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20 Things You Might Not Know About Ghostbusters

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As Paul Feig's reboot of Ivan Reitman's classic sci-fi-horror-comedy readies to hit theaters, we're looking back at the film that started it all.

1. DAN AYKROYD FOUND INSPIRATION FOR THE MOVIE IN HIS FAMILY'S HISTORY.

Dan Aykroyd grew up surrounded by spiritualists. His great-grandfather, Samuel A. Aykroyd, was a noted nineteenth century psychic investigator who conducted séances at the Aykroyd family farmhouse in eastern Ontario with a medium named Walter Ashurst. This predilection for the paranormal was passed down to Aykroyd’s grandfather, Maurice, who was an engineer for the Bell Telephone Company. Maurice allegedly tried to use his know-how to create a high-vibration crystal radio that could contact the spirit world. Dan's father, Peter, kept a sizeable library of books about spooky subjects (including his great grandfather’s séances), which kept ghosts and ghouls in the back of young Aykroyd’s mind. After he left Saturday Night Live in 1979, he read an article about parapsychology in an American Society of Psychical Research publication, which inspired Ghostbusters.

2. GHOSTBUSTERS COULD HAVE BEEN MUCH DIFFERENT—AND MUCH BIGGER.

Aykroyd found comedic inspiration in films like Bob Hope's The Ghost Breakers, the horror-comedies of Abbott and Costello, and Bowery Boys fare like Spook Busters and Ghost Chasers. He went wild writing his original script, which took place in the future and had a much darker tone. The actors he had in mind for the three main protagonists were himself, John Belushi, and Eddie Murphy. His concept involved dozens of Ghostbuster groups fighting specters across time and different dimensions. The now-iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man—which is in the climax of the finished film—appeared much earlier (on page 20) and was one of 50 large-scale monsters that the Ghostbusters would do battle with. Eventual director Ivan Reitman estimated that the first script would have cost up to $300 million to produce—and that was in 1984.

3. JOHN BELUSHI STILL APPEARS IN THE FINAL FILM, IN SPIRIT.

Part of the reason Aykroyd had to recontextualize and rethink his idea—other than its implausible potential budget—was the tragic death of his fellow former SNL castmate John Belushi, whom he envisioned as the sarcastic Peter Venkman. The role was later immortalized by Bill Murray, another SNL alum, but the writers still wanted to honor Belushi by somehow involving him in the movie. When it came time to think up the design for the first ghost the group is commissioned to bust, Aykroyd conceived of a gross-looking, gluttonous, party-guy persona for the apparition as an ironic homage to his friend Belushi. The ghost made it to the screen and was later christened “Slimer.”

4. THE MOVIE HAD TO BE MADE IN A VERY SHORT PERIOD OF TIME.

Once Aykroyd nailed down the general concept and the narrative of the film (but before he'd penned the final draft), he brought on Ivan Reitman, not only to direct, but also to sell the movie to a major motion picture studio. Reitman had previously directed the popular Bill Murray comedies Meatballs and Stripes—both of which had been co-written by another eventual Ghostbuster, Harold Ramis. Since Reitman had a relationship with Columbia Pictures (which produced Stripes), he approached pragmatic studio head Frank Price with Aykroyd’s outrageous one-sentence pitch—“Ghost janitors in New York”in May 1983. While admittedly skeptical, Price was attracted to the project because the tripartite of comedy geniuses who had agreed to play the leads: Aykroyd, Murray, and Ramis.

Price asked Reitman just how much the outrageous-sounding movie would cost, and the director allegedly threw out a random guesstimate of $30 million. Price agreed on the budget and the movie with one stipulation—that it must have a firm release in June 1984, in time for the summer season. This was no small detail, considering this gave them only 12 months to finish the script, shoot the film, and create and finish the special effects. The rushed production schedule immediately forced Aykroyd, Ramis, and Reitman to retreat to rented houses on Martha’s Vineyard for a marathon three-week writing session to complete the final shooting script. Afterward, they immediately began prepping the shoot and scouting locations.

