The Quick 10: 10 Leaders Under the Influence

If we heard reports of George W. Bush or Barack Obama waking up and having a martini before going about their daily routines, there would definitely be an uproar. But not too long ago, it wasn't uncommon for world leaders to drink throughout the day, and it wasn't that long ago that opium was considered a cure-all medicine. Now that we're more fully aware of how those things can mess with your brain, it seems astonishing that these people were running the world while under the influence of hallucinogens or alcohol. This post was inspired by a great podcast, by the way - Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. If you're interested in stuff like this, be sure to check it out.

1. Despite the image of youth and vitality he portrayed, JFK actually had a lot of health problems, including asthma, Addison's disease, back problems and severe allergies. To treat all of his problems, he was using any number of painkillers and opiate-based medicine. A doctor nicknamed "Dr. Feelgood" gave him shots that included vitamins, steroids, and amphetamines. He was taking so many shots in such large doses that legitimate doctors told him he needed to back off of the stuff. During both the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, he was on steroids, painkillers, anti-spasmodics, antibiotics, antihistamines and an anti-psychotic drug. This cocktail of drugs often left him feeling groggy or unfocused, so he would take anti-anxiety medicine to try to counter all of that.

2. Winston Churchill liked to drink "“ that was no secret. He woke up drinking, in fact, and was known to keep a drink within reach throughout the entire day. However, he also popped pills like they were candy. He named his pills majors, minors, reds, greens, and "Lord Morans," after his physician who prescribed them. He also took stimulants for the same reason JFK later did: to appear youthful and vigorous.

eden3. Churchill's successor, Anthony Eden, liked his fair share of pills as well. He had chronic gall bladder problems, which is why he carried a box of medicine with him at all times, including a healthy supply of morphine. He also got hooked on Benzedrine and has even acknowledged that fact himself.
4. Stalin is another one who was probably an alcoholic.

When the Germans attacked the Russians in 1941, Stalin pretty much disappeared off the face of the map for a week. One theory is that he was pretty much out on a bender that entire week. And a firsthand account says that he was able to drink a "khanty" "“ a buffalo horn used as a glass that could easily hold three or four bottles of wine "“ with no problem whatsoever.

5. Hitler reportedly took doctor-administrated amphetamine shots for the last several years of his life. Then he took barbiturates to come down. His doctor, Theodore Morell, meticulously recorded each of 73 medications he gave to Hitler, including sedatives, hormones, laxatives, narcotics, methamphetamine and cortisone.

alex6. Some historians speculate that Alexander the Great's decision to burn Persepolis to the ground was alcohol-fueled. Alexander loved to drink, despite being scornful of his father's drinking problem. The story is that Alexander, his men and some courtesans were celebrating their victories with copious amounts of alcohol when one of the courtesans gave a drunken speech about how Persepolis should be burned to the ground "“ the Persians burned Athens when they conquered it, so it would be only fair, she said. In their drunken revelry, everyone thought this sounded like a great idea (I think most of us have thought an idea was fabulous when under the influence, only to sober up and realize how stupid it was) and proceeded to do just that. Some historians think this was calculated, but the argument against it includes the fact that when Alexander's troops saw the city burning (they were camped out beyond city limits), they thought it was accidental and came running to help. If it was premeditated, Alexander probably would have informed his troops that it was about to happen.

7. Herman Göring, Hitler's designated successor, was a morphine addict. In fact, in the "˜20s, he was placed in a mental asylum because he was such a violent drug addict. But by the time he was a big cheese with the Nazis, he would shoot himself up before staff meetings and then fall asleep mid-meeting. By the end of the war, most of the people around him thought he was pretty incompetent.

8. It's speculated that Napoleon's performance at Waterloo was so awful because he was heavily under the influence. Reports say that on the day of the battle, he was sluggish, indecisive and slow, probably due to the fact that he was in pain the night before and took a dose of opium. This was a time when opium was commonly used as a medicine for a wide variety of ailments, so it really wouldn't have been thought of twice.

9. If the name James Wilkinson doesn't ring a bell, it's probably because history hasn't been kind to him. He led an invasion of Canada during the War of 1812, but he was so soused on alcohol and hopped up on opium that his directions were terrible, misleading and confusing. An army of 180 Canadians managed to fend off Wilkinson's force of more than 4,000.

10. Lyndon B. Johnson may or may not have been an alcoholic, but he certainly had alcohol-related bouts of rage. One Air Force One Steward recalls that Johnson threw a drink on the floor after declaring it too weak: his preference was three-quarters of a glass of scotch and one-quarter soda water. George Reedy, Johnson's press secretary, said he would drink scotch after scotch for days on end, and then abruptly just stop for months.

