10 Surprising Facts About Cloverfield

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

On February 4, 2018, football fans (and casual watchers) got an unexpected surprise during Super Bowl LII when Netflix announced that it was dropping The Cloverfield Paradox—the third film in the Cloverfield anthology—that very same night. 

It was just over 10 years ago, on January 18, 2008, that Paramount released the original Cloverfield, a low-budget, found-footage monster film produced by J.J. Abrams, written by Drew Goddard, and directed by Matt Reeves. In the movie, "Cloverfield" was the case name the government gave to the monster that’s destroying New York.

During the summer of 2007, while the movie was still being filmed, the studio released Cloverfield’s first trailer, which was attached to screenings of Transformers. The teaser concluded with the release date—1-18-2008—but the name of the film was withheld. Because people now knew a secret Abrams project was in the works, the filmmakers had to give code names to the movie, like Slusho! and Cheese.

With a budget of $25 million, the film grossed an impressive $170.7 million worldwide, with $40 million of that accumulating during its opening weekend. (At the time it was the biggest opening for a film released in January, but today, 10 years later, it ranks fourth.) In 2016, Abrams resurrected Cloverfield—this time in what he called “a blood relative.”

Paramount released 10 Cloverfield Lane on March 11, 2016, after announcing it two months earlier. It didn’t have much to do with the original film, but was still connected to the burgeoning Cloverfield universe. “It’s like Cloverfield is the amusement park, and each of these movies is a different ride in that park,” Abrams told Vanity Fair of the film's connections. (The Cloverfield Paradox is the latest film in the anthology.) Here are 10 things you might not have known about the movie that started it all.

1. IT WAS INSPIRED BY GODZILLA.

J.J. Abrams had wanted to make a monster movie for a while. He was in Japan with his son, who dragged him to toy stores. “We saw all these Godzilla toys and I thought, we need our own monster, and not King Kong,” Abrams said during a Comic-Con panel. “King Kong’s adorable. I wanted something that was just insane and intense.”

2. GODZILLA DID NOT INFLUENCE THE CLOVER MONSTER’S DESIGN.

Neville Page had the task of designing the 250-foot-tall Cloverfield monster, known as Clover. “I am not recalling being told to not do Godzilla-like designs," Page said. "It was more implicit. Since it was not a Godzilla movie, it would have been a huge mistake to do things like it.”

Realizing the monster needed to be a water creature, Page decided to add a tail to it. The monster is covered with deadly parasites known as HSP (human scale parasites). “I knew that I wanted something thin and vertical and light. Kinda like a flea,” he said about designing the other creatures.

3. THE MONSTER WAS SLIGHTLY CLUMSY, AND THAT WAS ON PURPOSE.

In an interview with io9, Page shared that if the monster seemed a little bit clumsy, there was a reason for that: It's supposed to be a baby. "I would have preferred that it be even clumsier," Page said. "But then it can get comical. Yes, it was the intention that it is a baby and it is not only developing its strength, but also its land legs. The proportions are intended to feel a little like a newborn deer or horse. Long, thin and slightly awkward."

4. LIZZY CAPLAN HAD NO IDEA WHAT SHE SIGNED ON FOR.

When the actors auditioned for the movie, they weren’t told what the film was, and they weren’t given a full script. In fact, the cast read sides from Alias. Lizzy Caplan agreed to star in the film because she was a fan of Lost.

“I was kind of relieved that it wasn’t Star Trek, not because I think Star Trek is going to be anything less than awesome, but just because I think that would be really strange to have no idea and then be in such a recognizable franchise,” she told MovieWeb.

The producers didn’t give her much of a backstory to work with, either. “I just try to think about like how much it would suck to be in a city being attacked by a monster and how much it would really suck to do it with a group of friends you barely knew and you weren’t with your own friends, trying to figure it out,” she said.

5. IT WAS A METAPHOR FOR 9/11.

Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, and Michael Stahl-David in Cloverfield (2008)
Paramount Pictures

Even though the film was released several years after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, having a real monster attack New York City became a metaphor for 21st-century anxieties. “[It works] in the same way that Godzilla was really a metaphor for its time, and was a sort of movie about the A-bomb and Hiroshima and all of that,” director Matt Reeves told IGN.

