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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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Netflix's Most-Binged Shows of 2017, Ranked
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Netflix might know your TV habits better than you do. Recently, the entertainment company's normally tight-lipped number-crunchers looked at user data collected between November 1, 2016 and November 1, 2017 to see which series people were powering through and which ones they were digesting more slowly. By analyzing members’ average daily viewing habits, they were able to determine which programs were more likely to be “binged” (or watched for more than two hours per day) and which were more often “savored” (or watched for less than two hours per day) by viewers.

They found that the highest number of Netflix bingers glutted themselves on the true crime parody American Vandal, followed by the Brazilian sci-fi series 3%, and the drama-mystery 13 Reasons Why. Other shows that had viewers glued to the couch in 2017 included Anne with an E, the Canadian series based on L. M. Montgomery's 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and the live-action Archie comics-inspired Riverdale.

In contrast, TV shows that viewers enjoyed more slowly included the Emmy-winning drama The Crown, followed by Big Mouth, Neo Yokio, A Series of Unfortunate Events, GLOW, Friends from College, and Ozark.

There's a dark side to this data, though: While the company isn't around to judge your sweatpants and the chip crumbs stuck to your couch, Netflix is privy to even your most embarrassing viewing habits. The company recently used this info to publicly call out a small group of users who turned their binges into full-fledged benders:

Oh, and if you're the one person in Antarctica binging Shameless, the streaming giant just outed you, too.

Netflix broke down their full findings in the infographic below and, Big Brother vibes aside, the data is pretty fascinating. It even includes survey data on which shows prompted viewers to “Netflix cheat” on their significant others and which shows were enjoyed by the entire family.

Netflix infographic "The Year in Bingeing"
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14 Fascinating Facts About Saturday Night Fever
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

We can tell by the way you use your walk that you're a fan of Saturday Night Fever, the 1977 blockbuster that made John Travolta a mega-star and brought disco into the mainstream. (Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of opinion.) To enhance your appreciation of what was the highest-grossing dance movie of all time until Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010) and Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike (2012) beat it, here's a groovy list of facts to celebrate the film's 40th birthday. Put on your boogie shoes and read! 

1. THERE WAS A PG-RATED VERSION OF IT, TOO.

Saturday Night Fever was an instant hit when it was released in December 1977, quickly becoming one of the highest-grossing movies of the year. What's especially impressive is that it did this despite being rated R and thus (theoretically) inaccessible to teenagers, the very audience that a disco movie would (theoretically) appeal to. And so in March 1979, the film was re-released in a PG version, with all the profanity, sex, and violence either deleted or downplayed. This version took in another $8.9 million (about $30 million at 2016 ticket prices), bringing the film's U.S. total to $94.2 million. Both versions were released on VHS and laserdisc, though the R-rated cut didn't become widely available on home video until the DVD upgrade. 

2. IT WAS BASED ON A MAGAZINE ARTICLE THAT TURNED OUT TO BE SEMI-FICTIONAL.

"Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night," a detailed look at the new generation of urban teenagers by British journalist Nik Cohn, was published in New York Magazine in June 1976. The central figure in the article was Vincent, "the very best dancer in Bay Ridge," whose name was changed to Tony Manero for the movie. But years later, Cohn confessed: "[Vincent] is completely made-up, a total fabrication." The styles and attitudes Cohn had described were real, but not the main character. Cohn said he'd only recently arrived in Brooklyn, didn't know the scene well, and based Vincent on a Mod he'd known in London in the '60s.

3. THE BEE GEES HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

Most of the film had already been shot when music producer-turned-movie producer Robert Stigwood commissioned the Bee Gees to write songs for it. The brothers, only modestly successful at that point and hard at work on their next album, didn't know what the movie was about but cranked out a few tunes in a weekend. They also repurposed several songs they'd been working on, including "Stayin' Alive," a demo version of which was prepared in time to be used in filming the opening "strut" sequence. (You'll notice Travolta struts in sync with the music.) So if the movie's signature songs didn't come until later, what were the cast members listening to when they shot the dance scenes? According to Travolta, it was Boz Scaggs and Stevie Wonder. 

4. THE SOUNDTRACK ALBUM BROKE ALL KINDS OF RECORDS.

With 15 million copies sold in the U.S. alone, Saturday Night Fever was the top-selling soundtrack album of all time before being supplanted by The Bodyguard some 15 years later. It's also the only disco record (so far) to win the Grammy for Album of the Year, and one of only three soundtracks (besides The Bodyguard and O Brother, Where Art Thou?) to win that category. It was the number one album on the Billboard charts for the entire first half of 1978, and stayed on the charts until March 1980, long after the supposed death of disco.

5. THE MOVIE EXTENDED DISCO'S LIFESPAN BY A FEW YEARS.

Disco had been popular enough in the mid-1970s to land multiple disco tunes on the Billboard charts, but by the end of 1977, when Saturday Night Fever came out, the backlash had started and the trend was on its way out. But thanks to the movie (and its soundtrack), not only did disco not die out, it achieved more widespread, mainstream, middle-America success than it ever had before.

6. IT HAS SOME ROCKY CONNECTIONS.


Paramount Pictures

First connection: It was supposed to be directed by John G. Avildsen, whose previous film was Rocky. Ultimately, that didn’t work out and Avildsen was replaced with John Badham a few weeks before shooting began. Second connection: Tony has a Rocky poster on his bedroom wall. Third connection: Saturday Night Fever’s 1983 sequel, Staying Alive, was directed by ... Sylvester Stallone.

