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11 International TV Adaptations

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These television shows were so popular that they got adapted for new countries and cultures.

1. Metastasis, an adaptation of Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad, the Emmy-winning AMC drama and widespread cultural obsession, was just a few months short of premiering its final eight episodes when, in March of 2013, Sony Pictures Television confirmed that a Spanish-language remake was in the works per a partnership with the Colombian producer Teleset. Titled Metastasis—after metastasizing cancer—the show’s plot and characters are nearly identical to the original.

Set in Colombia, Metastasis will tell the story of Walter Blanco (played by Diego Trujillo), a chemistry teacher-turned cancer patient-turned meth kingpin. Blanco is joined by his wife, Cielo, junkie sidekick Jose Rosas, and menacing brother-in-law Henry Navarro. Though some of these details may seem straight out of Google Translate, Metastasis will stray from the original in a few ways—for example, the meth-cooking duo will operate from inside an old school bus rather than an RV. “Motor homes are not popular in Colombia, so audiences will see Walter and Jose cooking up their first several batches of methamphetamine in an old, barely drivable school bus," explained Angelica Guerra, SPT senior VP and managing director of production for Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market.

Metastasis will be the first completely remade version of the series, though Breaking Bad has previously sold in over 140 countries worldwide and largely failed to stick; in the United Kingdom, the series lasted just two seasons before being moved to Netflix. However, Guerra remains optimistic about the fate of Metastasis: “Breaking Bad is a fantastic series that wasn’t seen widely in Latin America, partly because cable doesn’t yet have full penetration in the region. [But] there is a universality to the story and its characters that we recognized could work very well.”

2. Homeland, an adaptation of Hatufim

Showtime’s Homeland has repeatedly shared the awards ballots with Breaking Bad, but the CIA drama starring Claire Danes—who alone has won two Golden Globes and two Emmys for her work as CIA agent Carrie Mathison—actually began as an Israeli show without the female protagonist Danes portrays. That show, titled Prisoners of War (or Hatufim, in Hebrew) aired its first season in 2010 before being sold to 20th Century Fox Television.

Homeland and Prisoners’ second seasons premiered mere days apart (September 30, 2012 and October 1, 2012, respectively). Where Homeland focuses squarely on Mathison and her suspicions that a returned soldier (Damian Lewis) who had been MIA for eight years may have been “turned” in allegiance to a terrorist organization, Prisoners deals more directly with the soldiers themselves. In Homeland, Lewis’s character plays a condensed version of two men at the forefront of Prisoners: Nimrod (Yoram Toledano), father of two children who hardly remember him, and Uri (Ishai Golan), who returns home to find his fiancée involved with another man—his brother. In both series, the returned soldiers must deal with the aftereffects of their trauma and undergo questioning, debriefings, and evaluations. Certain discrepancies in their stories cause suspicions to arise among officials—while Prisoners lacks a Carrie Mathison, it does have its own skeptic in Haim (Gal Zaid), an army psychologist who finds the soldiers’ behavior suspicious.  

Homeland, with its big name actors and even bigger budget, is undoubtedly glossier, but the writers of Prisoners reportedly see this as an advantage. As creators Gideon Raff and Ran Telem told The New Yorker, the lower budget places greater emphasis the quality of the writing—since Israeli networks read the entire season before green-lighting a series, writers are more or less immune to ratings-related changes.  While Homeland is well into its fourth season on Showtime, both seasons of Prisoners of War, its lesser-known relative, can be viewed for free on Hulu.

3. Stromberg, an adaptation of The Office

If you’ve owned a television for any part of this millennium, odds are you’ve been subjected to a heated "The Office (U.K.) versus The Office (U.S.)” debate. However, there’s a little-known, slightly questionable third option for this argument: Stromberg —the German Office clone that follows Bernd Stromberg, the incompetent head of an insurance office—broadcast on the German network ProSieben. Following its debut in 2004, the series became one of Germany’s most popular comedy shows, and went on to win several German Comedy Awards.

