The CW
The CW

10 Pointed Facts About Arrow

The CW
The CW

In 2012—more than a decade after Smallville had introduced the world to an adolescent Superman—Arrow brought a new brand of super heroics to The CW. Focusing on the adventures of Oliver Queen as the Green Arrow, the hooded vigilante from DC Comics, the show was originally conceived as a realistic superhero yarn in the same vein as 2005's Batman Begins. But since its second season in 2013, the series has changed course and expanded into the centerpiece of the network's colorful take on the DC Universe, featuring spin-offs like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.

Starring Stephen Amell as the emerald archer, Arrow is set to begin its sixth season this October. To get better acquainted with the story behind the Green Arrow, his ever-expanding supporting cast, and the other denizens of Star City, here are 10 facts about Arrow.

1. THE SHOW WAS INSPIRED BY THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY.

In the mid-2000s, the Green Arrow was languishing in Hollywood’s famed development hell along with the rest of the DC Universe, but he did come tantalizingly close to becoming a movie star. At one point, he was going to be the center of the DC movie Green Arrow: Escape From Super Max, which was to focus on a wrongfully incarcerated Oliver Queen’s struggle to break out from a prison designed to hold the world's most dangerous super villains. Though that idea never came to be, it was the success of the Caped Crusader that helped Green Arrow come to live-action.

Director Christopher Nolan’s grounded take on Batman’s origins was the perfect template for Arrow creators Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg to base their show on. Both stories star spoiled rich kids who turn themselves into hardened vigilantes, and they even share a grudge against the villainous Ra’s al Ghul. The comparisons are hard to ignore.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Kreisberg explained why Nolan’s Batman was so important to them:

“We were heavily influenced, obviously, by Chris Nolan’s take on Batman, especially the second movie, The Dark Knight. If you pull Batman out of that movie you’re essentially left with Michael Mann’s Heat. It really is just a crime thriller. Truly, the only fantastical thing in it really is Batman. That’s the way we approached this material.”

In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Guggenheim stated that the show's first two years were covering similar ground to the origin story told in Batman Begins:

"This was always sort of the trajectory we planned. This has always been the first two years of Batman Begins."

2. THE FIRST SEASON TAKES NUMEROUS CUES FROM MIKE GRELL’S GREEN ARROW COMICS.

In the comics, the Green Arrow is more of a left-wing quipster than the brooding vigilante from the show. But his dour demeanor in Arrow does have some comic book inspiration, specifically from writer and artist Mike Grell’s take on the character.

In the ‘80s, Grell did everything he could do to make Green Arrow virtually unrecognizable to comic book fans. He took away the mask, put him in a hood, moved him to Seattle, and stripped him of all his gadgets and trick arrows. Just like in the early seasons of the show, he’s not even called “Green Arrow”; instead, he’s just a vigilante who goes after a more realistic crop of criminals like drug peddlers and human traffickers.

When asked about Grell’s influence on the show, more specifically the comic miniseries Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, Guggenheim told Huffington Post:

“Yeah, well Longbow Hunters, it was seminal for several reasons. But what it really did was it grounded Green Arrow and Oliver Queen in a way that hadn’t been done in the comic books before. He was always with the boxing glove arrows and the Arrow Cave ... That was all well and good. But what Longbow Hunters did was it stripped Oliver Queen and the character down to his bare essence and introduced the idea of this primal hunter, and the hood [he wears]. That was sort of a seismic shift for the character that we’re working off of.”

3. OLIVER QUEEN’S MANSION HAS A SURPRISING SUPERHERO PEDIGREE.

The Queen family may live in a spacious mansion on the outskirts of Star City, but they’ve got some super-powered company in there with them. The show uses establishing shots of Hatley Castle in Victoria, British Columbia as the setting of the family’s home, and they’re far from the first comic book family to take up residence there. Most notably it’s used as Professor Xavier’s mansion in 1996’s Generation X, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Deadpool; and for the Luthor family mansion in Smallville. It can also be seen in The Killing, The Boy, and The Descendants.

