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How NBA Owners Made Their Money

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With the NBA playoffs starting, you've probably added "own a professional basketball team" to your list of goals. Here's how the league's current owners earned the cash to make it happen.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

1. Atlanta Hawks
Bruce Levenson, Michael Gearon Jr.

Owner Since: 2004

The Numbers: Forbes estimates the Hawks are worth $316 million, which makes them the 3rd-least valuable franchise in the NBA.

Group Ownership: Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon Jr. are the majority partners of Atlanta Spirit Group, a consortium of seven businessmen who own the Atlanta Hawks and operate Phillips Arena (where they play). The original purchase in 2004 included the Atlanta Thrashers, but they sold off the hockey team in 2011 and the new ownership moved the team to Winnipeg.

How They Got Rich: Levenson co-founded United Communications Group (UCG), a business information corporation, in 1977. Gearon started a telecommunications company when he was 25 and sold it to American Tower, a builder and operator of communications towers, five years later.

2. Boston Celtics
Boston Basketball Partners L.L.C. (Wycliffe Grousbeck, CEO)

Owners Since: 2003

The Numbers: Purchased for $360 million in 2003, the Celtics are now worth an estimated $730 million. Seems like a good investment until you realize that they assume partial responsibility for the 1996 Dan Aykroyd vehicle Celtic Pride.

What’s in a Name?: When the investment group was formed, Grousbeck named it “Banner 17 LLC," symbolizing the quest for the Celtics' 17th NBA Championship. When that moment came in 2008, new business cards were needed.

How He Got Rich: Grousbeck was a partner at a successful venture capital firm where he specialized in medical technology and healthcare services.

3. Brooklyn Nets
Mikhail Prokhorov

Owner Since: 2010

The Numbers: The Nets are worth an estimated $530 million, but operated at a considerable loss of $16 million last year (moving from New Jersey to New York will do that).

The Most Interesting Owner in the World: A shortlist of Prokhorov’s quirks and accomplishments:

- In 2012, he ran for president of Russia against Vladimir Putin. He garnered less than 10 percent of the vote.

- He stands 6’8”, making him the tallest owner in the NBA.

- One of his favorite hobbies is performing jet ski tricks (check YouTube, there’s proof).

- He heads the Russian Biathlon Union.

How He Got Rich: Nickel mines. Prokhorov bought up “reduced price” shares of the Norilsk Nickel company during Russia’s privatization spree after the fall of the Soviet Union. In 2007, when he left the company, his shares were estimated to be worth $7.5 billion. Combined with his other mining ventures, the oligarch is worth about $13 billion.

4. Charlotte Bobcats
Michael Jordan

Owner Since: 2010

The Numbers: The Bobcats are worth around $315 million, making them the second-to-least valuable NBA franchise. Michael Jordan and his investment group paid an estimated $175 million in 2010 to achieve majority ownership.

Name Change: In 2014, the Bobcats will change their name to the Hornets, restoring basketball order after the team and its name were moved to New Orleans in 2002.

How He Got Rich: Jordan is worth an estimated $650 million. His shoe brand controls over 50 percent of the basketball market and he maintains lucrative partnerships with Gatorade, Hanes, 2K Sports, and others. He also made a little bit of money playing basketball, a sport few fans are aware the famous baseball player tried his hand at.

5. Chicago Bulls
Jerry Reinsdorf

Owner Since: 1985

The Numbers: The Bulls are worth $800 million, making them the third-most valuable team in the league.

Packed Houses: The team plays in the NBA’s largest arena and boast more sellouts than any other team in the league.

How He Got Rich: Reinsdorf started his career as a tax attorney. He went on to specialize in real estate tax shelters and investments in properties that were under construction. In 1981, he bought the Chicago White Sox and followed that by purchasing the then-financially struggling Bulls in 1985. The next year the team drafted the owner listed directly above and the rest is history.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers
Dan Gilbert

Owner Since: 2005

The Numbers: The Cavaliers are worth $434 million according to Forbes, which is enough to put them right in the middle of the NBA money list at 15.

Tantrum: After LeBron James famously spurned the Cavs in 2010, Gilbert lashed out with an open letter, written late-night in Comic Sans and posted to the team’s website. In addition, Fathead, a company Gilbert owns that produces life-sized stickers, slashed the price of their LeBron Fathead to $17.41, the year of Benedict Arnold’s birth. What a deal!

How He Got Rich: Gilbert founded Quicken Loans Inc., the country’s largest online mortgage lender. He also helms Rock Gaming, a casino operator that has begun to profit on downtown Cleveland’s new gaming eligibility.