Stomberg wasn’t technically a true Office remake, though; neither of the original Office creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant had been involved in its conception. While the Stromberg producers claimed that the show was based on a previous ProSieben comedy, the similarities were too obvious to ignore; from the chipper opening music to the mockumentary-style filming and right down to Bernd Stromberg’s David Brent-ish goatee, Stromberg seemed a straight copy of The Office. Following threats of legal action from BBC, ProSieben eventually added an “Inspired By” acknowledgement for Gervais and Merchant to Stromberg’s credits, assuaging BBC without depriving Germany of its beloved cringe comedy.

4. The Indian Adaptation of 24

Launching a fast-paced action series starring a Bollywood star in a television landscape dominated by soap operas definitely seems like a risky move—but for a show where someone essentially saves the world in an hour, maybe a certain level of risk is appropriate. Earlier this fall, the Indian channel Colors premiered the Hindi version of 24, the action-packed U.S. drama  for which Kiefer Sutherland is best known. Taking up Jack Bauer-style role of anti-terrorism agent Jai Singh Rathod is Indian actor Anil Kapoor, whose previous work includes several Bollywood films and Slumdog Millionaire—and interestingly, the American version of 24, where he played the (spoiler alert!) doomed president of a fictional Middle Eastern country. Though only about a month into its run, the series has been relatively well-received so far; critics at the Indian entertainment website Rediff.com gave it a positive review, calling it, “a step in a desperately needed direction” for Indian television. You can see a preview here.

5. Planet Homebuddies, an adaptation of Friends

According to NPR, Chinese 20-somethings really love Friends. Some credit it with teaching them “how to treat friends, girlfriends, my wife, how to be generous, how to be gentle,” while others create complete mini-replicas of the gang’s coffee shop hangout Central Perk and demand to be called “Gunther.” So it only makes sense that someone would try to profit off this obsession by creating a new, Chinese version of the show. Colorfully titled Planet Homebuddies, the Friends clone follows six 20-somethings—Chinese, this time—and their foibles as they live together in a loft. It even features a theme song by Danny Wilde of the Rembrants, writer of the original theme song “I’ll Be There for You.” If you’re wondering, “homebuddies” is a term coined by series creator Mei Tian that refers to young people who work from home. The series launched online in February 2013.

6. The Theorists, an adaptation of The Big Bang Theory

Considering the success of Chuck Lorre’s nerd comedy The Big Bang Theory, it’s no surprise that other countries would want to get in on the action. The series has had fairly successful runs in Canada and the U.K., but trouble arose when an unlicensed Belarusian copy called The Theorists (Теоретики) surfaced.

The Theorists opened with a similar montage chronicling the history of life, almost identically named main characters, and the exact same overall premise. Many episodes even seemed to be direct translations of existing Big Bang Theory episodes. When Lorre debated how to approach this very obvious rip-off, he found that legal action for copyright infringement would be nearly impossible, as the production company was owned and operated by the Belarusian government. So, in true comedic style, Lorre opted instead to playfully chide the copiers through the vanity cards he often employs at the end of The Big Bang Theory: Lorre informed viewers about Belarus’s main exports—specifically, cattle byproducts—and their “bustling television production industry.” After describing the rip-off and explaining how difficult it would be to effectively sue the nation of Belarus, the card concludes with the hope that the Belarusians will at least feel guilty enough to send over some felt hats, jokingly adding that “[the] Kyrgyzstan version of Dharma & Greg already sent [him] some wallpaper paste.” 

As it turned out, Lorre didn’t even need to sue to get The Theorists off the air. When the Belarusian actors in The Theorists caught wind of the message, they were horrified; they’d been told the series was legit. Said one such actor, Dmitriy Tankovich, “…The actors were told all legal issues were resolved. We didn't know it wasn't the case, so when the creators of The Big Bang Theory started talking about the show, I was embarrassed. I can't understand why our people first do, and then think. I consider this to be the rock bottom of my career. And I don't want to take part in a stolen show.”  In a noble act of creative solidarity, the Belarusian cast quit the show and it was soon cancelled.