4. FELICITY SMOAK WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE IN ONE EPISODE.


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Emily Bett Rickards’s breakout role as Felicity Smoak on the show wasn’t planned to be anything more than a one-off. Rickards told Comic Book Resources that the character was originally written to be a "'possibly recurring' role,” which she admits rarely, if ever, actually happens.

But her performance impressed everyone so much that, going into season six, she’s one of the principal members of the cast, and the character has even been reintroduced into the comic books in recent years.

5. STEPHEN AMELL REALLY PERFORMED THE “SALMON LADDER” ON HIS OWN.

Stephen Amell gets into legitimate superhero shape for the role of Oliver Queen, and a lot of the training montages you see on the show are all him. This includes that dizzying “salmon ladder” routine he does in the pilot.

“It’s one of the most talked about moments in the pilot,” Guggenheim told The Huffington Post. And for good reason: The thing looks incredibly hard—even for a superhero. Amell does the whole workout for real, foregoing a harness in order to give the camera crew the freedom to shoot him however they want.

Amell has become such a salmon ladder master that he even performed it on American Ninja Warrior without a problem (easy for us to say).

6. ORIGINALLY, NO ONE WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE SUPER POWERS.

Arrow was originally pitched to be completely free of the super powers, magic, and mysticism that have since become a regular part of the series. Leading up to the season one premiere, the words “grounded” and “realistic” were tossed around with impunity by the cast and crew during interviews.

“We tried to make him as real as possible. The character doesn’t have any superpowers. Nobody on the show has any superpowers,” Amell told IGN in preparation of the show’s first season.

Having annual team-ups with The Flash or Constantine would have been completely unthinkable; now they’re the norm. (Whether or not that’s a good thing we’ll leave to the message board crowd.)

7. THE ARROW FOLKS NEEDED CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S PERMISSION TO BRING THE FLASH ONTO THE SHOW.

In the wake of his tremendously successful Dark Knight trilogy, there was a thought that Christopher Nolan would be the shepherd of anything DC-related at Warner Bros. It started with helping Batman Begins writer David Goyer successfully pitch Man of Steel to the studio, and for a time it even crossed over into the TV universe.

Nolan’s influence was so all-encompassing at one point that the production team at Arrow had to get the director’s approval to introduce The Flash and his subsequent super-powered world onto the show. During a Fan Expo Canada panel in 2013, Amell said:

“I will tell you this. I know that when I found out about Barry Allen appearing on the show, one of the executive producers told me for Barry Allen to appear on the show, we had to get approval all the way up to Christopher Nolan. Because he’s Christopher Nolan, and he’s the czar of all things Warner Bros. and DC. And he likes the show and approved of Barry Allen approving. So I would say that’s a very good sign.”

8. THE SERIES IS SOAKED IN DC COMIC BOOK REFERENCES.

Though the show initially tried to downplay its comic book roots, there were—and still are—plenty of Easter eggs for longtime fans to discover. In the pilot episode, artist Mike Grell provided the police sketch for Green Arrow—then just known as “The Vigilante.” And many of the streets and locations on the show are named after comic writers and artists, including the cross streets of Infantino and Adams (for artists Carmine Infantino and Neal Adams) and “Gail Street and Simone” for Birds of Prey writer Gail Simone.

Another constant Easter egg that you’ll now never be able to unsee is how often the show uses the number “52,” such as for fictional TV stations and Quentin Lance's call sign. It might sound odd, but that’s an important number in the DC Universe, as it’s the number of different multiverses in the company—each with its own alternate, and sometimes bizarre, version of Earth.

9. WILLA HOLLAND WAS DISCOVERED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG.


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Willa Holland’s career started off about as well as anyone could ever dream: with a personal endorsement from Steven Spielberg. It all happened when Holland, who is the stepdaughter of director Brian De Palma, was over at Spielberg’s home.

Holland may have thought she was simply playing at a friend’s house while Spielberg was “filming little wedding scenes and doing home videos,” but when the famed director spoke to her parents later on, he said, “You’ve got to put her in front of a camera.”

Roles in The O.C. and Gossip Girl followed, but her big break came when she was cast as Thea Queen—Oliver’s sister—on Arrow.

