11 Strange Habits of Geniuses

Mental_Floss presents 11 Strange Habits of Geniuses.  Here are three of my favorites

7. EDGAR ALLAN POE WROTE ON SCROLLS.
Edgar Allan Poe often wrote on thin strips of paper, which he glued together and rolled into scrolls for easier storage. He felt the medium better contributed to a work’s flow than a regular old manuscript (and, presumably, looked spookier).

8. DA VINCI AND TESLA SHUNNED EIGHT-HOUR SLEEP SCHEDULES.
Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla adhered to alternative sleep schedules. Leonardo was said to have followed the polyphasic cycle, which means he took multiple short naps every 24 hours. Meanwhile, Tesla only rested two hours a day.

10. BEN FRANKLIN TOOK “AIR BATHS.”
Before he began the day’s work, Benjamin Franklin would spend up to an hour taking naked “air baths” at his open window.

11 Well-Drawn Facts About The Etch A Sketch

Kristen Fawcett and Mental_Floss present 11 Well-Drawn Facts About The Etch A Sketch.  Here are three of my favorites

4. TOY MANUFACTURERS ORIGINALLY REJECTED THE ETCH A SKETCH.
The Etch A Sketch was showcased at the 1959 Nuremberg Toy Fair, but toy companies didn’t want to pay a steep fee for the rights. Eventually, Ohio Art—who is said to have also passed on the Etch A Sketch—reconsidered and acquired the invention.

7. IT FOUND A MARKET VIA TELEVISION.
Production of the Etch A Sketch began on July 12, 1960. America soon caught wind of the toy thanks to a televised marketed campaign featuring a little girl named Pernella who hides underneath a basket with her Etch A Sketch because everyone wants to play with it. She eventually emerges and announces that her favorite toy “is magic!” The ads were such a hit that, come holiday season, Ohio Art was hard-pressed to fill orders.

8. IT’S A BEST-SELLER.
In 1998, the Etch A Sketch was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, cementing its place in history alongside inventions like the Slinky, the skateboard, and Silly Putty. In 2003, the Toy Industry Association ranked it as one of the 20th century’s hundred best toys. According to CNBC, more than 100 million Etch A Sketches have been sold since its introduction in 1960.

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.”

18 Simple Facts About “Tropic Thunder”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 18 Simple Facts About Tropic Thunder.  Here are three of my favorites

3. ROBERT DOWNEY JR. BASED KIRK LAZARUS ON THREE ACTORS.
At a press conference, Downey said he based Lazarus on three actors: Russell Crowe and Daniel Day-Lewis, “with a little” Colin Farrell. Lazarus was originally written as Irish; Downey changed him into an Australian because he was more comfortable improvising in that accent. When Stiller first pitched the idea of the character, Downey called it “The stupidest idea I’ve ever heard!” Stiller screened the movie to the NAACP, and received mostly positive feedback.

5. TOM CRUISE CAME UP WITH THE IDEA OF HAVING A STUDIO HEAD CHARACTER.
Stiller approached Cruise about playing the agent Rick Peck and sent him the script. Cruise thought it was funny, but wondered what the studio would be doing while all of the film’s events transpired, so the role of studio head Les Grossman was created. It was also Cruise’s idea to give Grossman really big hands. After four days of makeup tests, Grossman’s look was finalized.

15. CRUISE’S INVOLVEMENT WAS MEANT TO BE A SURPRISE.
Cruise wasn’t in the trailer and no images of Grossman were in the press kits on purpose. Cruise’s lawyer threatened legal action to media outlets that posted leaked images of Cruise as Grossman before the movie debuted. It was traced back to an INF staff photographer.

