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14 Celebrities Who Appeared on Comic Book Covers

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by Robert Schnakenberg

This fall marks the 75th anniversary of DC Comics. The publisher is celebrating the occasion with the release of DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book, a collection of more than 100 comic book covers featuring the best-loved, most iconic superhero characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. But comics creators have never been shy about reaching into the wider universe of pop culture for cover subjects. DC's main rival Marvel Comics has gotten in on the act on occasion as well. Here are 14 examples of surprising, unexpected, downright unusual celebrities who have found their way onto comic book covers through the years.

Orson Welles

In 1949, United Artists released Black Magic, a big-screen adaptation of an Alexandre Dumas novel, starring Orson Welles as the 18th century Italian occultist Alessandro Cagliostro. Eager to help out with a little cross-promotion, National Periodicals Publications (later to be known as DC Comics) plopped the Citizen Kane auteur smack dab in the middle of a Superman adventure. "Black Magic on Mars" has Welles zooming off to the Red Planet after discovering an experimental rocket ship in the Italian countryside. There he must contend with The Great Martler, leader of the Solazis, a cadre of hydrocephalic aliens who model themselves on Nazi Germany. Naturally, Welles' broadcasts back to Earth warning of an imminent Martian invasion go unheeded—a consequence of his War of the Worlds hoax some years earlier—but he does hold the Martians at bay with swordplay and magic tricks. Soon enough, Superman arrives to set things right and return Welles to Earth in time for the Black Magic wrap party.

Bob Hope

In the late 1940s, the declining popularity of superheroes prompted America's comics publishers to rely increasingly on movie and TV characters to populate its funny books. After bombing with The Adventures of Alan Ladd and a short-lived Ozzie and Harriet title in 1949, DC Comics struck gold in 1950 with The Adventures of Bob Hope, which followed the humorous adventures of the ski-nosed film comedian as he solved crimes, flirted with pretty "dames," and performed a series of odd and unlikely jobs over the course of an improbable eighteen-year run. In this issue, Hope becomes a private eye and helps a gorgeous blonde locate her lost dog. Storylines were submitted to Hope's "people" for approval, but for the most part DC creators had free reign to use the popular entertainer's lascivious coward persona however they saw fit. As the series wheezed on, the situations grew more fanciful. In the mid-1960s, Hope acquired a teenage sidekick—a nerdy nephew named Tadwallader Jutefruce—who could transform himself, Incredible Hulk-like, into an Austin Powers-attired rock 'n' roll alter ego named Super Hip. The first four issues of The Adventures of Bob Hope all featured photographic covers, like the one at left.

Pat Boone

Long before he attempted to reinvent himself in the eyes of younger audiences with his headbanging 1997 album In a Metal Mood, America's avatar of wholesome family entertainment turned up on the cover of this 1959 issue of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane. "Next to standing in front of an altar with Superman," the comic's unseen narrator informs us, "Lois Lane's wildest dream is to share a microphone with America's top singing star and idol of millions, Pat Boone!" (Shhh, don't tell Perry Como, whom she had previously crushed on in the pages of Superman #67 nine years earlier.) In the whimsical ten-page tale "Superman's Mystery Song," Lois gets to live out her dream by performing a duet with Boone honoring their mutual BFF, Superman. But a careless mental error on the part of lyricist Clark Kent nearly results in the public revelation of the Man of Steel's secret identity. Only some quick thinking by Pat Boone—and the awesome power of his celebrity—averts a musical catastrophe.

Jerry Lewis

The strong sales of The Adventures of Bob Hope inspired a string of similar titles based on licensed TV properties and popular comedians. Thus was spawned Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners in 1956, Sgt. Bilko in 1957 (with a separate series for the sitcom's Private Doberman character the following year), and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis in 1960. Easily the most successful of all these "comic comics" was The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, which began life as The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, but was recalibrated to focus solely on the Dumb Kid following the duo's breakup in 1957. The series ran for an incredible 14 years and 124 issues and featured plots even more outlandish than the movie clown's infamous Holocaust comedy The Day the Clown Cried. In this issue from June of 1964, Jerry encounters a fire-breathing dragon on the grounds of a bucolic resort hotel.