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Warner Bros.
19 Shadowy Facts About Tim Burton's Batman
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Superhero movies are bigger than they’ve ever been before, but we arguably wouldn’t be here at all without 1989’s Batman. Produced at a time before comic book movies were considered big business, Tim Burton’s dark look at a superhero then best known for a goofy TV show is a pop culture landmark, and the story of how it was made is almost as interesting as the film itself. So, to celebrate Batman—which was released on this day in 1989—here are 19 facts about how it came to the screen.

1. AN EARLY MOVIE IDEA RELIED ON THE CAMPINESS OF THE CHARACTER.

As development of a Batman movie began, studio executives were still very tied to the campiness embodied by the Batman television series of the 1960s. According to executive producer Michael Uslan, when he first began attempting to get the rights to make a film, he was told that the only studio who’d expressed interest was CBS, and only if they could do a Batman In Outer Space film.

2. IT TOOK 10 YEARS TO MAKE.

Uslan lobbied hard for the rights to Batman, and finally landed them in 1979. At that point, the fight to convince a studio to make the film ensued, and everyone from Columbia Pictures to Universal Pictures turned it down. When Warner Bros. finally agreed to back the film, the issue of developing the right script had to be settled, and that took even more time. In 1989, after years of battling, Batman was finally released, and Uslan has been involved in some form in every Batman film since.

3. AN EARLY SCRIPT FEATURED BOTH THE PENGUIN AND ROBIN.

When Uslan finally got the chance to develop the film, he drafted legendary screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a consultant on Superman, to write the script. The Mankiewicz script included The Joker, corrupt politician Rupert Thorne, a much greater focus on Bruce Wayne’s origin story, The Penguin, and the arrival of Robin late in the film. The script was ultimately scrapped, but you can see certain elements of it in Batman Returns.

4. TIM BURTON WASN’T THE FIRST POTENTIAL DIRECTOR.

Though Warner Bros. ultimately chose Tim Burton to helm Batman, over the course of the film’s development a number of other choices emerged. At various points on the road to Batman, everyone from Gremlins director Joe Dante to Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was in line for the gig.

5. MANY STARS OF THE TIME WERE CONSIDERED FOR BATMAN.

The casting process for Batman was a long one, and involved a number of major stars of the day. Among the contenders for the title role were Mel Gibson, Bill Murray (yes, really), Kevin Costner, Willem Dafoe, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Charlie Sheen, Ray Liotta, and Pierce Brosnan, who later regretted turning down the role.

6. TIM BURTON HAD TO FIGHT TO CAST MICHAEL KEATON.

At the time, Michael Keaton was best known for his comedic roles in films like Mr. Mom and Night Shift, so the thought of casting him as a vigilante of the night seemed odd to many. Michael Uslan remembers thinking a prank was being played on him when he heard Keaton’s name pop up. Burton, who’d already worked with Keaton on Beetlejuice, was convinced that Keaton was right for the role, not just because he could portray the obsessive nature of the character, but because he also felt that Keaton was the kind of actor who would need to dress up as a bat in order to scare criminals, while a typical action star would just garner “unintentional laughs” in the suit. Burton ultimately won the argument, and Keaton got an iconic role for two films.

7. JACK NICHOLSON WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE JOKER, BUT HE WASN’T THE ONLY CHOICE.

From the beginning, Uslan concluded that Jack Nicholson was the perfect choice to play The Joker, and was “walking on air” when the production finally cast him. He certainly wasn’t the only actor considered, though. Among Burton’s considerations were Willem Dafoe, James Woods, Brad Dourif, David Bowie, and Robin Williams (who really wanted the part).

8. TIM BURTON WON JACK NICHOLSON OVER WITH HORSEBACK RIDING.

When Nicholson was asked to discuss playing The Joker, he invited Burton and producer Peter Guber to visit him in Aspen for some horseback riding. When Burton learned that was what they’d be doing, he told Guber “I don’t ride,” to which Guber replied “You do today!” So, a “terrified” Burton got on a horse and rode alongside Nicholson, and the star ultimately agreed to play the Clown Prince of Crime.

9. EDDIE MURPHY WAS ONCE CONSIDERED TO PLAY ROBIN.

Though the character of Robin was ultimately scrapped because it simply didn’t feel like there was room for him in the film, he did appear in early drafts of the script, and at one point producers considered casting Eddie Murphy—who, you must remember, was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s—for the role. 

10. SEAN YOUNG WAS THE ORIGINAL VICKI VALE.

Burton initially cast Blade Runner star Sean Young as acclaimed photographer Vicki Vale, who would become Bruce Wayne’s love interest. Young was part of the pre-production process on Batman for several weeks until, while practicing horseback riding for a scene that was ultimately cut, she fell from her horse and was seriously injured. With just a week to go until shooting, producers had to act fast to find a replacement, and decided on Kim Basinger, who essentially joined the production overnight.

11. TIM BURTON WASN’T OFFICIALLY HIRED UNTIL BEETLEJUICE BECAME A HIT.

Though he was basically already a part of the production, Burton wasn’t officially the director of Batman right away. Warner Bros. showed interest in him working on the film after the success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but according to Burton they only officially hired him after the first weekend grosses for Beetlejuice came in.

