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10 Pointed Facts About Arrow

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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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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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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.

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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.

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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?” 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.

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[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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