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22 Things You Might Not Know About the Stanley Cup

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Interesting facts and crazy stories about the trophy—which is older than the National Hockey League.

1. Who is Stanley, and what’s his cup?

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The Stanley Cup is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the 1892 Governor General of Canada. He purchased the decorative cup in London for 10 guineas (around $50 at the time). Stanley donated the Cup to award Canada’s top amateur hockey club after he and his family became infatuated with the sport at Montreal’s 1889 Winter Carnival; it was first awarded to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (or MAAA) in 1893.

2. There are actually three Stanley Cups.

the stanley cup
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Stanley’s original Cup from 1892, known as the “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup" (above), was awarded until 1970, and is now on display in the Vault Room at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

In 1963, NHL president Clarence Campbell believed that the original Cup had become too brittle to give to championship teams, so the “Presentation Cup” was created and is the well-known trophy awarded today. (Skeptics can authenticate the Presentation Cup by noting the Hockey Hall of Fame seal on the bottom.)

The final Cup is a replica of the Presentation Cup, which was created in 1993 by Montreal silversmith Louise St. Jacques and is used as a stand-in at the Hall of Fame when the Presentation Cup isn’t available.

3. But it’s one of a kind.

Unlike other major league sports trophies, a new Cup isn’t made every year. Instead, after each championship, the names of the players, coaches, management, and staff of the winning team are added to the Cup. The first team to have its roster engraved was the 1906-07 Montreal Wanderers, whose names were etched within the inner bowl of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. The only other team names engraved on the inner bowl are the 1914-15 Vancouver Millionaires.

4. And it’s always changing.

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More and more teams wanted to be immortalized, so the decision was made to put a separate single ring below the original Cup that each new winning roster would be etched on. Between 1927 and 1947, a new, more streamlined and vertical incarnation of the Cup was used. Thanks to its cylindrical shape, it was nicknamed the “Stovepipe Cup” (above)—but by 1948, the trophy had become too tall to hold or put on display, so the shape was changed to the tiered version used today.

5. Its rings are detachable.

Since 1958, five bands of championship names are engraved around the base of the Cup. When the rings become full, the oldest band is removed and preserved in Lord Stanley’s Vault at the Great Esso Hall in the Hockey Hall of Fame. A blank replacement band is then put in its place to be filled with the names of the next champions. No championship team names from the 1928-29 to the 1953-54 season are currently on the Cup.

6. The NHL has official engravers put each name on the cup.

In its 96-year history, there have only been four official engravers sanctioned by the NHL. The first was the 1948 Stanley Cup designer Carl Poul Peterson, a Danish engraver who moved to Montreal in 1929 and worked with his sons Arno, Ole, and John Paule in his engraving shop until his death in 1977. The current engraver is Louise St. Jacques (creator of the replica of the Presentation Cup), who took over from the second and third official engravers, Doug Boffey and his father Eric, at their shop Boffey Silversmith’s in Montreal in 1989.

To inscribe each name individually, St. Jacques disassembles the Cup from the top down, and then clamps the band being engraved in a homemade circular jig. She uses special small hammers and a series of letter stamps to strike each letter into the silver while using a metal level to keep the names as straight as possible. St. Jacques estimates that each name takes approximately a half-hour to inscribe and that it takes a non-continuous—not to mention patient—ten hours to complete every name for the winning team.

7. But they’re not always perfect.

Many champion player and team names are misspelled on the Cup. The name of the 1980-81 New York Islanders is misspelled as “Ilanders,” and the 1971-72 Boston Bruins’ name is misspelled as “Bqstqn Bruins.” Most of the errors are left on as they are—it would be too costly to fix the mistakes. But fans believe the errors add to the idiosyncratic nature of the Cup.

Corrections have been made, though: When 1996 champion Colorado Avalanche’s Adam Deadmarsh's name was spelled “Deadmarch” on the Cup, it was stamped out and corrected after he publicly stated how heartbroken he was about the error.

8. Sometimes the winning teams don’t play by the rules.

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The NHL will allow no more than 52 names from each year's winning team to be engraved, with the assumption that the people included are affiliated with or have played on that club during the Stanley Cup finals.

But Peter Pocklington—the former Edmonton Oilers owner perhaps best known for trading away The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky—included his father, Basil, on the list of names to go along with the 1983-84 champion Oilers, despite the fact that his father wasn’t officially affiliated with the team. Once found out, the league had the engraver strike out Basil’s name with a series of capital Xs (above).