Allen Funt

Billed as “the creator of TV’s wildest half-hour,” Allen Funt was just wrapping up the original network run of his popular hidden camera series Candid Camera when Mort Weisinger, the editor on DC’s Superman line, dragooned him into an appearance on the cover of Action Comics. Weisinger, a proponent of using gimmicks and guest stars to boost comic book sales, had previously performed a similar trick with This Is Your Life host Ralph Edwards. Comedian Steve Allen, President John F. Kennedy, and actress Ann Blyth had also crossed paths with the Man of Steel at various points during Weisinger’s tenure. This 1967 issue, in which Funt’s prying lens nearly catches Clark Kent in the act of changing into his Superman costume, marked the end of the long parade of celebrities in Metropolis. Weisinger departed as editor three years later, taking his Rolodex of big-name guest stars with him.

Woody Allen

Fresh off his directorial debut, What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, Woody Allen was enjoying his first blush of national fame when writer E. Nelson Bridwell and artist Mike Sekowsky commandeered his likeness for the cover of Showcase #71 in December of 1967. In fact, Bridwell—a humor writer by trade who had once toiled for Mad magazine—was such a big fan of the Woodman that he had used him as the model for Merryman, a member of DC’s parody superhero team The Inferior Five, the previous year. Showcase was DC’s venerable tryout title, a place where new and unconventional characters were trotted out for “let’s throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks” auditions. Featured here are the Maniaks, a fictional rock band created to cash in on the success of the Monkees, and never seen again after this issue. The pop quartet gets snapped up by Woody to star in his new Civil War-themed stage musical, Confederate Yankees. The hastily drawn, heavily padded story consists almost entirely of “musical” excerpts from the play, proving that the magic of Broadway does not translate to the comic book page.

Don Rickles

In 1971, DC handed the creative keys to Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen to legendary artist Jack Kirby. Kirby proved to be a somewhat erratic driver, to say the least, repopulating the title with a host of unusual new characters, bringing back old ones, and generally trying to shake things up. Some of Kirby’s changes were inspired; others were bizarre—like a two-issue story arc involving insult comedian Don Rickles and his lookalike, Goody Rickels. The idea for a Rickles guest spot originated with Kirby’s assistants, Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman who, like “the King,” were huge fans of the abrasive comic, then performing regularly before national audiences on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show. Rickles’ appearance was at first going to consist of a brief cameo, but DC publicity people were so thrilled at the cross-promotional opportunities that they insisted that Kirby feature him on the cover and expand the storyline over two entire issues.

Uri Geller

Not to be outdone by DC, Marvel Comics added some star power to its pages in 1976 with a cover appearance by renowned mentalist Uri Geller. The Israeli-born spoonbender was riding high at the time, having just published his bestselling autobiography My Story. Marvel Comics headman Stan Lee met Geller at a party in New York and became enamored with the idea of casting the charismatic paranormalist in a comic book. Daredevil writer Marv Wolfman was given with the unenviable task of shoehorning Geller into this issue of Daredevil, in which the titular hero turns to Geller for help defeating a mind-reading supervillain and his army of ESP-endowed henchmen. Geller, whose eyes glow an eerie yellow at various points, is given an extensive superheroic back story of his own. “Curse you, Geller! Curse you!” the villain spits, in a representative snippet of dialogue.

John Travolta

Strange as it may seem, there was a time when the future star of Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction was relegated to the background along with Ron “Horshack” Palillo, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, and the other supporting characters on the cover of 1976’s Welcome Back, Kotter #1, which kicked off a ten-issue run for this DC Comics series based on the then-popular ABC sitcom. While Travolta capers with a coloring book, series star Gabe Kaplan takes center stage as Gabe Kotter, a former juvenile delinquent who takes a teaching job at his old Brooklyn high school. In the inaugural issue, Gabe’s application for a transfer to a cleaner, safer, less chaotic school in Manhattan is accepted. But will those conniving Sweathogs let him go so easily?

The Cast of Saturday Night Live

Back in the days when Saturday Night Live was the hippest show on television, Marvel Comics tried to glom on to some of the show’s countercultural cachet by having its marquee superhero crash a performance by the Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players. The threadbare plot has a supervillain called the Silver Samurai coveting a ring that’s stuck on the finger of SNL cast member John Belushi. When chaos erupts during the live broadcast, Spider-Man must team up with the quick-thinking sketch comics to defeat the bad guy and his minions. Bill Murray gets to knock out henchmen with a giant rubber hammer. Garrett Morris gets to dress up as The Mighty Thor. Laraine Newman gets to do…very little, proving that Marvel scribe Chris Claremont had as much trouble coming up with material for her as Saturday Night Live’s writers did. Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, and Jane Curtin round out the cover cast for this 1977 issue of Marvel Team-Up, which also includes cameo appearances by SNL producer Lorne Michaels and Marvel honcho Stan Lee.