7. Dallas Mavericks
Mark Cuban

Owner Since: 2000

The Numbers: After buying the Mavericks from H. Ross Perot in 2000 for $280 million, the team is currently estimated to be worth $685 million.

NBA’s Extra Income Source: Cuban is notoriously outspoken and has been known to go on tirades against NBA management, referees, and even opposing players. All these outbursts have resulted in a total of $1,840,000 in fines paid to the association.

How He Got Rich: In 1995, Cuban started a small Internet radio company that eventually became Broadcast.com. He sold this venture to Yahoo! for almost $6 billion at the most opportune time—right before the dot com crash. He has now diversified his ventures and owns various entertainment businesses. According to Forbes, his net worth stands at $2.5 billion.

8. Denver Nuggets
Stan Kroenke

Owner Since: 2000

The Numbers: The Nuggets are worth $427 million, coming in at the number 19 spot in the NBA.

Other Notable Holdings: Kroenke heads Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which owns or holds considerable shares of the Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, and St. Louis Rams.

How He Got Rich: As noted in our NFL Owners List, Kroenke is a real estate magnate who runs developments around the country, many of which are anchored by Walmart locations. (His wife, Anna Walton Kroenke, is the daughter of Bud Walton, co-founder with his brother Sam of Walmart).

9. Detroit Pistons
Tom Gores

Owner Since: 2011

The Numbers: The Pistons are worth $400 million, which Gores hopes to increase by updating the Palace of Auburn Hills (which he also purchased in 2011).

How He Got Rich: Born in Nazareth, Israel, Gores moved to Michigan when he was four years old. He is now is based in Beverly Hills and owns Platinum Equity LLC, a private equity firm. He is worth an estimated $2.5 billion.

10. Golden State Warriors
Peter Guber, Joe Lacob

Owners Since: 2010

On the Move?: The Warriors hope to move out of Oakland and into a yet-to-be-built arena located in San Francisco near the Bay Bridge.

How They Got Rich: Lacob is a venture capitalist and Guber is the CEO of film production company Mandalay Entertainment.

11. Houston Rockets
Leslie Alexander

Owner Since: 1993

The Numbers: The Houston Rockets are valued at $568 million, landing them 7th on the NBA’s rich list.

Beginner’s Luck: After purchasing the team in 1993, Alexander’s Rockets won their first title. Their WNBA equivalent, the Houston Comets, won the title in 1997—Alexander’s first year as their owner.

How He Got Rich: Alexander made his fortune trading stocks and corporate bonds. He currently owns and runs a Hamptons vineyard and wine club that requires a $50,000 initiation fee (which buys a lot of Bartles & Jaymes).

12. Indiana Pacers
Herbert Simon

Owner Since: 1983

The Numbers: The Pacers, who Simon bought for $10 million in 1983, are now worth $383 million.

How He Got Rich: Simon is the chairman of the Simon Property Group, a shopping mall development corporation. He also own Kirkus Reviews, a bi-monthly book review publication. His net worth is estimated to be around $2 billion.

13. Los Angeles Clippers
Donald Sterling

Owner Since: 1981

The Numbers: The Clippers are worth $430 million, less than half as much as their LA rivals, the Lakers.

Ugly Legal Battles: Sterling has been accused of racially-biased discrimination at some of his California real estate developments and is embroiled in a court battle over these alleged practices. He was also sued by NBA legend and former Clippers General Manager Elgin Baylor for underpayment due to racial discrimination.

How He Got Rich: Sterling began his career as a divorce lawyer but soon moved on to real estate ownership and investment. He used part of his fortune to buy the San Diego clippers for $12 million in 1981 and moved them to Los Angeles, bringing that famous San Diego sports luck with them.

14. Los Angeles Lakers
Jim and Jeanie Buss (along with a family trust)

Owner Since: 1979

The Numbers: The Lakers are worth $1 billion, a number that will soon see an increase due to a multi-billion cable TV deal.

The Old Guard: The Buss family are the longest-tenured owners in the NBA. After patriarch Jerry’s death earlier this year, a six-family member trust was assigned to take control and ownership of the team.

How They Got Rich: Jerry Buss studied to be a chemist, and worked in mining safety as well as aeronautics. He taught chemistry at USC and got involved with real estate to help supplement his income. He proved to be such a successful investor that he started doing it full-time--you can’t buy the Lakers on a teacher’s salary.

15. Memphis Grizzlies
Robert J. Pera

Owner Since: 2012

The Numbers: The Grizzlies are worth $377 million, according to Forbes’ evaluation.

Young’n: At 35, Robert Pera is the youngest franchise owner in the NBA. Tayshaun Prince and Keyon Dooling—the Grizzlies’ oldest players—are only two years younger than Pera. 