7. Geordie Shore, an adaptation of Jersey Shore

Those wishing to bust the stereotype that Brits are inherently classier than Americans can look no further than Geordie Shore, the British version of American national treasure Jersey Shore. Geordie Shore adopted the popular reality show format of “put several 20-somethings in a house together and watch what happens” for the new setting of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, although the cast hails from various places in North East England. The hair is still big, the deep V-necks are still deep, and the drama is more or less the same as its American counterpart.

Of course, apart from the partying, there’s also the requisite absurdity that makes for good TV. For example, following the death of her fish, cast member Charlotte decided to cremate it and scatter its ashes into the sea, saying, “It is sad but when I die I’ll be cremated, and then we can meet again and swim and hold hands in the ocean.” While Jersey Shore aired its sixth and final season in 2012, Geordie Shore is still going strong, currently well into its seventh season.

8. Wisteria Lane, Nigeria, an adaptation of Desperate Housewives

In recent years, the television “format” business is booming—networks have taken to buying “ideas,” rather than finished products, allowing them to further customize them to fit their main audiences. Such is the case with the latest reboot of the popular series Desperate Housewives. Having already been adapted into Brazilian, Colombian, and Turkish versions, Housewives’ next stop is Nigeria.

The African TV network EbonyLife, which reaches 44 different countries on the continent, recently announced their plans to film a version of the show set in Lagos, Nigeria. Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife, plans to give the reboot “an African flavor,” adding, “"What you see of Africa is what you get on National Geographic. It's what you get by watching elephants or giraffes. I have never seen a giraffe in my entire life.” The series, set to launch next year, will feature a heavy focus on African fashion and music. “The news tends to focus on certain stories. I am not saying those realities don't exist, but there is another reality,” said Abudu. “We want to focus on the younger designers who are doing amazing things, the musicians, the entrepreneurs." 

9. Everybody Loves Kostya, an adaptation of Everybody Loves Raymond

In 2009, Everybody Loves Raymond producer Phil Rosenthal journeyed to Russia to adapt his show for Russian audiences. Although the sitcom was wildly successful in the U.S., adapting it to fit Russian sensibilities was no small feat. Apart from some surface difficulties—for example, one of the Russian producers was resistant to buying chairs for the live audience—Rosenthal also had issues with properly adapting the comedic core of the show. When writing for Raymond, Rosenthal often liked to root his jokes in real-life experiences; when he explained this to the Russian producers, they weren’t quite sold: “They looked at me kind of stunned. ‘Real life is terrible. Why would you want to show real life?’”

At that time, most other U.S. television imports—notably, the Russian version of The Nanny—were over the top and full of caricature, the type of comedy that generally plays pretty well with international audiences. The small quirks of Raymond and co. were lost on Russian audiences; the Russian head writer deemed Raymond “too soft” for a male protagonist, while the network head of comedy television flat-out called Raymond “not funny.” Eventually, the show came together as the Russian writers found their footing writing in more Russian comedic style, making it more Everybody Loves Kostya and less Everybody Loves Raymond, in Russia. Even skeptical Rosenthal, who later released a documentary about the adaptation process, called Exporting Raymond, admitted that they did “an amazing job.”

10. Teach Seán, An Irish Adaptation of Cheers

For a classic pub sitcom set in a Boston, a city with one of the highest concentrations of Irish heritage in America, it’s strange to think of Cheers as an export rather than import—but that’s exactly what’s happening. In December 2012, the Dublin-based Sideline Productions signed a deal with CBS to remake the series for the Irish channel TG4. The remake will move the home bar from bustling Boston to the rural West of Ireland, and Sam Malone’s name is changed to Sean, but that’s not the only change—the series will also be broadcast entirely in the Irish language. With the working title Teach Seán (roughly, Sean’s House), the Cheers reboot will be thoroughly Irish—it’s rumored that, while Sam Malone was a baseball player, Sean’s glory days will be in the traditional Irish sport hurling. Creators aim to have the series on the air by January 2014.