9. But sometimes, there are extenuating circumstances.

When the Detroit Red Wings won the Cup in 1998, the team asked that Vladimir Konstantinov's name be engraved on the Cup, even though he didn’t play that year. The NHL allowed it because Konstantinov was a team member who was seriously injured in a car accident before the Wings defended their title.

There are also a couple of instances where no names were inscribed at all, like when the Cup wasn’t awarded in 1919 due to an outbreak of Spanish Flu. It also wasn’t awarded for the 2004-05 season because of a lockout between the league and the players union. The entire space for the players’ names reads “SEASON NOT PLAYED.”

10. Some people make multiple appearances.

Henri Richard, brother of Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard and a hockey great in his own right, is on the Cup a record 11 times as a player, while the legendary Scotty Bowman appears on the Cup the most for a coach with nine Stanley Cup wins as the skipper for the Red Wings, Penguins, and Canadiens.

With 24 victories, the Canadiens have taken home Stanley Cup more than any other NHL team—though their last win, unfortunately for Habs fans, was back in 1993. Montreal also holds the record for most consecutive Cup wins with five in a row from 1956 to 1960.

11. One fan tried to steal the Cup—but not for the reason you'd expect.

Montreal fans are so adamant about the Cup that during the 1962 playoffs, when the Cup was on display at Chicago Stadium for the defending champion Black Hawks (the name was compressed to “Blackhawks” in 1986), Habs fan Ken Kilander attempted to take the Cup and walk right out the door with it. When a police officer caught and questioned him, Kilander responded, “I want to take it back where it belongs, to Montreal.”

12. The Stanley Cup isn’t only for men.

Twelve women have their names inscribed on the Cup. The first was Marguerite Norris, who was the president of the Detroit Red Wings for their 1954-55 season victory. Sonia Scurfield is the only Canadian woman to have her name inscribed; she was the co-owner of the 1988-89 champion Calgary Flames.

13. Some people are superstitious about it.

Various players are wary of the Cup if they haven’t won it yet, and steer clear if they’re still in contention—in fact, some players on conference champion teams won’t even touch the respective Western Conference Campbell Bowl or Eastern Conference Prince of Wales Trophy so they don’t jinx their team’s chances at the real prize!

14. The Cup has a chaperone.

The Cup is always accompanied by at least one representative of the Hockey Hall of Fame, dubbed the “Keeper of the Cup.” The current Keeper, Philip Pritchard, has held the position since 1991 and even maintains a Twitter account to update followers on where the Cup goes from day to day.

Way back when the Cup was first donated, Lord Stanley mandated that two trustees must always be appointed to care for the Cup and ensure it was kept in proper condition. The two current trustees are Brian O’Neill and Ian “Scotty” Morrison, and according to the Hockey Hall of Fame, they “have absolute power over all matters regarding the Stanley Cup.”

15. The Cup belongs to the players … for one day.

The NHL allots each championship team one hundred off-season days with the Cup (accompanied by the Keeper, of course) to do with it as they wish. It was the 1994-95 New Jersey Devils who formalized the tradition of giving each player one personal day with the Cup during the off-season. In fact, since the ‘03 season, the Hall of Fame has been keeping journals of the Cup’s travels with each winning team. Though some players use their day with the trophy for peaceful reflection, others have gone a bit crazy with Lord Stanley’s Cup, as you’ll see below.

16. The Stanley Cup has gone swimming at least three times.

Following their 1991 victory over the Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux hosted the team at his house. When Lemieux wasn’t looking, Penguins winger Phil Bourque decided he wanted to see if the Cup could float—and threw the trophy into the captain’s in-ground pool. It didn’t float, and immediately sank to the bottom (thankfully, it was recovered unharmed).

Two years later the Cup also found the bottom of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy’s pool. But in 2002, when Red Wings goaltender Dominik Hašek attempted to swim with the Cup, the Keeper had had enough: He demanded Hašek dry off the trophy and give it back, thus cutting short his allotted personal day.

17. And it once spent all night in an Ottawa canal.

When the Ottawa Hockey Club, now known as the Ottawa Senators, won the Cup in 1905, the members of the “Silver Seven” had a little too much fun celebrating their victory. After the team banquet, some not-so-sober players brought the trophy outside and decided to test their accuracy by trying to kick the then-small Cup into Ottawa’s Rideau Canal.

