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22 Fun Facts About Clueless

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Paramount Pictures

With loads of sass and style, Clueless won the hearts of a generation and became one of the most beloved coming-of-age comedies of all time. But even if you're a total Betty or Baldwin, you probably don't know all the juicy details behind Clueless, which hit theaters 20 years ago today.

1. CLUELESS IS MODERN-DAY JANE AUSTEN.

Writer-director Amy Heckerling found her inspiration for Cher's bumbling journey of love from Austen's classic 1815 novel Emma. "I remembered reading Emma in college and being struck at how much it reminded me of old TV shows like Gidget," Heckerling recounted to Entertainment Weekly. "There's something so basic about it."

2. THE DIRECTOR STUDIED REAL BEVERLY HILLS HIGH SCHOOLERS.

Heckerling wanted to spin her combination of Emma and Gidget in the setting of a Beverly Hills high school, which she envisioned as a "hyper-pastel fantasy place." To create the movie's totally quotable dialogue, Heckerling sat in on classes to get a feel for how teens in the '90s talked. But Cher's classic "As if!" actually came from the lesbian community. "Any outsider group is going to create their own language—whether it's homosexual, black, prisoners, or cab drivers," Heckerling explained. " You just have to be willing to open your ears and listen."

3. THE "HAITIANS" MISPRONUNCIATION WAS ALL SILVERSTONE.

You know how Cher rallies for America opening its borders to the Haiti-ans? The script read "Haitians" and Silverstone made an honest mistake. But before producers could rush in and correct her, Heckerling demanded they let her go. "I had to stop them," she remembers. "It was much funnier the way she said it. That was Cher."

4. REESE WITHERSPOON COULD HAVE BEEN CHER.

Witherspoon already had a few film roles to her credit with The Man in The Moon, A Far Off Place, and Jack The Bear. Silverstone only had the Lolita-like horror movie The Crush on her feature filmography. But with no pressure from the studio to cast stars, Heckerling had the freedom to pick the ingénue whom she felt had "that Marilyn Monroe thing" that captured "a vague notion in my head of Cher as a pretty, sweet blonde, who, in spite of being the American ideal, people still really like."

5. SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR WAS OFFERED THE ROLE OF CHER.

But the eventual Buffy The Vampire Slayer star had to turn it down because of scheduling conflicts with All My Children, on which she appeared from 1993 to 1995, playing Kendall Hart Lang.

6. ALICIA SILVERSTONE HAS AEROSMITH TO THANK FOR CLUELESS.

Heckerling's casting director first pitched Silverstone for Cher based on her performance in The Crush. But Heckerling wanted that fascinating blonde girl from the music video for Aerosmith's "Cryin." Lucky for Silverstone, she was one and the same. She went on to do two more Aerosmith videos, "Amazing" and "Crazy."

7. CLUELESS LAUNCHED ALICIA SILVERSTONE'S FILM CAREER.

Yes, she was on the rise with her role in The Crush and her growing fame from the Aerosmith videos. But it was Clueless and its evolving cult status that made Silverstone a household name.  

8. PAUL RUDD WANTED TO PLAY CHRISTIAN ... OR MURRAY.

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Though he was ultimately cast to play Cher's brainy stepbrother Josh, Rudd had initially wanted to portray Christian. He was intrigued by a Hollywood script having a "cool gay kid" character. When that didn't pan out, he asked to audition for Murray, a role that ultimately went to Donald Faison. Rudd told Entertainment Weekly, "I thought he was kind of a funny hip-hop wannabe. I didn't realize that the character was African-American."

9. JEREMY RENNER COULD HAVE BEEN THE OBJECT OF CHER'S AFFECTION.

Renner auditioned for the roles of both Christian and Josh, but lost out to Justin Walker and Paul Rudd, respectively. 

10. LOTS OF TODAY'S STARS AUDITIONED FOR CLUELESS.

With so many characters to cast and not much of a budget to brag about, the casting calls spread throughout young (and then unknown) Hollywood. Terrence Howard and Lauryn Hill read for Murray and Dionne, respectively. Owen Wilson tried out for Travis. Leah Remini auditioned for Tai, while Zooey Deschanel went out for both Amber and Cher. 