“We wanted to let people live through their wildest fears but be in a safe place where the enemy is the size of a skyscraper instead of some stateless, unseen cowardly terrorist,” Abrams told TIME.

Abrams and the rest of the team looked at handheld videos shot in Iraq as a way to base the film in reality. “In many of these Iraq videos, we felt like we were just missing the most terrifying thing,” Abrams said. However, he said the film was “entertainment” and a throwback to monster movies from his youth. “I hadn’t seen anything that felt that way for many years,” he said. “I felt like there had to be a way to do a monster movie that’s updated and fresh. So we came up with the YouTube-ification of things, the ubiquity of video cameras [and] cell phones with cameras. The age of self-documentation felt like a wonderful prism through which to look at the monster movie.”

6. MATT REEVES DIDN'T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY WANTED HIM TO DIRECT IT. 

At this point in his career, Reeves had mainly written and directed character-based projects, including co-creating Felicity with Abrams and writing and directing the film The Pallbearer.

Drew Goddard and Abrams wrote an outline of the film and asked Reeves to direct it. “I was very taken with it, but I was like, ‘This is huge, it’s visual effects. It’s a monster movie. Why are you thinking of me?’” Reeves told IGN. “They were like, ‘Look, there’s no question, we know you love movies and you can get the monster part. We’re interested in what you would do in terms of the tone, in how you would do that and what you would do with the characters.’ And then I got very excited because the idea of doing sort of an outrageous idea, but doing it sort of naturalistically with a real aesthetic, was a real exciting idea. So that got me hooked. I jumped in.”

7. THERE WAS A NOD TO ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.

A scene from 'Cloverfield' (2008)
Paramount Pictures

In the film and in the trailer, the monster knocks the Statue of Liberty’s head into the street. Reeves said the idea came from the poster for John Carpenter's Escape from New York.

“The poster had an image on it of the head of the Statue of Liberty and that image was nowhere in the movie! And it’s an incredibly provocative image,” Reeves told IGN. “And that was the source that inspired J.J. to say, ‘Now this would be an interesting idea for a movie.’”

8. A LOT OF MOVIEGOERS VOMITED.

Because the film featured shaky, handheld images, many viewers experienced vertigo and got sick, similar to what happened during The Blair Witch Project’s theatrical run. Theaters had to post signs saying: “Due to the filming method used for Cloverfield, guests viewing this film may experience side effects associated with motion sickness, similar to riding a roller coaster.” AMC offered to refund those audience members who found the experience too unpleasant to watch.

Thankfully, 10 Cloverfield Lane was not filmed in the same manner. 

9. NOT ALL OF THE ACTORS WERE CONVINCED THE MOVIE WOULD BE ANY GOOD.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, T.J. Miller revealed that both he and co-star Lizzy Caplan weren't confident the concept would pan out. “Even when we were filming, I kept talking to Lizzy Caplan, and she and I would be like, ‘I don’t think this is going to work. I don’t think this is going to be good,’” he said. “We knew there was buzz around it, and J.J. was good at that, and as it got closer to the release date, we started to watch the fan boards and hear what they had to say about everything, and it was pretty amazing. I’d never seen anybody position a movie like that.”

10. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE COINCIDENTALLY ALIGNED WITH CLOVERFIELD.

John Gallagher Jr. and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Michele K. Short, Paramount Pictures

Josh Campbell and Matthew Stucken wrote a script entitled The Cellar, and Abrams’s production company bought it. “We began developing the story, and we came upon some things where it became clear to us that we were in a very interesting place, because the story was wholly original, a very different situation, different characters from anything we’ve done,” Abrams told Entertainment Weekly. "But the spirit of it, the genre of it, the heart of it, the fear factor, the comedy factor, the weirdness factor—there were so many elements that felt like the DNA of this story were of the same place that Cloverfield was born out of."

