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20 Things You Might Not Know About Jurassic Park

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So far 30 million people have watched the Jurassic World trailer on YouTube. Here's a look back at the original.

1. Spielberg found out about Jurassic Park while working on ER.

When director Steven Spielberg and author Michael Crichton were working on a screenplay that would eventually become the television series ER, Spielberg asked the writer about the plans for his next book. Crichton told him about Jurassic Park, and Spielberg immediately tapped Universal to buy the film rights in May 1990—before the book was even published. He was so excited that he began storyboarding scenes from the book, even though there was no screenplay written yet.

2. Jurassic Park almost took a backseat to Schindler's List

Though excited about Jurassic Park, Spielberg wanted to direct his dream project—Schindler’s List—first. But MCA/Universal President Sid Scheinberg would only greenlight Spielberg’s Holocaust film if the director agreed to make his dinosaur picture first. Both films were released in 1993; Jurassic Park in June, and Schindler's List at the end of the year. 

3. Chip Kidd is behind that iconic logo.

Universal Studios 

Most books that lead to movies end up taking the film’s poster as their cover art, but for Jurassic Park, it was the other way around: The iconic logo on the poster was adapted from designer Chip Kidd’s T. rex skeleton drawing used for the original novel.

4. A King Kong Ride inspired Spielberg's original plan for building the dinosaurs.  

The logistics of Spielberg’s original plans to bring the dinosaurs to life were inspired by the Universal Studios “King Kong Encounter” ride. Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr designed Kong as a full-size animatronic with an inflatable balloon-like skin surrounding a wire frame. Unfortunately, the plans to build all of Jurassic Park's dinosaurs as similarly full-size animatronics proved too costly.

5. In order to pull off the dinosaurs, Spielberg had to get creative. 

Because the dinosaurs couldn’t be life-size animatronic recreations, Spielberg had to think a little differently—so he assembled a group of special effects legends to create his vision for Jurassic Park: 

Stan Winston and his team, which created the exoskeleton from The Terminator, would build and operate the live-action dinosaur robots. Some creations, including the T. Rex, were full dinosaurs, but most were just the upper half—including the head and torso of certain dinosaurs—while others were the just bottom half, including the legs and claws. Here's footage of the 7.5-foot-tall Brachiosaurus puppet, which included just the head and neck:

Michael Lantieri, special effects supervisor on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the two Back to the Future sequels, would supervise the interactive elements on-set. For instance, in the final scene when the CGI T. rex throws a CGI raptor into a practical T. rex skeleton, Lantieri was responsible for making sure the skeleton reacted, in a realistic manner, to the yet-to-be-included CGI elements.

Phil Tippett, who received an Oscar for his special effects work on Return of the Jedi, would use his “Go-Motion” technique—an updated method of using miniatures and stop-motion animation to add motion blur to each frame for smoother and more lifelike movement—for dinosaurs in wide shots.

Finally, Dennis Muren, who had previously supervised special effects on the Star Wars films and Spielberg classics like E.T. and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, would lead the effects team at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) in seamlessly combining all of the effects elements in post-production.

6. Jurassic Park broke new CG ground.

Spielberg wasn’t 100 percent happy with the wide test shots of the dinosaurs—they just weren't photorealistic enough. So Muren and his ILM team, spurred by their revolutionary experience in designing and incorporating fully computer-generated characters into films like The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, showed Spielberg an early CGI dino test of a group of Gallimimus skeletons running through a field. Spielberg was in awe of the ease of movement and realism of the effects, but he was still wary that they wouldn’t hold up under intense scrutiny—and he didn’t want to scrap Tippett’s practical animation talents altogether. So the director urged Muren and ILM to go further. When they came back with a CG test of a fully rendered T. rex walking across a field in broad daylight, the director decided to go full CGI for some shots.

7. One Ian Malcolm line was inspired by a member of the effects team.

While viewing Muren’s complete CGI test with Spielberg and the other members of the effects team, Tippett said, “I think I’m extinct.” Spielberg incorporated Tippet's comment into the film in an exchange between Sam Neill's Alan Grant and Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm:

Dr. Grant: "I think we're out of a job."
Malcolm: "Don't you mean extinct?"

But instead of leaving the production and wasting the animal motion research he had done, Tippett served as a consultant, helping the CG animators create realistic movements in their digital creations.

