of Movie Trivia
Everyone wants to provide small novelty pieces of information about beloved movies. Unfortunately, the high demand means that the product has gotten a bit diluted over time. Misunderstandings or even outright lies now permeate the pop culture landscape. We’re inclined to believe a lot of them if for no other reason than the reputation that people have in show business for being weird, or for crazy things to happen when millions of dollars are spent on make believe.
There’s too much respect for the truth to let that stand. Well, at least we want to help our readers put some smug people who think they’re the smartest people in the world because they know some piece of trivia in their place.
10. Alien’s Gender Flip
Since Ellen Ripley’s status as the main character (and sole survivor, not counting the cat) of the Alien franchise was a surprise in the original film of the series, the part being played by Sigourney Weaver instead of, say, her then-more famous male co-star Tom Skerritt made it a subject of a lot of discussion from 1979 onwards. One of the claims that popped up over the years was that the character was originally intended to be male. This seems to be a carryover from the genderflipped character Ruth Leavitt in the slightly less famous 1971 science fiction classic The Andromeda Strain.
None other than screenwriter Dan O’Bannon refuted the story. He clarified that, intentionally, none of the characters were gender specific in his script so that the casting director could take care of that. He had even included notes about this decision on the last page of his original screenplay. We’ll leave it up to the reader to decide what if anything this says about gender roles in fiction.
9. Johnny Depp/Jackie Earle Haley
It’s a classic story of an audition with a comical twist: Someone who doesn’t even intend to be an actor is just going along with a friend to audition for a job. Turns out the casting director prefers the friend who wasn’t intending to act, and that person goes on to be a big star. Something very similar to that happened to Bob Hoskins, for example. The single most famous example of this would likely be in 1983, when Jackie Earle Haley brought Johnny Depp along with him for a role in A Nightmare on Elm Street and ended up launching his friend’s career. Then for a fun coincidence, Jackie Earle Haley was cast as Freddy Krueger for the 2010 remake.
Except… no. Haley clarified in an interview in Esquire that all this talk of him and Depp at the audition was just a rumor. He doesn’t even know what the origin of the rumor could have been, just that him not bringing Depp there was crystal clear.
8. Daniel Day Lewis’s Insane Method Acting
Daniel Day-Lewis is as much famous for his extreme method acting as he is for winning three Academy Awards for Best Actor. For example, playing the primarily paralyzed Christy Brown in My Left Foot involved him staying in a wheelchair for the duration of the shoot. He supposedly insists on only being referred to by his character’s name. It’s all designed to instill the belief that he spends all day trying to think of himself as the character in some maniacal worship of the acting profession.
On the podcast I Was There Too, Paul F. Tompkins (who worked with him on There Will Be Blood) clarified that Lewis wasn’t so intensely in character at all. Between takes he would discuss the characters as if they were characters, he wouldn’t insist at all on being referred to by his character’s name, and he was fine with dropping the accent once the shoot was done for the day. Indeed, as Tompkins opines, it would be an indication that Lewis isn’t a good actor if he makes others uncomfortable with such unreasonable demands, since part of the nature of being a good actor is to pay attention to the needs of your collaborators.
7. Tricking Alan Rickman
No, this isn’t an assertion that it’s untrue that Alan Rickman was ever tricked. This is referring to a story that, in order to get a better reaction out of Hans Gruber for the shot when he is dropped off Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard, supposedly the director told him that he would be dropped on the count of three. However, to get a genuinely shocked reaction before Rickman had properly braced himself, though, he was dropped on the count of one.
Sorry to ruin everyone’s fun, but Rickman was asked about this very thing during a Q&A event. He unambiguously didn’t remember it happening, which – considering how vividly he remembered the director saying “we’re going to drop the actor” – means that would have been an aspect that would have stuck in his memory. Considering he remembered the fall being higher than the generally reported (40 feet instead of 25) he clearly wasn’t in the mood to downplay anything.
6. Al Capone’s Tailor
Bringing it back to the subject of method acting, we all know perhaps the second biggest method actor in the world was Robert DeNiro for years and years, starting with becoming a real cab driver for weeks to prepare to play Travis Bickle in 1974’s Taxi Driver. By the time 1987 rolled around, for The Untouchables the news went around that DeNiro was supposedly personally tracking down Al Capone’s tailor so that the pajamas he wore (and even his underwear) matched the crime lord’s.
As was pointed out by others well after this misconception spread, given that there was a 56-year gap between Capone’s incarceration and the production of The Untouchables, Capone’s tailor was very unlikely to be in the right shape to work. For one thing, Capone’s tailor was actually Louis Dinato, an associate of Capone’s whose main noteworthy aspect was being repeatedly questioned by the police even after Capone was imprisoned (to no avail), as if he were some sort of interrogation punching bag. The person who actually did the costume work for DeNiro was Rich Bruno, and given that he was only 52 when The Untouchables was made, it would have been quite a trick for the costumer to be tailoring for Al Capone.