11. Al-Shamshoon, the Arabic Adaptation of The Simpsons

Fans of The Simpsons might say that Homer Simpson without his beer, donuts, and pork products wouldn’t be Homer Simpson at all—and they’d be right. Instead, he’d be Omar Shamshoon, star of the short-lived Arabic adaptation of The Simpsons. In 2005, the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) set out to adapt one of the most popular television shows of all time into something more appropriate for the Arab world. The MBC hired the region’s best writers and actors to make for a smooth transition, but they also had to “Arabize” some of The Simpsons’ more culturally sensitive content.

After renaming the main characters accordingly—Marge, Bart, and Lisa Simpson became Mona, Badr, and Beeza Shamshoon—and changing Springfield to Rabeea (Arabic for “spring”), they began retooling smaller details to make it more culturally sound for Arabic audiences. In Rabeea, Omar Shamshoon drank Duff soda, hung out at Moe’s Coffee Shop, and ate kahk cookies instead of donuts.

Unfortunately, even with all the work that went into “Arabizing” it, many Arabs still opted for the real thing. With the dawn of satellite TV, people were able to watch the original version with Arabic subtitles, which proved to be preferable to the heavily edited version. Al-Shamshoon only ended up airing for 34 of its scheduled 52 episodes before MBC pulled the plug entirely.

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-A-LIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


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Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


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Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
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In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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15 Fascinating Facts About Blood Simple
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Janus Films

Ethan and Joel Coen hadn’t made a feature film of their own until they set out to write, direct, produce, and edit Blood Simple, a bloody Texas-set noir about a cuckold husband named Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) who hires a private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to murder his cheating wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz). The filmmakers wanted a small budget like a horror film, but preferred making an entertaining B-film. Before production started, the Coens created a two-minute trailer and showed it to investors, which allowed them to raise an impressive $750,000 (which was half of the final budget).

In January of 1985, the movie was released in theaters and grossed $2,150,000. In its 2000 theatrical re-release, the movie added another $1.7 million to its box office haul. The low-budget film set the standard for the wave of American indie films to come, and it established the Coens as two of the most important voices in cinema. It also launched the careers of Frances McDormand and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld (who would later turn to directing).

Here are 15 facts about the noir thriller, which arrived in theaters on this day in 1985.

1. ITS TITLE WAS INSPIRED BY DASHIELL HAMMETT’S RED HARVEST.

“It’s an expression he used to describe what happens to somebody psychologically once they’ve committed murder,” Joel Coen told Time Out. “They go ‘blood simple’ in the slang sense of ‘simple,’ meaning crazy. But it’s left up to the audience to ponder the implications; they’re never spelled out in the film itself.”

2. THE COENS SPECIFICALLY WROTE THE PART OF LOREN VISSER FOR M. EMMET WALSH.

Blood Simple started something else that we’ve done pretty much on every subsequent movie, which was that we’ve always written parts for specific actors,” Joel Coen said in the book My First Movie. The brothers knew Walsh from the film Straight Time, in which he played a sleazy character. “Actually, it was a more interesting character than what we came up with in Blood Simple inasmuch as it was more ambiguous,” Joel said. They offered him the part without having him audition, but ran into a dilemma. “All I remember is we didn’t know what the hell to call him,” Ethan said. “I mean, what the hell do you call him when you meet him? M?”