8. To create realistic dinosaurs, effects artists had to get into character.

The digital artists took video of themselves acting like the Gallimimus herd for reference before they animated the stampede scene; it helped them create more realistic instinctive behavior. Meanwhile, Stan Winston's crew built raptor suits ... and got into them:

Combined, all of Jurassic Park's CG dinos have just 6 minutes of screen time, while total dinosaur effects shots make up only 14 minutes of the 127 minute film.

9. Other big names were up for roles in the film.

Casting is everything: Other possible candidates for the roles in the film included William Hurt and Harrison Ford as Alan Grant, Christina Ricci as Lex, Sean Connery as John Hammond, and Robin Wright or Juliette Binoche as Ellie Sattler.

10. Jurassic Park brought Richard Attenborough out of retirement.

Richard Attenborough, who plays InGen CEO John Hammond, was on a 15 year hiatus from acting when Spielberg approached him about taking a role in Jurassic Park. Attenborough had been directing—in fact, his film Gandhi beat Spielberg’s E.T. for Best Director and Best Picture at the 55th Academy Awards—but said he agreed to end the semi-retirement because Spielberg had “the charm of the devil.” 

11. A huge hurricane hit the set during production. 

Jurassic Park shot on location in 1992 on Hawaii’s Kauai Island. Hurricane Iniki—the most powerful hurricane to hit Hawaii in recorded history—hit during filming. Attenborough apparently slept through the worst of it. When asked by cast members how that was possible, he replied that it was nothing—after all, he had survived the London Blitz during World War II!

12. Jeff Goldblum liked to read his lines out loud on set.

In 2011, Ariana Richards—who played Lex—recounted a fun Jeff Goldblum story to Interview magazine: Between scenes, she was sitting in a helicopter with Joey Mazzello (who played Tim) and Goldblum, who had his script in his hands. "I was struck by the fact that he wasn't studying it like most people I'd been around that were actors, who'd study quietly [and] kind of unobtrusively," she said. "He was speed-reading them out loud!" That’s chaos—just like Ian Malcolm would want it.

13. Spielberg had paleontologists serve as consultants on the film...

Famed paleontologist Jack Horner was used during production to ensure the dinosaurs exhibited scientifically accurate behavior, and Robert T. Bakker—also a paleontologist—gave animators information about the dinosaur's physical characteristics. In the forward of his 1995 novel Raptor Red, Bakker had nothing but praise for the animators creating the dinos. "The artists ... wanted the latest info on all the species they were reconstructing. They wanted everything to be right. They'd been calling me once a week for months, checking on teeth of T. rex and skin of Triceratops. I'd sent them dozens of pages of dino-details." He told Popular Mechanics in 2012 that the dinosaur artists working on Jurassic Park were "better animal morphologists than most tenured professors."

14. ...but he didn't always take their advice.

Still, Spielberg insisted on using dramatic license when it came to some of his prehistoric stars’ appearances. Take, for example, those T. rex teeth. Bakker sent over diagrams of the chompers—which, in reality, were banana-shaped— but "the powers that be didn't like the real tooth shape," Bakker told Popular Mechanics. "The CGI rex and the robot had their fangs sharpened."

The most famous example is probably Spielberg's Velociraptor, which more closely resembles the Deinonychus. A major source for Crichton’s book was Gregory Paul’s Predatory Dinosaurs of the World, which labeled the Velociraptor as a Deinonychus subspecies; real Velociraptors weighed less than 50 pounds and had feathers.

But in a bit of good fortune, a new, much bigger species called the Utahraptor was discovered during Jurassic Park’s production. In the forward of Raptor Red, Bakker wrote about a call from Dr. James Kirkland, who was part of the team that discovered Utahraptor:

"Jim!" I yelled. "You just found the giant raptor Spielberg made up for his movie." Jim thought I was daft. He didn't know about the other phone call I had gotten about giant raptors that morning. It was from one of the special effects artists in the Jurassic Park skunkworks ... the artists were suffering anxiety about what was to become the star of the movie—a raptor species that had never been documented by a real fossil. ... Just before Jim called, I'd listened to one artist complain that Spielberg had invented a raptor that didn't exist. ... He wanted hard facts, fossil data. "Yeah, a giant raptor's possible—theoretically. But you don't have any bones." But now Jim's Utahraptor gave him bones.

That dinosaur, discovered in January 1992, was almost exactly the same size as Jurassic Park's big female.