5. SIGOURNEY WEAVER GAVE A UNIQUE AUDITION.

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Despite the fact that the film began production with its three leads already cast, Reitman needed the right actress for another vital part of the film. For the role of Venkman’s headstrong love interest, Dana Barrett, Reitman chose Sigourney Weaver. She was eager to do a comedy after her amazing performance as Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien, so she tried something altogether different for her audition. She offered up a wordless scene where she turned into one of the grotesque dogs that do Gozer’s bidding, an act that allegedly involved writhing across the casting couch and loudly snarling at Reitman. The director was impressed—if not a little scared—and she got the part.

6. THE PART OF LOUIS TULLY WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR ANOTHER SECOND CITY ALUM.

For the loveable loser-turned whacked-out demon “Keymaster of Gozer” Louis Tully, Aykroyd thought of actor John Candy. The Canadian comedian had previously worked with him in 1941 and The Blues Brothers; with Reitman, Ramis, and Murray in Stripes; and for Ramis again in National Lampoon’s Vacation. But Candy envisioned Louis as a stern German man with a thick accent who kept dozens of dogs in his apartment. He also wanted the character rewritten and made into a starring role. Filmmakers preferred the original character that Aykroyd and Reitman had developed, so they gave the role to another member of the Second City troupe, Rick Moranis. The soft-spoken, bespectacled comic brought his own brand of misfit comedy and improv styles to the now-classic character—and he also provided his own wardrobe.

7. "EGON SPENGLER" WAS INSPIRED BY A FRIEND, AN INTELLECTUAL, AND AN UNKNOWN.

When trying to come up with the perfect name for his character—who was the brains of the Ghostbusters—co-writer Harold Ramis combined both personal and academic inspirations. “Egon” was the first name of Egon Donsbeck, a Hungarian exchange student at Stephen K. Hayt Elementary School who was Ramis' classmate when he grew up in Chicago. “Spengler” came from German historian and philosopher Oswald Spengler. For the "look" of his character, Ramis copied the style of an unknown guy he'd seen on the cover of an abstract architectural journal. He thought the man’s old three-piece tweed suit, wire-rim glasses, and puffed-up hair were perfect for his geeky parapsychologist.

8. GHOSTBUSTERS IS THOUGHT OF AS A NEW YORK MOVIE, BUT SOME SIMPLE MOVIE MAGIC WENT INTO MAKING ITS VARIOUS LOCATIONS.

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Come to New York and you can visit some key Ghostbusters locations. The exterior of the fully functioning FDNY Hook & Ladder #8 building at 14 North Moore Street in TriBeCa served as the Ghostbusters’ base of operations—definitely not a “demilitarized zone,” as Egon said. The building at 55 Central Park West housed the apartments of Dana Barrett and Louis Tully. The main branch of the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street is recognizable for the lions guarding its entrance, and Columbia University’s Havemeyer Hall served as the Weaver Hall Department of Psychology building that the guys are kicked out of at the beginning of the movie. Then there’s the legendary restaurant Tavern on the Green, where Louis was attacked by one of Gozer’s dogs.

But none of these places appear exactly as they do onscreen. The interior of the Ghostbusters' firehouse was actually an abandoned fire station in Los Angeles, and the rooftop temple scenes at Dana’s apartment were filmed at a huge set built on Stage 16 at Columbia Pictures (large-scale matte paintings were used for long shots). The early library scene where Egon is introduced was in fact filmed at the New York Public Library, but the scene where the three Ghostbusters come across the old librarian ghost in the stacks was actually shot across the country at the Los Angeles Public Library. Similarly, the Sedgewick Hotel—where the guys bust Slimer—wasn’t in New York at all; the exterior and interior shots were taken at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

9. THE ECTOMOBILE WAS ONE A KIND—AND THEN IT BROKE DOWN.

Out of the handful of iconic details from Ghostbusters is the Ectomobile, a 1959 Cadillac ambulance outfitted with gadgets and gizmos to help the guys bag pesky poltergeists. In a typical movie production, several similarly-adorned vehicles are used for stylistic and insurance purposes. (The production of Back to the Future, for instance, used three different DeLoreans.) Because the filming of Ghostbusters was so rushed, only one Ectomobile was put together. Naturally, everyone on set was very cautious around the then-25-year-old jalopy. While they handled the ambulance with care, the car broke down at the end of a shot of the Ecto driving across the Manhattan Bridge. Luckily, this didn't happen until after main production wrapped in New York City, but still, the car was DOA and wasn’t available for use again.