10. AN ARCHERY EXPERT HELPS KEEP THE BOW ACTION AUTHENTIC.

To get the Green Arrow right, you need to start with the bow. Arrow employs an archery technician and coordinator named Patricia Gonsalves, who makes sure they get things right.

She works with anyone on the show who touches a bow—and there are a lot of them—and explained to Archery 360 that, “For safety reasons, the actors must have a lesson in safety before they can shoot a bow.” Usually that training lasts a couple hours, but for Amell, that meant two months of archery lessons.

In addition to hands-on work with all of the archer actors, Gonsalves also helps determine which bow fits each character best.

“I’ll get a first draft of the script for an episode and will form an idea of what bow will work for that character or episode. I’ll choose a few bows that will work for the character and then the production department makes the final choice.”

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Warner Bros.
19 Shadowy Facts About Tim Burton's Batman
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Superhero movies are bigger than they’ve ever been before, but we arguably wouldn’t be here at all without 1989’s Batman. Produced at a time before comic book movies were considered big business, Tim Burton’s dark look at a superhero then best known for a goofy TV show is a pop culture landmark, and the story of how it was made is almost as interesting as the film itself. So, to celebrate Batman—which was released on this day in 1989—here are 19 facts about how it came to the screen.

1. AN EARLY MOVIE IDEA RELIED ON THE CAMPINESS OF THE CHARACTER.

As development of a Batman movie began, studio executives were still very tied to the campiness embodied by the Batman television series of the 1960s. According to executive producer Michael Uslan, when he first began attempting to get the rights to make a film, he was told that the only studio who’d expressed interest was CBS, and only if they could do a Batman In Outer Space film.

2. IT TOOK 10 YEARS TO MAKE.

Uslan lobbied hard for the rights to Batman, and finally landed them in 1979. At that point, the fight to convince a studio to make the film ensued, and everyone from Columbia Pictures to Universal Pictures turned it down. When Warner Bros. finally agreed to back the film, the issue of developing the right script had to be settled, and that took even more time. In 1989, after years of battling, Batman was finally released, and Uslan has been involved in some form in every Batman film since.

3. AN EARLY SCRIPT FEATURED BOTH THE PENGUIN AND ROBIN.

When Uslan finally got the chance to develop the film, he drafted legendary screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a consultant on Superman, to write the script. The Mankiewicz script included The Joker, corrupt politician Rupert Thorne, a much greater focus on Bruce Wayne’s origin story, The Penguin, and the arrival of Robin late in the film. The script was ultimately scrapped, but you can see certain elements of it in Batman Returns.

4. TIM BURTON WASN’T THE FIRST POTENTIAL DIRECTOR.

Though Warner Bros. ultimately chose Tim Burton to helm Batman, over the course of the film’s development a number of other choices emerged. At various points on the road to Batman, everyone from Gremlins director Joe Dante to Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was in line for the gig.

5. MANY STARS OF THE TIME WERE CONSIDERED FOR BATMAN.

The casting process for Batman was a long one, and involved a number of major stars of the day. Among the contenders for the title role were Mel Gibson, Bill Murray (yes, really), Kevin Costner, Willem Dafoe, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Charlie Sheen, Ray Liotta, and Pierce Brosnan, who later regretted turning down the role.

6. TIM BURTON HAD TO FIGHT TO CAST MICHAEL KEATON.

At the time, Michael Keaton was best known for his comedic roles in films like Mr. Mom and Night Shift, so the thought of casting him as a vigilante of the night seemed odd to many. Michael Uslan remembers thinking a prank was being played on him when he heard Keaton’s name pop up. Burton, who’d already worked with Keaton on Beetlejuice, was convinced that Keaton was right for the role, not just because he could portray the obsessive nature of the character, but because he also felt that Keaton was the kind of actor who would need to dress up as a bat in order to scare criminals, while a typical action star would just garner “unintentional laughs” in the suit. Burton ultimately won the argument, and Keaton got an iconic role for two films.

