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Wikipedia / The Internet Archive

30 Things Turning 30 This Year

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Wikipedia / The Internet Archive

Happy 30th birthday, 1984! Prince turned the silver screen purple, the first Mac hit our living rooms, and Kevin Bacon helped a small town get its groove back. If you're turning 30 this year, you're in good company—here are 30 things that share your birth year.

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT)

The first TMNT comic book went on sale in 1984. The pizza-eating, crime-fighting ninjas were the brainturtles of artists Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, who began a tiny publishing company out of Laird's living room. The duo relied on mail-order to sell their comic book. Although originally intended to be a one-shot story, the book sold so well that more issues were created in 1985, ultimately leading to a cartoon, movie, video game, pizza, and comic book empire worth millions. See also: Turtlepedia, a 2,893-page wiki.

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2. Tetris

Wikipedia / tetrisconcept.net

Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov released the first version of Tetris (Те́трис in Russian) on June 6, 1984. The game featured seven tetrominos descending from the top of the screen, to form a sort of jigsaw-puzzle stack at the bottom. The game became insanely popular, spreading across the globe in a variety of versions, many of them unauthorized, on all sorts of computer hardware.

Today, the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) version of Tetris is used in the Classic Tetris World Championships, and attracts top players from around the world—many of whom are roughly the same age as the game itself.

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3. The Cosby Show

On September 20, 1984, America tuned in to see the Huxtable family in Brooklyn. The Cosby Show was a massive hit, revitalizing the sitcom genre and introducing all of us to Cosby sweaters. The show ran through 1992, and spawned the spinoff A Different World in 1987. Here are five minutes of Cosby Show bloopers, in case you've forgotten what a Cosby sweater looked like:

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4. Scarlett Johansson & LeBron James

Happy 30th birthday to the following famous and/or infamous people: Kid Cudi (Jan 30), Olivia Wilde (Mar 10), Sarah Jean Underwood (Mar 26), Mandy Moore (Apr 10), America Ferrera (Apr 18), Mark Zuckerberg (May 14), Aubrey Plaza (Jun 26), Prince Harry (Sep 15), Randall Munroe (Oct 17), Katy Perry (Oct 25), Scarlett Johansson (Nov 22), Trey Songz (Nov 24), and LeBron James (Dec 30). (Whew.)

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5. "Where's the Beef?"

The most memorable fast food ad of the year was created by Wendy's to emphasize the size of its hamburger patties. In the commercial, actress Clara Peller is presented with a burger from a rival chain, but finds that the bun is comically large and the hamburger patty ridiculously undersized, leading her to exclaim, "Where's the beef?!" The slogan was so catchy it was turned into a song, and appeared throughout American culture, even modestly influencing the Democratic presidential primary that year.

The ad campaign ended in 1985, though Wendy's brought it back in 2011 with the obvious tagline, "Here's the beef."

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6. Ronald Reagan's Bombing Gaffe (Plus National Ice Cream Month)

Reagan Library

During a mic check for his weekly radio address, President Reagan joked, "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." While the clip wasn't broadcast at the time, the recording was leaked. Oops.

On a lighter note, in July of 1984, President Reagan declared that July is National Ice Cream Month, with National Ice Cream Day on the third Sunday of that month. According to the International Dairy Foods Association (which, we promise, is totally a thing):

[Reagan] recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by a full 90 percent of the nation's population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with "appropriate ceremonies and activities."

Get your ice cream party started, people. But keep it appropriate.

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7. The Mac

TERRY SCHMITT/UPI/Landov

Apple unveiled the Mac on January 24, 1984. At a demo event, Steve Jobs removed the Mac from a bag, inserted a 3.5" floppy disk, and booted the machine. The Chariots of Fire theme played, the Mac ran an impressive A/V demo, and finally said, "Hello, I'm Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I'd like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM mainframe: Never trust a computer that you can't lift!"

The original Mac cost $2,495, which pencils out to more than $5,600 in today's dollars. It had one floppy drive and a measly 128k of RAM, but it caused a revolution in personal computing; its designers were so proud of their creation, they signed the inside of the computer's case. Later the same year, a version with four times the memory debuted, and was promptly nicknamed Fat Mac.

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8. MAC

After years of home-cooking lip gloss in their kitchen and selling eyeshadow from their salon, Frank Toskan and Frank Angelo launched a different kind of MAC from a single counter in a Toronto department store. The Makeup Art Cosmetics brand was born out of necessity: most commercially-available cosmetics at the time didn't hold up well under harsh lighting during photography, colors were limited, and stage makeup was fussy and difficult to work with. Originally intended just for makeup artists, MAC quickly grew popular through a perfect storm of word-of-mouth advertising, a good balance of novelty and usefulness, and a mid-range price point that made the brand accessible. (There was also a little help from Madonna, who paired the brand's Russian Red lipstick with various cone-shaped bras throughout her Blond Ambition tour a few years later.)