10. ONE VISUAL EFFECT SHOT OF SLIMER INVOLVED SOME SPRAY PAINT AND A PEANUT.

Visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund and his team—who also worked on such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark, the original Star Wars trilogy, and Poltergeist—were given only 10 months to design, storyboard, build, and shoot every special effect in the film. The quick turnaround forced workers like animation supervisor Terry Windell to have to think on their feet, especially when the deadline got very tight. When a wide shot that featured Slimer quickly floating around a chandelier in the Sedgewick Hotel scene wasn’t coming out right, and time was running out, Windell spraypainted a small peanut green in order to mimic the green ghoul. The seconds-long shot depicted Slimer blurred and spinning, so detail wasn’t a factor, and the shot was used in the final print of the film. Windell revealed that the extreme tactics taken for certain shots proved that the effects team was “totally serious about making it stupid.”

11. DIRECTOR IVAN REITMAN MADE A COUPLE OF UNORTHODOX APPEARANCES IN THE MOVIE.

You won't see Reitman in Ghostbusters, but still, he does have a presence: For the noises of Slimer pigging out on a pile of food before he famously slimes Peter Venkman, Reitman stepped in to provide the gross-out grub-gorging sounds. Reitman’s naturally deep voice also proved perfect for the moment when Dana becomes possessed and says “There is no Dana, only Zuul,” which was later enhanced with special effects for a truly spooky result.

12. BILL MURRAY'S CADDYSHACK CHARACTER, CARL SPACKLER, APPEARED IN ONE SCENE THAT WAS CUT.

It isn’t specified, but the voice and mannerisms of the character that Murray plays opposite Dan Aykroyd in this deleted scene is eerily similar to Carl Spackler, the lowly groundskeeper he portrayed in the 1980 comedy masterpiece Caddyshack (which was directed and co-written by Harold Ramis). The scene was cut for time, mostly to get to the scene where Louis Tully is attacked by the demon dog chasing him, but one doesn’t have to wonder what it would have been like if the worlds of Caddyshack and Ghostbusters had collided in such a fashion.  

13. ONE OF THE FILM'S PRODUCERS CREATED THAT ICONIC LOGO.

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The most indelible icon from Ghostbusters is the famous “no-ghost” logo that appeared on the guys' car, their uniforms, and widely among advertisements and promotions for the movie. Associate producer Michael C. Gross, a bit of a renaissance man, designed the image. Prior to getting into the movie business as a producer, Gross served as an art consultant for The Muppets, John Lennon, and The Rolling Stones. He also served as art director for National Lampoon and Esquire in the 1970s.  

14. PRODUCTION SHUT DOWN CENTRAL PARK WEST, AND ISAAC ASIMOV WASN'T PLEASED.

While shooting exteriors in front of Dana’s apartment building, the production had permission to temporarily shut down traffic in the area surrounding West 65th Street and Central Park West. What they didn’t know was that it would disrupt traffic throughout Manhattan. During rush hour, cars backed up to Columbus Circle, eventually going all the way downtown. In fact, Aykroyd was concerned that they had inadvertently pushed the traffic jam all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge. After receiving complaints, cast and crew members jokingly told others that the delay was caused by Francis Ford Coppola’s production of The Cotton Club, which was shooting in New York at the same time. One particularly ornery Upper West Side resident who complained was author Isaac Asimov, who stumbled on to the set and told Aykroyd that they were “inconveniencing” him. Aykroyd, a lifelong fan of the writer, smoothed things over by using the opportunity to lavish praise on the irritated Asimov.