Despite the shared DNA, Abrams didn’t want it to be a sequel. “We very intentionally didn’t call this movie Cloverfield 2, but we realized that there was enough of a connection, and the movie was good enough that it warranted this association in a way that we think is justified and exciting,” he said.

Jon Snow's Game of Thrones Fate Could Have Spelled Divorce for Showrunner David Benioff

Christopher Polk, Getty Images for Turner
Christopher Polk, Getty Images for Turner

The emotional toll that Game of Thrones's twists and turns takes on its fans has been well-documented. Between the TV show's massive body count and its never-ending series of other shocking moments, the show has left viewers shaken to theirs core for the past eight years (which is part of its massive appeal). But one of Game of Thrones's most heartbreaking moments—the death of Jon Snow at the hands of Alliser Thorne and other members of the Night's Watch in the fifth season—didn't leave just fans crushed. It nearly cost showrunner David Benioff his marriage.

While being interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2015, The Romanoffs star Amanda Peet, who has been married to Benioff since 2006, told Kimmel that she was close to divorcing Benioff for killing off Jon Snow.

"I made him promise me, I begged him … I said, 'I've heard all this stuff … [Kit Harington] got a haircut, I don't want to divorce you, what's happening?'" Peet recalled. Benioff assured his wife that Jon wasn't going to die, but obviously that wasn't true—or at least not at the time. "I don't love you anymore," Peet (jokingly) told her husband. "I said, 'If you kill him, that's it.'"

As we all know, the sixth season saw Jon brought back to life, but Peet likely had no idea it was going to happen due to the intense secrecy of the show. "It's a little like being married to someone in the CIA or something," the actress stated. "He's in bed and he has his earphones and we angle the computer so that I can't see the dailies."

Though Jon's resurrection may have saved their marriage, who knows how Peet will feel about how it all ends when Game of Thrones's eighth and final season premieres on April 14, 2019.

20 Surprising Facts About Benedict Cumberbatch

Larry Busacca, Getty Images
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

If Benedict Cumberbatch isn't careful, he might just run out of dream roles to play. Since the earliest days of his career, the 42-year-old actor has made no secret that there were two roles at the top of his character bucket list: Hamlet and Patrick Melrose, the protagonist at the center of Edward St Aubyn's critically acclaimed series of novels.

In 2015, Cumberbatch took the stage in London to do the whole "to be or not to be" thing. (More on that later.) In 2018, he starred in Patrick Melrose, Showtime's television adaptation of the book series, and earned both Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for the role. Now, Cumberbatch is back on the small screen—and bald—for the HBO movie Brexit, which premieres on January 19th.

1. He made his stage debut playing a "very bossy" Joseph in a Nativity play.

In a 2010 interview with London Theatre, Cumberbatch shared that his first stage performance found him playing “a very bossy Joseph in the Nativity play at primary school. Apparently I pushed Mary offstage because she was taking too long. Actresses eh!”

2. He thinks his name sounds like "a fart in a bath."

There’s something very regal-sounding about a name like Benedict Cumberbatch, but it’s not one that necessarily rolls right off the tongue. The Washington Post once identified the actor as “Bandersnatch Cummerbund” (though later clarified that it was a joke). But there have been plenty of other mix-ups—like the time a television show ID'ed him as “Benedict Cumberpatch” (which sort of has a nice ring to it).

Cumberbatch had a feeling that his name might cause problems in his career, which is why he began his career as Benedict Carlton (which is his middle name). Ultimately, it was his agent who convinced him to use Cumberbatch, even though the actor said the surname sounds like “a fart in a bath.”

3. He toyed with the idea of becoming a lawyer.

Though he grew up in a family of actors, Cumberbatch wasn’t always planning to live his life out in front of a camera. In fact, it was because of his parents’ chosen profession that they encouraged him to pursue a more stable calling, which led him to want to become a criminal lawyer.