7. JACK NICHOLSON WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE JOKER, BUT HE WASN’T THE ONLY CHOICE.

From the beginning, Uslan concluded that Jack Nicholson was the perfect choice to play The Joker, and was “walking on air” when the production finally cast him. He certainly wasn’t the only actor considered, though. Among Burton’s considerations were Willem Dafoe, James Woods, Brad Dourif, David Bowie, and Robin Williams (who really wanted the part).

8. TIM BURTON WON JACK NICHOLSON OVER WITH HORSEBACK RIDING.

When Nicholson was asked to discuss playing The Joker, he invited Burton and producer Peter Guber to visit him in Aspen for some horseback riding. When Burton learned that was what they’d be doing, he told Guber “I don’t ride,” to which Guber replied “You do today!” So, a “terrified” Burton got on a horse and rode alongside Nicholson, and the star ultimately agreed to play the Clown Prince of Crime.

9. EDDIE MURPHY WAS ONCE CONSIDERED TO PLAY ROBIN.

Though the character of Robin was ultimately scrapped because it simply didn’t feel like there was room for him in the film, he did appear in early drafts of the script, and at one point producers considered casting Eddie Murphy—who, you must remember, was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s—for the role. 

10. SEAN YOUNG WAS THE ORIGINAL VICKI VALE.

Burton initially cast Blade Runner star Sean Young as acclaimed photographer Vicki Vale, who would become Bruce Wayne’s love interest. Young was part of the pre-production process on Batman for several weeks until, while practicing horseback riding for a scene that was ultimately cut, she fell from her horse and was seriously injured. With just a week to go until shooting, producers had to act fast to find a replacement, and decided on Kim Basinger, who essentially joined the production overnight.

11. TIM BURTON WASN’T OFFICIALLY HIRED UNTIL BEETLEJUICE BECAME A HIT.

Though he was basically already a part of the production, Burton wasn’t officially the director of Batman right away. Warner Bros. showed interest in him working on the film after the success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but according to Burton they only officially hired him after the first weekend grosses for Beetlejuice came in.

“They were just waiting to see how Beetlejuice did,” Burton said. “They didn’t want to give me that movie unless Beetlejuice was going to be okay. They wouldn’t say that, but that was really the way it was.”

12. DANNY ELFMAN THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO BE FIRED UNTIL HE PLAYED THE MAIN THEME.

Danny Elfman is now considered one of our great movie composers, but at the time Batman was released he didn’t have any blockbuster credits to his name. He recalls meeting with Burton (with whom he had worked on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) and producer Jon Peters to go over some of the music he’d already written for the film, and feeling “a lot of skepticism” over whether he should be the composer for Batman. It wasn’t until Burton said “Play the march,” and Elfman went into what would become the opening credits theme for the film, that he won Peters over.

“Jon jumped out of his chair, really just almost started dancing around the room,” Elfman said.

13. THE JOKER WASN’T ALWAYS GOING TO KILL BATMAN’S PARENTS.

In the final film, The Joker (then named Jack Napier) is revealed to be the gangster who guns down Bruce Wayne’s parents in the streets of Gotham City. It’s a twist that some comic book fans still dislike, and according to screenwriter Sam Hamm, it definitely wasn’t his fault.

“That was something that Tim had wanted from early on, and I had a bunch of arguments with him and wound up talking him out of it for as long as I was on the script. But, once the script went into production, there was a writer’s strike underway, and so I wasn’t able to be with the production as it was shooting over in London, and they brought in other people.”

Hamm also emphasizes that it was also not his idea to show Alfred letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave.

14. THE CLIMACTIC SCENE WAS WRITTEN MIDWAY THROUGH SHOOTING.

Though much of the film is still derived from Hamm’s script, rewrites continued to happen during shooting, and one of them involved the final confrontation between Batman and The Joker in a Gotham City clock tower. According to co-star Robert Wuhl, the climax was inspired by Jack Nicholson and Jon Peters, who went to see a production of The Phantom of the Opera midway through filming and watched as the Phantom made his final stand in a tower. Together, they somehow determined that a final fight in the tower was what Batman needed.

