CLOSE
Original image

8 Chimpanzee Stars

Original image

Chimpanzees, along with gorillas and orangutans, are our closest relatives among all the animals on the planet. Chimps are intelligent, artistic, emotional, and so darn cute! On the other hand, you could say that about human movie and TV stars. But chimpanzees have some extra advantages in entertainment: they are small, they look funny dressed as humans because of the relative size and shape of their arms and legs, and they have few inhibitions. Plus, they don't demand large salaries or champagne in their dressing rooms!

1. Cheeta

435Cheeta.jpg
Tarzan's sidekick was a chimpanzee named Cheeta, but only in the movies. The books by Edgar Rice Burroughs never mentioned him, or any other chimp for that matter. The character Cheeta first appeared in the 1932 Johnny Weismuller movie Tarzan the Ape Man. Beginning with the third Tarzan movie, Tarzan Escapes in 1936, Cheeta was played by a chimp originally named Jiggs who appeared in a dozen Tarzan movies as Cheeta, and a couple more as a nameless chimpanzee. The simian actor eventually became known by the name Cheeta, even when he was playing other characters. His last film role was in Dr. Doolittle in 1967. Cheeta celebrated his 75th birthday on April 9, 2007! The above picture shows Cheeta enjoying a birthday message from Jane Goodall. He even has his own MySpace page.

2. Bonzo

435Bonzo22.jpg
Future US president Ronald Reagan starred in Bedtime for Bonzo in 1951. Reagan played a professor who attempts to teach Bonzo morality as an experiment. Bonzo was played by a chimp named Peggy. Yes, Bonzo was a girl! She reprised the role in the 1953 sequel, Bonzo Goes to College.

More chimps, in chronological order, after the jump.

3. J. Fred Muggs

435Muggs.jpg
It's hard to believe The Today Show has been on the air for 56 years. When the show debuted in 1952 with host Dave Garroway, it wasn't an immediate hit. On January 28, 1953, Garroway got a sidekick, a baby chimpanzee named J. Fred Muggs. Muggs would play the piano, pretend to read the paper, and participate in skits. He was the first animal regular on a live TV show. Muggs appeared regularly through 1957, and made The Today Show a hit with viewers and advertisers. You can see a video of J. Fred Muggs upstaging Gene Rayburn on a game show.

4. Ham the Astrochimp

435_ham.jpg
Ham was the first chimpanzee in space. He was trained to do simple operations (such as pushing a button in reaction to a light) as part of the Mercury Project. Ham blasted off into space on January 31st, 1961 from Cape Canaveral aboard the MR2 capsule. His suborbital flight lasted less than 17 minutes, but he completed the tasks he was trained to do, proving that such tasks would be possible for a human in space. Alan Shepherd's historic flight aboard the Freedom 7 followed three months later. Ham retired to the National Zoo in Washington, and also lived at the North Carolina Zoo before he died in 1983.

5. Lancelot Link

435lancelotlink.jpg
Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp was a Saturday morning children's series that ran on ABC from 1970 to 1972. It was a parody of spy shows such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the James Bond films. Chimpanzees played all the characters, with human voices overdubbed. Lancelot was a secret agent working for A.P.E. (Agency to Prevent Evil). He also headed a band called The Evolution Revolution, which enabled the show to include musical numbers. Some can be seen on YouTube.

6. Bear

244bear3.jpg
BJ and the Bear aired on NBC-TV from 1979 to 1981. The series starred Greg Evigan as BJ, a truck driver who traveled with his chimpanzee named Bear. The show has an online fan club, with episode guides, photos, and cast information.

7. Bubbles

435_bubbles.jpg
At the height of his career in 1985, Michael Jackson adopted a chimpanzee he named Bubbles. Bubbles had previously lived at a research facility in Texas. The chimp accompanied Jackson to press conferences, recording sessions, and even award shows. Jackson and the chimp parted ways when Bubbles' behavior became hard to handle. Bubbles was later found living on an animal ranch in Slymar, California, where he is reported to be doing fine.

8. Pankun

435Pankun.jpg
The most popular chimpanzee active in the media today is Pankun, a regular on two TV shows in Japan, Tensai! Shimura Doubutsu-en (Genius! Shimura Zoo) on NTV and Doubutsu Kisou Tengai! (Unbelievable Animals) on TBS. He is often seen doing very human things, such as riding a train or fishing with his dog, James.

Digg This!

Original image
MGM
arrow
entertainment
15 Inconceivable Facts About The Princess Bride
Original image
MGM

It's no wonder The Princess Bride is such a beloved film: It's action-packed but still lighthearted, sweet but not saccharine, silly but still smart—and, of course, endlessly quotable. Fortunately, in 2012, the movie's leading man Cary Elwes was inspired to write a behind-the-scenes book about the making of the movie in honor of its 25th anniversary, for which he interviewed nearly all of the key cast and crew (sadly, André the Giant, who played Fezzik, passed away in 1993).