Once successful, they went on their drunken way and forgot all about it—until their teammates realized the next day that the trophy was missing. Lord Stanley’s Cup was retrieved and given to a player named Harry Smith, the most responsible man on the team, for safekeeping.

18. The Montreal Canadiens won the Cup in 1924, and then promptly forgot about it.

When the members of the 1924 champion Canadiens got a flat tire on the way to the team’s victory banquet at owner Leo Dandurand’s house, they had to remove the Cup from the trunk of the car to get to the spare tire. The players, eager to celebrate their win, quickly changed the tire and made their way to the party. When the traditional time came for each player to drink champagne from the silver bowl, the Cup was nowhere to be found. The players had left it on the side of the road! They hopped in their car and sped back to the place where they had changed the flat and found the Cup in a snow bank on the side of the road—right where they had left it.

But that wasn’t the first time a Montreal hockey team had forgotten the Cup. The 1907 Montreal Wanderers left it at the home of a team photographer; the photographer’s mother used the Cup as a flower pot until the team came back to retrieve it!

19. Two babies have been baptized in the Cup.

After the Colorado Avalanche won the 1995-96 championship, defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre used his personal day with the Cup to have his daughter christened in the top bowl.

Eleven years later, after the Detroit Red Wings won in 2007-08, Swedish left-winger Tomas Holmström brought the silverware back to his native country so that his cousin could baptize his 7-week-old daughter in the trophy.

20. And it has seen its fair share of vice.

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The Edmonton Oilers were a force to be reckoned with in the 1980s. Between 1984 and 1990, the team won five Stanley Cups and were led by two hockey greats, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier (above). Legend has it that after their 1986-87 win, Messier brought the Cup to an Edmonton strip club called the Forum Inn and set the trophy on the main stage. One of the ladies dancing at the club then reportedly incorporated the Cup into her risqué routine.

When he won the Cup again in 1994 with the New York Rangers, Messier and his teammates brought the trophy to another strip club—Scores in Manhattan.

21. It also might hold a curse, among other things…

When Messier and the Rangers won in 1994, it ended a record 54-year championship drought for the Broadway Blueshirts (the team hadn’t won since the 1939-40 season). Fans believe that the curse might have been brought on because the Rangers disrespected the Cup.

During the ’39-’40 season, the mortgage on the Rangers’ home rink—at the time the third incarnation of Madison Square Garden—was finally paid off. To celebrate, the management of the team symbolically burned the mortgage documents in the bowl of the Stanley Cup. Then, left-winger Lynn Patrick and his teammates allegedly urinated in the Cup’s bowl to bizarrely celebrate their victory. The Rangers finally took home the trophy again in 1994, but they haven’t won hockey’s ultimate prize since.

22. And the Cup went to war.

It’s been all over the world, from Russia to the Czech Republic to Sweden, but in 2007, the Stanley Cup went to war. To boost morale for Canadian and American troops serving in the Middle East, the Cup was flown into an active war zone at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for a meet and greet. Canadians love nothing more than hockey, and you can read up on the reactions from the troops on the Hall of Fame’s Stanley Cup Journal when it went to Afghanistan here.

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13 Fantastic Museums You Can Visit for Free on Saturday
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On Saturday, September 23, museums and cultural institutions across the United States will open their doors to the public for free, as part of Smithsonian magazine’s annual Museum Day Live! event. Hundreds of museums are set to participate, ranging from world-famous institutions in major cities to tiny, local museums in small towns. While the full list of museums can be viewed, and tickets can be reserved, on the Smithsonian website, we’ve collected a small selection of the fantastic museums you can visit for free this Saturday.

1. NEWSEUM // WASHINGTON, D.C.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. is an entire museum dedicated to the First Amendment. Celebrating freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, the museum features exhibits on civil rights, the Berlin Wall, and the history of news media in America. Their latest special exhibitions take a look back at the event of September 11, 2001 and go inside the FBI's crime-fighting tactics.

2. INTREPID SEA, AIR & SPACE MUSEUM // NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

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New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t just showcase America’s military and maritime history—it is a piece of that history. The museum itself is one of the Essex-class aircraft carriers built by the United States Navy during World War II. Visitors can explore its massive deck and interior, and view historic airplanes, a real World War II submarine, and a range of interactive exhibits. Normally, a ticket will set you back a whopping $33 (or $19 for New York City residents), but on Saturday, general admission is free with a Museum Day Live! ticket.