“The next day, they started writing that scene … the whole ending in the tower,” Wuhl said.

15. MICHAEL KEATON’S BATMAN MOVEMENTS WERE INSPIRED BY THE RESTRICTIONS OF THE COSTUME.

Batman fans still love to make jokes about the original costume, and Michael Keaton’s inability to turn his head (there’s even a dig at that in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), but the restrictions of the costume actually inspired how Keaton performed as the Dark Knight. In 2014, Keaton revealed that his performance as Batman was heavily influenced by a moment when, while trying to actually turn his head in the suit, he ended up ripping it.

“It really came out of the first time I had to react to something, and this thing was stuck to my face and somebody says something to Batman and I go like this [turning his head] and the whole thing goes, [rriipp]! There was a big f***ing hole over here,” he said. “So I go, well, I've got to get around that, because we've got to shoot this son of a bitch, so I go, 'You know what, Tim [Burton]? He moves like this [like a statue]!’”

“I'm feeling really scared, and then it hit me—I thought, 'Oh, this is perfect! This is perfect.' I mean, this is, like, designed for this kind of really unusual dude, the Bruce Wayne guy, the guy who has this other personality that's really dark and really alone, and really kind of depressed. This is it.”

16. GOTHAM CITY WAS REAL, AND IT WAS EXPENSIVE.

Production designer Anton Furst put a lot of work into the incredibly influential designs for the film’s version of Gotham City, and the production was committed to making them pay off. The production ultimately spent more than $5 million to transform the backlot of London’s Pinewood Studios into Gotham City, and you can see the dedication to practical effects work in the final film.

17. PRINCE WAS PART OF THE PRODUCTION EVEN BEFORE HE JOINED IT.

Batman famously features original songs by Prince, who wrote so much new material for the production that he basically produced a full album. Even before the Purple One was drafted to write for the film, though, he was influencing it. Burton played Prince songs on set during the parade sequence and the Joker’s rampage through the museum.

18. THE FILM’S MARKETING WAS SO EFFECTIVE THAT IT INSPIRED CRIMES.

By the time Batman was actually on its way to release, it was becoming a phenomenon, and the marketing for the film was inspiring a frenzy among fans. People were buying tickets to other films just to see the first trailer, and selling bootleg copies of the early footage. The poster, featuring the iconic logo, was so popular that, according to Uslan, people were breaking into bus stations just to steal it.

19. IT WAS A BOX OFFICE LANDMARK.

Though studio executives resisted the idea of a “dark” Batman movie for years, the film ultimately set a new standard for box office success. It was the first film to ever hit $100 million in 10 days, the biggest film in Warner Bros.’ history at the time, and the box office’s biggest earner of 1989—and that’s not even counting the massive toy and merchandising sales it generated.

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Karl Walter, Getty Images
When the FBI Investigated the 'Murder' of Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor
Karl Walter, Getty Images
Karl Walter, Getty Images

The two people standing over the body, Michigan State Police detective Paul Wood told the Hard Copy cameras, “had a distinctive-type uniform on. As I recall: black pants, some type of leather jacket with a design on it, and one was wearing combat boots. The other was wearing what looked like patent leather shoes. So if it was a homicide, I was thinking it was possibly a gang-type homicide.”

Wood was describing a puzzling case local police, state police, and eventually the FBI had worked hard to solve for over a year. The mystery began in 1989, when farmer Robert Reed spotted a circular group of objects floating over his farm just outside of rural Burr Oak, Michigan; it turned out to be a cluster of weather balloons attached to a Super 8 camera.

When the camera landed on his property, the surprised farmer didn't develop the footage—he turned it over to the police. Some local farmers had recently gotten into trouble for letting wild marijuana grow on the edges of their properties, and Reed thought the balloons and camera were a possible surveillance technique. But no state or local jurisdictions used such rudimentary methods, so the state police in East Lansing decided to develop the film. What they saw shocked them.

A city street at night; a lifeless male body with a mysterious substance strewn across his face; two black-clad men standing over the body as the camera swirled away up into the sky, with a third individual seen at the edge of the frame running away, seemingly as fast as possible. Michigan police immediately began analyzing the footage for clues, and noticed the lights of Chicago’s elevated train system, which was over 100 miles away.