3. THE COENS—AND MANY OF THE CAST AND CREW—HAD NEVER BEEN ON A FILM SET BEFORE.

Joel Coen admitted in My First Movie, “The first day of shooting on Blood Simple was the first time I’d ever been on a feature movie set in any capacity, even as a visitor.” Coen had previously worked as an assistant editor on horror films, including 1981’s The Evil Dead. Coen mentioned how Sonnenfeld would throw up after looking at the dailies, because he was so nervous working on the film. “Everyone was in the same boat,” Joel said. “The gaffer had never gaffered a feature. The sound guy, the mixer on the set, had never mixed a feature.”

4. THE COENS CHOSE TO MAKE A FILM NOIR BECAUSE OF THE GENRE’S PRACTICALITY.

Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh in 'Blood Simple' (1984)
Janus Films

The Coens liked hard-boiled fiction authors James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, and used them to their advantage in writing the script. “It’s certainly a genre that is entertaining, and we also picked it for very practical reasons,” Ethan said. “We knew we weren’t going to have a big budget. The financing would not allow it. We could build something on the genre and the appeal it has.”

“It’s also a genre that allows you to get by rather modestly in some ways,” Joel added. “You can limit the number of characters, put them into a confined set. There’s no need to go for large-scale effects or scatter them through the film, and those cost a lot of money. So it was a pragmatic decision that determined what film we would make.”

5. BUT THEY DIDN’T WANT TO PARODY FILM NOIR.

In a 1985 interview, featured in the book The Coen Brothers: Interviews, Ethan said, “When people call Blood Simple a film noir, they’re correct to the extent that we like the same kind of stories that the people who made those movies like. We tried to emulate the source that those movies came from rather than the movies themselves.” They didn’t want to make “a venetian blind movie,” but movies like The Conformist and The Third Man inspired the look of Blood Simple.

Because of the comedic elements in the film, some people might think the movie is trying to parody the thriller genre. “On one hand, it is a thriller, and, on the other, it is funny,” Ethan said. “But certainly the film is supposed to work as a thriller and I don’t think it would work as both at once.”

6. THEY BORROWED AN INVESTMENT TACTIC FROM SAM RAIMI.

Their friend Sam Raimi had shot a trailer for his film The Evil Dead and raised $60,000 toward the budget after showing it to investors. “He financed the movie using a common thing that people making exploitation movies had used, which was a limited partnership,” Joel said in My First Movie. “What we also borrowed from Sam and the other models was that I presented more of an action exploitation type movie than it ended up being, and in fact than we knew it would be.”

The Coens didn’t know many people, so they decided to take a projector and the trailer to entrepreneurs’ homes in New York, Texas, and Minnesota. “If you call people up and say, ‘Can you give me 10 minutes so I can present an opportunity to invest in a movie?’ They’re going to say, ‘No, I don’t need this,’ and hang up the phone,” Joel said in My First Movie. “But it’s slightly different if you call and say, ‘Can I come over and take 10 minutes and show you a piece of film?’ All of a sudden that intrigues them and gets your foot in the door.” Eventually, all 65 investors made a profit from their investment.

The investor trailer finally surfaced online and features Bruce Campbell in the Dan Hedaya role.

7. NONE OF THE MAJOR STUDIOS WANTED TO DISTRIBUTE IT.

The Coens took time editing the film, and started shopping the movie around in 1984. Warner Bros. rejected it, but an indie company agreed to distribute it with a slight change. “We took it to Crown International Pictures and the guy would say, ‘If you have some nudity you can put in there maybe we can distribute it,’” Joel said in My First Movie. “We saw everybody from the studios to the lowliest sleaze-bucket distributors in L.A. And they all said no.” Circle Films picked up the movie after seeing a screening of it at the Toronto Film Festival. When the movie came out with good reviews, Warner tried to buy it from Circle to no avail.

