10 Killer Facts About Barry

John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

When Bill Hader told TV dynamo Alec Berg (Seinfeld, Silicon Valley) that he wanted to make a show about a hitman, Berg thought the genre was glib and played out, but they got to work. When Hader told HBO he wanted to play the hitman, they responded with, "You?"

Yes, him. Hader has delivered another indelible comic character into our lives through Barry. This time it’s someone who kills for a living but seeks an escape from all the low-drama, high-violence world in the high-drama, low-violence world of acting class. The show is an incredible feat of tonal balance that’s equally comfortable going for humor and heartache; it's something truly fresh and original, even by prestige TV standards.

Here are 10 facts about the humane hitman show, which just earned six Emmy nominations, including nods for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Hader.

1. BILL HADER PITCHED IT AS TAXI DRIVER MEETS WAITING FOR GUFFMAN.

Barry Berkman isn’t exactly as terrifyingly manic as Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle, but the classic Robert De Niro character was one of their launch points for the show as they sold it to HBO. Hader asked them to consider Barry as the story of Bickle or William Munny from Unforgiven meeting the awkwardly uproarious local acting troupe in Waiting for Guffman. After bringing it to life, the comparison is spot-on. Barry’s job is intense and filled with blood, and his hobby is filled with the pathetic dreamers of his acting class.

2. THEY ALSO DREW INSPIRATION FROM FARGO and BOOGIE NIGHTS.

Barry’s tone is a tough magic trick to pull off. Few TV shows and movies have so flawlessly bounced between morbid gut punches and silly comedic escapades. While the Coen brothers are legendary for diving between tones, particularly with the bleakly comic Fargo, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s '70s porn narrative Boogie Nights is a bit more abstract and dreamlike in its shifts between the two drama masks, Hader and Berg looked to those two movies to understand how to make us drop our jaws right before (or after) making us laugh.

3. THEY COMPLETELY RESHOT EVERY SCENE WITH FUCHES IN THE PILOT.

Stephen Root and Bill Hader star in 'Barry'
Jordin Althaus, HBO

Barry’s exploitative father figure Fuches (Stephen Root) was originally an antagonistic bruiser who yelled at Barry a lot. HBO suggested they should instead be friends, which clicked with Hader, and they reshot all of Fuches’s scenes to play off the new dynamic. They also rewrote and reshot Barry’s monologue to Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) about his life as a killer, so Hader’s speech was shot almost a year after Winkler’s reaction shots to it.

4. BARRY’S ANXIETY ABOUT KILLING PEOPLE MIRRORS HADER’S FEARS ABOUT SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

The key to Barry is that he’s very good at something that’s bad for him. The same went for Hader, who experienced intense anguish and stage fright. “I had very bad anxiety about being onstage. I also didn’t like the live aspect of the show,” Hader told Vulture. Not exactly the best situation for a guy on a show with “Live” right there in the title. He was one of the best on SNL, but it was hurting him.

5. BUT SNL PREPARED HADER TO MAKE HIS OWN SHOW WITHOUT HIM KNOWING IT.

After shooting Barry, it dawned on Hader that his time at the sketch comedy mainstay had quietly prepared him for every aspect of production. He’d already learned how to collaborate with costume designers, set designers, directors of photography, and other crew members by doing it every week for eight seasons on Saturday Night Live. “You don’t realize how much you’ve learned until you’re done,” Hader said.

6. HADER’S TIME ON INSIDE OUT AFFECTED HOW HE APPROACHED THE STORY.

Tyler Jacob Moore, Bill Hader, and Rightor Doyle in 'Barry'
John P. Johnson, HBO

The flipside to Barry’s unhealthy skillset is his escapist desire to dive deep into a world he doesn’t have much talent for. That’s an existential collision that brings about massive change, so naturally Hader turned to a movie about the personified emotions in a little girl’s head for inspiration. Hader voiced Fear for Pixar's Inside Out, and Pete Docter’s original pitch—how his daughter transformed from a joyful child to a sullen teenager—really stuck with Hader, who approached writing Barry not by starting from the joke, but by considering each character’s emotion.