Today the company is a subsidiary of the $3.7 billion Estée Lauder juggernaut and one of the most popular brands of cosmetics for both professional and personal use. And they're still making those amazing lipsticks, which currently come in more than 160 shades.

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9. Doug Flutie's Hail Mary

In what may be college football's most famous play (at least until Auburn's improbable last-second win over Alabama in 2013), Doug Flutie's miracle heave lifted Boston College over powerhouse Miami 47-45. Flutie went on to win the Heisman Trophy. The play has been credited with a rise in applications to Boston College, though the "Flutie Factor" may be overblown.

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10. This is Spinal Tap

Image via cinemasquid

Rob Reiner directed the watershed mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, released on March 2, 1984. Chronicling the fictional comeback tour of British heavy metal rockers Spinal Tap, the film became a cult classic. It proudly bore the tagline: "Does for rock and roll what 'The Sound of Music' did for hills." Here's a clip:

But of course, this list goes to 11...and beyond. Moving right along....

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11. Legal Taping of TV

Wikimedia Commons / Tomasz Sienicki

The Supreme Court decided a crucial case in January, 1984. Known as the "Betamax case," the court considered whether home VCR users could legally record TV shows for the purpose of watching them later, a practice known as "time-shifting." The court decided that recording episodes of The Cosby Show was just fine, and use of VCRs continued to take off. In an ironic twist, movie studios (who had brought the case in the first place) raked in tons of money selling home video copies of movies using the same technology they had tried to kill.

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12. The Video Music Awards

The VMAs began in 1984. Cyndi Lauper won "Best Female Video" for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"; Madonna performed "Like a Virgin" while crawling around on the floor, wearing a provocative pseudo-wedding gown; and Michael Jackson took home a pile of awards for Thriller. The VMAs were just as scandalous then as they are now.

The full two-and-a-half-hour show is on YouTube. At least for now.

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13. The Print Shop

The Internet Archive

Brøderbund's desktop publishing package The Print Shop epitomized 80s-era computing. It allowed users to make cards, signs, and banners. Before printing, it showed a colorful "THINKING" screen as it computed the graphics necessary to print. According to the Internet Archive, "In 1988 Brøderbund announced that it had sold more than one million copies, and that sales of The Print Shop comprised 4% of the entire United States software market in 1987." You can run The Print Shop online in your browser...but you'll need a classic PC and dot-matrix printer to get the full experience.

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14. The Trebek Era of Jeopardy!

"Who is an awesome game show host?" Canadian quizmaster Alex Trebek ushered in a new era of Jeopardy! in 1984. Although the show had run with Art Fleming in the 1960s and 70s, Trebek brought Jeopardy! firmly into the 80s. Trebek plans to retire in 2016, thus marking a 32-year run on the show.

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15. The "Press Your Luck" Incident

In 1984, ice cream truck driver Michael Larson set a record by winning $110,237 (a combined total of cash and non-cash prizes) in one appearance on the game show Press Your Luck—and he did it by gaming the system. (His appearance aired in June, one month before Reagan's National Ice Cream Month could have sent his day job's income soaring...slightly.)

Larson recorded episodes of the show on his VCR (thank you, Supreme Court!) and noticed that the patterns on the board repeated. So he memorized them, went on the show, and won a pile of money. You can read more about his feat here on mental_floss.

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16. Law on the Moon (Sort Of)

NASA

The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, better known as the "Moon Treaty," took effect in July 1984, though it had been grinding through international legal processes since the early 1970s. The idea was to have all the Earth's countries agree that the Moon and other such places would be used for peaceful purposes, and not, say, to create a Death Star.

Although the treaty went into effect and 15 countries ultimately ratified it, none of those countries are actively involved in manned space exploration. So hey, while you're on the Moon, go nuts! (Within the limits of the Outer Space Treaty, that is.)

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17. The "Death Star" Hypothesis

Image via Wookieepedia

Seven years after a different Death Star destroyed Alderaan on the silver screen, the journal Nature published a pair of hypotheses from two teams of astronomers who posited that mass extinctions on Earth are caused by an undetected companion star to our Sun. According to the hypothesis, Nemesis, a brown dwarf star, orbits the Sun outside of the Oort cloud, disrupting the paths of comets and asteroids to send them pummeling toward the planets. One such object could have wiped out the dinosaurs, and other events are believed to happen on a roughly regular timeframe of 26-28 million years. The hypothesis was enormously popular in the 80s and early 90s, but Nemesis's existence has been largely discredited; we haven't seen it with any instruments or methods despite its apparent proximity. Nearly 2000 brown dwarf stars have been discovered, but none inside our solar system.

