10 Fast Facts About Atlanta

FX Networks
FX Networks

Donald Glover’s show about fame and friendship heads into its third season after burning down every screen in sight by subverting expectations for what a TV series can be.

“Genius” gets tossed around a lot, but Glover has crafted a show that’s trippy and grounded, yet silly and brutal. It’s a show that defies a singular label and demands a seat at the VIP table. One of the best of the best.

Eat or be eaten, here are 10 facts about the Emmy-nominated series.


Donald Glover and Zazie Beetz in 'Atlanta'
FX Networks

The concept of Trojan Horse-ing your way onto TV is something a few creators (including Jenji Kohan of Orange is the New Black) have talked about. Either selling the studio or your audience one familiar thing while introducing them to the real, innovative story hiding inside it. According to Glover, Atlanta followed in that grand tradition by telling FX the series would be more of a traditional hang-out show than it is. “I just Trojan Horsed it,” Glover told Vulture. “I told FX the show was something it wasn’t until we got there and then hoped it would be enjoyable.”


If you don’t know Atlanta, this can get a little confusing: J.R. Crickets is a real restaurant depicted in the show, but the Lemon Pepper Wet chicken wing order that Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) get wasn’t on its menu in real life until the show’s depiction of it made a bunch of people order it and J.R. Cricket’s decided to place it on the menu. Which kinda kills the joke. Glover based it on an item on American Deli’s menu, finding it funny that someone could treat Paper Boi to something at J.R. Cricket’s that wasn’t actually on the menu. This is what happens when you inject real restaurants into your fictional show.


Donald Glover and Lakeith Stanfield in 'Atlanta'
FX Networks

Along with surrealism, the show trades in wry humor that would make Larry David proud. Glover describes Atlanta as “Curb Your Enthusiasm for rappers." "Being a rapper is super awkward,” Glover told Stephen Colbert earlier this year. "You’re in a video and you got, like, champagne and butts close to your face ... and then you have go to Whole Foods and the person is like, 'Hey, you’re that dude!' and you’re like, ‘Please I really want to buy this ice cream.'" Cue the theme music and the deadpan stare.


There are plenty of TV stars who echo their real careers in the fictional world. Jerry Seinfeld playing an increasingly successful comedian, Lena Dunham playing an increasingly successful aspiring writer, and Adrian Grenier playing an increasingly successful Hollywood actor. Glover didn’t want to go that route. “That would have been wack to me,” Glover said. “I don’t think people want to see a show of someone actually making it.”


"We’ve kind of been comparing the season to a sophomore record from a new artist," director Hiro Murai told Rolling Stone when Atlanta: Robbin’ Season came out. "Internally, we’ve drawn Kanye parallels: if the first season is College Dropout, this one is Late Registration.” It’s a sentiment from Donald and his brother, Stephen Glover, who is a writer and executive producer on the show. So it’s no surprise that they view the upcoming third season like Kanye’s Graduation. What does that mean, exactly? “This is probably our most accessible but also the realest—an honest version of it—and I feel like the most enjoyable,” Donald Glover explained.


Brian Tyree Henry in 'Atlanta'
FX Networks

Donald and Stephen Glover write Paper Boi’s raps, and Stephen performs them, but Brian Tyree Henry embodies Alfred and his rap persona "Paper Boi." Yet in crafting the character, Henry didn’t go the conventional route. “I wanted to be so far removed from [studying other rappers] because I think that every rapper, even their names are ways that they want you to know them,” Henry told NPR. “Rappers make personas or names. I felt like it was a way of protection, you know what I mean? So, I didn’t really want to study any rappers per se because I wanted to get to know who [Alfred] really was and where he came from before I could even go to where he was going. Like, Paper Boi is where he’s going.”


FX initially told Glover not to use the N-word in the pilot, which would have been a dilution of natural speech. “I’m black, making a very black show, and they’re telling me I can’t use the N-word," Glover told The New Yorker. "Only in a world run by white people would that happen." To solve the problem, the creative team brought in white executive producer Paul Simms (known as the “White Translator” to several black showrunners) to make the case for why FX should allow the show to use the word. If you watch the show, you know who won that argument.