8. M. EMMET WALSH COULDN’T BLOW SMOKE RINGS.

At first the actor was skeptical of starring in a movie where he probably wouldn’t make any money, but he gave the Coens a chance. Joel asked Walsh if he could blow a smoke ring from cigarette smoke and he said he would try. “I just couldn’t do it,” Walsh said. “I worked and worked on it, but I started to make myself sick.” The Coens brought in a smoke machine to make the smoke rings but the machine broke during filming. “The script gal says, ‘Give me a damn cigar. I grew up with five brothers smoking behind a barn,’” Walsh said. “So they give her a cigar and she starts making these incredible smoke rings. I said to myself, ‘My God, this is how you make a movie!’ Later on, I went outside and saw her puking her brains out. That was Blood Simple.”

9. THE COENS HAD AN INCIDENT WITH ONE OF THEIR POTENTIAL INVESTORS.

“There was one investor we went to and we hit his car, parking,” Ethan said in My First Movie. “And we had this big debate out on the driveway [about] whether we should tell him we hit his car before the sales pitch or after the sales pitch. We decided that we wouldn’t tell him until we showed him the movie and made the sales pitch.” The investor decided against investing in the film.

10. FRANCES MCDORMAND REFUSED TO BE “THEATRICAL” IN THE MOVIE.

John Getz and Frances McDorman in 'Blood Simple' (1984)
Janus Films

Up until she starred in Blood Simple, the future Oscar-winner had mainly done theater and some TV. In an interview with William Dafoe for Bomb Magazine, she told him her approach to playing Abby Marty. “The only choice I made was not to be theatrical,” she said. “I never moved my face and my mouth’s always open like I’m terrified—I was a lot of the time. I just did whatever they told me to do, which was perfect for the character, but it’s not like I made that decision as a character choice. It was from not knowing what to do.”

11. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND WITH LITERATURE.

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.”

12. THE COENS RELEASED A SHORTER VERSION OF THE FILM.

Blood Simple got the Director’s Cut treatment in 2001, but instead of adding material to the re-release of the movie, the Coens removed a few minutes from it. “We always thought it was rather kind of clumsy, the editing,” Joel told Hollywood.com. “It was interesting to go in and try to tighten the movie up.” “Before, the original version was like an old lady with a walker, and now it just has a cane,” Ethan said. The newer version also brought back the Four Tops’ “It’s the Same Old Song,” which had been in the original theatrical release but had been replaced with Neil Diamond’s “I’m a Believer” in the VHS release.

13. THE COENS THINK THE MOVIE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

A scene from 'Blood Simple' (1984)
Janus Films

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!”

14. ZHANG YIMOU REMADE THE FILM.

Director Zhang Yimou—who directed House of Flying Daggers and Heroremade Blood Simple in 2009 as A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop. The move is set in a Chinese noodle shop in a desert, and in similar fashion, the plot centers on a man trying to kill his wife and her lover.

15. BLOOD SIMPLE BEGAT RAISING ARIZONA AND FARGO.

Two years after Blood Simple was released, the Coens wrote-directed their follow-up, Raising Arizona, which wasn’t anything like Blood Simple. “In essence, after having completed Blood Simple, we wanted to make something completely different,” Ethan said. “We didn’t know what, but we wanted it to be something funny that had a very quick rhythm. We also wanted to use Holly Hunter, who has been a friend of ours for a long time. So it really wasn’t the story that was the origin of the project, but Holly Hunter, her personality and, by extension, the character we had conceived for her to play. In contrast, Blood Simple took shape from an idea for a screenplay.” It should be noted Hunter provided her voice on an answering machine in Blood Simple.

More than a decade after Blood Simple came out, the Coens released Fargo. The Coens’ dealings with investors for Blood Simple inspired the film’s businessmen. “It was raising money for Blood Simple that we met all of these business guys who could wear the suits, get bundled up in the park and slog out in the snow and meet us in these, like, coffee shops,” Joel said in My First Movie. “We came back to that whole thing in Fargo: the car salesman, the guy who owns the bowling alley, you know, whatever.”

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