11. BRITTANY MURPHY WAS ACTUALLY THE VIRGIN WHO COULDN'T DRIVE.

Looking back on Clueless and its legacy, the late Murphy recalled, "It's hard for me to believe it's been 10 years since that movie. I really was a virgin who couldn't drive. I was living in an apartment in the Valley with my mom—and I remember starting to see these huge billboards of us all over town. It was amazing!”

12. THE SUCK AND BLOW SCENE REQUIRED SOME MOVIE MAGIC.

While "Suck and Blow" might have seemed like a fun and sexy party game, it was in fact a pain to shoot. Turns out the cast wasn't up to sucking or blowing well enough to make the game work with an actual credit card. So a prop card made of cardboard was brought in. When that failed, generous amounts of ChapStick were applied to the cast's lips to make the card stick. Less sexy now, huh?

13. THE GOLDEN GIRLS PAID TRIBUTE.

At the 1996 MTV Movie Awards, Clueless was spoofed by Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, and Betty White of The Golden Girls. It was a fitting tribute where these hilarious ladies metaphorically passed the torch to a new batch of sharp comedic performers.

14. CHER IS CLUELESS TO THE MANY HINTS AT CHRISTIAN'S SEXUAL IDENTITY.

Aside from his total lack of interest in making out with Cher, Christian's identity as a "friend of Dorothy" is tipped throughout with various clues. For instance, on movie night he suggests Some Like It Hot and Spartacus, the former being a movie about men cross-dressing, which arguably ends with the creation of a gay coupling. The latter includes a scene where Laurence Olivier's character attempts to seduce Tony Curtis's. Christian is also spotted reading Junkie by William S. Burroughs, an acclaimed and gay American writer. Lastly, Cher's chances of romance with Christian are spelled out in his intro, where a headline posted on a board next to him reads, "On The Road To Nowhere." Way harsh.

15. HECKERLING HAS A CLUELESS CAMEO.

Blink and you'll miss her, but Clueless's writer-director wedged herself into the final scene at the wedding of Mr. Hall and Miss Geist. She's one of the non-teen bridesmaids battling Cher for the bouquet.

16. CLUELESS IS PART OF AN UNOFFICIAL TRILOGY.

Heckerling is well known for her forays into coming-of-age stories: The first was her directorial debut, the beloved 1982 comedy Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Clueless came in 1995 was followed up with the Jason Biggs-fronted Loser in 2000, Each comedy not only centered on teens, but also aimed to capture the adolescent zeitgeist of their eras in a way that made them accessible and cool to all ages. Obviously, some worked better than others.

17. JEREMY SISTO TRIED TO KILL ALICIA SILVERSTONE (IN A MOVIE).

That's right. Just before production got going on Clueless, Sisto (who played Elton) and Silverstone co-starred in Hideaway, a thriller in which Sisto plays a devil-worshipping killer stalking Silverstone's character. Sisto would later go on to audition for Titanic. Of course, we all know he lost out to Leonardo DiCaprio, but his screen test has survived:

18. SUBURGATORY FEATURED A CLUELESS REUNION.

From 2011 to 2014, Sisto co-starred in the sitcom Suburgatory, where he had a chance to reconnect with a pair of Clueless cast members. Heckerling helmed an episode of the series, titled "Victor Ha." And in 2012, Silverstone had a four-episode arc as Eden, an ex-girlfriend of Sisto's character.

19. HECKERLING AND SILVERSTONE RE-TEAMED FOR A VAMPIRE COMEDY.

In 2012, Heckerling and Silverstone brought a reunion of their own to theaters with Vamps, a rom-com about two sexy vampire ladies with love troubles. Unfortunately, the film did not do well. It flopped at the box office, pulling in just $3,361, and its reviews were mixed.

20. MR. HALL WAS BASED ON TWO REAL TEACHERS.

To play the debate teacher Mr. Hall, Wallace Shawn pulled from his own experience, having been a professional teacher before he went into acting full-time. But Shawn's character got his name from Herb Hall, the actual debate teacher of a Beverly Hills high school at the time. The real Hall was a friend of Heckerling's, and got to appear in Clueless as the school principal.

21. CLUELESS WAS ORIGINALLY PITCHED AS A TV SERIES.

No, it wasn't the TV-spinoff of the popular movie. Back in the early '90s, 20th Century Fox was shopping for a sitcom about cool teenagers (no nerds). So Heckerling pitched them No Worries, which she had conceived with eventual Clueless producer/Miss Geist, Twink Caplan. But Fox feared no one would care about a show with so many girls, so Heckerling went back to the drawing board, reshaping her characters into a feature screenplay with early drafts called I Was A Teenage Teenager and Clueless in California.

