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13 Phenomenal Facts About Juno

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Made for only $6.5 million, Juno defied expectations when it grossed $231 million worldwide and earned four Oscar nominations, including a nod for Best Picture. (It was the first Fox Searchlight film to surpass $100 million at the box office.) Jason Reitman directed Ellen Page as the titular teenager who gets impregnated by her friend, Paulie (Michael Cera). She decides to carry the baby to full term and then adopt it to married couple Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner).

Diablo Cody, a one-time stripper who wrote the 2005 book Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, wrote the screenplay (her first) and won the 2008 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. The film became a pop culture phenomenon, largely because of its strong cast, witty dialogue, catchy soundtrack, and how it depicted teen pregnancy as something positive instead of life-destroying. Here are 13 facts about the hit indie dramedy, which hit theaters 10 years ago today.

1. THE SCRIPT WAS "DEEPLY PERSONAL" FOR DIABLO CODY.

The scribe based the story on her own life and wanted to tell a story that was “different” from the rest of Hollywood movies. “Juno is like a personal, emotional scavenger hunt for me," Cody told The Telegraph. "I dragged so many of my own experiences into it that I'm shocked the movie is so coherent. I managed to get every person, quirk, and object that has meaning in my life into the script. I wanted to make it deeply personal. I didn't want it to be generic."

2. MICHAEL CERA LIKED THE FORMAT OF THE SCRIPT.

In an interview with Collider, Michael Cera said that one reason he wanted to star in the movie was because the script was written like a book. “I remember certain paragraphs were just broken up oddly and that kind of … I was like, oh, it’s not like reading a script,” he said. “It’s more like a book. That kind of made me want to do the movie. I thought, well, if it’s written oddly, if it’s not written like a script, then it’s got to be a good movie.”

3. ELLEN PAGE DOESN’T CONSIDER IT A PRO-LIFE MOVIE.


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The film takes an apolitical stance on teen pregnancy, but Page gets upset when “people call it a pro-life movie,” she told the Toronto Star. “In other words, that it’s anti-abortion,” she said. “That’s just not true. To me, it’s not a political film. I never thought about that when we were making it. Sometimes I even forget she’s pregnant. The most important thing is the choice is there and the film completely demonstrates that. It allows a scene in an abortion clinic, for goodness sake. A lot of films probably wouldn’t do that.”

At a live reading of the movie earlier this year, Cody told Vanity Fair that it “disturbed” her how people considered Juno to be “an anti-choice movie. In a way, I feel like I had a responsibility to maybe be more explicitly pro-choice, and I wasn’t … I think I took the right to choose for granted at the time."

4. ALLISON JANNEY APPRECIATED THE NON-STEREOTYPICAL STEPMOTHER ROLE.

The actress plays Juno’s stepmother, Bren, who surprisingly supports her stepdaughter’s pregnancy and then forms a relationship with her. “I kept waiting for the Evil Stepmother to make it hard for Juno, and then she didn't,” Janney said. “Diablo herself was a stepmother, too, and I think she wanted to debunk the Evil Stepmother myth and take that in a whole new direction.” Janney references Juno’s ultrasound scene, when Bren becomes protective of her daughter. “There's something wonderful about Diablo; she does not seem to judge any of her characters. And then the one woman who crosses a line is the one I get to tear into, which is always fun to do as an actor.”

5. THE “JUNO EFFECT” MAY OR MAY NOT BE REAL.

Around the time the movie was released, Gloucester High School in Massachusetts noticed an increase in teen pregnancies. The school’s principal, Dr. Joseph Sullivan, told TIME several young women “made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together.” The media dubbed it “The Juno Effect.” In 2008, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards told Entertainment Weekly the teen birthrate was increasing. However, since then, teen pregnancies have been on the decline.

6. JUNO IS SORT OF AN ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT REUNION.


Fox Searchlight Pictures

Cera and Bateman played father-son on Arrested Development. In the movie they do not share any scenes together, but Bateman joked to MTV that it would’ve been strange “if I were adopting my son’s child ... At one point we were joking that Michael would walk by in the background of a scene and I would do a double-take as if to be like, ‘I know that guy from somewhere!’ But we never ended up doing that.”

