10 Fun Facts About Better Call Saul

Matthias Clamer, AMC
Matthias Clamer, AMC

If making Breaking Bad was a high-wire act of maintaining perfection, Vince Gilligan stepped onto an even thinner wire when he decided to spin off the beloved series into Better Call Saul, a compendium of the legal misadventures of Saul Goodman (a.k.a. Jimmy McGill, a.k.a. Gene).

Played with exhausted enthusiasm by Bob Odenkirk, Jimmy’s journey to strip mall success is as harrowing and taut as watching Walter White navigate the meth business, but it’s (thankfully) a whole other animal.

Just ahead of its fourth season premiere, grab a Jell-O cup and eat up these 10 facts about Better Call Saul.

1. THE BREAKING BAD WRITERS USED TO JOKE ABOUT MAKING A SAUL GOODMAN JOKE.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in 'Better Call Saul'
Nicole Wilder, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

While whittling a huge pile of ideas into the winners that became Breaking Bad's scripts, Vince Gilligan and the other writers had a lot of lines for Saul that got scrapped. “We love writing for the character,” Gillian told Uproxx. “We love putting words in his mouth, and we had so much fun, indeed, doing that, that it started as a lark. We’d come up with some great term or phrase, and we’d laugh about it in the writer’s room, and then we’d say, “You know, when we’re doing the Saul Goodman show we’ll be able to blah, blah, blah.” Be careful what you joke about.

2. JIMMY PICKED HIS ALIAS BECAUSE IT SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING ELSE.

Gilligan initially wanted to call the character Saul Good (like, “It’s all good”) as a hyper-memorable name for clients to remember when faced with their one phone call. Another writer suggested “Goodman,” and they all loved it. They were just lucky the first name rhymed with “Call.”

3. THE TITLES HAVE HIDDEN MEANINGS.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in 'Better Call Saul'
Nicole Wilder, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

You can take nothing for granted in the Better Call Saul universe, including the episode titles. In the first season, every episode (from “Uno” to “Marco”) ended in the letter O, except “Alpine Shepherd Boy,” which was supposed to be called “Jell-O” before the producers waved it off to avoid being sued by the gelatin makers. Even crazier, the first letters of season two’s episodes (S-C-A-G-R-B-I-F-N-K) unscramble to spell “Fring’s Back”—a clear message for Breaking Bad fans.

4. IT WAS ALMOST A COMEDY.

Sony and AMC were eager to buy the show even before Gilligan knew what it would be about. He toyed with the idea of exploring the events after Breaking Bad but thought it would rob the show’s finale of its mystique. Gilligan also considered a comedy where a famous comedian would cameo every week, bringing a funny legal problem to Saul to fix. Not all good, man.

5. IT (SORT OF) USES THE BREAKING BAD THEME SONG.

Dave Porter’s title theme for Breaking Bad utilized a dobro guitar stretching the sound over a moody, percussive vibe. For Better Call Saul’s outro titles, he’s remixed it into something a bit more surf rock—just on the edge of familiarity. Listen close, and you’ll hear the Breaking Bad theme in the mix.

6. CHUCK WASN’T INTENDED TO BE A BAD GUY.

Everyone who watches the show hates Chuck McGill, Jimmy’s brother played by Michael McKean, but it wasn’t until writing the seventh episode that Gilligan and the writers realized Chuck was a villain. “Believe it or not, the idea of Chuck being the ‘bad guy’ was a late addition to Season 1,” Gilligan explained during a 2015 Reddit AMA. “This points out one of the things I love most about writing for TV. There are enough episodes and enough lead time (if you’re lucky) for writers to change the direction of a story midstream."

7. THE SHOW USES A FAMILIAR TEQUILA.

Obviously Better Call Saul regularly pays homage to its predecessor. Yet one of the subtlest nods is the use of a rare brand of spirit. On Breaking Bad, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) poisons an entire drug cartel with Zafiro Añejo tequila, the same fictional brand Jimmy and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) down while trying to bilk an investor in the first episode of season 2.

8. YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT COLOR PEOPLE ARE WEARING.

Gilligan’s fanatical dedication to detail includes the colors that get associated with each character. It was a major element in Breaking Bad. It’s also a big part of Better Call Saul in the form of the “Fire and Ice Theory,” partially confirmed by writer Peter Gould, who confessed that hotter colors like red were associated with criminals. That tacitly means cooler colors are meant for the innocent, so it’s curious that Jimmy’s car is yellow with one red door …

9. THE SHOW WAS INFLUENCED BY STANLEY KUBRICK.

Breaking Bad was shot on 35mm, which gave it a grainy texture that fit with the cinematic tone of the show. Better Call Saul is shot in 4K digital, offering a crispness and enormity to the proceedings that echo Stanley Kubrick’s photographic style. That connection is intentional, as Gilligan tries to craft the show according to Kubrick’s rule of making the first image the most intriguing thing the audience has seen that day. Doing everything possible to stand out goes for the music cues, too. “Our needle drops come straight from Kubrick,” Gilligan said. “And then we’ll go for these one-point perspective shots as specific Kubrick tributes, or deliberate slow zoom-outs that we take from Barry Lyndon.”

10. JIMMY ENDS UP LIVING HIS “BEST CASE SCENARIO.”

In the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, Saul erases his identity, prepares to move away from Albuquerque, and claims his best case scenario is managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska. That’s exactly what he’s doing as “Gene” in the very opening of Better Call Saul. Congrats, Jimmy. You’re living the dream.

10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that in 2016 Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. To celebrated the film's 15th anniversary, here are some facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. Deb is based on Jerusha Hess.

Jared Hess’s wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.'"

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. "The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me," she told Rolling Stone. "Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before."

2. Napoleon's famous dance scene was the result of having extra film stock.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”

Heder told HuffPost he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt "pressure" to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. Napoleon Dynamitefans still flock to Preston, Idaho to tour the movie's locations.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. Idaho adopted a resolution commending the filmmakers.

'Napoleon Dynamite' filmmakers Jerusha and Jared Hess
Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. Napoleon was a different kind of nerd.

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told HuffPost. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. The title sequence featured several different sets of hands..

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. Napoleon Dynamite messed up Netflix's algorithms.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. Napoleon accidentally got a bad perm.


© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LaFawnduh's real-life family starred in the film.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A short-lived animated series acted as a sequel.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

Harry Potter Fans Are Waiting 10 Hours or More to Ride Hagrid’s Roller Coaster

Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando

Muggles will do anything to be a part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Orlando opened up its newest ride this week at its version of Hogsmeade, the village that surrounds Hogwarts castle. Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure takes wannabe wizards and witches on a twisting, high-speed flight through the mystical Forbidden Forest.

Diehard fans began waiting overnight outside the park in anticipation of the ride, and it looks like just about everyone had the same idea. At 8:30 a.m. on opening day, the line was already eight hours long, and quickly stretched to 10 hours long by 10:30 a.m., CNN reports.

The line is worth the wait for many fans of the franchise. As Potterheads already know, Rubeus Hagrid, beloved friend of Harry Potter and the gang, has a special affinity for mysterious creatures. So who better to see the beasts of the forest with than the half-giant?

Participants on the ride can choose to sit in Hagrid’s sidecar or in the driver’s seat. The winding track includes appearances by some of our favorite wizards, like Arthur Weasley, and creatures benevolent and otherwise, such as Cornish pixies, massive spiders, and the three-headed dog, Fluffy.

Fans aren’t the only ones wanting to experience the ride. Some of the stars of the film series had a little reunion in Orlando this week to celebrate the opening, including Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood).

Unlike the fans, however, they have magic (fame) to keep them from having to wait in 10-hour lines.

Happy riding, Potterheads!

[h/t CNN]

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