Pulling from the impressively detailed text of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride and various interviews Elwes and others have given over the years, we rounded up a series of fun facts and anecdotes sure to delight any fan of the film, which was released 30 years ago today.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR THE AUTHOR'S DAUGHTERS.

William Goldman, who wrote the novel The Princess Bride in 1973 and penned the screenplay, told Entertainment Weekly that, "I had two little daughters, I think they were 7 and 4 at the time, and I said, 'I’ll write you a story. What do you want it to be about?' One of them said 'a princess' and the other one said 'a bride.' I said, 'That’ll be the title.'"

2. BOTH THE DIRECTOR AND THE LEADING MAN ALREADY KNEW AND LOVED THE STORY BEFORE FILMING EVEN BEGAN.

Cary Elwes' stepfather had given him Goldman's book in 1975, when the future actor was just 13 years old. Rob Reiner, who directed the movie, first read the book in his 20s when Goldman gave it to his father. It quickly became Reiner's favorite book of all time, and he had long wanted to turn it into a movie—but he had no idea that many before him had tried and failed.

3. FOR A LONG TIME, NO ONE WAS ABLE TO MAKE THE MOVIE.

At one point or another, Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, and François Truffaut all tried to get the book made into a movie, but due to a series of unrelated incidents—"green-lighters" getting fired, production houses closing—it languished for years. (In one of these proto-Princess Brides, a then-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play Fezzik.) 

After several false starts, Goldman bought back the rights to the book. The movie only got made because Reiner had built up so much good will with movies like This is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing that the studio, 20th Century Foxoffered to make any project of his choice.

4. MANDY PATINKIN FELT A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE CHARACTER OF INIGO MONTOYA.

Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn in The Princess Bride (1987).
MGM

"The moment I read the script, I loved the part of Inigo Montoya," Patinkin told Entertainment Weekly. "That character just spoke to me profoundly. I had lost my own father—he died at 53 years old from pancreatic cancer in 1972. I didn’t think about it consciously, but I think that there was a part of me that thought, If I get that man in black, my father will come back. I talked to my dad all the time during filming, and it was very healing for me."

5. ANDRÉ THE GIANT COULD REALLY, REALLY DRINK.

Three bottles of cognac and 12 bottles of wine reportedly made him just a little tipsy. When the cast would go out for dinner, André—who, according to Robin Wright, ordered four appetizers and five entrees—would drink out of a 40-ounce beer pitcher filled with a mix of liquors, a concoction he called "The American."

6. ANDRÉ HAD AN UNCONVENTIONAL METHOD FOR LEARNING HIS LINES.

Reiner and Goldman met André, then a famous wrestler, at a bar in Paris. "I brought him up to the hotel room to audition him. He read this three-page scene, and I couldn’t understand one word he said," Reiner recalled. "I go, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? He’s perfect physically for the part, but I can’t understand him!’ So I recorded his entire part on tape, exactly how I wanted him to do it, and he studied the tape. He got pretty good!"

7. WILLIAM GOLDMAN WAS INCREDIBLY NERVOUS ON THE SET.

Of all the projects he’d written and worked on—which included the Academy Award-winning Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—Goldman loved The Princess Bride best of all. This manifested itself as extreme nervousness about the project. Reiner invited Goldman to be on set for the duration of the filming—which Goldman did not want to do, saying, “I don’t like being on set. If you’re a screenwriter, it’s boring”—but on the first day, he proved to be a slight nuisance. The first couple takes were plagued by a barely-audible chanting, which turned out to be Goldman praying things would go well. And when Wright's character's dress caught on fire, he panicked, yelling, "Oh my god! Her dress is on fire!"—even though Goldman himself had written that into the script.

8. WALLACE SHAWN WAS BRILLIANT, BUT ALWAYS ON EDGE.

Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

Shawn, who played Vizzini the Sicilian, really is, like his character, a man of "dizzying intellect." He has a history degree from Harvard and studied philosophy and economics at Oxford. In fact, on a day off from filming The Princess Bride, Shawn went to Oxford to give a guest lecture on British and American literature. But Shawn was inconsolably nervous for the entirety of filming.

After learning from his agent that Reiner had originally wanted Danny DeVito for the part, Shawn was wracked with insecurity, perpetually convinced that he was going to be fired after every bad take. "Danny is inimitable," Shawn said. "Each scene we did, I pictured how he would have done it and I knew I could never possibly have done it the way he could have done it," he said.

9. THE DUEL BETWEEN WESTLEY AND INIGO WAS EXCRUCIATINGLY RESEARCHED AND REHEARSED.

Goldman spent months researching 17th-century swordfighting manuals to craft Westley and Inigo's duel; all the references the characters make to specific moves and styles are completely accurate. Then Elwes and Patinkin, neither of whom had much (if any) fencing experience, spent more months training to perfect it—right- and left-handed.