7. DIABLO CODY APOLOGIZED FOR THE DIANA ROSS LINE.

Juno says that her dad named her after Zeus’ wife. She tells him Juno “was supposed to be really beautiful but really mean, like Diana Ross.” At an April all-female cast live reading of the script, Cody told Vanity Fair she “felt bad” about the line, and when she wrote it she thought celebrities didn’t have feelings. “I want to apologize,” she said. To make things weirder, Ross’s daughter, Tracee Ellis Ross, also participated in the reading. “My God! You couldn’t cut it out for the reading? Seriously? That’s my mom for God’s sake,” Ellis Ross joked after Page read the line.

8. THE SOUNDTRACK SOLD MORE THAN 1 MILLION COPIES.

Kimya Dawson—along with Sonic Youth, The Kinks, Belle and Sebastian, Cat Power—had songs featured on the film's two soundtracks (the second one being Juno B-Sides: Almost Adopted Songs). The first one was a big hit—it went platinum. Dawson, who plays in The Moldy Peaches, was discovered through her paintings. Three years before the movie came out, Dawson painted a picture for future Juno casting director Kara Lipson. Page was a big fan of The Moldy Peaches and recommended the band to Reitman. Lipson heard he was trying to track Dawson down. “So she just e-mailed me and was like, ‘Hey, remember me? I ordered a painting,’” Dawson told Entertainment Weekly. “She sent me a copy of [Reitman’s first feature] Thank You for Smoking and the [Juno] screenplay. And then, once I’d watched Thank You for Smoking and read the screenplay, I was like, ‘Okay, cool.’ I liked that movie, and this is a nice story about family and pregnancy and all that business that I like.”

9. NAPOLEON DYNAMITE INFLUENCED CODY, BUT NOT THE DIRECTOR.

Four years before Juno was released, Napoleon Dynamite, another micro-budgeted film that grossed a lot of money, inspired Cody. “Napoleon Dynamite was the successful indie movie. And I saw it, and I went, okay, I’ll write something like that. But I’ll make Napoleon a girl,” she told Vanity Fair.

But Reitman didn’t understand the Napoleon comparisons. “I actually see none of Napoleon Dynamite in this,” he told ComingSoon.net. “There’s a realness to this movie that Napoleon never had.” In fact, he’d compare it to Election. “I think there’s a lot of Mark stuff that’s drawn from Matthew Broderick’s character in Election—the humiliation."

10. JENNIFER GARNER’S CHARACTER WASN’T THAT COLD.


Fox Searchlight Pictures

Garner’s Vanessa wants to adopt Juno’s baby. At first she comes across as cold, but eventually softens. “There’s somebody I was basing it on who maybe came across as cold or controlling, but was really just trying so hard to do the right thing,” Garner told Entertainment Weekly. “What happens in this movie forces the character to open up bit by bit. I think she just wants this baby, and she thinks the way to go about it is to be as appealingly Leave It to Beaver as possible. And she just forgets to add the human being in there.”

11. THE MOVIE ISN’T REALLY ABOUT TEEN PREGNANCY.

“We didn’t intend to make a movie about teen pregnancy and the options available to people who find themselves in that situation,” Cody told NPR. “We just wanted to tell a personal story about maturity and relationships. And the pregnancy just kind of motivates the story."

12. NEITHER PAGE NOR CODY WAS FAMILIAR WITH SOUPY SALES.

Juno references the famous comedian in the movie, even though Page—and possibly Cody—had no idea who he was. “I always wonder about that line because I think, 'No way would any teenager reference Soupy Sales,'” Cody told PopMatters, “but it always gets a laugh. I’m always aware of my own failings as a writer. I’m not even quite sure who Soupy Sales is.” Page said, “I had no idea it was even someone.”

13. HAMBURGER PHONE SALES INCREASED.

Because Juno liked to talk on a hamburger phone, the studio thought it would be a fun marketing ploy to send out promotional hamburger phones. Australians sold the phones on eBay, and eBay in the U.S. said demand for the phone jumped 759 percent right after Juno was released in theaters. The phone currently sells on Amazon for $14.95.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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15 Things You May Not Know About Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

We are not alone. Here are a few facts about Steven Spielberg’s 1977 UFO classic, on its 40th anniversary.