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18. Canadians in Space

NASA

Marc Garneau is currently a Member of Parliament in Canada. But 30 years ago, he was aboard the space shuttle Challenger, becoming the first Canadian in outer space. After the initial mission, he flew two more, logging over 677 hours in space.

Garneau paved the way for future Canadians in space, including our favorite, Commander Chris Hadfield.

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19. TED

While technology, entertainment, and design are everlasting, the first TED conference was a one-off event held in Monterey, California, organized by graphic designer Richard Saul Wurman. Features included Sony's new-but-unreleased "compact disc," an early demo of Apple's Macintosh computer, presentations from Nicholas Negroponte (future founder of One Laptop Per Child) and mathematician Benoît Mandlebrot (discoverer of the Mandelbrot set), and exciting new 3D graphics from LucasFilm. Despite the awesomeness of 1984's event, TED lost a lot of money—so much that another conference wouldn't be held until 1990. Since then, TED has been an annual event.

Today, those of us who aren't in possession of TED invites can watch the presentations via TEDTalks, free online videos, and podcasts launched in 2006, which are arguably one of the most fascinating and binge-able series of videos on the Internet. Speakers include all the people you'd expect—Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Bono—but the best moments seem to come from unexpected sources. Take, for instance, neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor's talk, which details the experience of having a massive stroke when you just happen to be a brain scientist.

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20. Transformers

Transformers rolled out in the U.S. 30 years ago, after Hasbro bought distribution rights for the Diaclone and Microman toy molds from Japanese company Takara. Generation One (Series 1) launched with 28 figures—18 Autobots, 10 Decepticons—including the infamous Megatron figure that transformed into a gun ("more than meets the eye," indeed).

In September 1984, a three-episode miniseries introduced American children to the classic Autobots and Decepticons and their ongoing battle for the resources necessary to return to their home planet of Cybertron, as well as the Tranformers' human allies, Spike and Sparkplug Witwicky. The series launched soon after, with the first season running through December. During this time, the Dinobots, Insecticons, and Constructicons were introduced, as well as Chip Chase, new Decepticons, new Autobots, and all in time for 1985, when 76 new Transformers toys were released in Series 2.

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21. Movies: The Karate Kid, Footloose, Purple Rain, Revenge of the Nerds, and More

It was a banner year for movies. With box-office hits like Footloose, Splash, Revenge of the Nerds, and Ghostbusters we saw a clear theme of underdog heroes overcoming the odds in often bizarre circumstances.

Other notables from that year: Beverly Hills Cop, Police Academy, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Dune, and Purple Rain. In a feat of rapid movie-making, both Breakin' and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo were released in the same year. We were also treated to the Coen brothers' first film, Blood Simple...and Joel Coen married leading lady Frances McDormand in 1984 (they're still together).

Despite all that action in popular movies, 1984's Amadeus pretty much swept the Academy Awards the following year, taking home awards for Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director, and a pile of others. Prince took home the Oscar for Best Original Song for "Purple Rain."

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22. BOOKS! (Other Than 1984)

While the world was discussing the dystopian present portrayed in Winston Smith's fictional journal, which began 30 years ago on a cold bright day in April, actual books were being published in the real 1984, including: The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy, The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub, Pulitzer-winning Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet, Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy, King's Thinner, The House on Mango Street (which was almost instantly placed on the AP Readers list; if you were in high school in the 90s, you've probably read it), the 1984 Nebula Award-winning Neuromancerby William Gibson, John Updike's The Witches of Eastwick, and Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

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23. Born in the U.S.A.

Bruce Springsteen released his best-selling album, a twelve-track masterpiece in which seven songs were released as singles, including the mega-hits "Dancing in the Dark," "Born in the U.S.A.," "I'm on Fire," and "Glory Days." Rolling Stone called Springsteen the "voice of a decade," and wrote, "It's as if Springsteen were saying that life is made to endure and that we all make peace with private suffering and shared sorrow as best we can."

Although the song "Born in the U.S.A." had a cultural impact, the most lasting legacy of the album might be "Dancing in the Dark," an upbeat pop song with oddly grim lyrics, and a classic video featuring a young Courteney Cox dancing onstage. Yes, in 1984 we all danced that way—at least those of us who were born in the U.S.A.

While the pop landscape of 1984 featured bands like Springsteen, Prince, and Wham!, 1984 also saw the formation of Primus, Warrant, Gwar, Soundgarden, Big Audio Dynamite, Fine Young Cannibals, and...wait for it...New Kids on the Block.