"I knew that my job was to become the world’s greatest sword fighter," Patinkin recalled in Elwes's book. "I trained for about two months in New York and then we went to London and Cary and I trained every day that we weren’t shooting for four months. There were no stuntmen involved in any of the sword fights, except for one flip in the air.” Even after months of pre-shooting training, the fencing instructors came to set and, when there were a few free minutes, would pull Elwes and Patinkin aside to work on the choreography for the scene, which was intentionally one of the last to be shot.

10. IT WAS ELWES'S IDEA TO DIVE HEADFIRST INTO THE "QUICKSAND."

That particular Fire Swamp stunt was accomplished by having a trap door underneath a layer of sand, below which there was foam padding for the actors to fall onto. Originally, the direction called for Westley to jump in feet-first after Buttercup, but Elwes argued this wasn't particularly heroic. Switching up the direction was a risky move—if the trap door wasn't opened at exactly the right instant, Elwes risked banging his head—or even breaking his neck. After the stunt double successfully executed the dive, Elwes himself tried it, and nailed it perfectly on the first take.

11. MIRACLE MAX REALLY WAS THAT FUNNY—AND YOU'RE NOT EVEN SEEING HIS BEST STUFF.

Billy Crystal brought two photos for his makeup artist, Peter Montagna, to draw inspiration from when creating Miracle Max: Crystal’s grandmother and Casey Stengel. As for the acting, Elwes wrote in his book, "For three days straight and 10 hours a day, Billy improvised 13th-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice." Unfortunately for viewers, many of the improvised jokes were not fit for a family-friendly film. Only the cast and crew knows how funny his more crude Miracle Max takes were, but judging from the fact that Patinkin bruised a rib trying to stifle his laughter, as he recounts in the book, they were probably pretty good.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND CAROL KANE, WHO PLAYED HIS WIFE, INVENTED AN ENTIRE BACKSTORY.

Carol Kane and Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

"Billy came over to my apartment in Los Angeles and we took the book and underlined things and made up a little more backstory for ourselves," Kane said. "We added our own twists and turns and stuff that would amuse us, because there’s supposed to be a long history—who knows how many hundreds of years Max and Valerie have been together?" How has that pair not gotten a spin-off film yet? 

13. ELWES FILMED MANY OF HIS SCENES WITH A BROKEN TOE.

Six weeks into production, André convinced Elwes to go for a spin on the ATV that was used to transport the larger man to and from filming locations because he didn’t fit in the van. Almost immediately, the vehicle hit a rocky patch and Elwes got his foot stuck between two mechanisms in the vehicle, breaking his big toe. The young actor tried to hide the injury from his director, but, of course, Reiner quickly found out. He didn't find a new Westley, as Elwes feared he might, but they did have to work some movie magic to allow Elwes to limp around in many of the scenes undetected.

14. ONE PARTICULAR ON-SCREEN INJURY WASN'T FAKED.

As soon as Westley recognizes Count Rugen as the six-fingered man, the script calls for the Count to knock our hero unconscious with the butt of his sword. In filming, Christopher Guest, who played Rugen, was naturally reluctant to really hit Elwes for fear of hurting him. Unfortunately, this reticence was reading on screen and take after take failed to look convincing. Finally, Elwes suggested Guest just go for, at least tap him on the head to get the reaction timing right. The tap came a little too hard, however, and Elwes was knocked legitimately unconscious; he later awoke in the hospital emergency room. It's that take, with Elwes actually passing out, that appears in the film.

15. ONE OF THE FINAL SCENES NEVER MADE IT INTO THE FINAL FILM.

In an alternate ending that was eventually cut, Fred Savage—who plays the initially reluctant audience to Peter Falk's reading of The Princess Bride—goes to his window after his grandfather has left and sees Fezzik, Inigo, Westley, and Buttercup all on their white horses.

Original image
MasterClass
arrow
entertainment
Attention Aspiring Filmmakers: Martin Scorsese Is Teaching an Online Class
Original image
MasterClass

Since launching his career 50 years ago, Martin Scorsese has inspired countless fans to get into the moviemaking business. Now aspiring directors looking for a place to start can receive guidance from the legendary director himself. Beginning early next year, Martin Scorsese will lead his own filmmaking course through the online education platform MasterClass.

MasterClass is best known for offering classes taught by instructors who have already risen to the top of their respective fields. An architecture course from Frank Gehry, a music composition course from Hans Zimmer, and a tennis course from Serena Williams are just a few of the listings in the catalog. The company has also recruited several famous filmmakers in the past, including Aaron Sorkin and Werner Herzog, but Scorsese—the iconic director behind such classics as Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and Goodfellas (1990) is in a league of his own.

Scorsese’s MasterClass includes more than 20 video lessons that pupils will be able to watch at their desired pace. They will also have the chance to upload their own videos and receive feedback from classmates, with Scorsese answering select questions.

"I was excited by this project because it gave me a chance to pass down my own inspirations and experiences and practices and evolutions,” the Oscar-winning director said in a release. “It was so important for me to have people that passed down their own knowledge when I was young, and MasterClass has given me an opportunity to try it myself.”

Prospective students can pre-enroll for $90 today to receive unlimited access to the course when it goes live in 2018.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios