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12 Facts About The Bodyguard That Will Always Love You

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Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Pop quiz! What was the highest-grossing film in the world in 1992? You guessed it—Aladdin! But the second-highest, ahead of Home Alone 2, Basic Instinct, Sister Act, and Batman Returns, was The Bodyguard, earning $411 million worldwide and giving pop superstar Whitney Houston another chance to sell millions of albums. (Which she did.) Kevin Costner was already one of the world’s top movie stars (it’s true!), and The Bodyguard added to his fame.

As the film turns 25 years old, let’s celebrate that quarter-century by diving into the origins, production, and aftermath of one of Hollywood’s most successful romantic dramas.

1. IT’S FROM THE WRITER OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK AND RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Lawrence Kasdan wrote The Bodyguard in the mid-1970s, before he came to prominence as the screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Return of the Jedi (plus The Big Chill, Body HeatSilverado, The Accidental Tourist, and more). The Bodyguard would have been his first produced screenplay if it had been, you know, produced...

2. IT WAS INTENDED AS A STARRING VEHICLE FOR STEVE MCQUEEN AND DIANA ROSS.

Warner Bros. bought Kasdan’s script (after many other studios rejected it) back in the ‘70s, intending it as a vehicle for Diana Ross and Steve McQueen—the Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner of their day! (OK, not quite. McQueen was well past his prime by then. The Ross/Houston comparison is reasonable, though.) But the production never got off the ground. The story is that neither Ross nor McQueen would accept second billing under the other, which is plausible given what we know about them, but we can’t find any firsthand sources for it. Whatever went wrong, WB tried again a few years later with Ryan O’Neal and Diana Ross, but that fell through, too.

3. THE INTERRACIAL ROMANCE WAS A COINCIDENCE.

Considering that Ross and McQueen were originally going to be cast, and that Houston and Costner eventually were cast, you might think the script calls for the pop star to be black and the bodyguard to be white. But there’s actually no mention of race one way or the other in Kasdan’s screenplay, and the finished film doesn’t make an issue out of it, a detail praised by many critics.

4. THE SOUNDTRACK IS STILL A BESTSELLER.

Twenty-five years later, The Bodyguard is still the bestselling soundtrack album of all time, with more than 17 million copies certified worldwide. Only Michael Jackson’s Thriller, AC/DC’s Back in Black, and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon have sold more copies.

5. RACHEL’S MANSION ONCE HAD A HORSE’S HEAD IN IT.

The estate where Whitney Houston’s character lives was built in the 1920s and once belonged to William Randolph Hearst. It was also seen in The Godfather as the home of film producer Jack Woltz, who woke up one morning to find a horse’s head in his bed.

6. “I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU” WAS COSTNER’S IDEA.

Houston was originally going to record a cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” as the soundtrack’s lead single, but that was scrapped when the filmmakers learned that the same song was being featured in Fried Green Tomatoes. According to Dolly Parton, it was Costner (who was also acting as producer) who loved her 1973 song “I Will Always Love You” and asked if Houston could record it for the film. He was passionate, later saying, “I didn’t care if it was ever on the radio. I didn’t care. I said, ‘We’re also going to do this a cappella at the beginning. I need it to be a cappella because it shows a measure of how much she digs this guy—that she sings without music.’”

7. A CREW MEMBER DIED DURING FILMING.

Bill Vitagliano, a 33-year-old worker in the film’s transportation department, was crushed between two lighting-equipment cranes when one of them malfunctioned in an L.A. parking garage.

8. THE DIRECTOR TOLD HOUSTON NOT TO TAKE ACTING LESSONS.

The Bodyguard marked the singer’s debut as an actress, and she was self-conscious about her abilities. A few weeks before shooting began, she asked director Mick Jackson if she should take lessons. His reply: “No, that’s the last thing you should do.” He wanted her performance to be natural. She evidently did as she was told and did not learn how to act.

9. THE SECRET TO HOUSTON’S PERFORMANCE: JUDICIOUS EDITING.

Costner, in his capacity as producer, was protective of Houston and had promised to make her look good. His contract also stipulated that he could have the film re-edited if he didn’t like the director’s cut. Well, the director’s cut apparently didn’t do Houston any favors, and test-screening audiences rejected it. The director himself is quoted in a Houston biography as saying, “There was no chemistry” between Houston and Costner. “They looked like a couple of pals passing the time of day instead of the torrid lovers they were supposed to be.” Another round of editing eliminated some of Houston’s longer speeches and emphasized close-ups on her face.

10. IT WAS TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL.

The live version used the songs from the film plus eight other Houston hits (including “So Emotional” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”) and debuted in London’s West End in 2012. The show subsequently toured around the world, including a current U.S. leg that will end in April 2018.

11. IT HAS NODS TO AKIRA KUROSAWA.

Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan loved Kurosawa and named the film after one of the Japanese master’s classics, Yojimbo (English translation: The Bodyguard). He also included a scene where Rachel and Frank actually watch Yojimbo, and he wrote the lead role for Steve McQueen, who had starred in the remake of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven.

12. THERE WAS ALMOST A SEQUEL—WITH PRINCESS DIANA.

In late 1997, Costner said that at the time of Princess Diana’s death just a few months earlier, he’d been negotiating with her to star opposite him in a Bodyguard sequel. The New York Post reported that the role would have been “loosely based on her life,” quoting Costner as saying, “She said, ‘Look, my life is maybe going to become my own at some point. Go ahead and do this script, and when it’s ready I’ll be in a really good spot.’” Costner got a second draft of the script three days before Diana’s death.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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