15. Only one robotic dinosaur actually made it to the Hawaii set.

Winston’s team worked from highly detailed drawings to create their robots—first making small-scale and full-scale clay models based on the drawings and then constructing the remote-controlled skeletons that would move underneath the robo-dino’s latex skin. Here's a mini-documentary from the Stan Winston School on the construction of the T. Rex, which, according to the crew, was as dangerous as a real dinosaur:

And check out some behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage of the animatronic dino in action:

According to Entertainment Weekly, only one of Winston’s machines was used on location: the sickly Triceratops that the characters come across while on their tour. All of the other robots, including the one used for the famous T. rex attack or the raptors in the kitchen sequence, were used on sets and sound stages.

16. It took many different animals to create the T. Rex's roar.

The sound design of the T. rex's roar was reportedly a composite of tiger, alligator, and baby elephant sounds. The deadly Dilophosaurus roar was created by combining howler monkeys, hawk screeches, rattlesnake hisses, and swan calls.

17. Grant and Lex probably would have been T. rex food.

Even though the T. rex could have hunted based on smell, at the time Jurassic Park was made, it wasn't known for sure whether the giant dinosaur’s vision was based on movement. Since some reptiles are known to exhibit the trait, consultant Jack Horner didn’t object to having Spielberg include it in the film. More recent research suggests, however, that T. rex probably had pretty excellent vision. Oops.

18. Robert Muldoon's weapon of choice was a SPAS-12.

Game warden Robert Muldoon, portrayed by actor Bob Peck, uses a folding stock variant of the Franchi SPAS-12 combat shotgun to hunt the Velociraptors in the film. The firearm—which gets its name from “Sporting Purpose Automatic Shotgun"—was a dual mode shotgun that cycled between semi-automatic mode at 4 rounds per second and pump-action mode for low pressure ammunition; it was manufactured from 1979 to 2000. Its effectiveness was limited to close range fire, but even then, this gun didn't help Muldoon. Clever girl.

19. One iconic moment was inspired by listening to Earth, Wind & Fire.

The idea for the rippling water and rattling mirror in the tour vehicle caused by the approaching Tyrannosaurus was inspired by Spielberg listening to Earth, Wind & Fire with the bass turned up at full volume in his car. On set, special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri plucked a guitar string underneath the cups to create the ripples; a vibrating motor above the windshield made the mirror shake.

20. After filming wrapped, another famous director took the reins so Spielberg could start work on Schindler's List.

Spielberg and his crew completed filming on Jurassic Park on November 30, 1992—12 days ahead of schedule—but he had to quickly shift gears and concentrate on shooting and completing his next film, Schindler’s List, which would go into production in March 1993. Because of the tight shooting schedule on that film and the extensive post-production needed for Jurassic Park, he handed over some post-production responsibilities to friend and frequent collaborator, George Lucas, who owned ILM. Lucas was given a “Special Thanks” credit in the final film.

Sources: Entertainment Weekly (2); Popular Mechanics; Raptor Red; Stan Winston School's Making Of Videos; Vanity Fair; Cinefantastique Online; Jurassic Park production notes (via Lost-World.com); "Making of Jurassic Park" documentary.

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13 Fantastic Museums You Can Visit for Free on Saturday
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On Saturday, September 23, museums and cultural institutions across the United States will open their doors to the public for free, as part of Smithsonian magazine’s annual Museum Day Live! event. Hundreds of museums are set to participate, ranging from world-famous institutions in major cities to tiny, local museums in small towns. While the full list of museums can be viewed, and tickets can be reserved, on the Smithsonian website, we’ve collected a small selection of the fantastic museums you can visit for free this Saturday.

1. NEWSEUM // WASHINGTON, D.C.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. is an entire museum dedicated to the First Amendment. Celebrating freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, the museum features exhibits on civil rights, the Berlin Wall, and the history of news media in America. Their latest special exhibitions take a look back at the event of September 11, 2001 and go inside the FBI's crime-fighting tactics.

2. INTREPID SEA, AIR & SPACE MUSEUM // NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

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New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t just showcase America’s military and maritime history—it is a piece of that history. The museum itself is one of the Essex-class aircraft carriers built by the United States Navy during World War II. Visitors can explore its massive deck and interior, and view historic airplanes, a real World War II submarine, and a range of interactive exhibits. Normally, a ticket will set you back a whopping $33 (or $19 for New York City residents), but on Saturday, general admission is free with a Museum Day Live! ticket.

