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18 Things You Might Not Know About The A-Team

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It was only a matter of time before the television remake trend found its way back to Hannibal, Murdock, Face, and B.A. Baracus, the four mercenaries better known as The A-Team. In 2015, 20th Century Fox Television announced that a reboot of the mid-1980s action series is in the works, and that this "team" will be made up of both men and women. (Though it still has yet to materialize, there have been some rumors about who some of the cast members might be.) On the 35th anniversary of the original series's premiere, let's take a look back at the show that started it all.

1. THE "CRIME THEY DIDN'T COMMIT" WAS MURDER.

In 1972, the A-Team was sent on a covert mission to rob the Bank of Hanoi of gold bullion, with the intent of helping to end the Vietnam War. They succeeded, only to find that their commanding officer had been murdered in a traitorous double-cross and his headquarters burned to the ground. Unable to prove that they were acting under orders, they were sent to a maximum security stockade.

2. THERE WAS ONLY ONE (SORT OF) ON-SCREEN DEATH IN THE ENTIRE RUN OF THE SHOW.

Fans will remember that almost every episode climaxed with explosions and gunfire and bad guys flying every which way, but no one ever actually got hurt. Crooks were shown scrambling out of cars before they blew up, or running away after being thrown from a window. The only on-screen death was the death-by-explosion one implied of General Fulbright in “The Sound of Thunder.”

3. B.A. NEVER ACTUALLY SAYS "I PITY THE FOOL."


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This was a catchphrase belonging to Mr. T, but just like “Play it again Sam” and “Beam me up, Scotty!” the exact quote never appeared in the series. Usually B.A. preferred to call people “suckers.”

4. THE VAN HAS ITS OWN WEBSITE.

Well, not the van. But a replica of the highest standard, built and painstakingly refurbished by two brothers, Liam and Jerome Brett. They built it up from an original 1982 G Series Cargo Van, which they imported to the U.K. from Vermont, and scoured the world for authentic parts. Their amazing work can be appreciated here.

5. "A-TEAM" IS ACTUAL MILITARY TERMINOLOGY.

Military actions, such as a forward attack, are often done by an assembled Alpha Team. The “A-team” advances first, and then is often supported by a Bravo Team, or B-team. Alpha Team can also refer to a small special forces unit, which was more likely the designation on the show.

6. THERE IS A BATTLESTAR GALACTICA IN-JOKE IN THE OPENING CREDITS.

Before Dirk Benedict became Faceman, he was Lieutenant Starbuck of the Colonial Service on the original Battlestar Galactica. The credits scene is lifted from an episode that partially takes place on a Universal Studios lot, where a Cylon (one of the Battlestar Galactica bad guys) strolls past a perplexed looking Faceman.

7. MURDOCK'S FIRST NAME WAS NEVER REVEALED.

The members of The A-Team included: Lieutenant Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith; Lieutenant Templeton Arthur “Faceman” Peck; Sergeant Bosco Albert “Bad Attitude” Baracus; and Captain H.M. “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock. Murdock’s first name was never revealed.  

8. DIRK BENEDICT GOT THE ROLE OF FACE BECAUSE HE WAS OLD.

Another actor, Tim Dunigan, was originally cast and shot the pilot episode of the show. However, on camera, Dunigan admitted he looked “like a high school sophomore"—too young to play a Vietnam veteran. He was replaced with Benedict.

9. HANNIBAL IS LOOSELY BASED ON A REAL-LIFE COLONEL.


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Lieutenant Colonel Gordon “Bo” Gritz was a controversial Army Special Forces soldier who was popular because of the efforts he made to recover lost soldiers after the Vietnam War. His popularity coincided with the conception of The A-Team, so Hannibal—the leader of a ragtag band of crazy special forces heroes—was modeled after him.  

10. IT SPAWNED A SERIES OF NOVELS.

With titles like Bullets, Bikinis and Bells and Operation Desert Sun: The Untold Story, the books are mostly novelizations of popular episodes. There were 10 published in all, although half were only printed in the UK. Most can be found on Amazon.

11. MR. T THOUGHT THE MOVIE VERSION WAS TOO SMUTTY.


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The original B.A. had this to say about the 2010 big-screen adaptation of the series, starring Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper:

"People die in the film and there’s plenty of sex but when we did it no one got hurt and it was all played for fun and family entertainment. These seem to be elements nobody is interested in anymore. It was too graphic for me. I’ve no doubt it will do big business at the box office but it’s nothing like the show we turned out every week. We ran on TV for five years without having to sex-up the show. You can’t get away with that these days."

