10 Wild Facts About Sons of Anarchy

FX Networks
FX Networks

Influenced by Hamlet, Sons of Anarchy centered around a family (both blood-related and not) of grim reaper patch-wearing outlaw bikers in a club known as SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original), based in the fictional town of Charming, California. The show debuted on September 3, 2008 and, over the course of seven seasons, became FX’s top-rated drama.

Katey Sagal played the matriarch, Gemma, whose Harley-riding son Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is the "Hamlet" character; he’s caught between pleasing his mother and his stepfather, Clay (Ron Perlman), and honoring his dead father John, a founding member of SAMCRO.

SOA courted controversy because of its grizzly scenes of violence, everything from a tattoo being burned off to a character being forked to death. But the show’s creator, Kurt Sutter, explained: “For me, all that violence—because it’s not who I am and it’s not where I come from—it’s all fantasy. I might as well be writing about wizards and fairies,” he told The Hollywood Reporter

Before creating SOA, Sutter had been a producer and writer on The Shield. Shawn Ryan, creator of The Shield, recommended Sutter to producers Art and John Linson. They pitched Sutter a show about outlaw bikers and allowed him to build it from scratch. After 92 episodes of family drama (and multiple major character deaths), the show aired its final episode on December 9, 2014—though FX will premiere a spinoff, Mayans MC, this week. Here are 10 fascinating facts about the beloved biker drama.

1. KURT SUTTER WROTE THE PART OF GEMMA WITH KATEY SAGAL IN MIND.

Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter and Married... With Children star Katey Sagal married in 2004 and have since collaborated on several projects together. In an interview with NPR, Sagal said Sutter wrote the character of Gemma with her and their family dynamic in mind.

“If you asked him, what he would tell you probably is when he came into my life, I already had two children, and he’s their stepparent, and I was very protective of my children," Sagal said. "... He hadn’t been around that kind of energy quite so much, so I think that’s what was the springboard for Gemma. It was not so much the heinous things she does; it was that at her core, her motivation is her children, is her child. At any cost, she will protect him and her club.”

2. RON PERLMAN WASN’T THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY CLAY.

The original pilot featured Scott Glenn as Clay Morrow, president of SAMCRO. “The network decided that they weren’t getting what they were hoping to get and ... they loved the series enough [that] if they thought they found the right actor, they were willing to reshoot the pilot and restart the clock and green light the show for a whole first season, which is 13 episodes,” Perlman told NPR. The producers felt Glenn was too subtle and not dynamic enough. “So I understood going into it that, you know—that they were looking for a more operatic version of this guy,” Perlman said. “I happened to be free that week.”

Perlman auditioned for the show, unsure if he could play a character that lacked duality. “He has no feminine side whatsoever and I really didn’t know whether I could, whether I had the chops to pull it off,” Perlman told Collider.

3. TARA WAS “THE MORAL CENTER” OF THE SHOW.

Maggie Siff in 'Sons of Anarchy'
Prashant Gupta, FX Networks

With chatting with Entertainment Weekly, Maggie Siff—who played Dr. Tara Knowles—agreed that her character was "the moral center of the show" for part of its run. “I think Kurt used her as a window, through which the audience could experience the club and the life of the club,” she said. “You could see her loving these people in spite of herself, in spite of knowing better. I think she remained a moral center in that she continues to be one of the only in the world who experiences real emotional conflict around the violence and the difficulty and the pain of the life and wanting something better for her children.”

4. PEOPLE LOVED TO GIVE CHARLIE HUNNAM KNIVES.

On the show, Charlie Hunnam's character Jax carries around a Ka-Bar knife. Hunnam said knives were part of biker culture, and California allows people to carry them. “You’re allowed to carry a knife with a no longer than six-inch blade," Hunnam told GQ. "Still, six inches is a pretty big knife!”

That signature accessory became a popular gift from Hunnam's fans. “I have dozens of Ka-Bars that military guys have given me and I’ve been told that a couple of them ‘have been used.’ Which is a little bit ... grimy, you know? I’m not sure about the energy of that.” 