5. Spider-Man’s 156 Takes
This one has been a favorite of trivia sites for years: Somehow Sam Raimi’s 2002 film Spider-Man had enough time in the production schedule to devote hours and hours (if not days) to shoot 156 takes of Tobey Maguire catching a tray full of food. Now granted, in 2002 CGI affordable enough for a throwaway gag wasn’t quite up to scratch, so there’s plenty of reason to do it mechanically instead of with computers. But Maguire didn’t do it alone and the “156 takes” claim is certainly a joke (evidenced by the fact that in its source, a commentary track, the commenter gets a laugh from it).
It explicitly was a combination of using a “mechanical rig” to drop the food and gluing the tray to Maguire’s hand, and using force-absorbing gel on the bottom of said food. In fact, if you go frame-by-frame, you can see a white substance stuck to the bottom of the apple. That at least confirms it wasn’t CGI, since why would a CG artist put that on there? Still, it definitely puts this back in the “SFX” category.
4. Werner Herzog’s Shoe Bet
Errol Morris and Werner Herzog are two of the most interesting documentary filmmakers working today, and their film careers were connected in a rather befuddling way. Errol Morris began his career in 1978 with the cult documentary Gates of Heaven(particularly beloved by Roger Ebert) at a time when he had little funding and getting distribution for the film would have been extremely difficult. Herzog came up with a bizarre bet to motivate his friend: If the movie were completed, Herzog would eat his shoe at the premiere. It was enough of an event that a short film was made of the preparation of the meal.
Then Morris came along during a Q&A session at the Lincoln Center and revealed that they actually didn’t have a wager – it was just something that Herzog had made up as an excuse to eat a shoe. Not wanting to be comedically upstaged, while telling the truth about this, Morris said he would joke for years that the bet had actually stipulated Herzog’s foot.
3. The Dark Knight’s Remote Futzing
Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in this 2008 blockbuster was so compelling that much of his manic behavior felt completely natural, leaving audiences open to the notion that even the biggest parts were improvised. A scene where the Joker claps in jail is an example. But the best known example is the scene where the Joker is blowing up Gotham General Hospital, but stops when there seems to be a problem with the detonation. In what was alleged to be improv, Ledger messes with the remote, and then the explosion resumes, leaving him to scramble onto the bus.
As director Christopher Nolan explains in a behind the scenes feature included on The Dark Knight blu-ray, the sudden stop in the explosion and the Joker’s pause was actually planned in advance. In fact, Warner Brothers provided a CGI mockup of how the scene would be staged as evidence. That’s much further than most studios go in debunking a piece of trivia.
2. Citizen Kane’s Non-Plot Hole
Since this 1941 film has for decades been known as arguably the best ever made, it was a delight for film buffs and critics alike to claim that the story has a gigantic plot hole right in the middle of it. The impetus for the story is that the titular Kane’s last word was “Rosebud” and it was supposed to be said to an empty room. Which begs the question of how anyone heard what his final word was if he was alone. There was a story circulated that this was pointed out to auteur Orson Welles by a member of the crew, and Welles responded some variation on “don’t you ever tell anyone this.”
The problem with the plausibility of that little story is that it’s not consistent with the content of the movie. While the opening scene has been watched by cinefiles and parodied many times by shows such as The Simpsons, the scene’s person who heard the words doesn’t appear until much later. Very near the end, the reporter that’s been spending the movie trying to learn from Kane’s intimates what Rosebud could mean has a brief chat with the butler Raymond, who explicitly says he’s the one who heard it. Raymond’s other main contribution to the movie is telling the reporter about the famous scene where Kane wrecks his room until he sees a snow globe and says Rosebud the first time. So if someone had asked Orson Welles about who heard the words, Welles would just have said Raymond instead of acting as if his entire movie were in jeopardy.
1. Being John Malkovich’s Beer Can
A lot of this trivia took a concerted effort to debunk or a celebrity to wanted to set the record straight. In this case, the thing that disproved it was completely unintentional. Indeed, the performer in question might not even have ever heard of the false story.
In Being John Malkovich, there’s a scene where the titular actor is walking by a road while he’s in a rut. An extra in a passing vehicle yelled “Hey Malkovich, think fast!” and threw a beer can at his head. Supposedly the scene was completely unscripted and instead of being rebuked for potentially ruining a take, the actor got a raise (some versions say he got a Screen Actors Guild card) because the line of dialogue was used.
The truth didn’t come out until Malkovich was doing a question and answer session known as a “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) on the popular website Reddit. One of his fans asked about that particular scene without mentioning it was supposedly completely spontaneous. The actor said that he was especially fond of that scene, and had been looking forward to it… as soon as he read it in the script. In fact, director Spike Jonze wasn’t even sure if any of the actors would be able to hit Malkovich in an acceptably low number of takes. In hindsight, it would have been a pretty bad idea to actively encourage extras to do things that might harm actors and ruin takes, so everyone should have found the story dubious even before Malkovich accidentally corrected them.