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.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

National Portrait Gallery Celebrates Aretha Franklin With Week-Long Exhibition

Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA
Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA

With the passing of Aretha Franklin on August 16, 2018, the world has lost one of its most distinctive voices—and personalities. As celebrities and fans share their memories of the Queen of Soul and what her music meant to them, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery will pay tribute to the legendary songstress's life with a week-long exhibition of her portrait.

Throughout her career, Franklin earned some of the music industry's highest accolades, including 18 Grammy Awards. In 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nearly 30 years later, in 2015, the National Portrait Gallery fêted Franklin with the Portrait of a Nation Prize, which recognizes "the accomplishments of notable contemporary Americans whose portraits reside in the National Portrait Gallery collection." (Madeline Albright, Spike Lee, and Rita Moreno are among some of its recent recipients.)

Milton Glaser's lithograph of Aretha Franklin, which is displayed at The National Portrait Gallery
© Milton Glaser

Franklin's portrait was the creation of noted graphic designer Milton Glaser, who employed "his characteristic kaleidoscope palette and innovative geometric forms to convey the creative energy of Franklin's performances," according to the Gallery. The colorful lithographic was created in 1968, the very same year that the National Portrait Gallery opened.

Glaser's image will be installed in the "In Memoriam" section of the museum, which is located on the first floor, on Friday, August 17 and will remain on display to the public through August 22, 2018. The Gallery is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. and admission is free.

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