5. SUTTER RAN INTO ISSUES WITH STANDARDS & PRACTICES.

Because FX forbade the use of the F-word, characters replaced it with “Jesus Christ.” “There was one season where they were, like, counting my ‘Jesus Christs’ because somebody on the Fox food chain thought it was so blasphemous,” Sutter told Entertainment Weekly.

John Landgraf, CEO of FX, took issue with some of Sutter's ideas, including the castration of a clown—Kurt wanted the visual, FX did not. “I totally acknowledge the need for violence,” Landgraf said. “It’s a violent world and a violent show. He’s portraying really tragic, dark consequences of violence. Kurt wants to show it in very graphic detail, and I want to leave more to the imagination.”

Sutter told GQ that all of the violence had to be organic, not gratuitous. “When we’re f***ing burning a tattoo with a blowtorch off a guy’s back, that is one of the most extreme decisions these guys may be making, but it’s real to the world,” he said. “I love being able to do things like that, and playing in worlds that allow me to do that.”

6. SAGAL WORRIED HER CHARACTER WOULD ALIENATE FANS.

Katey Sagal and Ron Perlman in 'Sons of Anarchy'
Prashant Gupta, FX Networks

[SPOILER ALERT] During the season six finale, Gemma unexpectedly murders Jax’s wife, Tara, using a carving fork. “When I first realized that Gemma was going to kill Tara, I had a moment like, oh s**t, man, nobody’s going to wanna see Gemma again. She’s killing beloved Tara!” Sagal told People. Fortunately, the death didn’t alienate fans like Sagal thought it would. “The very next day, I went to do an autograph session and people were showing up with forks for me to sign,” Sagal said. “And I thought, 'Oh, okay.'”

7. SUTTER LIKED THE IRONY OF MOTORCYCLE CULTURE.

Sutter, who rides motorcycles in real life, told The Verge that he'd always been "fascinated by the irony of motorcycle clubs. Because they say they’re all about 'ride free' and 'f*** the establishment.' But within the structure of these outlaw clubs, there are more rules and regulations than you or I have. They’re like little military units. And I love the irony of that."

Sutter further explained that the club represents the ideal of how Americans “take care of our own,” which is the theme of the show. “Yes, it’s about family, but it’s also about community and village and the organization you belong to … That’s part of the positive stereotype we represent as a nation—that sense of no matter how f**ked up or damaged these people are, and they are, there’s something wholly familial about them.”

8. STEPHEN KING WAS A MAJOR FAN, AND MADE A CAMEO.

Stephen King was a big fan of the show, writing in an Entertainment Weekly column that “it’s one of those shows that seems to have gotten better as it goes along.” Sutter contacted him and asked him to appear in an episode.

“He assured me that he’d write me a suitably nasty part (in various films I’ve been stuck playing a series of mentally challenged country bumpkins); most important of all, he said he’d put me on a bitchin’ Harley. How could I say no?” King wrote on his website. In the season three episode “Caregiver,” King played a cleaner named Bachman—a reference to Richard Bachman, a pen name King used to go by.

9. WALTON GOGGINS CONVINCED SUTTER TO LET HIM BE TRANSGENDER.

Walton Goggins in 'Sons of Anarchy'
FX Networks

Sutter invited some former cast members from The Shield to cameo on Sons of Anarchy, but he was initially against having Walton Goggins appear. “It would be very hard for our audience to accept them as anybody else,” Goggins told Entertainment Weekly. “I called and said, ‘That’s bulls**t! Come on!’ And we went back and forth, like how would we do it? I wouldn’t want to do it as anything that would be compared to The Shield. And then I just said to Kurt, ‘I’ll do it if I can be a transgender. I would like to play a transgender.’ He said, ‘No, you wouldn’t.’ I said, ‘Oh yes, absolutely, I would. Let’s do it as a transgender.’”

For six episodes, between 2012 and 2014, Goggins played Venus Van Dam, a play on Goggins’s Shield alias Cletus Van Damme. At one point, Venus began a romance with SAMCRO member Tig (Kim Coates).