15. “CROSSING THE STREAMS” WAS MADE UP ON THE SPOT.

The deus ex machina of the Ghostbusters crossing the streams of the proton packs helped them to—spoiler alert—defeat the Marshmallow Man and the evil demon Gozer at the end of the film. According to Ramis, this activity didn't appear in script. He and Aykroyd were unsure how to get the Ghostbusters out of the final scene alive, and because the nuclear technology behind the proton packs was “explained” with humorous techno-babble and mostly left up to the audience’s imagination, they came up with the idea of crossing the streams—an act which would somehow cause a cataclysmic shift in our dimension. After this decision was made, they added in some foreshadowing of the event to an earlier scene, only to revisit the concept in the climactic standoff at the end.

16. ON SET, THE MARSHMALLOW WAS REALLY SHAVING CREAM.

Once the Ghostbusters cross the streams, the rift between the two dimensions causes the Marshmallow Man to explode, raining down marshmallow on the unsuspecting New Yorkers below. But getting that amount of actual marshmallows to dump on the film’s extras was implausible. Instead, Edlund’s team collected 500-gallon batches of shaving cream to substitute for the remnants of Mr. Stay-Puft. William Atherton, who played EPA villain Walter Peck, was skeptical about having such a large amount of heavy cream dropped on him, so they tested the idea on a stuntman using only 75 pounds, and it knocked him to the ground. The stuntman was okay, and another smaller batch was collected to dump on Atherton for the final take in the film.

17. THE MOVIE ALMOST HAD TO CHANGE ITS NAME.

Once production wrapped, Reitman faced a situation that would possibly have derailed the whole movie. In the 1970s, Universal Studios had produced a live-action TV series titled The Ghost Busters, and their lawyers threatened legal action if the name of the movie wasn’t changed. Reitman, who had shot footage of the leads referring to themselves as the Ghostbusters and of massive crowds shouting “Ghostbusters! Ghostbusters!” was in deep trouble.

Luckily, Frank Pricethe head of Columbia Pictures and the man who originally green-lit the moviewas moving to Universal Studios to become the new studio head there, and allowed Reitman to keep the name for the film. But the legal snafu reared its head again when a TV cartoon was made out of the movie. To satisfy Universal, the Saturday- morning fare was labeled The Real Ghostbusters, so as to not legally confuse the two properties.

18. HUEY LEWIS WAS NOT A FAN OF THE THEME SONG.

Because his song "Holiday Road" was featured prominently in National Lampoon's Vacation (directed by Harold Ramis), Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham was allegedly approached about a theme song for the film, but he passed on the project. Reitman hoped that Huey Lewis & The News would take the job, and even used their hit “I Want a New Drug” as a temporary filler song while cutting the film. Lewis declined as well, because he had already agreed to contribute the song “Back in Time” to Back to the Future and didn’t want to do any more soundtrack work. The filmmakers then approached Ray Parker Jr., who had sung hits with Raydio ("Jack and Jill") and was finding success as a solo artist as well. Unfortunately, the titular tune—with the often quoted “Who you gonna call?” and “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!”—bore a striking resemblance to Lewis' "I Want a New Drug," so much so that the song's publishers sued for plagiarism. The suit was settled out of court, but you can decide for yourself with the mashup of the two songs above.

19. ELMER BERNSTEIN EXPERIMENTED WITH NEW INSTRUMENTS ON THE SOUNDTRACK.

Composer Elmer Bernstein wanted to go beyond a conventional orchestra for Ghostbusters, so he used both new and old technology. He included the then-cutting-edge Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer to create weird sounds that orchestral instruments couldn’t conjure up, and even employed an Ondes Martenot—a relatively obscure early electronic instrument created in 1928 by inventor Maurice Martenot—for additional otherworldly tones. You can hear it in the beginning and middle of the song above.