3. AUTRY MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN WEST // LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Perfect for art lovers, history buffs, and cinephiles alike, the Autry Museum of the American West (named for legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry) offers up an eclectic mix of art, historical artifacts from the real American West, and Western film memorabilia and props.

4. MUSEUM OF ARTS AND SCIENCES // DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

A massive art, science, and history museum located on a 90-acre nature preserve, the Museum of Arts and Sciences features the largest collection of Florida art anywhere in the world, as well as the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia in all of Florida. Its diverse exhibits are alternately awe-inspiring, informative, and quirky, ranging from an exploration of 2000 years of sculpture art to an exhibition of 19th and 20th century advertising posters.

5. INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE HORSE AT THE KENTUCKY HORSE PARK // LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY

The International Museum of the Horse explores the history of—you guessed it!—the horse. That might sound like a narrow scope, but the museum doesn’t just display horse racing artifacts or teach you about modern horse breeds. Instead, it endeavors to tackle the 50-million-year evolution of the horse and its relationship with humans from ancient times to modern times.

6. THE PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM // CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

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The 160-year-old Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Museum Day Live! In addition to their vast exhibits of animal specimens and cultural artifacts, the museum will be hosting a live animal feeding and a butterfly release throughout the day.

7. OGDEN MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN ART // NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art aims to teach visitors about the rich culture and diverse visual arts of the American South. Right now, visitors can view a collection of William Eggleston's photographs and check out the museum's 10th annual invitational exhibition of ceramic teacups and teapots.

8. BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY // BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

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Located in a 19th century oyster cannery on the Baltimore waterfront, the Baltimore Museum of Industry tells the story of American manufacturing from garment making to video game design. Visitors this weekend can meet video game designers and create custom games at the museum’s interactive “Video Game Wizards” exhibit.

9. SYLVAN HEIGHTS BIRD PARK // SCOTLAND NECK, NORTH CAROLINA

You can meet 2000 birds from around the world this weekend at the 18-acre Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Visitors to the massive garden can walk through aviaries displaying birds from every continent except Antarctica, including ducks, geese, swans, and exotic birds from all over the world.

10. DELTA BLUES MUSEUM // CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI

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Visitors to the Delta Blues Museum can learn about the unique American musical art form in “the land where blues began,” with audiovisual exhibits centered on blues and rock legend Don Nix, as well as Paramount Records illustrator Anthony Mostrom.

11. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NUCLEAR SCIENCE & HISTORY // ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

America’s only congressionally chartered museum dedicated to the story of the Atomic Age, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History features exhibits on everything from nuclear medicine to representations of atomic power in pop culture. Adult visitors to the museum will delight in its impressively nuanced take on nuclear technology, while kids will love the museum’s outdoor airplane exhibit and hands-on science activities at Little Albert’s Lab.

12. MUSEUM OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN // PINEDALE, WYOMING

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Dedicated to the mountain men who explored and settled Wyoming in the 19th century, the Museum of the Mountain Man brings American folklore and legends to life. The museum features exhibits on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and tells the story of American folk legend and famed mountain man Hugh Glass (the man Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar playing in 2015's The Revenant).

13. BESH BA GOWAH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK AND MUSEUM // GLOBE, ARIZONA

Arizona’s Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum lets visitors connect with history firsthand. The museum is home to the ruins and artifacts of the Salado Indians who inhabited Arizona from the 13th century through the 15th century, and even lets visitors wander through an 800-year-old Salado pueblo.

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20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers Movies
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Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

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After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. John Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’s 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS' WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating, “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Ethan Coen, Frances McDormand and Joel Coen at the Oscars
Ethan Coen, Frances McDormand, and Joel Coen celebrate their Oscar wins in 1997.
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Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

Billy Bob Thornton in the Coen brothers' 'The Man Who Wasn't There' (2001)
© 2001 - USA Films

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that features a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

A still from the Coen Brothers' 'The Ladykillers.'
Melinda Sue Gordon, SMPSP - © 2004 - Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination).

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

A photo of Oscar Isaac in the Coen brothers' 'Inside Llewyn Davis' (2013).
© 2013 - CBS Films

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. “The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, ‘Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that.”

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen brothers are plenty fond of The Dude; after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

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