As an actress, Zazie Beetz is in a precarious position playing Van, a version of black womanhood not usually seen on TV. Van is representative, but, of course, not wholly so. “I think it is important to see intelligent black women who are also struggling with their partners. You know what I mean?” Beetz told GQ. “That’s all part of this larger narrative of what’s going on in the media and in film and television in generally. But her story isn’t everybody’s story. I don’t want executives in studios to be like, ‘Oh, we have to do more exactly like Van.’”


When Glover’s (a.k.a. Childish Gambino) third studio album, “Awaken, My Love!”, dropped on December 2, 2016, sharp-eyed internet denizens realized he’d already hidden its album art in an October 25, 2016 episode of Atlanta where Glover's Earn and Beetz's Van go to a Juneteenth party. That’s next level Easter egging.


It’s hardly surprising that marijuana is the muse for much of a show marked by disorientation and disconnection. “We do everything high,” Glover told The New Yorker. “The effortless chaos of Atlanta—the moments of enlightenment followed by an abrupt return to reality—is definitely shaped by weed. When sh*t is actually going on, no one knows what the f*** is happening.”

15 Uncensored Facts About Midnight Cowboy

Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

On May 25, 1969, United Artists released the film Midnight Cowboy, starring Jon Voight (Texas transplant Joe Buck) and Dustin Hoffman (the sleazy Ratso Rizzo) as street hustlers in New York City. It was the first studio film to receive an X-rating (the studio refused to edit anything out), and it became the first X-rated movie to be nominated and win a Best Picture Oscar (A Clockwork Orange and Last Tango in Paris followed suit with X-rated nominations). Hoffman and Voight were also nominated for Oscars, and screenwriter Waldo Salt and director John Schlesinger ended up winning gold statuettes for the movie. After the movie became a success, the MPAA demoted its rating to an R.

Based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy, the controversial film managed to gross $44 million—about $200 million by today’s standards. The movie saved the careers of its actors, producers, and Salt, who had been blacklisted and fallen on hard times. It also produced a hit song, Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.” Here are 15 facts about the landmark film.

1. John Schlesinger was reluctant to hire Dustin Hoffman.

Like everybody else, the filmmakers associated Dustin Hoffman with Benjamin Braddock, the clean-cut twentysomething he played in The Graduate. “The truth was, I saw The Graduate as a setback, because I was determined not to be a star,” Hoffman told the Los Angeles Times. Hoffman was doing Off Broadway performances during the casting of Midnight Cowboy, so Schlesinger checked him out in a play. Hoffman frequented an automat with fellow thespians Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall; one night Hoffman showed up there with a scruffy beard, disheveled clothes, and a Bowery accent. Schlesinger said to Hoffman, “Why Dustin, you do fit right in,” and he got the part.

2. Mike Nichols tried to talk Dustin Hoffman out of doing the movie.

Dustin Hoffman appears on the set of the film 'Midnight Cowboy' in 1969 in the USA
Dustin Hoffman stars in Midnight Cowboy (1969).
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Hot off the heels of Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, Hoffman could’ve kept his romantic lead image up, but instead he opted to take a supporting part in Midnight Cowboy. “Mike Nichols, in fact, called me up,” Hoffman told Peter Travers. “And he says, ‘Are you crazy?’ He says, ‘I made you a star. This is an ugly character. It’s a supporting part to Jon Voight.’ He says, ‘What are you doing? Why are you sabotaging?’” But Hoffman stuck to his guns and took the role. “I love the fact I was trying to remain a character actor and that was my desire,” he said.

3. Jon Voight was cast only after the original actor was fired.

Jon Voight auditioned for the role of Joe Buck and really wanted the part, but the producers chose Michael Sarrazin, whose major claim to fame is the 1969 Jane Fonda film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? “Sometimes I would be offered a role and I would recommend somebody else—I was that kind of person,” Voight told Box Office Mojo. “Yet this one stopped me because the thing I was excited about for this piece wasn’t going to happen. I felt quite sick about it.”

Fortunately for Voight, the producers changed their minds when Sarrazin demanded more money. “It came back to looking at our screen tests back to back,” said Voight. “Apparently, Marion Dougherty, who was the casting director, was in the room and said, ‘Well, there’s no doubt who's the best actor.’ John Schlesinger said, ‘Who?’ And she said, ‘Jon Voight.’ Then, Dustin was called in to look at the tests and apparently he said, ‘When I look at my scene with Michael Sarrazin I look at myself—when I looked at my scene with Jon Voight, I look at Jon.’ That was a huge compliment. I think between these comments, that’s what tipped the balance and then John [Schlesinger] came forward, so I was very fortunate.”