“[Acting is] a very odd, peripatetic, crazed, out of your control work and social schedule,” Cumberbatch told The Mirror in 2015. “It's very hard to plan a family life, let alone know where the next paycheck is coming from so they worked very, very hard as my parents, and actors, to afford me an education whereby I had the opportunity and the privilege to try and channel myself towards other goals.

“For a while, I wanted to be a barrister because there's definitely a crossover with criminal law—with trying to persuade an audience and a jury and a judge of the case and your client's story so I did go down that route for a little bit. I think they would have been very happy if I ended up there."

He spoke with Vulture about his legal leanings, too, and noted that, “I would've loved the performance of court, the idea of persuading people, storytelling and all that. It parallels beautifully with acting, lots of frustrated, amateur dramatics going on in court all the time. I think lots of barristers literally perform in amateur dramatic societies and are very good actors. It's a massive crossover."

4. His parents on Sherlock are also his parents in real life.

Speaking of Cumberbatch’s parents: While both Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham are familiar faces as actors in their own right, fans of Sherlock might also be quick to recognize them as Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’s parents.

In 2014, Cumberbatch told the Press Association that he was a little nervous about working with his parents, as “They’re Equity card carrying members but you know it was nerve-wracking because they are actors as well and yet they were brilliant and they were fantastic.”

5. He spent a year teaching in India.

During a gap year, Cumberbatch decided to volunteer his time and teach English at a Tibetan monastery in Darjeeling, India. “I’d always been fascinated by the idea of meditation and what it meant,” he told Lion’s Roar. “In India, I went on a retreat with a lama—several days of incantation to clear and purify the mind—along with a dozen other people. It was incredible, and I kind of floated out of there after two weeks."

Though teaching and acting may seem unrelated, many of the skills and practices Cumberbatch learned during that time eventually helped him in his acting career. “Stillness is an essential part of acting,” he said, “so I already had a certain amount of focus in that beforehand. A still point is a very, very hard place to find, especially among the usual kind of pulped sheep pushed around by the blinking flashing world of modern technology.”

6. He was kidnapped in South Africa.

While filming the 2005 miniseries To the Ends of the Earth, Cumberbatch experienced another kind of epiphany when he nearly lost his life. The actor and two of his co-stars took a day off to learn how to scuba dive near Mozambique. On their way back from the outing, the actor explained, “The three of us were trying to change the tire. These six men appeared suddenly from the eucalyptus. They said: 'Put your hands on your head, don't look at us,' and were frisking us for drugs, money, weapons. Then they bundled us into the car. They dragged me up and put me in the boot of the car.”

Like so many of the quick-thinking characters he has played, Cumberbatch realized his only option was to try and argue his way out of the situation:

“I said: ‘If you leave me in here, it’s not the lack of air, it’s the small space. There’s a problem with my heart and my brain.’

“I just tried to explain to them: ‘I will die, possibly have a fit, and it will be a problem for you. I will be a dead Englishman in your car. Not good.’

“They shut the boot and had an argument, and then pulled me out. So I kind of thank God I had the presence of mind to give them the idea that it would be better to keep me alive. And the other two hadn’t been harmed.”

In a way, the incident became the impetus for Cumberbatch to pursue his dreams even more aggressively. “It taught me that you come into this world as you leave it, on your own,” he said. “It’s made me want to live a life slightly less ordinary.”

7. Julian Assange tried to talk him out of starring in The Fifth Estate.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in 'The Fifth Estate' (2013)
DreamWorks

In 2013, a very white-haired Cumberbatch played the role of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate. In preparing for the role, Cumberbatch—ever the dutiful actor—reached out to Assange about arranging a meeting. Assange’s response, which went viral, was rather epic. Though he assured Cumberbatch that he would very much enjoy meeting him, and that he believed they would get along, he spent the bulk of his word count telling the actor why making the film was a terrible idea:

“You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it. To present me as someone morally compromised and to place me in a falsified history. To create a work, not of fiction, but of debased truth.

“Not because you want to, of course you don't, but because, in the end, you are a jobbing actor who gets paid to follow the script, no matter how debauched.

“Your skills play into the hands of people who are out to remove me and WikiLeaks from the world.