It was the first clue in what would become a year-long investigation into what they believed was either a cult killing or gang murder. When they solved the “crime” of what they believed was a real-life snuff film, they were more shocked than when the investigation began: The footage was from the music video for “Down In It,” the debut single from industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the supposed dead body was the group's very-much-alive lead singer, Trent Reznor.

 
 

In 1989, Nine Inch Nails was about to release their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, which would go on to be certified triple platinum in the United States. The record would define the emerging industrial rock sound that Reznor and his rotating cast of bandmates would experiment with throughout the 1990s and even today on albums like The Downward Spiral and The Slip.

The band chose the song “Down In It”—a track with piercing vocals, pulsing electronic drums, sampled sound effects, and twisted nursery rhyme-inspired lyrics—as Pretty Hate Machine's first single. They began working with H-Gun, a Chicago-based multimedia team led by filmmakers Eric Zimmerman and Benjamin Stokes (who had created videos for such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks), and sketched out a rough idea for the music video.

Filmed on location among warehouses and parking garages in Chicago, the video was supposed to culminate in a shot with a leather-jacketed Reznor running to the top of a building, while two then-members of the band followed him wearing studded jumpsuits; the video would fade out with an epic floating zoom shot to imply that Reznor's cornstarch-for-blood-covered character had fallen off the building and died in the street. Because the cash-strapped upstarts didn’t have enough money for a fancy crane to achieve the shot for their video, they opted to tie weather balloons to the camera and let it float up from Reznor, who was lying in the street surrounded by his bandmates. They eventually hoped to play the footage backward to get the shot in the final video.

Instead, the Windy City lived up to its name and quickly whisked the balloons and camera away. With Reznor playing dead and his bandmates looking down at him, only one of the filmmakers noticed. He tried to chase down the runaway camera—which captured his pursuit—but it was lost, forcing them to finish shooting the rest of the video and release it without the planned shot from the missing footage in September of 1989.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the band, a drama involving their lost camera was unfolding in southwest Michigan. Police there eventually involved the Chicago police, whose detectives determined that the footage had been filmed in an alley in the city's Fulton River District. After Chicago authorities found no homicide reports matching the footage for the neighborhood and that particular time frame, they handed the video over to the FBI, whose pathologists reportedly said that, based on the substance on the individual, the body in the video was rotting.

 
 

The "substance" in question was actually the result of the low-quality film and the color of the cornstarch on the singer’s face, which had also been incorporated into the press photos for Pretty Hate Machine. It was a nod to the band's early live shows, in which Reznor would spew cornstarch and chocolate syrup on his band members and the audience. “It looks really great under the lights, grungey, a sort of anti-Bon Jovi and the whole glamour thing,” Reznor said in a 1991 interview.

With no other easy options, and in order to generate any leads that might help them identify the victim seen in the video, the authorities distributed flyers to Chicago schools asking if anyone knew any details behind the strange “killing.”

The tactic worked. A local art student was watching MTV in 1991 and saw the distinctive video for “Down In It,” which reminded him of one of the flyers he had seen at school. He contacted the Chicago police to tip them off to who their supposed "murder victim" really was. Nine Inch Nails’s manager was notified, and he told Reznor and the filmmakers what had really happened to their lost footage.

“It’s interesting that our top federal agency, the Federal Bureau of [Investigation], couldn’t crack the Super 8 code,” co-director Zimmerman said in an interview. As for Wood and any embarrassment law enforcement had after the investigation: “I thought it was our duty, one way or the other, to determine what was on that film,” he said.

“My initial reaction was that it was really funny that something could be that blown out of proportion with this many people worked up about it,” Reznor said, and later told an interviewer, “There was talk that I would have to appear and talk to prove that I was alive.” Even though—in the eyes of state, local, and federal authorities—he was reportedly dead for over a year, Reznor didn’t seem to be bothered by it: “Somebody at the FBI had been watching too much Hitchcock or David Lynch or something,” he reasoned.

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