Muhammad Ali

Sure, Superman could leap tall buildings in a single bound, but could he float like a butterfly and sting like a bee? In one of the most heavily hyped comic books in history, The Greatest of All Time took on The Man of Tomorrow in a 1978 single-issue “treasury sized” special. The blockbuster story has Supes and Ali slugging it out to determine who is Earth’s true champion and claim the right to take on an alien contender named Hun’Ya. (In an ironic twist, the comic arrived on stands so late that Ali was no longer even the champion of his own weight class anymore; he’d been dispatched by Leon Spinks several months earlier.) As it turns out, Ali wins the bout, but the comic’s lasting appeal lies in savoring every last detail of artist Neal Adams’ eye-popping wraparound cover, a Sgt. Pepper-ish tableau featuring the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Jimmy Carter, Frank Sinatra, and Jerry Garcia amid a host of other Disco Era celebrities.

David Letterman

In the summer of 1984, while its senior editors were off attending Comic-Con in San Diego, Marvel Comics turned control of its superhero titles over to its second string staff for one issue only. The “Assistant Editors’ Month” stunt generated some predictably zany stories, including this bizarre guest appearance by the gap-toothed host of NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman. In a plot inspired by Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, several of the auxiliary heroes from Marvel’s superteam flagship The Avengers get themselves booked on Letterman’s show. Unbeknownst to them, a clownish supervillain named the Mechano-Marauder has rigged the set with booby traps. After some leaden banter with the host, all manner of chaos erupts, until Letterman himself saves the day by bonking the fame-seeking baddie on the head with an enormous prop doorknob. Sadly, it wasn’t until 2002 that another late-night host turned up in the pages of a Marvel Comic, when Letterman’s rival Jay Leno joined forces with Spider-Man for a series of back-up stories entitled “One Night Only.”

John Walsh

When the trail goes cold on their search for the leader of a child slavery ring, the costumed superteam known as The Outsiders knows just the right man to call: John Walsh. The host of Fox TV’s long-running criminal manhunt program America’s Most Wanted turns up in photographic form on the cover of this 2004 issue, which earns extra celebrity bonus points because it was written by Judd Winick, star of MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco. In the following issue, a lead provided by an America’s Most Wanted viewer helps The Outsiders crack the case. This wasn’t the first time John Walsh had seen us in the funny pages. He’d previously done a three-month-long guest stint in the newspaper comic strip Dick Tracy, becoming the first real-life person ever to appear in its panels.

Stephen Colbert

As regular Colbert Report watchers know, the Comedy Central host is an inveterate comics junkie. He regularly promotes Marvel Comics on his show, and Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada famously bequeathed him Captain America’s mighty shield during a Colbert Report appearance in 2007. So when Colbert needed help publicizing his farcical run for the presidency in 2008, he naturally turned to his friends at the House of Ideas. The result was “Colbert for President” signage liberally seeded throughout scores of Marvel titles, plus an eight-page backup story in Amazing Spider-Man #573. The variant cover, drawn by Quesada himself, mimics the famous first appearance of the web-slinger in Amazing Fantasy #15.

Robert Schnakenberg is the author of DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book, available now from Quirk Books. Visit him on the web at www.robertschnakenberg.com.

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30 Facts About Your Favorite Martin Scorsese Movies
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Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

In the pantheon of iconic American film giants, Martin Scorsese gets to sit at the head of the table and carve the turkey. In a career spanning 50 years, he has created some of the most visually spectacular and quote-worthy material ever put on celluloid. To celebrate the auteur’s 75th birthday, here are 30 facts about some of your favorite Scorsese movies. Ready? Great… now go home and get your #@$%ing shinebox!

1. MUCH OF THE MEAN STREETS BUDGET WENT TO ITS SOUNDTRACK.

Clearing songs for 1973's Mean Streets ate up almost half of the film's $500,000 budget. Staying true to his well-documented love of rock, Scorsese used tunes by The Ronettes, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones for the soundtrack. “For me, the whole movie was 'Jumping Jack Flash' and 'Be My Baby,'" the director said in Scorsese on Scorsese.

2. LAURA DERN HAD A TINY ROLE IN ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE.

Future Oscar nominee Laura Dern made one of her earliest, albeit uncredited, appearances toward the end of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Working alongside her mother, Diane Ladd, Dern—who was seven years old at the time—played a little girl eating a banana-flavored ice cream cone at Mel’s Diner. It took 19 takes to get the shot, which required Dern to consume 19 ice cream cones. Impressed by the budding actress, Scorsese told Ladd that “if she doesn’t throw up after [19 takes’ worth of cones], this girl is ready to be an actress.”

3. THE “YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?” SCENE FROM TAXI DRIVER CAME FROM BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN.

Robert De Niro improvised that whole paranoid monologue, including what would become the movie’s most famous line. (The film's screenwriter, Paul Schrader, later said, “It’s the best thing in the movie, and I didn’t write it.”) De Niro got the line from Bruce Springsteen, whom he’d seen perform in Greenwich Village just days earlier, at one in a series of concerts leading up to the release of Born to Run. When the audience called out his name, The Boss did a bit where he feigned humility and said, “You talkin’ to me?” Apparently it stuck in De Niro’s mind.

4. MUCH OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK WAS IMPROVISED (WHICH MAY HAVE BEEN ITS DOWNFALL).

In 1977, Scorsese released New York, New York. What was meant to be an epic musical turned out to be one of the director’s biggest bombs, due partly to the fact that the normally very regimented director decided to take a more improvisational approach to the film. “I tried to have no idea at all what I was going to do, as much as possible, on the day of shooting—as opposed to having a fairly strong idea of what I was going to do,” he said. “I was really testing the limits … I had a very chaotic style, on purpose, on New York, New York. And I found it didn't work for me."

5. A LOT OF FAMOUS CINEMATOGRAPHERS WERE INVOLVED IN THE MAKING OF THE LAST WALTZ.

The seven 35mm camera operators who shot The Last Waltz, Scorsese's 1978 concert documentary, included Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull), Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter), and László Kovács (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces). Scorsese and Robbie Robertson (who also served as a producer) came up with a 300-page shooting script of diagrams and text that assigned the camera positions with the music lyrics and cues. According to the film's production notes, it was the first music documentary made on 35mm.

6. JOE PESCI WAS RUNNING AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT WHEN SCORSESE AND ROBERT DE NIRO APPROACHED HIM ABOUT RAGING BULL.

Joe Pesci had been a professional actor and musician (he sang and played guitar) off and on since childhood, but he called it quits in the 1970s. His 1975 Broadway show with comedy partner Frank Vincent (whom he would later recruit to play Salvy in Raging Bull) had closed after a week, and his first movie, 1976’s The Death Collector (also featuring Vincent), was a flop. But Robert De Niro happened to see that film in 1978, and was so impressed by Pesci’s performance that he pitched him to Scorsese. The two tracked Pesci down and called him at his restaurant to coax him out of showbiz retirement to co-star in Raging Bull.

7. SCORSESE INITIALLY DIDN’T SEE HOW THE SCRIPT FOR THE KING OF COMEDY WOULD WORK AS A MOVIE.

Robert De Niro passed Paul D. Zimmerman’s script for The King of Comedy on to Scorsese, hoping that he could interest him in directing it. "I didn't get it," Scorsese later admitted. "The script is hilarious. But the movie was just a one-line gag: You won't let me go on the show, so I'll kidnap you and you'll put me on the show.” Eventually, he came to see how it could be turned into a feature.

8. GRIFFIN DUNNE HAD TO GIVE UP, WELL, PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING TO STAR IN AFTER HOURS.

In order to capture the desperation and paranoia to play word processor Paul Hackett in After Hours (1985), Scorsese gave star Griffin Dunne some very specific instructions. “I was at a symposium with Marty Scorsese and he said, ‘I really had to be hard on Griffin for this part. I said, no sex, no going out, none of it,’” Cher told People at the movie’s after-party. “It must have worked,” she added. “He’s so good at being frustrated.”

9. IT WAS PAUL NEWMAN WHO APPROACHED SCORSESE ABOUT THE COLOR OF MONEY.

Walter Tevis had written the book The Hustler and its sequel, The Color of Money, yet Paul Newman didn’t care for the adapted screenplay to the latter. So Newman went to Scorsese, as he was a fan of his work, particularly Raging Bull, which he felt had a similar tone to what The Color of Money should be.

10. SCORSESE GOT THE IDEA FOR GOODFELLAS WHILE SHOOTING THE COLOR OF MONEY.

In a rare moment of downtime on The Color of Money set, "I read a review of [Nicholas Pileggi's] Wiseguy ... and it said something about this character Henry Hill having access to many different levels of organized crime because he was somewhat of an outsider," Scorsese told Rolling Stone. "He looked a little nicer. He was able to be a better frontman and speak a little better. I thought that was interesting, because you could get a cross section of the layers of organized crime—from his point of view, of course. So I got the book, started reading it and was fascinated by the narrative ability of it."

11. THE FAMOUS “FUNNY HOW?” SCENE IN GOODFELLAS WASN’T IN THE SCRIPT.

The most famous (and certainly the most quoted) scene in Goodfellas comes at the beginning, when Pesci's Tommy DeVito jokingly-yet-uncomfortably accosts Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) for calling him "funny." In addition to being the driving force behind the scene on screen, Pesci is also responsible for coming up with the premise.  

While working in a restaurant, a young Pesci apparently told a mobster that he was funny—a compliment that was met with a less-than-enthusiastic response. Pesci relayed the anecdote to Scorsese, who decided to include it in the film. Scorsese didn't include the scene in the shooting script so that Pesci and Liotta’s interactions would elicit genuinely surprised reactions from the supporting cast.

12. STEVEN SPIELBERG TRADED CAPE FEAR TO MARTIN SCORSESE FOR THE RIGHTS TO SCHINDLER'S LIST.

Scorsese was set to direct Schindler's List, but was apprehensive about making it after the controversy surrounding his previous two films, Goodfellas and The Last Temptation of Christ. At the same time, Steven Spielberg was set to make Cape Fear, but decided that he "wasn't in the mood" to make a movie about a "maniac." So they traded projects. Spielberg had Bill Murray in mind to play Max Cady. Scorsese had other ideas.

13. THE CASINO OPENING TITLES WERE DESIGNED BY THE LEGENDARY SAUL BASS.

Saul Bass is certainly the most famous (and possibly the only) well-known designer of opening credit sequences, with more than 50 to his name. If there was a movie in the '50s or '60s with distinctive opening titles, odds are good that it was Bass's work, often in conjunction with his wife, Elaine. (Among them: Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest, West Side Story, Spartacus, and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.) Bass did the titles for Scorsese's Goodfellas, Cape Fear, The Age of Innocence, and Casino, which turned out to be the final film of his career. He died five months after the film opened, at the age of 75. 

14. GANGS OF NEW YORK WAS 32 YEARS IN THE MAKING.

Scorsese read Herbert Asbury’s 1928 nonfiction book The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld in 1970 and immediately thought it would make a good movie. He didn’t have any money or clout yet though, so he had to wait. He bought the movie rights to the book in 1979, and even got a screenplay written around that time, then spent the next 20 years trying to get the project off the ground.

15. THE DEPARTED IS A REMAKE.

While Scorsese and screenwriter William Monahan claim they did not watch the 2002 Hong Kong action movie Infernal Affairs before making The Departed, the two films share more than a few similarities. Infernal Affairs director Andy Lau unsurprisingly prefers his own film, saying of The Departed, “Of course I think the version I made is better, but the Hollywood version is pretty good too.” 

16. “GIMME SHELTER” IS SCORSESE’S UNOFFICIAL GANGSTER THEME SONG.

Before The Departed, Scorsese had previously used the Rolling Stones song in Goodfellas and Casino. It seems Billy Costigan loves the Stones, too; the CD that he mails to Sullivan is housed in the case for the Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street.

17. MEAN STREETS TOOK ITS TITLE FROM A RAYMOND CHANDLER ESSAY.

Originally titled Season of the Witch, the film’s name was changed to Mean Streets from a line from Raymond Chandler’s 1944 essay “The Simple Art of Murder.” Writing about the art of storytelling and plumbing the depths of humanity, Chandler wrote. “In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”

18. DE NIRO WANTED TO MAKE RAGING BULL AS A PLAY, TOO.

This was in early 1978, before it was even written as a movie yet, when De Niro was collaborating with Mardik Martin to adapt LaMotta’s memoir, while simultaneously trying to convince a noncommittal and increasingly drug-addled Scorsese to take on the project. De Niro’s idea was to stage it as a Broadway play (to be directed by Scorsese), and then, during the run of the show, spend the daylight hours shooting the movie. De Niro liked the idea of the day’s filming influencing the way they performed the play that night. But Martin’s script wasn’t yet ready for either medium, and Scorsese was in no shape to do it then anyway. 

19. SCORSESE WAS WORKING ON NEW YORK, NEW YORK AT THE SAME TIME HE WAS MAKING THE LAST WALTZ.

Scorsese was supposed to be in New York editing the Liza Minnelli/Robert De Niro musical drama when he was in San Francisco preparing and shooting The Last Waltz. According to Scorsese, New York, New York producer Irwin Winkler was "very upset" when he learned this.