20. IVAN REITMAN WAS PETRIFIED DURING THE FILM'S FIRST TEST SCREENING.

On paper and out of context, Ghostbusters was an admittedly outrageous prospect for a feature film. During the movie’s first test screening, held for 200 random people at Columbia Pictures Studio only three weeks after principal photography wrapped, Reitman was utterly terrified. He was not only uncertain about the fundamental plot of the film, he was also concerned that perhaps-too-absurd major details (like the Marshmallow Man) might take audiences "out" of the movie. In addition, only one fully-completed effect shot was available for the test screening—one of the film's opening scenes, where an old librarian ghost transforms into a frightening ghoul. Reitman waited in the wings during the scene, and when audiences burst out laughing one second and hid their eyes the next, he knew that his fears were unfounded. And Reitman knew he had a major hit on his hands while walking around New York City during the second week of the film’s release, where he saw street vendors selling bootleg Ghostbusters T-shirts.

Additional Sources:
Ghostbusters Blu-ray special features
Esquire's Oral History
Peter Aykroyd's A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters

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23 Things David Letterman Invented for Our Amusement
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This week, nearly three years after bidding farewell to Late Night, David Letterman is making his triumphant return to the small screen via Netflix with My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman (where he'll interview two people who need no introduction: Barack Obama and George Clooney). If the series is anything like Letterman's career thus far, you can expect plenty of innovation.

Here are 23 recurring bits, features, and moments that the former Indiana weatherman (and his writers) invented for our amusement.

1. THE SHORT, NON-TOPICAL MONOLOGUE

Carson Productions, as in Johnny Carson’s production company, co-produced Late Night with David Letterman, and as the upcoming lead-out programming for The Tonight Show, it was important to Carson’s people that Letterman not copy Carson. Letterman’s people were told that among other things, they couldn’t have a sidekick sitting next to the host like Ed McMahon, a band with horns like Doc Severinsen’s, or a monologue. So instead, Letterman opened his show by standing in front of the audience and viewers at home with “opening remarks,” a monologue consisting of just one or two jokes with weird imagery, like tattoos melting in warm weather.

2. POST-INTERVIEW INTERVIEWS

On February 3, 1982—his third-ever broadcast—Late Night conducted two interviews with baseball hall-of-famer Hank Aaron: One was a standard talk show back-and-forth between host and guest. The other occurred after that conversation ended, where NBC Sports reporter Al Albert (son of Marv Albert) asked Aaron how he felt his last few minutes with Letterman went, with the idea that it was the equivalent of a post-game interview.

3. STUPID PET TRICKS

“Stupid Pet Tricks” began on Letterman’s short-lived but Emmy-winning morning show, and was a consistently popular segment on both Late Night and The Late Show. The idea came from original head writer Merrill Markoe, who "remembered how in college my friends and I would be hanging around in the evenings, talking, and drinking. One form of constant entertainment was to put socks on this one dog. Everyone I knew did some version of a silly thing like that with their pets, so we ran an ad to see if we could pull a segment together like that."

4. WORLD’S LARGEST VASE CONTESTS

After questioning people who claimed to have the “world’s largest vase” over the phone in what New York Magazine described as a “longish” segment, the vase was brought into the studio and displayed on Late Night from May 30 through June 2, 1983. On its third night, a 35-inch radio transmitting tower was added to the case when it was discovered that it was shorter than one in Canada. On its final night of national exhibition, Letterman read alleged letters from children addressed to the Vase, and the vase “spoke” to wish for peace for mankind.

5. CATCHPHRASE CONTESTS

Two on-air catchphrase contests, which aired a little over a month apart in the summer of 1984, gave lucky studio audiences the power to make “They pelted us with rocks and garbage” the first rallying cry, before it was displaced by "I do and do and do for you kids, and this is the thanks I get!"

6. A CAMERA FROM THE HOST'S P.O.V.

The February 15, 1982 installment of Late Night began with one continuous five minute and 17 second take through Letterman’s P.O.V. called “Dave Cam.” Cameos included that night’s guest Andy Rooney, Merrill Markoe, and Calvert DeForest, who played Larry “Bud” Melman on Late Night, as “Bert the Human Caboose.”