“I believe that you should reconsider your involvement in this enterprise.”

The film went forward as planned, with Cumberbatch in the lead (though it was a critical and box office failure, which likely pleased Assange).

8. He is easily starstruck.

When asked during a Reddit AMA whether he’s ever been starstruck while meeting or working with a fellow actor, Cumberbatch admitted that it happens all the time: “Uhhhhhhhh. Every time I've met someone famous who I've been in the audience of,” he said. “I have the same butterflies and inability to be cool. I approach them as a fellow member of the human race as the next person in their audience does. I've been doing this for 10 odd years, and so to meet people who thrilled me with their work for my entire life in such a concentrated manner as has happened over the last few years has been mind-blowing.”

9. Ted Danson was really, really excited to meet him.

While Cumberbatch may get nervous every time he meets an acting hero, one well-known actor who was pretty excited to meet Cumberbatch was Cheers star Ted Danson. When asked during a Reddit AMA to share the “weirdest encounter you've had with a fan,” Cumberbatch answered: “Ted Danson at a pre-Oscar party screaming across a floor of people like Leonardo DiCaprio, Ray Liotta, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, et al while pushing past them and knocking their drinks. ‘OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! IT'S F***ING SHERLOCK HOLMES!’”

10. He wasn't immediately sold on playing Sherlock Holmes.

Though playing the titular “consulting detective” in Sherlock is the role that brought Cumberbatch global recognition, saying yes to the part wasn’t exactly a no-brainer for the actor. While speaking at a BAFTA event in 2014, Cumberbatch admitted that he was actually a little hesitant to sign on for the project. “I heard about it and thought that sounds like an idea to [re-franchise] something to make money,” he said. “It could be a bit cheap and cheesy. Then I found out who was involved and realized it wouldn’t be cheap and cheesy.

“My mum had done a few episodes of Coupling with Steven [Moffat] and Mark Gatiss was a huge hero of mine when I was a student in League Of Gentleman,” Cumberbatch continued, “so I knew the stable was good. I thought I would read it and then I fell in love with it.”

11. The BBC wasn't sure Cumberbatch was "sexy" enough to pull off Sherlock.


BBC

It’s funny to think about now, considering Cumberatch’s massive worldwide fanbase, but just as the actor wasn’t immediately sold on playing Sherlock Holmes, the BBC wasn’t sure the actor was a great match for the role—because they wanted someone with sex appeal. While speaking at the Hay Festival in 2014, Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat talked about the BBC’s track record in determining which actors might connect with audiences—Cumberbatch being one of them.

“They said of casting David Tennant as Casanova, ‘Damn, you should have cast someone sexier,’” Moffat said. “With Benedict Cumberbatch, we were told the same thing. ‘You promised us a sexy Sherlock, not him.’”

Sue Vertue, a fellow producer on Sherlock (and Moffat's wife), relayed a similar tale to Entertainment Weekly just a few months prior to Moffat’s comments, telling the magazine: “When we first cast [Cumberbatch], people were saying, ‘You promised us a sexy one!’ People weren’t thinking of Benedict in that light at all.” His name, apparently, posed another problem: “When people said, ‘Who’s playing Sherlock Holmes?’ and we’d say, ‘Benedict Cumberbatch,’ everyone looked very vague,” Vertue said. “Then we’d always have to spell his name.”

12. He is (distantly) related to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

It turns out that Sherlock Holmes may have been the role Cumberbatch was born to play. In 2017, researchers at Ancestry.com made the rather fascinating discovery that Cumberbatch and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are sixteenth cousins, twice removed. The ancestral link between the two is former Duke of Lancaster John of Gaunt, who was Doyle’s 15th great-grandfather and Cumberbatch’s 17th great-grandfather.

13. He also has a family link to Alan Turing.

Amazingly, the Conan Doyle connection wasn’t the first time Cumberbatch’s ancestry was linked to one of his characters. In 2014, the same team of researchers determined that Cumberbatch was the 17th cousin of Alan Turing, the computer scientist/codebreaker he played in Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game (2014)—a role that earned Cumberbatch an Oscar nomination in 2015.