20. CHANDELIERS FROM GONE WITH THE WIND WERE USED ON THE LAST WALTZ.

The performance recorded for The Last Waltz was designed by Boris Leven, who has served as production designer on West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965). Leven created a backdrop inspired by the films of Luchino Visconti (Death In Venice, The Leopard), borrowing props from the San Francisco Opera's production of La Traviata and chandeliers designed for Gone with the Wind. Robertson wasn't sold on the elaborate decor. He told Leven, "Chandeliers? I don't think that's going to go over with Neil or Bob or the rest of the musicians. These people don't do chandeliers, Boris."

21. THE FIRST SCENE SHOT FOR GOODFELLAS WASN’T DIRECTED BY SCORSESE. 

As you might know, the business of filming is rarely chronological—directors tend to jump scenes for cost, scheduling, and efficiency reasons. For Goodfellas, the scene that broke shooting ground was the intentionally low-budget Morrie’s Wigs commercial, which plays just before Henry and Jimmy hassle Morrie about a debt near the beginning of the film. To get the feel of the commercial right, Scorsese contacted Stephen R. Pacca, who had created his own ultra low-budget ads for his replacement window company, to write and direct the Morrie’s Wigs ad. 

22. REESE WITHERSPOON BLEW HER CAPE FEAR AUDITION. SO DID DREW BARRYMORE.

"It was my second audition ever," Witherspoon said in 1999. "My agent told me I'd be meeting Martin Scorsese. I said, 'Who is he?' Then he mentioned the name Robert De Niro. I said, 'Never heard of him.' When I walked in I did recognize De Niro, and I just lost it. My hand was shaking and I was a blubbering idiot.''

Drew Barrymore auditioned for the role, too, but believed she overacted for one of Scorsese's assistants. In 2000, she called the audition "the biggest disaster" of her life and said that Scorsese thinks she's "dog doo-doo" because of it.

23. GEORGE LUCAS HELPED WITH SCORSESE OUT WITH AN ELEPHANT PROBLEM FOR GANGS OF NEW YORK.


ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

The Star Wars creator, then working on Attack of the Clones, had visited the massive set in Rome and told Scorsese that it was probably the last of its kind, that such large re-creations would be done on computers now to save money. Lucas’s know-how in such matters came in handy later, when Gangs needed an elephant and none of the animal wranglers in Italy were able to produce one in time. So Scorsese called his old friend Lucas and asked for help: “We’re effed," Scorsese told Lucas. "We don’t have [an] elephant! Tell us how to shoot it!” Lucas, an old pro at such things, guided them through the process of filming without the elephant and having it digitally created later. It’s the only thing in the movie that’s completely computer-generated. 

24. SCORSESE WAS INSPIRED TO CAST GWEN STEFANI IN THE AVIATOR AFTER SEEING HER PICTURE ON THE SIDE OF A BUS SHELTER.

The Marilyn Monroe-inspired pictures, taken by Herb Ritts for a Teen Vogue cover, caught Scorsese's eye. Stefani told MTV the story, as she heard it from DiCaprio. “Martin Scorsese’s driving in New York City and he sees my Teen Vogue cover on the side of a bus stop shelter. And he’s like, ’Who’s that girl? Let’s get her!’ I had Leonardo DiCaprio tell me the whole story in Martin Scorsese’s voice, so it was pretty bizarre.” Stefani portrayed Jean Harlow; it was her first film role. 

25. BERNARD HERRMANN DIED JUST A FEW HOURS AFTER RECORDING THE MUSIC FOR TAXI DRIVER.

Scorsese was lucky to get Bernard Herrmann, a Hollywood legend who had scored Citizen Kane, Psycho, Cape Fear, North by Northwest, and dozens of others. Herrmann wrote the Taxi Driver score and conducted the recording sessions himself, finishing in Los Angeles on the evening of December 23, 1975. He retired to his hotel and died sometime during the night, officially Christmas Eve morning, at the age of 64. He was posthumously nominated for an Oscar. 

26. DANIEL DAY-LEWIS WAS TRAINED BY REAL BUTCHERS FOR GANGS OF NEW YORK, BECAUSE OF COURSE HE WAS.


Miramax

Ever the Method actor, Day-Lewis first took lessons from two Argentine brothers with a butcher shop in Queens, then from a master butcher specially flown in from London.

27. SCORSESE THREATENED TO TAKE HIS NAME OFF OF RAGING BULL OVER ONE MINOR SOUND ISSUE. 

Very late in the post-production process, when the film was due to premiere soon and Scorsese was still tinkering with the final sound mix, producer Irwin Winkler gave him a drop deadline: All work would cease at midnight on a certain night, and that would be it. When the hour arrived, Scorsese was obsessing over one minor line of dialogue someone says to a bartender —“Cutty Sark, please”—which he didn’t think was audible. Winkler told him too bad, we’ve got to send this thing out. Scorsese declared that if Winkler released the film this way, he wanted his name taken off it as director, because it no longer reflected his vision. Winkler said, “So be it.” Like all good producers, he knew that sometimes you have to let an overtired director throw a tantrum and say things he doesn’t really mean. Sure enough, Scorsese recanted sometime later.