7. A CAMERA FROM THE GUEST’S P.O.V.

Letterman favorite Tom Hanks was the first wearer of the “Late Night Guest-Cam.” Hanks was on the show the night of December 12, 1985 to promote The Money Pit, which was initially supposed to debut the next day, but would be delayed until the following March. “The Late Night Sky-Cam” makes a cameo.

8. A CAMERA FROM A MONKEY’S P.O.V.

After a false start with a 30-year-old chimp named Bo, who was too small to handle the camera, “Monkey Cam” got its start on March 19, 1986. Zippy, who was on the cover of The Ramones' Animal Boy album, would return on roller skates with the “Late Night Monkey Cam Mobile Unit.”

9. PURPOSELY FUNNY TOP 10 LISTS

The very first Top Ten—“The Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas"—aired on September 18, 1985, as a satire of the random lists publications like Good Housekeeping were starting to produce at the time. Credit for who thought up the idea for Late Night is disputed; over the years, head writer Steve O’Donnell, former head writer and longtime SNL scribe Jim Downey, Late Night writer Randy Cohen, and producer Robert Morton have all gotten some or all of the credit. Top Ten made it to the end of Late Show’s run, even though the writers were already tiring of it by the February 6, 1986 show, which had the Top Ten list “Top Ten Reasons to Continue the Top Ten Lists Just a Little Longer.”

10. WEARING SUITS OF VELCRO, ALKA-SELTZER, MAGNETS, SPONGES, SUET, AND FOODS

On February 28, 1984, Letterman slipped into a “Suit of Velcro” and ushered in an era of strange outfits including a magnet get-up, which Letterman wore to attach himself to a huge GE fridge. Lowering himself into a 1000-gallon tank of water, Letterman’s suit of Alka-Seltzer fizzed and vaporized. There were also suits of suet, marshmallows, chips, and Rice Krispies, the latter of which made David “snap, crackle, and pop” in a large tub of milk. An influence was Steve Allen, the original host of The Tonight Show, who threw himself into Jell-O vats on television. Allen’s “Man on the Street” interviews were also something Letterman took to new levels of absurdity.

11. HOSTING A SHOW ABOARD AN AIRPLANE

Late Night’s fourth anniversary was celebrated onboard a flight from New York City to Miami.

12. AN EPISODE THAT ROTATES 360 DEGREES

Writers Randy Cohen and Kevin Curran came up with the unique way to celebrate the 800th episode of Late Night. NBC received “several hundred” phone calls about the December 9, 1986 show from viewers complaining that it was giving them headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Carson Productions executives were apparently not informed of the stunt beforehand and were reportedly “furious.”

13. FEUDING WITH BRYANT GUMBEL

After Letterman interrupted an August 19, 1985 broadcast of Today co-hosted by Bryant Gumbel, Gumbel called out the Late Night host for being “unprofessional” and didn’t publicly forgive him for four years. (Letterman claimed it was a Today producer who invited him to pull the stunt.)

14. FEUDING WITH OPRAH WINFREY

In the 16 years between Oprah's 1989 appearance on Late Night and her December 1, 2005 Late Show interview, rumors swirled about a feud between Winfrey and Letterman. The reasons why—and even if—there was a “feud” at all remain unclear.

15. CO-HOSTING AN EPISODE WITH A CORNY MORNING SHOW THEME

On February 27, 1985, Letterman shared hosting duties with “Tawny Harper Reynolds,” with guests Michael Palin, a Pet Psychic, and an exercise segment with Carol Channing.

16. AN HOUR-LONG PARODY OF 1970s PRIMETIME VARIETY SHOWS

“Dave Letterman's Summertime Sunshine Happy Hour” graced the NBC airwaves on the night of August 29, 1985. Early in his TV career, Letterman wrote and was a part of the cast of The Starland Vocal Band Show.