3. AUTRY MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN WEST // LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Perfect for art lovers, history buffs, and cinephiles alike, the Autry Museum of the American West (named for legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry) offers up an eclectic mix of art, historical artifacts from the real American West, and Western film memorabilia and props.

4. MUSEUM OF ARTS AND SCIENCES // DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

A massive art, science, and history museum located on a 90-acre nature preserve, the Museum of Arts and Sciences features the largest collection of Florida art anywhere in the world, as well as the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia in all of Florida. Its diverse exhibits are alternately awe-inspiring, informative, and quirky, ranging from an exploration of 2000 years of sculpture art to an exhibition of 19th and 20th century advertising posters.

5. INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE HORSE AT THE KENTUCKY HORSE PARK // LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY

The International Museum of the Horse explores the history of—you guessed it!—the horse. That might sound like a narrow scope, but the museum doesn’t just display horse racing artifacts or teach you about modern horse breeds. Instead, it endeavors to tackle the 50-million-year evolution of the horse and its relationship with humans from ancient times to modern times.

6. THE PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM // CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Pete LaMotte, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The 160-year-old Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Museum Day Live! In addition to their vast exhibits of animal specimens and cultural artifacts, the museum will be hosting a live animal feeding and a butterfly release throughout the day.

7. OGDEN MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN ART // NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art aims to teach visitors about the rich culture and diverse visual arts of the American South. Right now, visitors can view a collection of William Eggleston's photographs and check out the museum's 10th annual invitational exhibition of ceramic teacups and teapots.

8. BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY // BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

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Located in a 19th century oyster cannery on the Baltimore waterfront, the Baltimore Museum of Industry tells the story of American manufacturing from garment making to video game design. Visitors this weekend can meet video game designers and create custom games at the museum’s interactive “Video Game Wizards” exhibit.

9. SYLVAN HEIGHTS BIRD PARK // SCOTLAND NECK, NORTH CAROLINA

You can meet 2000 birds from around the world this weekend at the 18-acre Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Visitors to the massive garden can walk through aviaries displaying birds from every continent except Antarctica, including ducks, geese, swans, and exotic birds from all over the world.

10. DELTA BLUES MUSEUM // CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI

Visit Mississippi, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Visitors to the Delta Blues Museum can learn about the unique American musical art form in “the land where blues began,” with audiovisual exhibits centered on blues and rock legend Don Nix, as well as Paramount Records illustrator Anthony Mostrom.

11. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NUCLEAR SCIENCE & HISTORY // ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

America’s only congressionally chartered museum dedicated to the story of the Atomic Age, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History features exhibits on everything from nuclear medicine to representations of atomic power in pop culture. Adult visitors to the museum will delight in its impressively nuanced take on nuclear technology, while kids will love the museum’s outdoor airplane exhibit and hands-on science activities at Little Albert’s Lab.

12. MUSEUM OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN // PINEDALE, WYOMING

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Dedicated to the mountain men who explored and settled Wyoming in the 19th century, the Museum of the Mountain Man brings American folklore and legends to life. The museum features exhibits on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and tells the story of American folk legend and famed mountain man Hugh Glass (the man Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar playing in 2015's The Revenant).

13. BESH BA GOWAH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK AND MUSEUM // GLOBE, ARIZONA

Arizona’s Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum lets visitors connect with history firsthand. The museum is home to the ruins and artifacts of the Salado Indians who inhabited Arizona from the 13th century through the 15th century, and even lets visitors wander through an 800-year-old Salado pueblo.

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20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers Movies
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Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. John Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’s 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS' WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating, “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Ethan Coen, Frances McDormand and Joel Coen at the Oscars
Ethan Coen, Frances McDormand, and Joel Coen celebrate their Oscar wins in 1997.
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Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

Billy Bob Thornton in the Coen brothers' 'The Man Who Wasn't There' (2001)
© 2001 - USA Films

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that features a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

A still from the Coen Brothers' 'The Ladykillers.'
Melinda Sue Gordon, SMPSP - © 2004 - Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination).

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

A photo of Oscar Isaac in the Coen brothers' 'Inside Llewyn Davis' (2013).
© 2013 - CBS Films

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. “The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, ‘Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that.”

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen brothers are plenty fond of The Dude; after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

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