10 Spirited Facts About The Others

Miramax
Miramax

When Alejandro Amenábar's The Others was released in the summer of 2001, it was quickly hailed as an instant horror classic. The slow-burning Gothic ghost story follows a WWII-era mother named Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two photosensitive children (Alakina Mann and James Bentley) living in a dimly-lit, isolated mansion on the remote isle of Jersey in the British Channel Islands. When her children begin talking about the ghosts they hear and see around the home, Grace must face a reality that her strict religious beliefs can't fathom.

Amenábar had already made a name for himself on the world cinema circuit at just 25 years old with 1997's Open Your Eyes, starring Penélope Cruz (which Cameron Crowe later remade as Vanilla Sky, also starring Penélope Cruz). But The Others turned the twenty-something director into a bona fide international player. With its spare cast and limited filming locations, the movie took in nearly $210 million worldwide on a modest $17 million budget. It won eight of the 15 Goya Awards (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars) it was nominated for, with Amenábar taking home Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. But beyond the stats, here are some fascinating facts about the movie you might not have known.

1. THE FILM WAS ORIGINALLY INTENDED TO BE SET IN CHILE.

Director Amenábar holds dual Chilean-Spanish citizenship—he was born in his father's native Chile in 1972, and his family permanently moved to his mother's native Spain when he was 18 months old. His first two films had been successful Spanish-language films, and his original script for The Others was also in Spanish and set in southern Chile. When the decision was made to make the film in English, it was important to Amenábar to find a devoutly Catholic area in which to set it, so that the original religious symbolism of his Spanish script would still translate.

"When my producers read the script, they thought it was the perfect Victorian ghost tale, so they thought it would be more organic taking place in England," Amenábar told journalist Tony Earnshaw for Fantastique: Interviews with Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Filmmakers. Britain's Channel Islands, off the French coast of Normandy, were chosen in part because of their long Catholic tradition, and also their fraught wartime occupation. "I needed the husband to go to war and come back," Amenábar said of the film's narrative. "And when we decided to set it in England, it made sense to set it during the Second World War, and especially in these Islands, which were the only British territory occupied by the Nazis."

2. IT WAS SHOT IN ENGLISH BECAUSE OF TOM CRUISE.

Amenábar co-wrote and directed the 1997 psychological thriller Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), which Tom Cruise decided to option after it screened at 1998's Sundance Film Festival. That movie was remade by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky, with Cruise starring and producing. Though Amenábar was not involved in the production of Vanilla Sky, Cruise loved his script and wanted to work with him directly.

When Cruise later saw Amenábar's script for The Others, he sought to produce that film, too—on the condition that it be for an English-speaking audience. For Amenábar, The Others was only his third movie and he'd never done an English-language production before, but it felt like a gamble worth taking. "When you shoot a film in English you have a much more open market," Amenábar told The Guardian. "And then when Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman got involved, I knew that the destiny of the film was changing."

3. ALEJANDRO AMENÁBAR DIDN'T SPEAK ENGLISH.

 Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar attends the Fotogramas Magazine cinema awards 2017 at the Joy Eslava Club on March 6, 2017 in Madrid, Spain
Carlos Alvarez, Getty Images

Securing Hollywood heavyweights to champion him was somehow the easy part for Amenábar. "My very first concern [was working in a different language] because I didn't speak English at the time," he said, but he started learning the language and delegated what he needed to. "Once you decide to do a project which is not your natural language, what you have to do is rely on and trust people. We hired a very good English translator … I was open to change things in order to make it sound very, very British."

4. IT MADE HISTORY AT THE GOYA AWARDS.

The Others earned a total of eight Goya Awards, including Best Film. It's the first film to earn Spain's highest film honor in which not one word of Spanish is spoken.

5. NICOLE KIDMAN AND TOM CRUISE'S DIVORCE WAS FINALIZED TWO DAYS BEFORE THE MOVIE'S RELEASE.

Initial shooting for The Others took place in the summer of 2000, but news of Cruise and Kidman's separation came in February 2001, while The Others was in post-production. Their contentious, high-profile divorce was finalized just two days before the movie hit American theaters. (They settled their divorce on August 8, 2001; The Others arrived in theaters on August 10, 2001.)