10. CHARLIE HUNNAM HAD A DIFFICULT TIME LETTING GO OF JAX.

Hunnam played Jax for eight years. When it came time to end the show, he said it was emotional for him to separate himself from the character. “I found myself going back to set a lot,” he told Glamour. “I knew the security guards and for a couple of days said, ‘Oh, I forgot something,’ so they’d let me onto the set, and I’d just walk around at night because I wanted to be in that environment and go through a personal process of saying goodbye. After a couple of nights I didn’t really need the alibi to get in, and then after a while I just said, ‘OK, enough, this is done.’”

10 Unforgettable Facts About The Notebook On Its 15th Anniversary

Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams star in The Notebook (2004).
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams star in The Notebook (2004).
New Line Cinema

In 1996, Nicholas Sparks published his first book, The Notebook. He would go on to write several more romance novels, many of which would be adapted into films. But 2004’s film adaption of The Notebook remains the highest-grossing Sparks adaptation, making $115 million worldwide against a $25 million budget. It was Rachel McAdams's breakout lead role (it was released just a few months after Mean Girls); it solidified Ryan Gosling as a “hey girl” heartthrob; and it swept all eight categories it was nominated for at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards, winning in categories like Choice Movie Love Scene and Choice Movie Liplock.

The book and movie follow a young couple named Noah (Gosling) and Allie (Adams) in 1940s North Carolina (the movie was filmed in South Carolina). Despite some obstacles, the couple fall in love, marry, and spend the next 60 years together. In present day, it’s revealed that Allie, now an old woman (played by Gena Rowlands), has Alzheimer’s, and her doting husband (James Garner, as an elderly Noah) helps her remember their storied past. In 2003, Sparks published a loose sequel called The Wedding, featuring the characters Allie and Noah. Here are 10 facts about the beloved romance, which arrived in theaters 15 years ago today.

1. It was based on a true story.

Nicholas Sparks’s book was based on his then-wife Cathy's grandparents, who spent more than 60 years together. Cathy was close to her grandparents, and visited them frequently. The grandparents were too ill to attend their wedding, in 1989, so the newly-married couple brought the wedding to them. They dressed up in their wedding clothes and surprised them at their house. Cathy's grandparents told the Sparks how they met and fell in love, decades ago.

“But though their story was wonderful, what I most remember from that day is the way they were treating each other,” Sparks wrote on his website. “The way his eyes shined when he looked at her, the way he held her hand, the way he got her tea and took care of her. I remember watching them together and thinking to myself that after 60 years of marriage, these two people were treating each other exactly the same as my wife and I were treating each other after 12 hours. What a wonderful gift they’d given us, I thought, to show us on our first day of marriage that true love can last forever.”

Unfortunately for Nicholas and Cathy, their love didn’t last forever—they divorced in 2015

2. Nicholas Sparks thinks the book was successful because it was relatable.


Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

“It seems that nearly everyone I spoke with about the novel knew a ‘Noah and Allie’ in their own life,” Sparks wrote on his website. He also said the book was short enough (224 pages) for people to read it quickly. “I think that readers also appreciate that the novel didn’t include foul language and its love scene was tasteful and mild compared to what’s found in many other novels,” he said. “These factors made people feel comfortable about recommending it to others.”

3. The screenwriter had to work hard to make the characters seem real.

The Notebook screenwriter Jeremy Leven had the daunting task of adapting Sparks's book into a script. “The problem with the book is that it’s melodramatic and sweet, and you have to find a way to appeal to an audience that is apprehensive about yet another sweet movie,” Leven told The Harvard Crimson. “So you have to give it an edge, make it real, and make the choices the characters face real.” That “edge” probably includes the love scene in the rain.

4. Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling didn't get along—at first.


Melissa Moseley/New Line Cinema

Even though they played lovers in the movie and then began dating in real life, the couple clashed during production. Director Nick Cassavetes told MTV a story about an incident when Gosling and McAdams weren’t getting along on the set one day: “Ryan came to me, and there’s 150 people standing in this big scene, and he says, ‘Nick come here,’” Cassavetes shared. “And he’s doing a scene with Rachel and he says, ‘Would you take her out of here and bring in another actress to read off camera with me?’ I said, ‘What?’ We went into a room with a producer; they started screaming and yelling at each other ... The rest of the film wasn’t smooth sailing, but it was smoother sailing.”