17. AN HOUR-LONG PARODY OF CHRISTMAS SPECIALS

December 19, 1984’s "Christmas With the Lettermans," featuring Pat Boone, won Late Night a 1985 Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.

18. "CUSTOM-MADE" SHOWS

On November 15, 1983, Late Night relinquished control of the show to the audience, giving them a choice on everything from the furniture to the theme song. On March 27, 1984’s version, the show opened with the theme to Bonanza, the announcer was the New York Lieutenant Governor, and Jane Pauley was interviewed in a dentist's chair.

19. DUBBING A RERUN FROM ENGLISH TO ENGLISH

When the February 17, 1986 episode re-aired on September 25th of that year, 250 confused viewers called the network. After 60 hours and four professional dubbers, everyone on the episode (Raquel Welch was the main guest) magically had different voices. Even Letterman's voice was dubbed (by Speed Racer's Peter Fernandez).

20. 4 A.M. SHOWS

May 14, 2004’s Late Show was taped at four in the morning, on purpose. Amy Sedaris, rat expert Robert Sullivan, and Modest Mouse were the guests. Letterman rode a horse, Sedaris gave an unsafe late night tour of her neighborhood, and Modest Mouse played in their pajamas.

21. DEDICATING MOST OF AN EPISODE TO A DECEASED COMEDIAN AND HIS FAMILY

Letterman invited Bill Hicks’s mother, Mary, to appear on the January 30, 2009 episode to apologize face-to-face for not airing Hicks’s controversial October 1, 1993, stand-up performance. In February of 1994, Hicks passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 32. After talking to Mary, Letterman finally presented Bill’s set.

22. DEDICATING AN ENTIRE EPISODE TO A COMEDY HERO

On the first new Late Show after Johnny Carson's passing, Letterman's monologue was filled with jokes that the retired Carson had anonymously submitted to David over the years. Long-time The Tonight Show executive producer Peter Lassally and bandleader Doc Severinsen were that night's only guests.

23. THE ‘WILL IT FLOAT?’ GAME

The first installment of “Will It Float?” was on February 6, 2002. A brick of Velveeta cheese sank. Dave got it right, whereas Paul got it wrong.

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15 Fun Facts About When Harry Met Sally
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Nora Ephron's most beloved romantic comedy opened in theaters more than 25 years ago. We'll (still) have what she's having.

1. HARRY AND SALLY WERE MODELED AFTER DIRECTOR ROB REINER AND SCREENWRITER NORA EPHRON—EXCEPT FOR THE FALLING IN LOVE PART.

Rob Reiner divorced fellow director Penny Marshall in 1981 after 10 years of marriage. When he met with Nora Ephron in the mid-1980s, he pitched a number of ideas for movies, including a comedy based on his dating experiences. Ephron agreed to write it after extensively interviewing Reiner. The two had many discussions about how men and women view sex, love, and relationships differently.

2. THOSE SWEET "HOW WE MET" INTERLUDES THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE ARE REAL LOVE STORIES.

Reiner interviewed elderly couples about how they fell in love in preparation for the movie. He hired actors to re-tell their stories on the big screen.

3. NORA EPHRON HATED THE TITLE.


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It was extremely difficult for Ephron to settle on a title for her screenplay. She tried several, including Boy Meets Girl, How They Met, and Harry, This Is Sally. Reiner eventually turned the naming process into a contest among the crew members. Whoever picked the title would win a case of champagne. We don't know who came up with When Harry Met Sally, but let's hope he or she shared all that bubbly.

4. IN THE SCRIPT'S FIRST DRAFT, HARRY AND SALLY DIDN'T END UP TOGETHER.

Ephron felt that was the most realistic ending, but hey, this is the movies!

5. REINER ALSO FELL IN LOVE BY THE END OF THE MOVIE.


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During filming, Reiner was introduced to photographer Michelle Singer by the film's director of photography. The two married in 1989, the same year When Harry Met Sally came out. Reiner has said that finding his own happy ending helped make one for Harry and Sally more believable.