7. THEY DON’T WANT TO GLAMORIZE VIOLENCE.

“[Berg and I] like action movies, but people getting murdered is terrible,” Hader told GQ. That’s a core ethos for the way they shoot and edit the necessary violence for a story about a guy who kills for a living. Those scenes don’t feature slow motion or swelling scores or intense looks. They’re usually hauntingly matter-of-fact, leaving audiences with an uneasy, gruesome feeling, and even the villains of the show are depicted as human beings with children’s toys scattered across their living rooms while the only character who loves violence (Dale Pavinski’s cocaine-fueled Taylor) is portrayed as a profoundly idiotic buffoon.

8. BARRY’S NOT THE ONLY CHARACTER LIVING A DOUBLE LIFE.

One of the show’s slyest tricks is making us focus on whether one of Barry’s lives will ruin the other while quietly filling the cast with characters who all have double lives. Sarah Goldberg, who plays wannabe actor Sally, wisely pointed this out: “Everybody in the show is pretty desperate for something, desperate for change, desperate to get out of their situation, and everyone’s living these double lives.” Gene is king while teaching his acting class, but a schmo crossing his fingers at a hopeless commercial audition. Sally and the other students live partially in a dream world of stardom but then return to their real jobs. Detective Moss (Paula Newsome) is a principled cop willing to sacrifice it for happiness with Gene.

9. ONE SCENE ACTUALLY DISTURBED THE GUY WHO CRAFTED GAME OF THRONES'S RED WEDDING.

Game of Thrones co-creator David Benioff is friends with Berg, so they screened the episode “Make the Unsafe Choice” for him. The episode includes Barry slowly strangling a man who gasps and flops and says, “You don’t have to do this,” in Spanish. Barry says, “Yeah, I guess not,” then kills him anyway. The scene’s intensity caused Benioff to respond with a single curse word because he found it so dark. When you’ve shocked the guy who wrote the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones, you know you’ve got something.

10. SARAH GOLDBERG INITIALLY THOUGHT THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT SCENE WAS A BIT TOO OVER-THE-TOP.

Sarah Goldberg and Henry Winkler in 'Barry'
John P. Johnson, HBO

Sally’s dream of stardom is spoiled in a late episode when the manager who has taken her on provisionally tells her that he wants to have sex with her. It’s a slimy moment, and Sally is taken so off-guard that she ends up apologizing to him for making the situation awkward. “When I first read it, I thought, ‘Is it a little much that he says he wants to f**k her?’” Goldberg recalled. “And now it’s like, 'Jesus, we could’ve gone further. That’s the PG-13 version compared to the horrible stories we’ve all read.'"

10 Timeless Facts About The Land Before Time

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Five years before Jurassic Park roared into theaters, a gentler, more meditative dinosaur film endeared itself to audiences of all ages. Initially met with mixed reviews, The Land Before Time is now regarded as an animated classic. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the Steven Spielberg-produced film, which arrived in theaters 30 years ago.

1. IT WAS CONCEIVED AS A DIALOGUE-FREE MOVIE.

Gabriel Damon and Candace Hutson in The Land Before Time (1988)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In the mid-1980s, executive producer Steven Spielberg began toying with the idea of a Bambi-esque dinosaur film. “Basically,” he later said, “I wanted to do a soft picture … about five little dinosaurs and how they grow up and work together as a group.” Inspiration came from the “Rite of Spring” sequence from Disney’s Fantasia (1940)—a scene in which prehistoric beasts wordlessly go about their business. At first, Spielberg wanted his own dinosaur characters to follow suit and remain mum. Ultimately, however, it was feared that a non-verbal approach might bore or confuse the film’s intended audience. As such, the animals were given lines.

2. DIRECTOR DON BLUTH WAS AN EX-DISNEY EMPLOYEE.

Don Bluth grew up idolizing Disney’s work, and began working for the studio in 1955. Over the next two decades, he did various odd jobs until he was brought on as a full-time animator in 1971. Once on the inside, Bluth got to peek behind the magician’s curtain—and disliked what he found there. “I think [Walt Disney] would’ve seen that the pictures were losing their luster,” Bluth said. Frustrated by the studio’s cost-cutting measures, he resigned in 1979. Joining him were fellow animators Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy. Together the trio launched their own company, Sullivan Bluth Studios, and began working on The Land Before Time in 1986.

3. OVER 600 BACKGROUND PAINTINGS WERE MADE FOR THE FILM.

Most of these depicted beautiful but barren wastelands, which presented a real challenge for the creative team. As one studio press release put it, “The artists had to create a believable environment in which there was almost no foliage.” Whenever possible, Bluth’s illustrators emphasized vibrant colors. This kept their backdrops from looking too drab or monotonous—despite the desolate setting.