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24. George Michael Started Being a Big Deal

Singer George Michael had a huge year. As part of the band Wham!, the infectious dance single "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" became a #1 hit in the United States and the UK. Then came the sultry, saxophone-driven "Careless Whisper," which was technically a George Michael solo effort, but was credited to Wham! in some countries. Michael rounded out the year with two more hits: "Freedom" and "Everything She Wants"; and he performed with the supergroup Band Aid on "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

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25. Band Aid

After BBC aired a report by Michael Buerk about the devastating and ongoing famine in Ethiopia, singers Bob Geldof and Midge Ure (pictured) teamed up to raise relief funds. Together, the pair wrote "Do They Know It's Christmas?" then rallied members for the supergroup Band Aid. The final lineup included the members of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Bananarama, Culture Club, Kool and the Gang, U2, Chris Cross, Paul Young, George Michael, Glenn Gregory, Martyn Ware, Phil Collins, Paul Weller, Status Quo, Jody Watley of Shalamar, Marilyn, and the Boomtown Rats.

The single sold a million copies in the first week, and went on to become the UK's highest-selling single of all time... until Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" tribute to the late Princess Diana.

In all, Band Aid raised £5 million for famine relief. The following year's Live Aid, 1989's Band Aid II, 2004's Band Aid 20, and Live 8 in 2005 raised a total of £150 million, and still earns around £2 million per year through the Band Aid Trust, which spends that money for relief efforts in Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, and other impoverished African countries.

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26. The Quagga's Second Life (Sort of)

Once upon a time, there was an animal called the quagga. It was something of an animal kingdom reverse-mullet, which is to say it was zebra in the front, regular-looking horse in the back. The last captive specimen died in 1883, but it was gone from the wild for nearly a decade before that, thanks to being easy to hunt, having an interesting hide, and not being very good at competing with domesticated livestock for areas to forage.

Aside from its weird appearance, the interesting thing about the quagga came after it was wiped from the planet. In 1984, a team of scientists at the University of California at Berkely cloned fragments of the quagga's DNA taken from a 140-year-old sample. It was the first successful attempt to clone DNA from an extinct species, and the first step in the ongoing pursuit of technology that will give the world wooly mammoths and velociraptors again.

We may not have to wait for that technology, though: As it turns out, the mitochondrial DNA used in that quagga-cloning project revealed that the species was actually a subspecies of the still-living plains zebra. Through selective breeding, the Quagga Project hopes to create a living population of quaggas. In 2005, the first quagga-like foal was born; she was considered a successful first step toward quagganess because her striping was visibly fainter than that of her parents.

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27. Dude, You're Getting a Dell

Michael Dell started his computing empire while studying at the University of Texas. He made low-cost PCs from off-the-shelf components, though his company was initially called PC's Limited. One early customer told The Smithsonian, "[The computer] always sounded as if it were coming apart. I never did figure out why."

Thirty years later, Dell is still selling customizable PCs. Need tons of RAM? Looking for a student discount? Want a keyboard but not a mouse? Dude, you're getting a Dell!

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28. Muppet Babies

In 1984, Jim Henson gave us a window into the animated childhoods of our favorite Muppets. The Muppet Babies debuted in a fantasy sequence in The Muppets Take Manhattan, and their own TV series premiered in the fall. Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang gave us their interpretations of Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, The Twilight Zone, The Jetsons, I Love Lucy, and more.

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29. The "Baby Bell" Telephone System

Wikimedia Commons / Badmachine

On January 1, 1984, AT&T was broken into seven independent "Regional Holding Companies," which became known popularly as the "Baby Bells." This was the end of a long saga of anti-trust litigation against AT&T, which had held a monopoly on the U.S. telephone market before then. The birth of the Baby Bells led to competition in the phone market, which drove down long-distance pricing and generally shook up the phone system through the 80s and 90s. Today, three big phone carriers can trace their roots to those Baby Bells: AT&T Inc., CenturyLink, and Verizon.

In 2008, Network World asked Does the AT&T breakup still matter 25 years on? The answer is complex, and boils down to "maybe."

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30. Ghostbusters

The first Ghostbusters movie introduced us to a trio of failed Columbia University professors whose post-collegiate careers involved clearing New York City of various paranormal infestations. Bill Murray stole the show as Dr. Peter Venkman, a character originally intended for the (then-deceased) John Belushi. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the movie 3.5 out of 4 stars, writing "Ghostbusters is one of those rare movies where the original, fragile comic vision has survived a multimillion-dollar production."

Ghostbusters launched a second film, two TV shows, various video games and comic books, and of course this epic single by Ray Parker, Jr.:

Images via Getty unless noted.

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20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers’ Movies
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Gramercy Pictures

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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Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

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.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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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