7. TRAVOLTA WAS ALREADY SO FAMOUS THAT MAKING THE MOVIE WAS A HASSLE.

Saturday Night Fever made Travolta a movie star, but he was already a teen heartthrob because of the popular sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, where he played a delinquent teenager with the hilarious and timeless catchphrase "Up your nose with a rubber hose." Still, nobody was prepared for how Travolta's fame would affect the movie, which was to be shot on the streets of Brooklyn. As soon as the neighborhood found out Travolta was there, the sidewalks were swarmed by thousands of onlookers, many of them squealing teenage girls. (Badham said there were also a lot of teenage boys holding signs expressing their hatred for Travolta for being more desirable than themselves.)

Co-star Donna Pescow said, "The fans—oh, my God, they were all over him. It was scary to watch." Badham said, "By noon of the first day, we had to shut down and go home." Since it was nearly impossible to keep the crowds away (or quiet), Badham and the crew resorted to filming in the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn. 

8. THE WHITE CASTLE EMPLOYEES WEREN'T ACTING WHEN THEY LOOKED SHOCKED. 


Paramount Pictures

In the brief scene where Tony, his boys, and Stephanie are loudly eating at White Castle, those were the real burger-flippers, not actors. Badham told them to just go about their business. He also told his actors to cut loose and surprise the White Castlers in whatever way they saw fit. The shot that's in the movie appears to be a reaction to Joey standing on the table and barking, but Badham said it was actually in response to something else: "Double J (actor Paul Pape) pulling his pants down and mooning the entire staff of the White Castle."

9. THE FEMALE LEAD GOT THE PART THANKS TO A SERENDIPITOUS CAB RIDE.

Casting the role of Tony's dance partner, Stephanie, proved difficult. Hundreds of women auditioned, but nobody seemed right. Meanwhile, 32-year-old Karen Lynn Gorney was looking for her big break into show business. As fate would have it, she shared a cab with a stranger who turned out to be producer Robert Stigwood's nephew. He mentioned that his uncle was working on a movie, and Gorney replied, "Oh, am I in it?"— her standard joke whenever she heard about a film being made. The nephew wound up submitting Gorney as a candidate, and the rest is history. 

10. TRAVOLTA’S GIRLFRIEND DIED DURING FILMING.

John Travolta stars in Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Paramount Pictures

Travolta met Diana Hyland on the set of the TV movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, in which she played his mother. (She was 18 years older than him.) They had been dating for six months when Hyland succumbed to breast cancer at the age of 41, after filming just four episodes of her new gig on Eight Is Enough. Travolta was able to leave Saturday Night Fever and fly to L.A. in time to be with her before she died, then had to return to work. 

11. THE COMPOSER HAD TO SCRAMBLE TO REPLACE A NIXED SONG.

For Tony and Stephanie's rehearsal scene about 30 minutes into the movie, Badham had used the song "Lowdown" by Boz Scaggs, going so far as to shoot the scene, including the dialogue, with the song actually playing in the background. (That's usually a no-no, for exactly the reasons you're about to read about.) According to Badham, no sooner had they wrapped the scene than Scaggs' people reached out to say they couldn't use the song after all, as Scaggs was thinking of pursuing a disco project of his own. Badham now had to have the actors re-dub the dialogue (since the version he'd recorded was tainted by "Lowdown"); what's more, he had to find a new song that would fit the choreography and tempo of the dancing. Composer David Shire rose to the occasion, writing a piece of instrumental music that met the specifications, and that’s what we hear in the movie. 

12. THEY MADE UP A DANCE BECAUSE THE CHOREOGRAPHER DIDN'T SHOW UP.

In another rehearsal scene 55 minutes into the movie, Tony and Stephanie do the "tango hustle," which looks like a combination of both of those dances. This was something Travolta and Gorney invented as a matter of necessity: the film's choreographer didn't realize he was supposed to be on the set that day, and the actors didn't have any steps prepared. The tango hustle, alas, never quite caught on.  

13. TONY’S ICONIC WHITE SUIT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BLACK.

Travolta and Badham both assumed Tony's disco outfit would be black, as men's suits tended to be at the time. Costume designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein convinced them it should be white, partly to symbolize the character's journey to enlightenment but also for practical reasons: a dark suit doesn't photograph very well in a dark discotheque. 

14. TONY’S SUIT WAS LATER SOLD FOR $2000—THEN FOR $145,500.

Von Brandenstein took Travolta to a cheap men's clothing store in Brooklyn (swamped by teenage fans, of course) and bought the suit off the rack—three identical suits, actually, so they wouldn't have to stop filming when one became soaked with Travolta's sweat. Two of the suits disappeared after the movie was finished; the remaining one, inscribed by Travolta, was bought at a charity auction in 1979 by film critic Gene Siskel, who cited Saturday Night Fever as one of his favorite movies. He paid about $2000 for it. In 1995, he sold it for $145,500 to an anonymous bidder through Christie's auction house.

In 2012, after a lengthy search, curators at London's Victoria and Albert Museum found the owner (who still preferred to remain anonymous) and persuaded him to lend it for an exhibit of Hollywood costumes. It is now presumably back in that man's care, whoever he may be. (P.S. Badham says on the 2002 DVD commentary that the suit is on display at the Smithsonian, a tidbit repeated by NPR in 2006 and Vanity Fair in 2007. But they must be mistaken. The suit’s sale in 1995 and rediscovery for the 2012 museum exhibit are verified facts; the suit isn't in the Smithsonian's online catalogue; and finally, a 2007 Washington Post story about the Smithsonian lists the suit as one of the items the museum director wanted to get.)

Additional sources:
John Badham DVD commentary
DVD featurettes

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