28. SCORSESE AVOIDED AN X RATING ON TAXI DRIVER BY MAKING THE BLOOD LOOK MORE BROWN THAN RED. 

Scorsese desaturated the color in the film’s gorier scenes, rendering the blood less realistic and more like a black-and-white tabloid newspaper (without actually being black-and-white). Not only did it fit the lurid tone he was going for, it soothed the nerves of the ratings board. 

29. CATE BLANCHETT DID HER HOMEWORK FOR THE AVIATOR.


Miramax

At Scorsese's request, Blanchett watched all of Hepburn's first 15 movies for The Aviator. Blanchett also screened Hepburn's 1973 interview with Dick Cavett, read a memoir about her, took golf and tennis lessons, and took cold baths just like Hepburn. On June 29, 2003—the same day that Blanchett arrived on set for the first time—Hepburn passed away. "I picked up the paper thinking, 'Isn't it odd that Katharine Hepburn's on the cover?'" Blanchett recalled. "She had such a remarkable life, and then with her death, she was even more present in everyone's mind."

30. WE MAY NEVER KNOW WHAT THE REAL SAM “ACE” ROTHSTEIN ACTUALLY THOUGHT OF CASINO.

Lefty Rosenthal—the inspiration for Sam Rothstein, who died in 2008—said he only ever saw Casino once. If that's true, it was the screening of a rough cut that was also attended by Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi sat with Rosenthal—they were the only ones in the screening room—and said Rosenthal's reaction was positive. But near the end of his life, when an interviewer mentioned that, "You only saw Casino once—and you don't like the movie," Rosenthal replied that "It lacked the detail of what I did. There are scenes where the Rosenthal character repeated the same thing twice. I would only tell you to do something one time—that's all I needed. And there was that scene that still angers me when I think of it—I never juggled on The Frank Rosenthal Show. I resent that scene. It makes me look foolish. And I only did that TV show [at] the behest of the chairman of the board of the Stardust so that the public would realize I was a decent guy and not a mobster as portrayed by the media covering us at the time.” Did Rosenthal change his mind over time? Did Pileggi misinterpret his initial reaction? We'll never know.

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15 Things You Should Know About Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe’s enchanting floral still lifes are now a deeply ingrained part of American culture—so much so that they often eclipse her other colorful accomplishments. For a more complete portrait of the artist, who was born 130 years ago today, brush up on these 15 little-known facts about her.

1. FLOWER PAINTINGS MAKE UP A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF O'KEEFFE'S BODY OF WORK.

Though O'Keeffe is most famous for her lovingly rendered close-ups of flowers—like Black Iris and Oriental Poppies—these make up just about 200 of her 2000-plus paintings. The rest primarily depict landscapes, leaves, rocks, shells, and bones.

2. SHE REJECTED SEXUAL INTERPRETATIONS OF HER PAINTINGS.

For decades, critics assumed that O'Keeffe's flowers were intended as homages—or at the very least, allusions—to the female form. But in 1943, she insisted that they had it all wrong, saying, “Well—I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flowers you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower—and I don’t.” So there.

3. SHE WAS NOT A NATIVE OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST.


Joe Raedle/Getty Images

O'Keeffe was actually born on a Wisconsin dairy farm. She'd go on to live in Chicago; New York City; New York’s Lake George; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Amarillo, Texas. She first visited New Mexico in 1917, and as she grew older, her trips there became more and more frequent. Following the death of her husband in 1946, she moved to New Mexico permanently.

4. HER FAVORITE STUDIO WAS THE BACKSEAT OF A MODEL-A FORD.

In an interview with C-SPAN, Carolyn Kastner, curator of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, explained how the artist customized her car for this use: "She would remove the driver's seat. Then she would unbolt the passenger car, turn it around to face the back seat. Then she would lay the canvas on the back seat as an easel and paint inside her Model-A Ford."

Painting inside the car allowed O'Keeffe to stay out of the unrelenting desert sun, where she painted many of her later works. The Model-A also provided a barrier from the bees that would gather as the day wore on.

5. O'KEEFFE ALSO PAINTED SKYSCRAPERS.

While nature was her main source of inspiration, the time she spent in 1920s Manhattan spurred the creation of surreal efforts like New York With Moon, City Night and The Shelton with Sunspots.