4. Voight worked for scale.

Voight was so desperate to play Joe Buck that he worked for scale: “‘Tell them I'll do this part for nothing,’” Voight told The Telegraph. “They took me at my word, and they gave me minimum for Midnight Cowboy.” At the end of the shoot, they sent him a $14.73 bill for meals on the last day of filming.

5. Hoffman thought the movie would ruin his career.

The actor attended a preview of Midnight Cowboy and noticed “people walked out in droves.”

“Twenty minutes into that movie, Jon Voight has a gay sex scene in the balcony with a kid who was played by Bob Balaban, and people would get up at that point and just walk out of the theater,” Hoffman told Larry King. “We said, ‘We have big problems’ when we heard we got an X-rating and we thought this could end everybody’s career. As a matter of fact, I was talked into doing a movie I wished I hadn’t done, because they had me so frightened that I had buried myself and reversed whatever good The Graduate did.” Hoffman’s agent forced him to star with Mia Farrow in the romantic drama John and Mary to make him “look like a respectable person.”

6. Voight knew the film was destined to become a classic.

Voight and Schlesinger wrapped filming in Texas and Voight noticed how red the director’s face was. Voight thought Schlesinger was having a heart attack and asked him if he was okay. “He looked up at me and said, ‘What have we done? What will they think of us?’ After all, we had made a film about a dishwasher who lives in New York and f*cks a lot of women,” Voight told Esquire. “In the moment he’d finished it, he was shaking. All of a sudden, he saw it as banal and vulgar. He’s having an anxiety attack and I grabbed his shoulders to shake him out of it. I said, ‘John, we will live the rest of our artistic lives in the shadow of this great masterpiece.’ He said, ‘You think so?’ I said, ‘I’m absolutely sure of it.’ The only reason I said such an extravagant thing was because I wanted to get him out of it and nothing would take him out of it but that. But the statement turned out to be true.”

7. Voight and Hoffman were competitive with each other.

What made the chemistry between Hoffman and Voight work so well is they were constantly competing with one another. Hoffman became a movie star before Voight did, and that brought some jealousy to the set. “We were like Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard, two fighters going at it,” Hoffman told the Los Angeles Times. “We knew the movie depended on the bond between us. All through shooting, we’d say to each other, out of the side of our mouths, like a fighter in a clinch, ‘Buddy, is that the best you can do?’”

8. Hoffman placed pebbles in his shoe to acquire Ratso’s limp.

“Why pebbles? It’s not like you’re playing a role on Broadway for six months where you’re so used to it, limping becomes second nature,” Hoffman told Vanity Fair. “The stone makes you limp, and you don’t have to think about it.”

9. Schlesinger came out during the movie’s production.

In the late 1960s, one's sexuality wasn't often discussed in the open. But the British director fell in love with Michael Childers, who worked as his assistant on the movie. “We were one of Hollywood’s first out couples,” Childers told Vanity Fair. “He took me everywhere. I felt a little bit uncomfortable at times, but John never did. He said, ‘F*ck ‘em.’”

“John was totally torn up, because part of him wanted to just embrace this, and another part of him was in terror,” the film’s producer, Jerome Hellman, said. “He had these fantasies that if he were openly gay on a film set, that if he tried to give the crew an order, they would turn on him. I said to him, ‘John, look, you’re the director. It’s your movie. I’m the producer, but I’m your partner. There’s nobody who can challenge your authority. If someone speaks out of line to you, they’ll be fired the same minute.’”

10. The famous “I’m Walkin’ Here” line was improvised.

The scene in which Joe and Ratso attempt to walk across the street and almost get hit by a cab was filmed guerilla-style, with a camera in a van across the street. “It was a difficult scene, logistically, because those were real pedestrians and there was real traffic, and Schlesinger wanted to do it in one shot—he didn’t want to cut,” Hoffman explained. “He wanted us to walk, like, a half a block, and the first times we did it the signal turned red. Schlesinger was getting very upset. He came rushing out of the van, saying, ‘Oh, oh, you’ve got to keep walking.’ ‘We can’t, man. There’s f*cking traffic.’ ‘Well, you’ve got to time it.’”