"As exec producer of The Others, Tom Cruise has handed Kidman the most generous divorce settlement any working-thesp wife could ask for," Variety cynically noted in its otherwise positive review. And Amenábar said repeatedly that neither Kidman nor Cruise let their private drama affect their support or dedication to the film or its release. "Of course, personal lives are always a worry," he told The Guardian, "But these people are huge, hard workers and they were very devoted to the film. The fact that they both showed up at the premiere in L.A. just proves how supportive they were."

6. KIDMAN QUIT THE FILM DURING REHEARSALS.

Nicole Kidman in The Others (2001)
Miramax

During rehearsals and pre-production, the subject matter—and particularly [SPOILER] Grace's killing of her children—was giving Kidman such intense nightmares that she quit the project. "At one point I didn't want to make the film because I couldn't even go there emotionally," she has said. "It was still very difficult to exist in that state … when you’re doing an intense film the boundaries blur." Fortunately, Amenábar and his team were able to convince her to return to the film, but "I was so glad to step out of her in the end," Kidman said.

7. MOST OF THE FILM WAS SHOT IN SPAIN.

Amenábar might have been willing to alter the location and language of the film, but he insisted on filming it in Spain. The house used for the shoot, the Palacio de los Hornillos located in Cantabria, Spain, was designed in 1904 by London-based architect Ralph Selden Wornum as the country estate of the Duke of Santo Mauro. As such, it's one of the few examples of Victorian architecture in Spain.

The scene where Grace finds her husband returning home in a thick fog was shot along the Lime Walk at Kent's Penshurst Place, a popular filming location for British period pieces (and even part of The Princess Bride), but the rest was filmed in Madrid and the Hornillos estate with any outdoor scenes being coated in gray mist. The "results are Anglophilic through and through," Variety's Dennis Harvey wrote in his review of the film.

8. LIKE THE CHARACTERS THEY PLAYED, THE CHILD ACTORS WERE KEPT AWAY FROM SUNLIGHT DURING FILMING.

Nicole Kidman, Alakina Mann, and James Bentley in The Others (2001)
Miramax

Early in the movie, Grace explains that the curtains in her home must always stay closed because her children, Anne and Nicholas, have a severe allergy to light (the photosensitivity she describes may be xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare genetic disorder where the body can't properly protect or repair itself from UV damage). But actors Alakina Mann and James Bentley—who Amenábar said behaved like real siblings—also had to stay cloistered indoors for the duration of the three-and-a-half-month shoot.

"I was feeling sad for them, because they couldn't be exposed to sunlight, to keep their skin as white as possible," Amenábar told Nitrate Online. "Of course they were in makeup, but they had to stay pale. So when they went out, it was at night, like little vampires."

9. LIKE THE CHARACTER LYDIA, AMENÁBAR WENT MUTE FOR A YEAR.

In the movie, Grace insists that something traumatic must have happened to the kitchen girl, Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), for her to stop speaking. And at the end, the mysterious, all-knowing head servant Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan) reveals that Lydia went mute when she realized she was dead.

As a toddler, Amenábar himself dealt with something like selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that renders someone (usually a child) unable to speak or communicate. When his parents decided to flee Chile for Madrid just two weeks before General Pinochet's Chilean coup d'etat, Amenábar was 18 months old. "In Chile I had started to talk a bit, and in Spain I did not say anything for one year," he told the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2007.

10. AMENÁBAR APPEARS IN ONE OF THE OLD MOURNING "BOOK OF THE DEAD" PHOTOS.

Like Alfred Hitchcock and M. Night Shyamalan before him, Amenábar found a way to make a brief cameo in his horror flick. "Half of the photographs [in the film] are real and half are fakes," Amenábar said of the postmortem photographs Grace finds in the attic storage room. "We asked for originals and we lost them." Because of that, replicas were made, and the director appears in one of them.

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]

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