16 Ear-Tugging Facts About “The Carol Burnett Show”

Kara Kovalchik and Mental_Floss present 16 Ear-Tugging Facts About The Carol Burnett Show.  Here are three of my favorites

8. HARVEY KORMAN WAS THE FIRST CAST MEMBER HIRED.
The producers wanted a “Harvey Korman-type” for Burnett’s second banana, but didn’t bother to actually ask Korman if he was interested in the job because he was already a regularon The Danny Kaye Show, and most likely he wouldn’t leave a steady job for an unproven new show. Burnett herself spotted Korman in the CBS parking lot one day and “practically threw him over the hood of a car” begging him to join her show. Unbeknownst to her, Kaye’s show was about to get the axe after a four-year run, so Korman cheerfully accepted her offer shortly after that first meeting.

9. TIM CONWAY RARELY FOLLOWED HIS SCRIPT.
Conway had been a frequent guest star on the show and when Lyle Waggoner decided to leave the show in 1974 (he felt that he was being “underused”), Conway was hired to replace him the following year. Conway was legendary for veering off-script and ad-libbing for lengthy stretches, to the amusement of some of his co-stars (Korman) and annoyance of others (Lawrence, who sometimes resented Conway’s disruptions and spotlight-hogging). Lawrence finally slipped her own ad-lib in on one memorable occasion, as Conway rambled on and on about an elephant during a “Family” sketch. Her NSFW remark brought the rest of the cast to their knees and was said to be Dick Clark’s favorite all-time outtake on his Bloopers and Practical Jokes TV show.

16. THERE WAS ONLY ONE CELEBRITY GUEST THAT BURNETT WAS NEVER ABLE TO BOOK.
Over the 11 seasons the show ran, a veritable “Who’s Who” of the entertainment industry did a guest turn, from Steve Martin to Julie Andrews to then-governor Ronald Reagan to Robin Williams to Ethel Merman. The only guest who Burnett dearly wanted to have but never did get was Bette Davis. Davis was willing to appear but demanded more money that the show had budgeted. Joe Hamilton advised his wife that if they gave in to Davis’ demand, it would set an unpleasant precedent.

18 Uncovered Facts About “JFK”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 18 Uncovered Facts About JFK.  Here are three of my favorites

4. COSTNER MET GARRISON’S REAL ENEMIES.
The actor met both Garrison’s fans and his critics. “I wanted Costner to get both sides, to witness the hatred and extremism that Jim engenders and as an actor to look into the eyes of his enemies and know what he was up against back then,” explained Stone. “These were tough people and they’d come in a parade in front of Costner with their New Orleans accent saying that Jim’s a snake—that he liked boys and was angry that Shaw stole his lover and a lot worse.”

11. COSTNER INSISTED THAT JOHN CANDY NOT BE CUT.
John Candy was “devastated” when he heard his role as lawyer Dean Andrews was being cut from JFK, so Costner intervened. Stone wrote a letter to Candy apologizing for considering taking his nervous, sweaty character out of the movie.

10. WAYNE KNIGHT AND STONE CLASHED OVER HIS ACCENT.
Wayne Knight (Seinfeld‘s Newman) used an accent he heard growing up in northwest Georgia for his audition as Numa Bertel, which Stone loved. But Knight discovered upon meeting the real, New Orleans-born Bertel that he didn’t sound like that at all. Knight insisted on using Bertel’s real accent in the film, though it took a while to convince Stone. “He’s rough trade, that man,” Knight told The A.V. Club of Stone.

14 Surprising Facts About “Say Anything”

Garin Pernia and Mental_Floss present 14 Surprising Facts About Say Anything.  Here are three of my favorites

1. CAMERON CROWE BASED THE SCRIPT ON A REAL-LIFE HEARTBREAK.
Until Say Anything…, Crowe hadn’t written a love story. He told the San Diego Union Tribunethat the movie’s “a love story for people who don’t say I love you” and in 2009 told the Los Angeles Times that, “It’s a very personal movie, and it reminds me of falling in love, falling out of love, and falling back in love with life and all the unexpected glories and pain that happen along the way.”

The “personal” part references his first love and heartbreak: “She fell for me, and I fell for her, but not at the same time,” Crowe said. “And yes, I used to drive by her house late at night, listening to music, feeling like a sap and somehow heroic at the same time. She was already with someone new, but I was going to wave the flag of our great love, even if I was the only one at the ceremony.”