How He Got Rich: Pera worked as an engineer at Apple before starting his own company, Ubiquiti Networks. The company specializes in providing wireless networks to emerging and developing nations. He is worth a little under $2 billion and is one of the youngest billionaires in the world.

16. Miami Heat
Micky Arison

Owner Since: 1995

The Numbers: The Heat are the NBA’s 6th-most valuable franchise and are worth $625 million.

How He Got Rich: Arison is the son of Ted Arison, co-founder of Carnival Cruise Lines. Micky worked as the corporation’s CEO since 1979 before being replaced this June. Did he step down because of the hit the company took after their infamous “poop cruise” in February? This insider info is unknown, but it’s really fun to write “poop cruise.”

Arison’s net worth is estimated to be around $5.9 billion.

17. Milwaukee Bucks
Herb Kohl

Owner Since: 1985

The Numbers: Worth $312 million, the Bucks are the NBA’s least-valuable team. They have a cool mascot, though, and that's priceless.

Politics: Herb Kohl served as a U.S. Senator starting in 1989. He didn’t seek reelection in 2012 and left the halting quagmire that is Congress in order to watch the halting quagmire that is the Bucks’ offense.

How He Got Rich: Kohl was a stock trader and real estate investor before starting Kohl Investments, a venture that owns various stores and groceries, as well as the department store giant Kohl’s.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves
Glen Taylor

Owner Since: 1995

The Numbers: The Wolves’ worth is estimated to be around $364 million.

Politics, Again: Like Herb Kohl, Taylor spent time as a politician. He was a state senator in Minnesota throughout the ‘80s.

How He Got Rich: Taylor bought Carlson Wedding Service—a company he worked for—in 1975. He renamed it “Taylor Corp” and turned the wedding supplier into a commercial printing, marketing, and graphics communications venture. He is worth an estimated $1.7 billion.

19. New Orleans Pelicans
Tom Benson

Owner Since: 2012

The Numbers: The Pelicans are estimated to be worth $340 million.

Other Properties: Benson also owns the New Orleans Saints, a team whose name isn’t quite as stately or weighted with significance as “Pelicans.”

How He Got Rich: As stated in our NFL owners list, Benson runs multiple car dealerships in the New Orleans and San Antonio areas. He also invested in and purchased local banks to form Benson Financial, a company he eventually sold for $440 million.

20. New York Knicks
James Dolan

Owner Since: 1997

The Numbers: Valued at $1.1 billion, the Knicks are the most valuable franchise in the league. Keep in mind that “value” is used purely in the monetary sense here—winning, teamwork, or the willingness to play any semblance of defense are completely unrelated.

Music Man: Dolan’s first passion is music, and his blues band “JD and the Straight Shot” are going on tour with the Eagles this month. Good idea to get out of New York for the Knicks’ slow start.

How He Got Rich: The son of Charles Dolan, James inherited control of cable television giant Cablevision and is also the executive chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder
Professional Basketball Club LLC (Clayton Bennett, Chairman)

Owner Since: 2006

The Numbers: The Oklahoma City Thunder are worth $475 million, and are estimated to have made $30 million in profits last year. They are the 12th richest team in the NBA by Forbes’ estimation, making them the ultimate “small market” success story.

Goodbye, Seattle: Feeling good after hearing about the little team that could? If you are from Seattle, that warm and fuzzy feeling is anger-vomit creeping up. In 2006, Bennett and Professional Basketball Club LLC, the ownership group he chairs, bought the Seattle Supersonics and assured fans they would not be moved. Two years later, they were playing ball in OKC.

How He Got Rich: Clay Bennett is the chairman of the Oklahoma City-based investment firm Dorchester Capital Corp. Other members of the Thunder’s ownership group include Aubrey McClendon (chairman of Chesapeake Energy), Tom L. Ward (CEO of SandRidge Energy and a Chesapeake Energy co-founder), Everett R. Dobson (CEO of Dobson Technologies, a fiber optic and data storage business), and four others.

22. Orlando Magic
RDV Sports, Inc. (Richard DeVos, Chairman)

Owner Since: 1991

Ambitious Plans: In an interview in The Grand Rapids Press, DeVos stated that one of his goals was “to reform the Christian Reformed Church.” That’s a lot of reforming.

How He Got Rich: DeVos co-founded Amway in 1959, a company that sells products directly and through a series of independent businessmen and women who are free to recruit and train salespeople of their own.

23. Philadelphia 76ers
Adam Aron (CEO of the 76ers’ ownership group)

Owner Since: 2011

The Numbers: The Sixers are estimated to be worth $418 million.