6. BILLY CRYSTAL AND MEG RYAN WEREN'T THE FIRST CHOICES FOR HARRY AND SALLY.


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Albert Brooks turned down the role of Harry, because he thought the movie was too reminiscent of Woody Allen. (Brooks also turned down the lead role in Big and Pretty Woman. D'oh!) Rob Reiner initially wanted Susan Dey of the TV show L.A. Law to play Sally. He also considered Elizabeth Perkins from Big and Elizabeth McGovern from Ordinary People. John Hughes movie queen Molly Ringwald was nearly cast, but declined due to a scheduling conflict.

7. MOLLY RINGWALD DID EVENTUALLY PLAY SALLY ALBRIGHT, THOUGH.

In 2004, the popular film was adapted into an unpopular stage play on London's West End. Luke Perry (yes, really) and Alyson Hannigan from How I Met Your Mother played Harry and Sally in its first run and were later replaced by Michael Landes from Final Destination 2 and Molly Ringwald.

8. MEG RYAN SORT OF PAVED THE WAY FOR JULIA ROBERTS.


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Ryan's first leading role would've been as Shelby in Steel Magnolias, but she turned down the part to play Sally instead. Another up-and-coming actress named Julia Roberts took her place and later starred in Pretty Woman—another part Meg Ryan turned down.

9. BILLY CRYSTAL AND ROB REINER HAVE BEEN GOOD FRIENDS SINCE 1975.


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Reiner and Crystal met when they played best friends on All in the Family. Many conversations between Harry and his best male friend Jess, played by Bruno Kirby, were inspired by the friendship between Crystal and Reiner. So were the scenes in which Harry and Sally watch the same movie from different apartments. Bromance, anyone?

Meanwhile, Carrie Fisher, who plays Sally's best female friend Marie, was BFFs with Reiner's ex-wife Penny Marshall. Hmmm, wonder if that ever got awkward...

10. THE SPLIT-SCREEN SCENES ARE AN IRONIC HOMAGE TO 1959'S PILLOW TALK.

At the time Pillow Talk was made, the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, set moral guidelines for all the films released by major studios. Movies weren't allowed to show a couple in bed (or bath or beyond) together, or any sort of sexual relationship between unmarried partners. (The code was abandoned in 1968.) Harry and Sally were kept apart to show how close they were as "just friends.

11. REINER'S MOTHER, ESTELLE, HAD ONE LINE—AND IT WAS PROBABLY THE MOVIE'S MOST MEMORABLE.

She's the older woman who says, "I'll have what she's having" at Katz's Delicatessen. The American Film Institute ranked it #33 in its list of the top 100 movie quotations. The famous line wasn't in the original script. Crystal suggested it after he and Ryan improvised the entire scene. The two were originally supposed to discuss "faking it" without an actual demonstration.

12. KATZ'S IS PROUD OF ITS FAMOUS SCENE.

This sign appears above the table where it was shot:

13. CRYSTAL IMPROVISED THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE.

Watch closely at 0:29; Ryan laughs out of character and looks at Reiner off-camera. The director decided to keep the scene.

Crystal also improvised much of the scene when he admits he loves Sally, including the line, "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." Swoon.

14. THE REAL-LIFE BOOKSTORE WHERE HARRY AND SALLY MEET FOR THE THIRD TIME INSPIRED ANOTHER EPHRON MOVIE.

Harry and Sally finally become friends when they spot each other at Shakespeare and Co. on Broadway and 79th. When the store closed after a Barnes & Noble opened on the Upper West Side, Ephron was inspired to write a romantic comedy around the David and Goliath struggle between local stores and large national chains. You've Got Mail came out in 1998, nearly a decade after when Harry Met Sally.

15. NO ONE EXPECTED WHEN HARRY MET SALLY TO BE A HIT.

The film was up against the summer blockbusters Batman, Ghostbusters II, Licence to Kill, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. When Harry Met Sally opened in just 41 theaters on July 12, grossing $1 million. It opened nationwide July 21. And the rest is romantic comedy history.

Additional Source: DVD Commentary by Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner

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