1. IT WAS INITIALLY A VERY DIFFERENT FILM.

Spielberg’s initial story outline involved UFOs and shady government dealings following the Watergate scandal, which became a script entitled “Watch the Skies.” The idea involved a police or military officer working on Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s official study into UFOs in the 1950s and 1960s, who would become the whistleblower on the government cover-up of aliens. There were numerous rewrites—Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader even took a crack at it, penning a political UFO thriller titled “Kingdom Come” that Spielberg and the movie studio rejected—before the story we know today emerged.

2. IT’S NAMED AFTER LEGITIMATE UFO RESEARCH.


Columbia Pictures

Spielberg partly based his idea on the research of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a civilian scientific advisor to Project Blue Book who eventually admitted that 11 percent of the study’s findings about unidentified flying objects could not be explained using science.

The title (which is never specifically explained in the movie) is actually derived from Hynek’s own alien close encounter classification system: A close encounter of the first kind is sighting of a UFO; the second kind is physical evidence to prove the existence of an alien; and the third kind is actual contact with alien life forms.

3. THERE’S A CAMEO FROM THE GODFATHER OF UFO RESEARCH.

Hynek, who also served as a technical advisor on the movie, makes an uncredited cameo in the final scene of the movie. You can spot him pretty easily—he’s the goateed man smoking a pipe and wearing a powder blue suit who pushes through the crowd of scientists to get a better look at the aliens.

4. NOBODY WANTED THE STARRING ROLE.

Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Columbia Pictures

The director first offered the part of Roy Neary to actor Steve McQueen, who turned it down because he said he couldn’t cry on cue, something he saw as essential to the character. Spielberg then went to Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, and James Caan who all turned him down as well before asking his friend Richard Dreyfuss, who previously worked with Spielberg on Jaws, to take the part.

5. BUT IT WASN'T THE MOST DIFFICULT ROLE TO CAST.

Spielberg approached French actors like Lino Ventura, Yves Montand, and Jean-Louis Trintignant to play Claude Lacombe—who was based on famous UFO researcher Jacques Vallée—before settling on director and sometimes-actor François Truffaut. The initially skeptical Truffaut, who was nervous about appearing in a big budget Hollywood movie, accepted the role because he wanted to compile research for a book about acting (he never did write the book).

6. MERYL STREEP COULD HAVE PLAYED ROY'S WIFE.

Many actresses—including a then-unknown Yale Drama School grad named Meryl Streep—auditioned for the part of Roy’s wife Ronnie, but he ultimately cast actress Teri Garr because he saw her in a coffee commercial and loved the way she was able to convey a wide range of emotions in a 30-second clip.

7. THEY SHOT IN A DISUSED AIR FORCE HANGAR.


Columbia Pictures

Spielberg wanted to shoot in real suburban locations rather than studio backlots, but the production had trouble finding locations. The biggest question: Where could Spielberg shoot the climactic canyon sequence with the mothership?

The production looked for huge indoor enclosures that would allow for the massive scale of the scene, though they only found ones with center support dividers that spoiled the openness Spielberg wanted for the UFO runway. The only location producers found without center dividers was a 300 foot by 300 foot disused hangar that had been used for dirigibles during World War II at Brookley Air Force base in Mobile, Alabama.

8. THE TEAM BOUGHT A HOUSE FOR THE PRODUCTION—AND SOLD IT FOR A PROFIT.

The Nearys' house, which is located at 1613 Carlisle Drive East in Mobile, was actually purchased by the production for $35,000 so they could do whatever they wanted with the interiors. It was later sold for $50,000 after production wrapped, netting a $15,000 surplus that went back into the film’s budget.

9. THE MEMORABLE 5-NOTE TONES TOOK A LONG TIME TO FIGURE OUT

Composer John Williams worked with Spielberg to come up with the movie’s distinct five-note musical method of communication between humans and aliens—which Spielberg partly based on the Solfège system of musical education—a year before shooting began.

Williams initially wanted a seven-note sequence, but it was too long for the simple musical “greeting” Spielberg wanted. The composer enlisted a mathematician to calculate the number of five-note combinations they could potentially make from a 12-note scale. When that number proved to be somewhere upwards of 134,000 combinations, Williams created 100 distinct versions, and they simply whittled the combinations down one by one until they had a winner.

