And thanks for reading! Let’s just have some fun this week. Here are some useless facts and a bit of trivia that actors should enjoy.
Just a reminder here that when I use the term “actor” I mean it to encompass all forms of acting including voice, stage, and screen. What follows applies relatively equally to all of these forms of acting.
Behind the scenes
If you’ve ever been on a sound stage, in a studio or on a TV or movie set, it’s fun to see all the things that go on behind the scenes. The average “civilian” consumers of entertainment have no idea what kind of things go on in making that entertainment. What follows are just some fun bits of trivia and not a few useless facts for you to digest. Let’s start with a couple big ones. WARNING: There may be spoilers ahead!
Who doesn’t love a Bruce Willis movie about a bunch of hard charging, hard partying oil drilling roughnecks being launched into space to land on a meteor to drill a hole and save the world? Well, not many people apparently as Armageddon was a very successful film. But here’s the thing: Did you know that NASA shows this film during management training? Because it is so accurate? No. New managers are supposed to see how many errors they can find. To date more than 160 have been discovered.
It’s iconic. Anyone who loves gangster movies has seen the first Godfather movie at LEAST once (personally I like to watch it at least once a year. And I LOVE the seven hour long cut where the scenes are arranged chronologically across all three movies). If, like me, you’ve watched this movie several times, you may have noticed Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) holding a cat in the opening scene. That cat was a stray found on the lot who apparently took a liking to Brando so he just became a part of film history. The cat’s purring was so loud at times, Brando had to ADR some of his lines.
I confess I haven’t seen this one, so I can’t comment on the content of the movie, however here is an interesting tidbit. I think we all know that making a feature film is expensive and time consuming. Apparently in this film there was a scene filmed in a huge cornfield. In order to pull off the scene the producers actually GREW a huge field of corn, shot the scene then sold the corn for profit. Imagine having to plant the field, tend the field and then wait for the corn to grow before shooting a scene. That’s dedication.
Star Trek (1966-1969)
For all of us who grew up watching William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy conquering the “final frontier” the technology was pretty far out for the viewers in the 1960’s. Phasers, transporters, communicators…doors that whooshed open as you approached them. Fun stuff for youngsters like me at the time. And the recognizable sound of those doors whooshing? The Foley artist used the sound of a flushing toilet in a Russian train. Who could have known?
Leo and Kate…what a great couple. The majority of this movie is set in 1912. Of the total run time for this film…a whopping 3 hours and 16 minutes…the 1912 scenes comprise a total run time of 2 hours 40 minutes; the exact amount of time it took the Titanic to sink. And the scene where the ship collides with the iceberg? That runs just 37 seconds…the reported amount of time the actual collision lasted. Attention to detail!
This is, of course, the film that brought John Travolta back out of semi-obscurity. In one scene, his character Vincent plunges a needle on a syringe into his scene partner Mia’s (played by Uma Thurman) chest to revive her from an accidental overdose. The film was shot with Vincent violently pulling the needle out and then it was run in reverse in the final cut. My question is: Did they actually insert a needle into her chest for this scene? Since every scene is shot multiple times from different angles and with different lighting, I’d say having a needle inserted and removed from your chest over and over is true dedication.
This classic movie depicting a hotel owner who keeps his mother’s dead body in the attic to talk to, and who tends to snuff out his guests, was rife with controversies at the time of its filming. One of the many was a flushing toilet. Yep, prior to this somewhat shocking film it was considered taboo to show a toilet being flushed. It was only three years earlier (1957) that a toilet was shown on screen at all in the TV series Leave it to Beaver. Like slashing Janet Leigh’s character Marion Crane wasn’t quite shocking enough!
We can’t mention Star Trek without also mentioning Star Wars. Casting shows and movies is a bit of a fine art. The writer, producer and director definitely have a character in mind for each role, and they sift through (sometimes) hundreds of auditions to find just the right person to fill each role. The lovable character of Han Solo was one role that was tough to fill…they searched for seven months. As part of the audition process the casting team uses a “reader” to feed lines to the auditioning actor and at one point Harrison Ford was called in as a reader. They liked his delivery of dialog so much they cast him as Solo, and the rest is history!
A complicated computer program plugged directly into people’s brains to keep them from realizing they are just a set of biological batteries for the machines that run the world. Keanu Reeves as “The One”. What’s not to love about this classic movie? And Sushi too. That’s right, those scrolling characters depicting “The Code” that runs to hide reality from humans are Sushi recipes from the cookbook of the wife of one of the production designers.
OK, this isn’t A movie, but a movie franchise, and we are only going to focus on the part of the franchise where Sean Connery plays the dashingly handsome and debonair Bond…James Bond. Since the actor began balding at the ripe old age of….17…Connery wore a toupee in every James Bond movie where he played the lead actor. This may disappoint some of the ladies for whom Connery was a heart throb. Sorry ladies, I warned there may be spoilers.
Some of you probably already know this one, but it’s kinda fun so here ya go. A meek, stressed-out automobile recall specialist played by Edward Norton (does that job even really exist) who is never named (although he does adopt a number of aliases in the film) creates an alter ego, Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt). They go on to create a “fight club” where men pummel each other in basements and warehouses across the city. Beyond the little-known fact that both Edward Norton and Brad Pitt both learned to actually make soap as part of their preparation for their roles, watch closely and you will see a Starbucks cup in every scene (with permission from Starbucks). The director, David Fincher, was poking fun at the chain because he thought the ubiquitousness of a Starbucks on every corner was a bit much.
Gone With the Wind
Vivian Leigh, Clark Gable…a love story for the ages. Strange, since love is pretty much destroyed in the film… “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” and all. It’s a great movie, but here is the fun bit. When the film depicts the burning of the plantation, Tara, as part of the Civil war General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” it was ACTUALLY the first scene shot for the film. Huh? How can that be? How did they burn down the plantation BEFORE filming? Truth is, the scenes that depict the burning of Atlanta, including Tara, were actually old movie sets that needed to be removed before building sets for this film. So they burned them and filmed it…all before the first actor was cast.
Well, there you have it
Some fun little bits of trivia and little-known facts about some of our favorite films. I hope you had as much fun reading about them as I did researching them to write this. I know, not a lot of “meat” this week…but hopefully you’ve had some fun.