14. He has been rendered in chocolate on more than one occasion.


UKTV/FLICKR

In a somewhat bizarre promotional campaign by Britain’s UKTV in 2015, Cumberbatch narrowly beat out David Tennant by a margin of just one percent to be named “TV Dishiest Drama Actor.” The prize? Having a life-sized statue, made entirely of Belgian chocolate, created in the actor’s likeness.

It took a team of eight people more than 250 man-hours to construct the delicious doppelgänger, dubbed “Benedict Chocobatch." In 2016, he was recreated in the sweet stuff again, though this time as an edible chocolate bunny/Benedict hybrid that fans could actually purchase … and eat.

15. He turned Hamlet into "the most in-demand show of all time."

In 2015, Cumberbatch achieved one of his lifetime dreams when it was announced that he would play Hamlet in a 12-week run at London’s Barbican theater. Tickets ended up selling out almost as fast as one could say “To be or not to be.” As The Telegraph reported in 2014:

"The curtain does not go up on the production for another year, but Cumberbatch's Hamlet is nevertheless outselling the next most popular show, the current run of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic, by four to one. The show has even registered 214 per cent more ticket searches in the hours after tickets were released than Beyoncé and Jay Z’s global On the Run tour.

Hamlet tickets went on sale at 10am on August 11 and within minutes fans were expressing frustration at finding themselves more than 20,000 places back in the queue."

16. He's the leading man in a lot of fan fiction.

In addition to being a leading man on the stage and both the small and big screens, Cumberbatch plays a starring role in a lot of fan fiction. A lot of fan fiction! In 2013, The Mirror estimated that approximately 100 million words of fan fiction had been written about the Sherlock star. Considering that was six years ago, the word count has certainly only grown.

17. Simon Pegg convinced him that he might have radiation poisoning.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in 'Star Trek Into Darkness' (2013)
Paramount Pictures

While filming Star Trek: Into Darkness, Simon Pegg decided to have a little fun with Cumberbatch by convincing him that he was at risk for radiation exposure. According to Pegg, it worked. He recounted the story to The Sun in 2013:

"I don't like seeing people get embarrassed. But we were filming in a nuclear facility and one day I said that Chris [Pine] needed neutron cream—otherwise he'd get sunburn. He said, 'What?' And I said, 'Yeah, you'll get a rash from ambient radiation in the air.' From there the trick spread to other cast members. Finally, we got Benedict. He had this speech and he kept f***ing it up. Afterwards he said, 'Guys, I'm ever so sorry —I've got a real headache. I think the ions were getting to me.' He was so convinced."

18. He has a rare genetic mutation.

If Cumberbatch’s eyes seem to regularly change color, you’re not imagining things: The actor was born with both central heterochromia and sectoral heterochromia—two rare-but-harmless genetic mutations that affect his eyes. Each of his eyes has multiple colors (a mix of blue, green, and gold) because of the central heterochromia, and the sectoral heterochromia is the reason why he has a brown “freckle” on his right eye.

But ask the actor what his favorite part of his body is, and the eyes have got it. “I guess as an actor your eyes are vital in conveying any internal thought process or feeling, and for that I have my mum to thank,” he said.

19. He's not cool with "Cumberbitches."

When Cumberbatch’s massive contingency of female fans dubbed themselves “Cumberbitches,” the actor took issue with the pejorative moniker. “It’s not even politeness,” he said of his distaste for the term. “I won’t allow you to be my bitches. I think it sets feminism back so many notches. You are ... Cumberpeople."

20. He has been a vocal proponent of closing the gender pay gap.

Equal pay in Hollywood is a hot-button topic, and Cumberbatch has made his stance on the issue very clear by stating that he won’t work on a project if his female co-stars aren’t being paid the same. "Equal pay and a place at the table are the central tenets of feminism," Cumberbatch told Radio Times. "Look at your quotas. Ask what women are being paid, and say: 'If she’s not paid the same as the men, I’m not doing it.'"

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