6. O'KEEFFE IMMERSED HERSELF IN NATURE ...

While in New Mexico O’Keeffe spent summers and falls at her Ghost Ranch, putting up with the region's hottest, most stifling days in order to capture its most vivid colors. (The rest of the year she stayed at her second home, located in the small town of Abiquiu.) When she wasn't painting in her Model-A, O'Keeffe often camped out in the harsh surrounding terrain, to keep close to the landscapes that inspired her.

7. …WHATEVER THE WEATHER.

The artist would rig up tents from tarps, contend with unrelenting downpours, and paint with gloves on when it got too cold. She went camping well into her 70s and enjoyed a well-documented rafting trip with photographer Todd Webb at age 74. Her camping equipment is occasionally exhibited at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

8. SHE MARRIED THE MAN BEHIND HER FIRST GALLERY SHOW.

"At last, a woman on paper!" That’s what modernist photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz cried when he first saw O'Keeffe's abstract charcoal drawings. He was so enthusiastic about this series of sketches that he put them on display—before consulting their creator.

When O'Keeffe arrived at his gallery, she wasn't pleased, and brusquely introduced herself: "I am Georgia O'Keeffe and you will have to take these pictures down." Despite their rocky beginnings, Stieglitz and O'Keeffe quickly made amends, and went on to become partners in art and in life.

9. O'KEEFFE AND STIEGLITZ WROTE 25,000 PAGES OF LOVE LETTERS TO EACH OTHER.

When the pair met in 1916, he was famous and married; she was unknown and 23 years his junior. All the same, they began writing to each other often (sometimes two or three times a day) and at length (as many as 40 pages at a time). These preserved writings chart the progression of their romance—from flirtation to affair to their marriage in 1924—and even document their marital struggles.

10. SHE SERVED AS A MUSE TO OTHER ARTISTS.

Thanks in part to Stieglitz, O'Keeffe was one of the most photographed women of the 20th century. Stieglitz made O'Keeffe the subject of a long-term series of portraits meant to capture individuals as they aged, and she made for a striking model. Though he died in 1946, the project lived on as other photographers sought out O'Keeffe in order to capture the beloved artist against the harsh New Mexican landscapes she loved so dearly.

O'Keeffe later wrote:

When I look over the photographs Stieglitz took of me—some of them more than sixty years ago—I wonder who that person is. It is as if in my one life I have lived many lives. If the person in the photographs were living in this world today, she would be quite a different person—but it doesn't matter—Stieglitz photographed her then.

11. SHE QUIT PAINTING THREE TIMES.

The first break spanned several years (the exact number is a matter of debate), when O'Keeffe took on more stable jobs to help her family through financial troubles. In the early 1930s, a nervous breakdown led to her hospitalization, and caused her to set aside her brushes for more than a year.

In the years leading up to her death in 1986, failing eyesight forced O'Keeffe to give up painting entirely. Until then, she fought hard to keep working, enlisting assistants to prepare her canvas and mix her oil paints for pieces like 1977's Sky Above Clouds/Yellow Horizon and Clouds. She managed to use watercolors until she was 95.

12. AFTER GOING BLIND, SHE TURNED TO SCULPTING.


By Alfred Stieglitz - Phillips, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Although her vision eventually made painting impossible, O'Keeffe's desire to create was not squelched. She memorably declared, "I can see what I want to paint. The thing that makes you want to create is still there.” O'Keeffe began experimenting with clay sculpting in her late 80s, and continued with it into her 96th year.

13. SHE'S THE MOTHER OF AMERICAN MODERNISM.

Searching for what she called “the Great American Thing,” O'Keeffe was part of the Stieglitz Circle, which included such lauded early modernists as Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Paul Strand, and Edward Steichen. By the mid-1920s, she had become the first female painter to gain acclaim alongside her male contemporaries in New York's cutthroat art world. Her distinctive way of rendering nature in shapes and forms that made them seem simultaneously familiar and new earned her a reputation as a pioneer of the form.

14. SHE BLAZED NEW TRAILS FOR FEMALE ARTISTS.

In 1946, O’Keeffe became the first woman to earn a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Twenty-four years later, a Whitney Museum of American Art retrospective exhibit introduced her work to a new generation. Fifteen years after that, O'Keeffe was included in the inaugural slate of artists chosen to receive the newly founded National Medal of Arts for her contribution to American culture.

15. SHE WASN'T FEARLESS, BUT SHE REJECTED FEAR.

O'Keeffe was purported to have said, "I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."

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