4. IONE SKYE WAS THE OPPOSITE OF DIANE COURT.
The actress had trouble identifying with the A-student Diane Court because she wasn’t like that. “I wasn’t a good student,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I grew up with my mother, not my father. I kind of had a wild childhood. Even the father stealing money from old people, I was saying to Cameron, ‘I can’t access why this would upset me.’ That didn’t seem bad to me at the time.” Skye’s real-life father is famed Scottish musician Donovan. Two years after the movie came out, Skye married Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz; the couple divorced him in 1999.

13. A SITCOM VERSION OF SAY ANYTHING… WAS IN THE WORKS, UNTIL CROWE PUT A STOP TO IT.
In 2014, Fox gave the green light for producers to adapt the movie into a single-camera TV sitcom that would take place 10 years after the film’s events, but they apparently didn’t bother to ask Crowe for his blessing. Once Crowe found out about it, he tweeted his dismay about the project and said, “I have no involvement … except in trying to stop it.” Cusack also cried foul about the project; the backlash prevailed and the project was canceled.

20 Facts About Your Favorite Quentin Tarantino Movies

Mental_Floss presents 20 Facts About Your Favorite Quentin Tarantino Movies.  Here are three of my favorites

10. MICHAEL KEATON PLAYED HIS JACKIE BROWN CHARACTER IN ANOTHER MOVIE.
Keaton plays FBI agent Ray Nicolette in Jackie Brown. One year later, he reprised the role for Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight (both movies were based on Elmore Leonard novels).

5. THE CONCEPT FOR DEATH PROOF GREW OUT OF TARANTINO’S DESIRE TO BUY A VOLVO.
In a 2007 interview with Newsweek, Tarantino explained the genesis of the idea for Death Proof, the director’s half of Grindhouse: “About 10 years ago, I was talking to a friend about getting a car. And I wanted to get a Volvo because I wanted a really safe car. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to die in some auto accident like the one in Pulp Fiction … So I was talking to my friend about this, and he said, ‘Well, you could take any car and give it to a stunt team, and for $10,000 or $15,000, they can death-proof it for you.’ Well, that phrase ‘death proof’ kinda stuck in my head.”

11. TARANTINO DIRECTED RESERVOIR DOGS BECAUSE TONY SCOTT DIDN’T.
Because he was still new to the business, Tarantino knew he couldn’t direct both True Romance and Reservoir Dogs. So he gave both scripts to Tony Scott and told him to pick one. Though Scott wanted both of the films, he ended up choosing True Romance, leaving Tarantino to make Reservoir Dogs.

17 Truthful Facts About “A Few Good Men”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 17 Truthful Facts About A Few Good Men.  Here are three of my favorites

2. LINDA HAMILTON AND JODIE FOSTER AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF LT. COMMANDER GALLOWAY.
A then-eight-months-pregnant Demi Moore ended up getting the part, and was paid $2 million for the role.

3. JASON ALEXANDER WAS SET TO PLAY LT. SAM WEINBERG.
But when Seinfeld was renewed by NBC for a second season, he was no longer available. Reiner then gave Kevin Pollak the part after he read with Cruise.

8. JACK NICHOLSON WAS PAID $5 MILLION FOR 10 DAYS OF WORK.
Nicholson, as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, was in just three scenes in the entire movie. Technically he worked an extra morning for free when Reiner and crew didn’t get all of his footage shot in time.

Editors Guild Selects 75 Best Edited Films of All Time

ComingSoon posted Editors Guild Selects 75 Best Edited Films of All Time.  Movie editors selected their choices for the best edited movies of all time [hence the title, right?].

The decade of the 70’s led the way with director Alfred Hitchcock coming in first spot with five films and editor George Tomasini coming in number one with four films.

Of the 75 films I’ve seen 56.

