issues sold for $388,375 in a November 2011 auction. But the purchase was held up when NASA inquired whether Lovell actually owned the artifact outright. In 2012, President Obama signed a bill into law clarifying that astronauts had ownership of such materials.

15 Sweet Facts About “Stepbrothers”

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

2. JON HAMM ALMOST PLAYED DEREK.
It came down to Hamm, Thomas Lennon, and Adam Scott for the part of the jerk brother Derek. Scott got the part.

6. RICHARD JENKINS USED TO WORK FOR REILLY’S FATHER.
Toward the end of filming, Jenkins—who played Reilly’s father, Dr. Robert Doback—heard from the actor playing his son that his father was also from the Chicago area and used to work in the linen business. It was then that Jenkins realized that he had worked for John Reilly (John’s father) in the summer of 1969, and had met John Jr. when he was four years old.

9. PABLO CRUISE PLAYED THE PREMIERE.
The 1970s pop-rock group were so pleased to see one of their T-shirts worn in the movie’s trailer that they offered to perform at the film’s premiere.

17 Straightforward Facts About “The Sixth Sense”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 17 Straightforward Facts About The Sixth Sense.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. THE DISNEY EXECUTIVE WHO BOUGHT THE SCRIPT WAS FIRED BECAUSE OF IT.
Walt Disney Studios’ then-president David Vogel didn’t bother to consult with his superiors before paying $2.25 million for the rights to The Sixth Sense, and agreed to let Shyamalan direct the already-expensive film. Vogel’s boss was livid when he found out about the deal, and demanded that Vogel relinquish some of his power. When Vogel refused, he was canned.

6. DONNIE WAHLBERG LOST 43 POUNDS TO PLAY VINCENT GREY.
The former New Kid on the Block wanted to prove that he was serious about pursuing an acting career.

8. THE COLOR RED WAS SYMBOLIC.
Shyamalan explained that anything “tainted” from the ghost world or that had some connection to it was colored red in the movie, like the basement doorknob, or the dress of the killer mom.

28 Facts You Might Not Know About “The Munsters”


John Farrier and Neatorama present 28 Facts You Might Not Know About The Munsters Here are three of my favorites…

2. Although the first pilot episode was shot in color, the rest of the series was shot in black and white to save money. It certainly adds to the horror ambiance, don’t you think?

6. Grandpa was Lily’s father, but Al Lewis was a year younger than Yvonne De Carlo.

9. Al Lewis’s long prosthetic nose was eliminated after a few episodes because he kept getting it wet in his cups of coffee.

11 Mischievous Facts About Bugs Bunny


Shaunacy Ferro and Mental_Floss present 11 Mischievous Facts About Bugs Bunny.   Here are three of my favorites…

1. He first appeared as an extra in a Porky Pig cartoon. 
The then-unnamed rabbit was created in 1938 for a cartoon in which Porky Pig went hunting, but the actual character wouldn’t appear until years later.

4. His mannerisms were partially inspired by Clark Gable.
Bugs’ nonchalant, carrot-eating manner was inspired by a scene in It Happened One Night, when the fast-talking Clark Gable snacks on carrots while leaning on a fence. The character also took inspiration from Groucho Marx.

5. The creators were worried he would seem like a bully. 
“It was very important that he be provoked, because otherwise he’d be a bully,” director Chuck Jones said in an interview in 1998. “We didn’t want that. We wanted him to be a nice person.”

14 Things You Might Not Know About “Aliens”


Eric D Snider and Mental_Floss present 14 Things You Might Not Know About Aliens.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. CONAN THE DESTROYER HELPED IT GET MADE.
The movie, not the guy. Based on the strength of his script for The Terminator (then in pre-production), James Cameron was approached by 20th Century Fox to write an Alien sequel. But the outline he came up with for Alien II got a lukewarm reaction at Fox, and the idea was put on hold for the time being. Then, as luck would have it, the start date for The Terminator was pushed back nine months so that Arnold Schwarzenegger could make Conan the Destroyer, the sequel to his 1982 hit (in which Conan had been merely a Barbarian). This extra three-quarters of a year gave Cameron time to write three-quarters of a full screenplay for Alien II, not just an outline. (He also co-wrote Rambo: First Blood Part II during this time, by the way.) The Fox bosses liked what they read. Cameron was told that if The Terminator proved successful, he could write and direct the Alien sequel.

3. SIGOURNEY WEAVER WAS PAID $35,000 FOR THE FIRST FILM, AND $1 MILLION FOR THE SEQUEL.
James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd (who became Mrs. James Cameron during pre-production) helped Weaver get what she deserved—first by refusing to make the film without her, and also by refusing to keep it a secret that she was the only person in consideration for the lead role. Fox especially didn’t like that second point, as it put Weaver’s agent in a very strong bargaining position. Sure enough, Weaver got a million bucks and a percentage of the profits. It got better for Weaver as the franchise went on, with $4 million for Alien 3 and $11 million for Alien: Resurrection.

9. IT’S THE ONLY ACTING THAT CARRIE HENN, WHO PLAYED YOUNG NEWT, EVER DID.
Henn was nine years old and living with her family at a U.S. Air Force base in England when casting agents found her. She loved the experience, remained friends with Sigourney Weaver afterward, was invited to the premiere of Alien 3 (even though she wasn’t in the movie) … and never acted again. Instead, she became a schoolteacher.

21 Darn Tootin’ Facts About “Fargo”


Adam D’Arpino and Mental_Floss present 21 Darn Tootin’ Facts About Fargo.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. Fargo was almost a TV show back in 1997.
FX’s original series Fargo, which debuted last year to critical praise and enthusiastic viewership, has breathed new life into the funny-accents-meet-brutal-violence formula. However, FX’s take on the Coen Brothers classic actually marks the second major attempt to adapt Fargo for the small screen. In 1997, a pilot directed by Kathy Bates (yes, that Kathy Bates) and starring a pre-Sopranos Edie Falco as Marge Gunderson was passed on by the major networks. Although it never had a full run on television, this first made-for-TV version of Fargo wasn’t lost forever: it aired on the short-lived cable network Trio in 2003, as part of its Brilliant But Cancelled programming series.

17. The film’s editor, Roderick Jaynes, is actually Joel and Ethan Coen.
Because the Coens found having their names appear on screen as directors, writers, producers, and editors a bit tacky, they credit their editing work to the fictional “Roderick Jaynes,” who’s listed on all of their films outside of Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing. When the fictional Jaynes was for nominated for his first Oscar on Fargo, the Coens wanted to have actor Albert Finney accept the award in character, but because the Academy doesn’t allow for surrogates to accept awards (presumably due to a 1973 incident involving Marlon Brando and a Native American named Sacheen Littlefeather) they had to scratch the plan. Jaynes ended losing to Walter Murch for his work on The English Patient, and would lose again in 2008 (with The Bourne Ultimatum‘s Christopher Rouse beating out the Coens and No Country for Old Men).

11. An inside joke led to rumors that Prince had a cameo in the film.
The Coens provided anyone willing to stick around for the extended credits to a bit of a Minnesota insider joke. The role of “Victim in the Field” is credited to a scribble resembling Prince’s “Love Symbol,” which he went by between 1993 and 2000. This spurred rumors that Prince had a hidden cameo in the film. Anyone paying attention, however, would have noticed that the role was clearly played by a much huskier fellow, who also happened to be the film’s storyboard artist (and a longtime Coen collaborator) J. Todd Anderson.

14 Things You Might Not Know About Forrest Gump

Garin Pirnia and Mental_Floss present  14 Things You Might Not Know About Forrest Gump. Here are three of my favorites…

2. THERE ARE BIG DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FORREST IN THE BOOK AND FORREST IN THE MOVIE.
In the book, Forrest ends up going into space, smoking weed, working with Raquel Welch, confronting cannibals, running for the United States Senate (his campaign slogan is “I Got to Pee”), and playing in a chess tournament. Also, in the book Forrest is described being 6’ 6” tall and weighing 240 pounds, which is why Groom wanted John Goodman to play Forrest in the movie.