5. McAdams and Gosling's on-screen chemistry probably wasn't real.

“[Our later relationship] certainly wasn’t something that either of us had expected would come out of that filmmaking experience,” McAdams said, “which goes to show you that you can engineer chemistry on-screen just by telling the audience that these two people love each other.” She said it was attributed to the acting. “As an actor you don’t have to feel it. You don’t have to feel anything. Just imagine it.”

6. Jessica Biel was bummed she didn't get to play Allie.


Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NBC

Unlike Gosling, McAdams had to audition for the role of Allie, and so did Jessica Biel. “I was in the middle of shooting Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I auditioned with Ryan Gosling in my trailer—covered in blood,” Biel told Elle. “That’s one that I wanted so badly. But there’s a million that get away. We’re gluttons for punishment. It’s just rejection.”

7. McAdams felt a lot of pressure to deliver a great performance.

The actress told Film Monthly she knew she had to be good in the movie, because she had to carry it. “At first I put way too much pressure on myself and realized that it wasn’t getting me anywhere,” she said. “I was just a ball of stress, and eventually the character kicked in where she’s sort of free-spirited, doesn’t care what people think, and chases down those things she wants.” She eventually found the right balance.

8. James Marsden thought the movie was going to be "schmaltzy."


Melissa Moseley/New Line Cinema

James Marsden played Allie’s fiancé—and Noah’s rival—Lon Hammond Jr. The actor told Out Magazine how he tries not to make a bad movie, but they sometimes turn out that way. “Then there are some movies that I’ve been in that I was sure people would laugh at, that have become huge,” he said. “I thought The Notebook was going to be a schmaltzy Movie of the Week–type thing, and here we are!”

9. Nick Cassavetes was the fourth choice to direct the movie.

New Line Cinema acquired the rights to Sparks's novel in 1995, before the book was even published. In 1998, Variety reported that Steven Spielberg wanted to direct the film. Jim Sheridan was also interested, but he decided to direct In America instead. In 2001, The Mask of Zorro and GoldenEye director Martin Campbel almost signed on, but in 2002 New Line brought Cassavetes aboard.

10. James Garner ruined his first take shooting with Gena Rowlands.


Melissa Moseley/New Line Cinema

Nick Cassavetes—son of legendary director John Cassavetes—cast his mother, the great Gena Rowlands, as the elderly Allie. Garner recalled the first day he and Gena filmed together. “She's going to come out and I’m sitting on the porch in a chair or something. And I hear Nick say, ‘Okay, mom. Action.’ Well, I ruined that take because I just broke up. That was so funny. That tickled me to death. But he showed his mother great respect. He was gentle with her and worked with her. What I loved about it is that she listened to him. Here’s a professional actress who’s one of the best ever, and she’s listening to her son tell her about things. I really admired that in both of them.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

Alexander Skarsgård Could Have Played Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Larry Busacca, Getty Images
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

Marvel fans may have trouble imagining Thor played by anyone other than Chris Hemsworth, but apparently, Alexander Skarsgård was pretty darn close to getting the role. How close, you ask? He tried on the costume, held the hammer, and even filmed an audition in the garb.

In 2009—just a year after True Blood premiered—the actor told MTV that he met with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and Thor director Kenneth Branagh about the part. “Yeah, I met with Kevin [Feige] a few times and the director,” he said. “There was definitely some truth in that, yeah.”

When the MTV interviewer said he thought the actor had the perfect look to bring Thor to life, Skarsgård simply replied, “So did I.”

But before you start to feel too sorry for Skarsgård, let's not forget the number of impressive roles the True Blood alum has landed. At the moment, he’s playing Perry Wright in HBO’s Big Little Lies, for which he won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

As for the Thor role, Hemsworth went on to play the God of Thunder in multiple films, and although his future in the MCU is not certain after Avengers: Endgame, the Australian actor confirmed he’d love to keep playing the character.

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