10 Wild Facts About “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid”

Eric D. Snider and Mental_Floss present 10 Wild Facts About Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.  Here are three of my favorites

2. PAUL NEWMAN WAS IN FROM THE BEGINNING, BUT FINDING HIS CO-STAR TOOK SOME WORK.

When he wrote it, Goldman had in mind Newman—then perhaps the biggest movie star in the world—and Jack Lemmon, who’d done a 1958 Western called Cowboy and seemed like a good fit. Lemmon turned out not to be interested, and numerous other candidates were approached, including Steve McQueen (see below), Warren Beatty, and Marlon Brando. Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward, suggested Robert Redford, a stage actor who’d been in a few films but was considered something of a lightweight. Woodward, Newman, and director George Roy Hill all pestered the reluctant 20th Century Fox bosses until they conceded to casting Redford.

4. STEVE MCQUEEN DROPPED OUT OVER BILLING.

If Newman was the biggest movie star in the world at the time, Steve McQueen was right up there with him. The idea of casting not one but two mega-stars as Butch and Sundance made perfect sense, but there was a problem: whose name would go first in the credits? Fox president Darryl F. Zanuck later said that he proposed an unusual arrangement where half the prints of the film would list Newman first, the other half McQueen, but McQueen (or his representatives) wouldn’t accept anything other than top billing across the board. And that was that.

5. IT WAS “THE SUNDANCE KID AND BUTCH CASSIDY” UNTIL THE CASTING WAS SETTLED.

Once they’d settled on Redford as Newman’s costar, a new (minor) issue arose. Newman thought he was playing Sundance in what had heretofore been known as The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy. It turned out Hill, the director, actually wanted him to play Butch, and Redford to play Sundance. No problem; Newman was fine with the switch. But now they had a situation where the character being played by the less-famous actor came first in the title. The obvious Hollywood solution: reverse the title. “The Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy” sounds weird to us now (as does the notion of Redford being significantly less famous than Newman), but there you go.

10 Fascinating Facts About “Thunderball”

Matthew Jackson and Mental_Floss present 10 Fascinating Facts About Thunderball.  Here are three of my favorites

1. IT STARTED AS A FILM, THEN BECAME A BOOK, THEN BECAME A FILM AGAIN.

In 1959, Bond creator Ian Fleming began considering a film version of his character, andcollaborated with producer Kevin McClory and writer Jack Whittingham on a screenplay treatment. Fleming eventually tired of the movie business, and went back home to Jamaica to write his next Bond novel, Thunderball. McClory later sued, claiming the novel used elements from the film they’d worked on together. The suit settled out of court, but McClory was granted certain rights to Thunderball in the process, and ultimately served as a producer on the movie. Nearly two decades after Thunderball was released, he served as an executive producer on Never Say Never Again, a Bond film that saw the return of Sean Connery in the title role for the first time in more than a decade (produced by Warner Bros. and not Bond’s home studio of MGM). The plot is in many ways identical to Thunderball.

4. THE JETPACK REALLY WORKED, BUT THE PILOT WOULDN’T FLY WITHOUT A HELMET. 

The Bell Rocket Belt used in the film’s opening sequence was a real working jetpack, and two qualified pilots were flown to France to operate it for the moment when Bond lifts off. Bill Suitor, who flew the jetpack on camera, was initially asked if he would mind flying without a helmet so that Bond could look cooler. Suitor refused for safety reasons, which is why Connery wore a helmet in the final film.

6. THE BRITISH MILITARY THOUGHT BOND’S MINIATURE OXYGEN TANK WAS REAL. 

Early in the film, Q gives Bond a tiny breathing apparatus that allows him to survive underwater for several minutes, and Bond puts it to good use when trapped in a closed pool with a bunch of sharks. The scene was so convincing that a member of the Royal Engineers called chief draftsman Peter Lamont and asked him how long the apparatus actually worked. Lamont replied “as long as you can hold your breath.” When the engineer countered that Bond was underwater for several minutes onscreen, Lamont replied it was “the skill of the editor.” The engineer eventually hung up.

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