“They were just waiting to see how Beetlejuice did,” Burton said. “They didn’t want to give me that movie unless Beetlejuice was going to be okay. They wouldn’t say that, but that was really the way it was.”

12. DANNY ELFMAN THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO BE FIRED UNTIL HE PLAYED THE MAIN THEME.

Danny Elfman is now considered one of our great movie composers, but at the time Batman was released he didn’t have any blockbuster credits to his name. He recalls meeting with Burton (with whom he had worked on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) and producer Jon Peters to go over some of the music he’d already written for the film, and feeling “a lot of skepticism” over whether he should be the composer for Batman. It wasn’t until Burton said “Play the march,” and Elfman went into what would become the opening credits theme for the film, that he won Peters over.

“Jon jumped out of his chair, really just almost started dancing around the room,” Elfman said.

13. THE JOKER WASN’T ALWAYS GOING TO KILL BATMAN’S PARENTS.

In the final film, The Joker (then named Jack Napier) is revealed to be the gangster who guns down Bruce Wayne’s parents in the streets of Gotham City. It’s a twist that some comic book fans still dislike, and according to screenwriter Sam Hamm, it definitely wasn’t his fault.

“That was something that Tim had wanted from early on, and I had a bunch of arguments with him and wound up talking him out of it for as long as I was on the script. But, once the script went into production, there was a writer’s strike underway, and so I wasn’t able to be with the production as it was shooting over in London, and they brought in other people.”

Hamm also emphasizes that it was also not his idea to show Alfred letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

14. THE CLIMACTIC SCENE WAS WRITTEN MIDWAY THROUGH SHOOTING.

Though much of the film is still derived from Hamm’s script, rewrites continued to happen during shooting, and one of them involved the final confrontation between Batman and The Joker in a Gotham City clock tower. According to co-star Robert Wuhl, the climax was inspired by Jack Nicholson and Jon Peters, who went to see a production of The Phantom of the Opera midway through filming and watched as the Phantom made his final stand in a tower. Together, they somehow determined that a final fight in the tower was what Batman needed.

“The next day, they started writing that scene … the whole ending in the tower,” Wuhl said.

15. MICHAEL KEATON’S BATMAN MOVEMENTS WERE INSPIRED BY THE RESTRICTIONS OF THE COSTUME.

Batman fans still love to make jokes about the original costume, and Michael Keaton’s inability to turn his head (there’s even a dig at that in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), but the restrictions of the costume actually inspired how Keaton performed as the Dark Knight. In 2014, Keaton revealed that his performance as Batman was heavily influenced by a moment when, while trying to actually turn his head in the suit, he ended up ripping it.

“It really came out of the first time I had to react to something, and this thing was stuck to my face and somebody says something to Batman and I go like this [turning his head] and the whole thing goes, [rriipp]! There was a big f***ing hole over here,” he said. “So I go, well, I've got to get around that, because we've got to shoot this son of a bitch, so I go, 'You know what, Tim [Burton]? He moves like this [like a statue]!’”

“I'm feeling really scared, and then it hit me—I thought, 'Oh, this is perfect! This is perfect.' I mean, this is, like, designed for this kind of really unusual dude, the Bruce Wayne guy, the guy who has this other personality that's really dark and really alone, and really kind of depressed. This is it.”

16. GOTHAM CITY WAS REAL, AND IT WAS EXPENSIVE.

Production designer Anton Furst put a lot of work into the incredibly influential designs for the film’s version of Gotham City, and the production was committed to making them pay off. The production ultimately spent more than $5 million to transform the backlot of London’s Pinewood Studios into Gotham City, and you can see the dedication to practical effects work in the final film.

17. PRINCE WAS PART OF THE PRODUCTION EVEN BEFORE HE JOINED IT.

Batman famously features original songs by Prince, who wrote so much new material for the production that he basically produced a full album. Even before the Purple One was drafted to write for the film, though, he was influencing it. Burton played Prince songs on set during the parade sequence and the Joker’s rampage through the museum.

18. THE FILM’S MARKETING WAS SO EFFECTIVE THAT IT INSPIRED CRIMES.

By the time Batman was actually on its way to release, it was becoming a phenomenon, and the marketing for the film was inspiring a frenzy among fans. People were buying tickets to other films just to see the first trailer, and selling bootleg copies of the early footage. The poster, featuring the iconic logo, was so popular that, according to Uslan, people were breaking into bus stations just to steal it.

19. IT WAS A BOX OFFICE LANDMARK.

Though studio executives resisted the idea of a “dark” Batman movie for years, the film ultimately set a new standard for box office success. It was the first film to ever hit $100 million in 10 days, the biggest film in Warner Bros.’ history at the time, and the box office’s biggest earner of 1989—and that’s not even counting the massive toy and merchandising sales it generated.

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