12. MR. T "QUIT" DURING THE FOURTH SEASON AND HAD HIMSELF FLOWN OFF THE SET.

While filming the fourth season premiere on a cruise ship, T had just suffered a loss in his family. Also, the air conditioner was annoying him. He had himself helicoptered off the set and phoned the producer with a list of demands, at which point he was “fired.” But the two were able to work out their grievances and filming resumed. 

13. AMY LEFT BECAUSE EVERYONE GANGED UP ON HER.

We’ll never know the particulars of why Melinda Culea, who played the Team’s first feisty journalist sidekick, was written out in the second season. But consensus seems to be that there was bad blood between her and Peppard from the beginning. Culea claimed the animosity spread, and by the second season the entire cast “ganged up on her” to get the producers to dump her.

14. THE A-TEAM WAS (ALMOST) TOO VIOLENT FOR GERMANY.

In 1989, German broadcasters were interested in purchasing the rights to The A-Team to run on German television. However, they found the show had a tendency to be excessively violent, and chose only 26 of the 98 episodes to run.

15. GIRLS WERE JUST THERE TO LOOK PRETTY.

The producers of the show tried to attach female sidekicks to the team in the first two seasons to stem criticism of sexism, but it just didn’t work. According to Marla Heasley, the second short-lived sidekick Tawnia, Peppard took her aside to tell her no one wanted her there. Or, as better put years later by Dirk Benedict:

"It was a guy's show. It was male-driven. It was written by guys. It was directed by guys. It was acted by guys. It's about what guys do. We talked the way guys talked. We were the boss. We were the God. We smoked when we wanted. We shot guns when we wanted. We kissed the girls and made them cry ... when we wanted. It was the last truly masculine show."

16. GEORGE PEPPARD SMOKED THREE PACKS OF CIGARETTES A DAY.

Hannibal was always at his best when chomping on a cigar, but in real life Peppard stuck mainly to cigarettes. He gave up smoking in 1992 after the removal of a tumor from his lung. Unfortunately, it may have been too little, too late; Peppard died of pneumonia while still being treated for lung cancer in 1994, at the age of 65.

17. MARVEL COMICS RELEASED AN A-TEAM COMIC BOOK SERIES.

There were three comic books released—separately at first, then repackaged together as The A-Team Story Book.

18. THE SERIES FINALE WAS BURIED IN RERUNS.

“The Grey Team” was intended to be the series finale, but for some reason it aired as the second-to-last episode. NBC forgot about the “Without Reservations” episode and didn’t air it until March of 1987, amongst reruns. In “Reservations,” Murdock wears a shirt that reads “almost fini.” In “Grey Team,” his shirt reads “fini” (the French word for “end”).

This article originally appeared in 2014.

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Karl Walter, Getty Images
When the FBI Investigated the 'Murder' of Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor
Karl Walter, Getty Images
Karl Walter, Getty Images

The two people standing over the body, Michigan State Police detective Paul Wood told the Hard Copy cameras, “had a distinctive-type uniform on. As I recall: black pants, some type of leather jacket with a design on it, and one was wearing combat boots. The other was wearing what looked like patent leather shoes. So if it was a homicide, I was thinking it was possibly a gang-type homicide.”

Wood was describing a puzzling case local police, state police, and eventually the FBI had worked hard to solve for over a year. The mystery began in 1989, when farmer Robert Reed spotted a circular group of objects floating over his farm just outside of rural Burr Oak, Michigan; it turned out to be a cluster of weather balloons attached to a Super 8 camera.

When the camera landed on his property, the surprised farmer didn't develop the footage—he turned it over to the police. Some local farmers had recently gotten into trouble for letting wild marijuana grow on the edges of their properties, and Reed thought the balloons and camera were a possible surveillance technique. But no state or local jurisdictions used such rudimentary methods, so the state police in East Lansing decided to develop the film. What they saw shocked them.

A city street at night; a lifeless male body with a mysterious substance strewn across his face; two black-clad men standing over the body as the camera swirled away up into the sky, with a third individual seen at the edge of the frame running away, seemingly as fast as possible. Michigan police immediately began analyzing the footage for clues, and noticed the lights of Chicago’s elevated train system, which was over 100 miles away.

It was the first clue in what would become a year-long investigation into what they believed was either a cult killing or gang murder. When they solved the “crime” of what they believed was a real-life snuff film, they were more shocked than when the investigation began: The footage was from the music video for “Down In It,” the debut single from industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the supposed dead body was the group's very-much-alive lead singer, Trent Reznor.

 
 

In 1989, Nine Inch Nails was about to release their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, which would go on to be certified triple platinum in the United States. The record would define the emerging industrial rock sound that Reznor and his rotating cast of bandmates would experiment with throughout the 1990s and even today on albums like The Downward Spiral and The Slip.