9. MYKELTI WILLIAMSON COULDN’T GET WORK AFTER THE MOVIE CAME OUT.
“I couldn’t get a job after Forrest Gump,” Williamson told USA Today. “The industry didn’t realize that I was wearing a lip device and that I was the same guy who had appeared in 11 TV series. They thought the director had discovered some weird-looking guy and put him in front of a camera.” He eventually went on Letterman and soon after people realized he wasn’t just some “weird-looking guy.” Williamson successfully obtained roles in Con Air and Heat and had a recurring role on Justified.

10. FOR THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOVIE, THE FILMAKERS DISCUSSED FORREST’S POST-1980s FATE.
In September, USA Today caught up with Forrest Gump screenwriter Eric Roth, director Robert Zemeckis, and Tom Hanks to ask them what adventures Forrest would’ve experienced later on. Roth stated that in the script for his unproduced sequel Forrest meets O.J. Simpson and Princess Diana. Hanks thinks Forrest “would have chatted up both Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins about how it would be nice if you had a book that would show a person’s face and make a friend,” and that Forrest would’ve helped out in Hurricane Katrina. “Forrest would be the reason that the Navy SEALs find Osama bin Laden,” added Zemeckis.

15 Fascinating Facts About “Saving Private Ryan”


Sean Hutchinson
and Mental_Floss present 15 Fascinating Facts About Saving Private Ryan. Here are three of my favorites…

3. IT’S PARTLY BASED ON A TRUE STORY.
Contrary to popular belief, Saving Private Ryan is not based on the Sullivan brothers, a group of five brothers who were all killed in action while serving in the US Navy during World War II on the USS Juneau. The movie is actually based on the Niland brothers, four siblings who all served in the US Army during World War II. Three brothers—Robert, Preston, and Edward—were supposedly killed in action, which caused their remaining brother, Fritz (whom the titular Private Ryan was based on) to be shipped back to America so that the Niland family wouldn’t lose all of their sons. Edward, who was originally thought dead, was actually found alive after escaping a Japanese prison camp in Burma, making two surviving brothers out of the four who fought in the war.

6. TOM SIZEMORE WAS NEARLY FIRED.
The actor, who plays Sergeant Horvath, was heavily addicted to heroin prior to filming Saving Private Ryan in 1997. In order to keep the movie in line, and to force Sizemore to kick the habit, Spielberg swore to Sizemore that if the actor tested positive for drugs on-set—even on the last day of shooting—“he would fire me on the spot and shoot all 58 days that I’d worked over again with someone else.”

7. GARTH BROOKS NEARLY PLAYED PRIVATE JACKSON.
Frank Darabont was hired to do uncredited rewrites on Saving Private Ryan, and created the role of the Bible-quoting sniper, Private Jackson, to be played by country singer Garth Brooks. Brooks dropped out of the movie after Spielberg came onboard and cast Tom Hanks in the lead role. Apparently Brooks didn’t want to play second fiddle to Hanks, but Spielberg offered him a chance to play another role of his choosing. Instead of a specific role, Brooks allegedly said he wanted to play the “bad guy,” but in Saving Private Ryan there is no real bad guy other than the entire Wehrmacht, so Spielberg ultimately decided to drop Brooks from the movie.

10 Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed in Famous Crime Films


Robert Grimminck and Listverse present 10 Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed in Famous Crime Films.

Grimminck’s list contains several eggs from movies that were new to me, but my favorite from his list was for Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof

Quentin Tarantino is known for the complexity of his film universe and for his love of pop culture. It should be little surprise that his contribution to the Grindhouse double feature has a few Easter eggs in it.

For example, in the opening scene in the bar, on the wall is a tank top with a samurai in front of a rising sun. This was the same tank top that Jack Burton wore in Big Trouble in Little China. Jack was, of course, played by Kurt Russell, who is Death Proof’s villain, Stuntman Mike.

This leads to two more Easter eggs, which are the license plates of Stuntman Mike’s cars. On the first car, the plate says “JJZ-109,” which is the same plate as the car of Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) in Bullitt. The second plate is “983-DAN,” which is on the Dodge Charger that the main characters drive in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. Both movies are famous for their car chases. In fact, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry is one long car chase.

The list is worth a look.  Nice work, Mr. Grimminick.