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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.

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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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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

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Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

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Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

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Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

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Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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10 Hush-Hush Facts About L.A. Confidential
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On this day 20 years ago, a rising star director, a writer who thought he’d never get the gig, and a remarkable cast got together to make a film about the corrupt underbelly of 1950s Los Angeles, and the men and women who littered its landscape. This was L.A. Confidential, a film so complex that its creator (legendary crime writer James Ellroy) thought it was “unadaptable.” In the end, it was one of the most acclaimed movies of the 1990s, a film noir classic that made its leading actors into even bigger stars, and which remains an instantly watchable masterpiece to this day. Here are 10 facts about how it got made.

1. THE SCRIPTING PROCESS WAS TOUGH.

Writer-director Curtis Hanson had been a longtime James Ellroy fan when he finally read L.A. Confidential, and the characters in that particular Ellroy novel really spoke to him, so he began working on a script. Meanwhile, Brian Helgeland—originally contracted to write an unproduced Viking film for Warner Bros.—was also a huge Ellroy fan, and lobbied hard for the studio to give him the scripting job. When he learned that Hanson already had it, the two met, and bonded over their mutual admiration of Ellroy’s prose. Their passion for the material was clear, but it took two years to get the script done, with a number of obstacles.

"He would turn down other jobs; I would be doing drafts for free,” Helgeland said. “Whenever there was a day when I didn't want to get up anymore, Curtis tipped the bed and rolled me out on the floor."

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY INTENDED AS A MINISERIES.

When executive producer David Wolper first read Ellroy’s novel, he saw the dense, complex story as the perfect fodder for a television miniseries, and was promptly turned down by all the major networks at the time.

3. JAMES ELLROY DIDN’T THINK THE BOOK COULD BE ADAPTED.

Though Wolper was intrigued by the idea of telling the story onscreen, Ellroy and his agent laughed at the thought. The author felt his massive book would never fit on any screen.

“It was big, it was bad, it was bereft of sympathetic characters,” Ellroy said. “It was unconstrainable, uncontainable, and unadaptable.”

4. CURTIS HANSON SOLD THE FILM WITH CLASSIC LOS ANGELES IMAGES.

To get the film made, Hanson had to convince New Regency Pictures head Arnon Milchan that it was worth producing. To do this, he essentially put together a collage of classic Los Angeles imagery, from memorable locations to movie stars, including the famous image of Robert Mitchum leaving jail after his arrest for using marijuana.

"Now you've seen the image of L.A. that was sold to get everybody to come here. Let's peel back the image and see where our characters live,” Hanson said.

Milchan was sold.

5. KEVIN SPACEY WAS ON HANSON’S WISH LIST FOR YEARS.

Though the other stars of the film were largely discoveries of the moment, Kevin Spacey was apparently someone Hanson wanted to work with for years. Spacey described Hanson as a director “who’d been trying for years and years and years to get me cast in films he made, and the studio always rejected me.” After Spacey won an Oscar for The Usual Suspects, Hanson called the actor and said “I think I’ve got the role, and I think they’re not gonna say no this time.”

6. SPACEY’S CHARACTER IS BASED ON DEAN MARTIN.

Warner Bros.

Though he cast relative unknowns in Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, Hanson wanted an American movie star for the role of Jack Vincennes, and decided on Kevin Spacey. In an effort to convince Spacey to take the role, Hanson invited him to dine at L.A.’s famous Formosa Cafe (where scenes in the film are actually set). While at the cafe, Spacey asked a vital question:

“If it was really 1952, and you were really making this movie, who would you cast as Jack Vincennes? And [Hanson] said ‘Dean Martin.’”

At that point, Spacey looked up at the gallery of movie star photos which line the cafe, and realized Martin’s photo was right above him.

“To this day, I don’t know whether he sat us in that booth on purpose, but there was Dino looking down at me,” Spacey said.

After his meeting with Hanson, Spacey watched Martin’s performances in Some Came Running (1958) and Rio Bravo (1959), and realized that both films featured characters who mask vulnerability with a layer of cool. That was the genesis of Jack Vincennes.

7. HANSON CHOSE MUCH OF THE MUSIC BEFORE FILMING.

To help set the tone for his period drama, Hanson began selecting music of the early 1950s even before filming began, so he could play it on set as the actors went to work. Among his most interesting choices: When Jack Vincennes sits in a bar, staring at the money he’s just been bribed with, Dean Martin’s “Powder Your Face With Sunshine (Smile! Smile! Smile!)” plays, a reference to both the character’s melancholy, and to Spacey and Hanson’s decision to base the character on Martin.

8. THE CINEMATOGRAPHY WAS INSPIRED BY ROBERT FRANK PHOTOGRAPHS.

To emphasize realism and period accuracy, cinematographer Dante Spinotti thought less about the moving image, and more about still photographs. In particular, he used photographer Robert Frank’s 1958 collection "The Americans" as a tool, and relied less on artificial light and more on environmental light sources like desk lamps.

"I tried to compose shots as if I were using a still camera,” Spinotti said. “I was constantly asking myself, 'Where would I be if I were holding a Leica?' This is one reason I suggested shooting in the Super 35 widescreen format; I wanted to use spherical lenses, which for me have a look and feel similar to still-photo work.”

9. THE FINAL STORY TWIST IS NOT IN THE BOOK.

Warner Bros.

[SPOILER ALERT] In the film, Jack Vincennes, Ed Exley, and Bud White are all chasing a mysterious crime lord known as “Rollo Tomasi,” who turns out to be their own LAPD colleague, Dudley Smith (James Cromwell). Though Vincennes, Exley, and White are all native to Ellroy’s novel, the Tomasi name is entirely an invention of the film.

10. ELLROY APPROVED OF THE MOVIE.

To adapt L.A. Confidential for the screen, Hanson and Helgeland condensed Ellroy’s original novel, boiling the story down to a three-person narrative and ditching other subplots so they could get to the heart of the three cops at the center of the movie. Ellroy, in the end, was pleased with their choices.

“They preserved the basic integrity of the book and its main theme, which is that everything in Los Angeles during this era of boosterism and yahooism was two-sided and two-faced and put out for cosmetic purposes,” Ellroy said. “The script is very much about the [characters'] evolution as men and their lives of duress. Brian and Curtis took a work of fiction that had eight plotlines, reduced those to three, and retained the dramatic force of three men working out their destiny. I've long held that hard-boiled crime fiction is the history of bad white men doing bad things in the name of authority. They stated that case plain.”

Additional Sources:
Inside the Actors Studio: Kevin Spacey (2000)

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