The band chose the song “Down In It”—a track with piercing vocals, pulsing electronic drums, sampled sound effects, and twisted nursery rhyme-inspired lyrics—as Pretty Hate Machine's first single. They began working with H-Gun, a Chicago-based multimedia team led by filmmakers Eric Zimmerman and Benjamin Stokes (who had created videos for such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks), and sketched out a rough idea for the music video.

Filmed on location among warehouses and parking garages in Chicago, the video was supposed to culminate in a shot with a leather-jacketed Reznor running to the top of a building, while two then-members of the band followed him wearing studded jumpsuits; the video would fade out with an epic floating zoom shot to imply that Reznor's cornstarch-for-blood-covered character had fallen off the building and died in the street. Because the cash-strapped upstarts didn’t have enough money for a fancy crane to achieve the shot for their video, they opted to tie weather balloons to the camera and let it float up from Reznor, who was lying in the street surrounded by his bandmates. They eventually hoped to play the footage backward to get the shot in the final video.

Instead, the Windy City lived up to its name and quickly whisked the balloons and camera away. With Reznor playing dead and his bandmates looking down at him, only one of the filmmakers noticed. He tried to chase down the runaway camera—which captured his pursuit—but it was lost, forcing them to finish shooting the rest of the video and release it without the planned shot from the missing footage in September of 1989.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the band, a drama involving their lost camera was unfolding in southwest Michigan. Police there eventually involved the Chicago police, whose detectives determined that the footage had been filmed in an alley in the city's Fulton River District. After Chicago authorities found no homicide reports matching the footage for the neighborhood and that particular time frame, they handed the video over to the FBI, whose pathologists reportedly said that, based on the substance on the individual, the body in the video was rotting.

 
 

The "substance" in question was actually the result of the low-quality film and the color of the cornstarch on the singer’s face, which had also been incorporated into the press photos for Pretty Hate Machine. It was a nod to the band's early live shows, in which Reznor would spew cornstarch and chocolate syrup on his band members and the audience. “It looks really great under the lights, grungey, a sort of anti-Bon Jovi and the whole glamour thing,” Reznor said in a 1991 interview.

With no other easy options, and in order to generate any leads that might help them identify the victim seen in the video, the authorities distributed flyers to Chicago schools asking if anyone knew any details behind the strange “killing.”

The tactic worked. A local art student was watching MTV in 1991 and saw the distinctive video for “Down In It,” which reminded him of one of the flyers he had seen at school. He contacted the Chicago police to tip them off to who their supposed "murder victim" really was. Nine Inch Nails’s manager was notified, and he told Reznor and the filmmakers what had really happened to their lost footage.

“It’s interesting that our top federal agency, the Federal Bureau of [Investigation], couldn’t crack the Super 8 code,” co-director Zimmerman said in an interview. As for Wood and any embarrassment law enforcement had after the investigation: “I thought it was our duty, one way or the other, to determine what was on that film,” he said.

“My initial reaction was that it was really funny that something could be that blown out of proportion with this many people worked up about it,” Reznor said, and later told an interviewer, “There was talk that I would have to appear and talk to prove that I was alive.” Even though—in the eyes of state, local, and federal authorities—he was reportedly dead for over a year, Reznor didn’t seem to be bothered by it: “Somebody at the FBI had been watching too much Hitchcock or David Lynch or something,” he reasoned.

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Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
West Side Story Is Returning to Theaters This Weekend
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM

As Chris Pratt and a gang of prehistoric creatures get ready to face off against some animated superheroes for this weekend’s box office dominance, an old rivalry is brewing once again on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. West Side Story—Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s classic big-screen rendering of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical—is returning to cinemas for the first time in nearly 30 years.

As part of TCM’s Big Screen Classics Series, West Side Story will have special screening engagements at more than 600 theaters across the country on Sunday, June 24 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. If you can’t make it this weekend, encores will screen at the same time on Wednesday, June 27. The film—which is being re-released courtesy of TCM, Fathom Events, Park Circus, and Metro Goldwyn Mayer—will be presented in its original widescreen format, and include its original mid-film intermission. (Though its 2.5-hour runtime is practically standard nowadays, that wasn’t the case a half-century ago.) The screening will include an introduction and some post-credit commentary by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz.

West Side Story, which was named Best Picture of 1961, is a musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet that sees star-crossed lovers Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) navigate the challenges of immigration, racial tension, and inner-city life in mid-century Manhattan—but with lots of singing and dancing. In addition to being named Best Picture, the beloved film took home another nine Oscars, including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress (for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno, respectively), and Best Music—obviously.

To find out if West Side Story is screening near you, and to purchase tickets, visit Fathom Events’s website.

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