Big Willy Style: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are investors in the team. This investment marks Smith’s first time on a basketball court in Philadelphia since he got in one little fight while shooting some b-ball outside of the school, frightening his mother and prompting her to send him to Bel Air, California to live with his Aunt and Uncle.

How He Got Rich: From 1996 to 2006, Aron was the CEO of Vail Resorts, the lucrative ski destination.

24. Phoenix Suns
Robert Sarver

Owner Since: 2004

The Numbers: Forbes estimates the Suns are worth $474 million.

How He Got Rich: Sarver is the son of prominent Tuscon businessman Jack Sarver. Robert Sarver has started, sold, acquired, and headed various banks in the southwest, including National Bank of Arizona, Western Alliance Bancorporation, and California Bank and Trust.

25. Portland Trail Blazers
Paul Allen

Owner Since: 1988

The Numbers: The Trail Blazers are worth an estimated $457 million.

Other Notable Holdings: Allen also owns the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Sounders of the MLS. If you like watching professional sporting events in the rain, Paul Allen has you covered.

How He Got Rich: In 1975, Allen founded Microsoft with Bill Gates. He is now worth around $15 billion, making him the NBA’s richest owner.

26. Sacramento Kings
Vivek Ranadivé

Owner Since: 2013

The Numbers: The Kings are estimated to be worth $525 million and are ranked 11th in Forbes’ NBA money list.

Close Call: The Kings were nearly sold by their previous owners, the Maloof family, and relocated to Seattle before Ranadivé and his ownership group swooped in and bought the team. Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento and a former NBA point guard, was also instrumental in making sure the team stayed put.

How He Got Rich: Born in India and trained at MIT and Harvard, Ranadivé is a technology pioneer who helped take pencils, papers, and runners out of Wall Street trading and replaced them with computers in the 1980s. He is now the CEO of TIBCO, a real-time software company specializing in sports news and statistics.

27. San Antonio Spurs
Peter Holt

Owner Since: 1993

The Numbers: The Spurs are the ninth wealthiest team in the league—their net worth is estimated to be $527 million.

How He Got Rich: Holt is the great-grandson of Benjamin Holt, inventor of one of the first types of tractors. The company he started eventually merged with another manufacturer to form Caterpillar. Peter Holt owns the largest CAT dealership in America.

28. Toronto Raptors
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (Timothy Lieweke, CEO)

Owner Since: 1998

The Numbers: The Raptors are worth $405 million, or if you want to be more impressive, over 421 million Canadian dollars.

Other Ventures: Other than the Raptors, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment group owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto FC of the MLS, and the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.

How He Got Rich: Leiweke is the former CEO of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, a consortium that owned the L.A. Kings, Galaxy, and a portion of the Lakers. They also run much of Downtown Los Angeles’ entertainment properties, as well as various stadia in the U.S. and around the world.

29. Utah Jazz
Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment, Jazz Basketball Investors, Inc. (Greg Miller, CEO)

Owner Since: 1985

The Numbers: Purchased in 1985 for $24 million, the Jazz are now worth $432 million.

How He Got Rich: Miller's father, Larry, was a prominent Salt Lake City businessman who owned movie theaters, entertainment complexes, dozens of automotive dealerships, and a television station. He died due to complications with diabetes in 2009 and passed along control of the team to his son Greg.

30. Washington Wizards
Ted Leonsis

Owner Since: 2010

The Numbers: The Wizards are worth $551 million, nearly enough coin to sign five Gilbert-Arenas-caliber free agents.

Other Ventures: Leonsis is also the majority owner of the Washington Capitals and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. All three teams play in the Verizon Center, a property he also owns.

How He Got Rich: Leonsis sold his marketing company Redgate Communications to America Online in 1993 and served as an executive there until 2006. He is also the chairman of the board of directors at Groupon.

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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’s 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.

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. Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’ 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS'S 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.

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.

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 featured 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.

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.”

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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10 Terrific Facts About Stephen King
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As if being one of the world's most successful and prolific writers wasn't already reason enough to celebrate, Stephen King is ringing in his birthday as the toast of Hollywood. As It continues to break box office records, we're digging into the horror master's past. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Stephen King, who turns 70 years old today.

1. STEPHEN KING AND HIS WIFE, TABITHA, OWN A RADIO STATION.

Stephen and Tabitha King own Zone Radio, a company that serves to head their three radio stations in Maine. One of them, WKIT, is a classic rock station that goes by the tagline "Stephen King's Rock Station."