They figured out how to properly time the walk but then almost got run over by a cab. “I guess the brain works so quickly, it said, in a split of a second, ‘Don’t go out of character,’” Hoffman said. “So I said, ‘I’m walking here,’ meaning, ‘We’re shooting a scene here, and this is the first time we ever got it right, and you have f*cked us up.’ Schlesinger started laughing. He clapped his hands and said, ‘We must have that, we must have that,’ and re-did it two or three times, because he loved it.”

11. Hoffman threw up on set while trying to cough.

Talk about Method: Ratso has a deadly cough (consumption), and in a particular scene Hoffman got sick in real life. “Because I was so nervous that I was going to come across fraudulent and not have the right cough, I tried to do the cough as realistically as I could,” Hoffman told Vanity Fair. “Each time, I tried to do it more realistically until, finally, I did it so realistically I threw up all over Jon. My lunch came up. All over his cowboy boots. Jon looked down. He said, ‘Man, why’d you do that?’ He thought I did it on purpose.”

12. Schlesinger didn’t think anybody would make the movie today.

In 1994, the director found himself at a dinner party with a studio executive. “I said, ‘If I brought you a story about this dishwasher from Texas who goes to New York dressed as a cowboy to fulfill his fantasy of living off rich women, doesn’t, is desperate, meets a crippled consumptive who later pisses his pants and dies on a bus, would you—’ and he said, ‘I’d show you the door,’” Vanity Fair reported in 2000.

13. Me And Earl And The Dying Girl pays tribute to Midnight Cowboy.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's 2015 Sundance hit Me and Earl and the Dying Girl features two friends who turn The Criterion Collection movies into film school comedies. One of those films is Midnight Cowboy, renamed as 2:48 p.m. Cowboy. In the film, Greg (Thomas Mann) and Earl (RJ Cyler) portray Ratso and Buck, respectively.

Midnight Cowboy became my favorite movie,” Cyler said in a featurette on Greg and Earl’s films. “Now I can’t stop watching it. I’m addicted to it. I’ll be in my trailer. ‘RJ, whatcha doing?’ ‘Watching Midnight Cowboy with some ramen noodles right now.’ It’s just so quirky the way the parody was made, and not just because I got to wear a beautiful cowboy hat.”

14. There’s a speakeasy bar in Austin named after the film.

Midnight Cowboy the bar is located inside a former oriental massage parlor that was busted by the FBI, hence the seedy name. It has a red light—not a sign—outside to mark the place. In order to drink there, you need to make a reservation online, and when you get there, you buzz the box and give the password “Harry Craddock.” They have rules, though: no talking on your cell phone inside the bar, and no “excessive displays of public affection.”

15. A Chicago theater turned it into a stage production.

Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre puts on a lot of literary adaptations, and in 2016 they presented a stage version of Midnight Cowboy, based on the book.

Updated for 2019.

Game of Thrones Studio Tour Opening in Northern Ireland in 2020

Emilia Clarke stars in Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke stars in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

In a move that only a super-popular series could pull off, it was announced last year that HBO’s Game of Thrones would be getting its own 110,000-square-foot tourist attraction in Northern Ireland (where much of the show has been filmed) featuring scenes, sets, and props from Westeros. And of course, fans were instantly interested.

While the initial plan was to open the attraction this year, that date has been pushed back and an expansion on the original concept has been added.

Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, Ireland has partnered with Game of Thrones's creators to convert the studios into an exhibition. The sets were used for filming scenes in Winterfell and Castle Black, but the display will include props, costumes, live-action cosplayers, and set pieces representing all of the show’s locations.

While other interactive fan events have already been held, such as the display at SXSW and the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, this will be the most extensive and in-depth experience for diehard fans of the series.

When asked about the possibility of bringing a similar attraction to the U.S., Jeff Peters, HBO’s vice president for licensing and retail, told The New York Times that there were no set plans yet, but, “it’s possible. We get pitched all the time, and we’re open to a lot of different opportunities.”

[h/t The A.V. Club]