10. SPIELBERG USED TRICKS TO GET THE PERFORMANCE OUT OF HIS CHILD ACTOR.


Columbia Pictures

Cary Guffey, who plays little Barry Guiler, had never acted before, so Spielberg set up ways to coax a performance out of the 3-year-old. To get a shot of Guffey reacting to the aliens first approaching the Guiler house, Spielberg slowly unwrapped a present for the young actor just off camera, making him smile. Guffey even exclaims “Toys! Toys!” in the final take.

To get the boy to react to the aliens offscreen, Spielberg had Guffey walk up to his mark where—unbeknownst to the little actor—two crewmembers were dressed as a gorilla and a clown standing behind cardboard blinds. When Guffey entered the kitchen, Spielberg dropped the first blind revealing the clown to scare him, and then dropped the other blind to reveal the gorilla, which scared him even more. The gorilla then took off his mask, revealing the film’s makeup man, Bob Westmoreland, who Guffey recognized, causing him to laugh and smile in the final take.

11. THE MOVIE NEARLY FEATURED VERY EARLY CGI.

Spielberg originally toyed with the idea of using computer generated images to create the aliens and their ships, even going so far as to have animator Colin Cantwell create a CGI test of three UFOs floating over a stadium. The single-shot test, which took three weeks to complete and was one of the first computer generated images ever created for a film, proved to be unfeasible for the whole movie—so the idea was dropped.

12. THERE WERE SOME UNORTHODOX IDEAS FOR CREATING THE ALIENS.

Spielberg wanted the aliens to be non-human beings that glided instead of walked, and he had a weird idea to pull it off: An orangutan dressed in a specially-made suit. For a screen test, the production team outfitted an orangutan in grey spandex and strapped it into roller skates. The orangutan immediately took off the skates and crawled to its owner, so a full test couldn’t be completed, and the team scrapped the idea. The majority of the small aliens in the final movie were played by local elementary school girls from Mobile in specially made grey suits and masks who were heavily backlit to create the final alien silhouette effect.

13. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS FEATURES A PRECURSOR TO E.T.


Columbia Pictures

To create the alien who bids farewell using the musical hand signals at the end of the film, Spielberg enlisted the help of Italian special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi, who designed a fully articulated steel, aluminum, and fiberglass animatronic puppet that Spielberg nicknamed “Puck.” Puck’s expressions were based on photos of Guffey. The puppet was operated by a crew of seven puppeteers, with Spielberg himself controlling the final articulation before the alien leaves to go to the mothership.

Puck would help inspire E.T. after Spielberg asked himself, “What if this little guy didn’t get back on the mothership?” Rambaldi would also go on to design the character of E.T.

14. SPIELBERG BET AGAINST HIS OWN MOVIE—AND REALLY CASHED IN.

Spielberg and his buddy George Lucas both had new movies coming out in 1977; Lucas’s was a little movie called Star Wars. Lucas thought his ramshackle space movie wouldn’t make back its budget, and he knew his friend’s new movie would break box office records just like Jaws had done, so he offered Spielberg a friendly wager. Both agreed to give the other 2.5 percent of the profits of their respective films. Lucas grossly underestimated his movie, which went on to become the second highest grossing movie of all time if adjusted for inflation (in comparison, Close Encounters is #71). The difference ended up being $40 million.

15. SPIELBERG DIDN'T LIKE THE VERSION THAT WAS INITIALLY RELEASED.

Spielberg wanted to release Close Encounters in the summer of 1978, which would have given him ample time to edit the film and finish its special effects—but Columbia Pictures, which was going through major financial troubles, insisted he have it ready for a November 1977 release, leaving the director with a final cut on a movie he didn’t feel was completely ready. 

Three years later, the company allowed Spielberg to “finish” the movie under one condition: That he show the inside of the mothership, which would give the studio’s marketing department an angle to sell this new version. The director capitulated, adding new scenes and cutting others to create a “Special Edition.” The director was unhappy with the scene, though, and later cut it for the Collector's Edition home video release.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:Blu-ray special features; Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Making of Steven Spielberg’s Classic FilmClose Encounters of the Third Kind Diary.

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