4. LITTLEFOOT’S ORIGINAL NAME WAS “THUNDERFOOT.”

This was changed when the filmmakers learned that there was a triceratops in a popular children’s book called Thunderfoot. Speaking of three-horned dinosaurs: Cera evolved from a pugnacious male character called Bambo.

5. THE FILMMAKERS HAD TO CUT ABOUT 10 MINUTES OF FOOTAGE.

“We compromised a lot with The Land Before Time,” Goldman admitted. Nowhere was this fact more apparent than on the cutting room floor. Spielberg and his fellow executive producer George Lucas deemed 19 individual scenes “too scary.” “We’ll have kids crying in the lobby, and angry parents,” Spielberg warned. “You don’t want that.”

6. “ROOTER” WAS INTRODUCED AT THE URGING OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGISTS.

In Bambi, the title character’s mom dies off-screen. The same cannot be said for Littlefoot’s mother, whose slow demise goes on for several agonizing minutes. Naturally, there was some concern about how children would react to this. “A lot of research went into the mother dying sequence,” Pomeroy said. “Psychologists were approached and shown the film. They gave their professional opinions of how the sequence could be depicted.” Thus, Rooter was born.

One scene after Littlefoot’s mom passes, the wise reptile consoles him, saying “You’ll always miss her, but she’ll always be with you as long as you remember the things she taught you.” Sharp-eared fans might recognize Rooter’s voice as that of Pat Hingle, who also narrates the movie.

7. JAMES HORNER DID THE SOUNDTRACK.

The late, Oscar-winning composer behind Braveheart (1995), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009) put together a soaring score. Along with lyricist Will Jennings, he also penned the original song “If We Hold On Together,” which Diana Ross sings as the end credits roll.

8. THE ACTRESS BEHIND DUCKY PASSED AWAY BEFORE THE MOVIE’S RELEASE.

Judith Barsi’s career was off to a great start. By age 10, this daughter of Hungarian immigrants had already appeared in 70 commercials and voiced the leading lady in Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). For The Land Before Time, Barsi voiced the ever-optimistic Ducky, which was reportedly her favorite role. Then tragedy struck: In July of 1988, Barsi’s father József murdered both her and her mother before taking his own life.

9. IT HAD A RECORD-SETTING OPENING WEEKEND.

From the get-go, The Land Before Time had some stiff competition. Universal released it on November 18, 1988—the same day that Disney’s Oliver & Company hit theaters. Yet, for a solid month, Bluth gave Oliver a box office beating. The Land Before Time enjoyed the highest-grossing opening weekend that any animated film had ever seen, pulling in $7.5 million to Oliver & Company’s $4 million. Since then, of course, The Land Before Time has long been dethroned; today, Incredibles 2 (2018) holds this coveted distinction with a $182.7 million first-weekend showing.

10. THERE ONCE WAS TALK OF A LAND BEFORE TIME STAGE MUSICAL.

“The time has come for dinosaurs on Broadway,” the late theatrical producer Irving Welzer told The New York Times in 1997. Emboldened by the recent cinematic success of Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1996), Welzer expressed an interest helping Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, and the rest of the gang make their Big Apple debut. Soon, however, the idea faded.

Billie Lourd Shares What (Very Little) She Can About Star Wars: Episode IX

Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

​Nearly nothing is known about the final film in the latest Star Wars series, except that J.J. Abrams, who helmed The Force Awakens, will be returning as director, and many of the cast members from both Abrams's earlier effort and The Last Jedi will be reprising their roles. Even the late Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away on December 27, 2016, will be included in Episode IX, through unused footage from the previous two films.

Though all the stars of the upcoming film are sworn to secrecy about it, Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, is spilling what she can. Lourd, who played the minor role of Lieutenant Connix in the last two films, teased what it was like being back on set.

"I gotta watch myself because the Star Wars PD is going to come get me, but it is incredible. I’ve read the script and I’ve been on set," Lourd told ​Entertainment Tonight. "I was on set for, like, three weeks back in September, and it is going to be magical. I can’t say much more, but I’m so excited about it and so grateful to be a part of it. Star Wars is my heart. I love it."

A lot of things are riding on Episode IX, especially considering how divided fans were over The Last Jedi. Though with Abrams back in the director's chair, it seems likely that the new film will be a return to form. The as-yet-untitled film hits theaters on December 20, 2019.

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