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.

8 Facts About Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Bloomsbury Children's Books via Amazon
Bloomsbury Children's Books via Amazon

Longtime Harry Potter fans who feel like first-years at heart may find it hard to believe, but the books have been around for decades. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment in J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, which follows Harry as he faces Dementors, investigates the mysterious Sirius Black, and gets through his third year at Hogwarts.

From Rowling’s writing process to how it changed The New York Times Best Sellers list, here are some facts you should know about the wildly popular book.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was J.K. Rowling’s "best writing experience."

In a 2004 interview with USA Today, Rowling described the creation of Prisoner of Azkaban as “the best writing experience I ever had.” This had more to do with where Rowling was at in her professional life than the content of the actual story. By book three, she was successful enough where she didn’t have to worry about finances, but not yet so famous that the she felt the stress of being in the public eye.

2. The Dementors represent depression.

Readers who live with depression may see something familiar in Prisoner of Azkaban’s soul-sucking Dementors. According to the book, “Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself ... soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."

Rowling has stated that she based the Dementor’s effects on her own experiences with depression. "[Depression] is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again," she told The Times in 2000. "The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It's a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different."

3. Rowling regretted giving Harry the Marauder’s Map.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, the Marauder’s Map is introduced as a way for Harry to track Sirius Black and learn of the survival of Peter Pettigrew. But this plot device proved problematic for Rowling later on this series. In Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, she wrote, “The Marauder’s Map subsequently became something of a bane to its true originator (me), because it allowed Harry a little too much freedom of information.” She went on to say that she sometimes wished she had made Harry lose the map for good in the later books.

4. Rowling was excited to introduce Remus Lupin.

One of the aspects Rowling most enjoyed about writing Prisoner of Azkaban was introducing Remus Lupin. The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and secret werewolf is one of the author's favorite characters in the series, and as she told Barnes & Noble in 1999, “I was looking forward to writing the third book from the start of the first because that's when Professor Lupin appears.”

5. Crookshanks is based on a real cat.

Harry had Hedwig the owl, Ron had his pet rat Scabbers, and in book three, Hermione got a pet of her own: an intelligent half-Kneazle cat named Crookshanks. J.K. Rowling is allergic to cats, and she admits on her website that she prefers dogs, but she does have fond memories of a cat that roamed the London neighborhood where she worked in the 1980s. When writing Crookshanks, she gave him that cat’s haughty attitude and smushed-face appearance.

6. Prisoner of Azkaban was the last Harry Potter book Americans had to wait for.

Harry Potter fans based in America will no doubt remember waiting months after a book’s initial release in England to buy it from their local bookstore. Prisoner of Azkaban was the last Harry Potter book with a staggered publication date: Beginning with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the rest of the books in the series were published in both markets on the same date.

7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban broke sales records.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban sold 68,000 copies in the UK within three days of its release, making it the fastest-selling British book of all time in 1999. The book has since gone on to sell more than 65 million copies worldwide and helped make Harry Potter the bestselling book series ever.

8. It changed The New York Times Best Sellers List.

For part of 1999, the first three Harry Potter books—Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (which is known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone pretty much everywhere besides America), Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban—occupied the top three slots on The New York Times Best Sellers list. It didn’t stay that way for long, though: Prisoner of Azkaban was the book that pushed the paper to create a separate list just for children’s literature, leaving more room on the original list for books aimed at adults. That’s why Harry Potter is missing from the famous bestsellers roundup during the 2000s, despite dominating book sales at this time.

Game of Thrones Star Emilia Clarke Turned Down the Lead in 50 Shades of Grey

Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images
Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images

Though Emilia Clarke is undoubtedly best known for her starring role on Game of Thrones, she has landed some other plum parts over the past several years, including Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys, the role of Qi'ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the lead in Phillip Noyce's upcoming Above Suspicion opposite Jack Huston. But there's one major role Clarke passed on, and has no regrets about it: Anastasia Steele in the 50 Shades of Grey franchise.

The movies, based on E. L. James's erotic book series, trace the sadomasochistic/romantic relationship between college graduate Anastasia Steele and millionaire businessman Christian Grey. Both the books and the movies have garnered a lot of criticism for their graphic nudity and sex scenes. While Clarke is no stranger to appearing nude on film for her role as Daenerys Targaryen, she said that 50 Shades of Grey would have taken her too far out of her comfort zone.

“There is a huge amount of nudity in the film,” the British actress told The Sun of her reasons for not wanting to get involved with the film series. “I thought I might get stuck in a pigeonhole that I would have struggled to get out of.”

Even without 50 Shades of Grey on her resume, Clarke says she has dealt with a lot of negative backlash because of the nudity in Game of Thrones. “I get a lot of crap for nude and sex scenes,” the 32-year-old star said. “Women hating on women. It’s so anti-feminist.”

When we last left Daenerys, she seemed to be getting serious about Jon Snow—who, unbeknownst to the two of them, is her nephew. We'll see how that unpleasant discovery plays out when Game of Thrones returns on April 14, 2019.

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