2. HE'S A HARDCORE RED SOX FAN.

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Not only did he write a story about the Boston Red Sox—The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (who was a former Red Sox pitcher)—he also had a cameo in the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie Fever Pitch, which is about a crazed Sox fan. He plays himself and throws out the first pitch at a game.

In 2004, King and Stewart O'Nan, another novelist, chronicled their reactions to the season that finally brought the World Series title back to Beantown. It's appropriately titled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season.

3. HE WAS HIT BY A CAR, THEN BOUGHT THE CAR THAT HIT HIM.

You probably remember that King was hit by a van not far from his summer home in Maine in 1999. The incident left King with a collapsed lung, multiple fractures to his hip and leg, and a gash to the head. Afterward, King and his lawyer bought the van for $1500 with King announcing that, "Yes, we've got the van, and I'm going to take a sledgehammer and beat it!"

4. AS A KID, HIS FRIEND WAS STRUCK AND KILLED BY A TRAIN.

King's brain seems to be able to create chilling stories at such an amazing clip, yet he's seen his fair share of horror in real life. In addition to the aforementioned car accident, when King was just a kid his friend was struck and killed by a train (a plot line that made it into his story "The Body," which was adapted into Stand By Me). While it would be easy to assume that this incident informed much of King's writing, the author claims to have no memory of the event:

"According to Mom, I had gone off to play at a neighbor’s house—a house that was near a railroad line. About an hour after I left I came back (she said), as white as a ghost. I would not speak for the rest of the day; I would not tell her why I’d not waited to be picked up or phoned that I wanted to come home; I would not tell her why my chum’s mom hadn’t walked me back but had allowed me to come alone.

"It turned out that the kid I had been playing with had been run over by a freight train while playing on or crossing the tracks (years later, my mother told me they had picked up the pieces in a wicker basket). My mom never knew if I had been near him when it happened, if it had occurred before I even arrived, or if I had wandered away after it happened. Perhaps she had her own ideas on the subject. But as I’ve said, I have no memory of the incident at all; only of having been told about it some years after the fact."

5. HE WROTE A MUSICAL WITH JOHN MELLENCAMP.

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

King, John Mellencamp, and T Bone Burnett collaborated on a musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which made its debut in 2012. The story is based on a house that Mellencamp bought in Indiana that came complete with a ghost story. Legend has it that three siblings were messing around in the woods and one of the brothers accidentally got shot. The surviving brother and sister jumped in the car to go get help, and in their panic, swerved off the road right into a tree and were killed instantly. Of course, the three now haunt the woods by Mellencamp's house.

6. HE PLAYED IN A BAND WITH OTHER SUCCESSFUL AUTHORS.

King played rhythm guitar for a band made up of successful writers called The Rock Bottom Remainders. From 1992 to 2012, the band "toured" about once a year. In addition to King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening and Ridley Pearson were just some of its other members.

7. HE'S A NATIVE MAINER.

A photo of Stephen King's home in Bangor, Maine.
By Julia Ess - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

King writes about Maine a lot because he knows and loves The Pine Tree State: he was born there, grew up there, and still lives there (in Bangor). Castle Rock, Derry, and Jerusalem's Lot—the fictional towns he has written about in his books—are just products of King's imagination, but he can tell you exactly where in the state they would be if they were real.

8. HE HAS BATTLED DRUG AND ALCOHOL PROBLEMS.

Throughout much of the 1980s, King struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. In discussing this time, he admitted that, "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all. I don't say that with pride or shame, only with a vague sense of sorrow and loss. I like that book. I wish I could remember enjoying the good parts as I put them down on the page."

It came to a head when his family members staged an intervention and confronted him with drug paraphernalia they had collected from his trash can. It was the eye-opener King needed; he got help and has been sober ever since.

9. THERE WAS A RUMOR THAT HE WROTE A LOST TIE-IN NOVEL.

King was an avid Lost fan and sometimes wrote about the show in his Entertainment Weekly column, "The Pop of King." The admiration was mutual. Lost's writers mentioned that King was a major influence in their work. There was a lot of speculation that he was the man behind Bad Twin, a Lost tie-in mystery, but he debunked that rumor.

10. HE IS SURROUNDED BY WRITERS.

A photo of Stephen King's son, author Joe Hill
Joe Hill
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Stephen isn't the only writer in the King family: His wife, Tabitha King, has published several novels. Joe, their oldest son, followed in his dad's footsteps and is a bestselling horror writer (he writes under the pen name Joe Hill). Youngest child Owen has written a collection of short stories and one novella and he and his dad co-wrote Sleeping Beauties, which will be released later this month (Owen also married a writer). Naomi, the only King daughter, is a minister and gay activist.

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