22. CLUELESS EVENTUALLY RETURNED TO TV.

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One year after the film opened, the Clueless TV show was resurrected. Rachel Blanchard stepped in for Silverstone as Cher, while Elisa Donovan, Donald Faison, and Stacey Dash reprised their roles as Amber, Murray and Dionne, respectively. The series ran for three seasons, wrapping in 1999.

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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

Michael Ochs Archives/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually break away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write the “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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12 Facts About the Smithsonian's Collections
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With 19 museums spread along the East Coast, the Smithsonian Institution has become the country’s richest repository of American history. From culture to science, zoos to space exploration, the federally-backed archive has spent nearly 200 years preserving and educating. Check out some facts on its history, how a new species of dolphin was found hiding in its archives, and how the founder eventually became part of the collection.

1. ITS FOUNDER NEVER SET FOOT IN THE STATES.

Wealthy British globe-trotter James Smithson (1765-1829) had acquired an estate worth roughly $500,000 at the time of his death and ordered that all of his assets be inherited by his nephew, Henry James Dickinson. There was one twist: The estate was to be turned over to the United States in the event Dickinson died without an heir of his own so the country could build a hub for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Henry, then 18, died just six years later, and so President James Polk signed the act approving the Smithsonian Institution into law in 1846. Curiously, Smithson had never even visited the U.S. Why leave such a legacy to a foreign nation? Smithson never commented on his decision, leaving people to guess that it was either because he was impressed by democracy or because he wanted to enrich a country that, at the time, had only a few educational hubs.

2. NO ONE WAS REALLY SURE WHAT SMITHSON WANTED.

A portrait of James Smithson

“Increase and diffusion of knowledge” can be interpreted pretty broadly, and it took the United States a long time—roughly 10 years—before anyone could agree on what to do with Smithson’s gift. Educators, politicians, and civilians all had a unique notion of how to spend his fortune, including opening a university, a library, or an observatory. Ultimately, the Smithsonian Institution was a compromise, involving many of these ideas. By 1855, construction on the main building was complete at the National Mall in Washington; it was designated as a National Museum in 1858 [PDF].

3. THEY HAD TO HIDE THEIR COLLECTION FROM AXIS FORCES.

At the height of U.S. involvement in World War II, museum curators knew that Axis forces would have designs on destroying the vibrant culture housed at the museum’s main location at the National Mall. To protect these irreplaceable items, the Smithsonian arranged to have them shipped to an undisclosed location—now known to be near Luray, Virginia—and stored in a climate-controlled warehouse. They didn’t return until 1944.

4. SMOKEY BEAR LIVED AT THEIR ZOO.

Smokey Bear takes a bath at the National Zoo

Yes, that Smokey Bear. (And there’s no “the” in his name.) In 1950, a bear cub that survived a raging forest fire in Capitan, New Mexico, was adopted by the U.S. Forest Service and named Smokey after the popular ad campaign mascot of the era. As a living symbol of the effort, he spent his remaining 26 years at the National Zoo, a constant recipient of visitor attention and hundreds of jars of honey.

5. THEY DISPLAY JUST ONE PERCENT OF THEIR COLLECTION.

In order to execute Smithson’s mission statement, the Smithsonian has had to morph into the greatest display of hoarding the world has ever seen. All told, the Institution’s various artifacts, specimens, and other arcana is believed to number in the neighborhood of 137 million, with an official museum estimate of 154 million. Just 1 percent of that is available for viewing at any given time.

6. ONE CATEGORY IS USUALLY OFF-LIMITS FOR VIEWING.

17th century human remains found in Jamestown, Virginia

Evolving public attitudes over the decades have prompted the Smithsonian to be very wary of displaying human remains. While they’ve collected everything from shrunken heads to the “soap man”—a corpse whose body turned to a soap-like substance thanks to a chemical reaction to soil—most of it remains out of public view.

7. AN EXHIBIT ON NUCLEAR WAR STIRRED CONTROVERSY.

For a planned exhibit of the Enola Gay, the bomber plane that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II, museum organizers drew criticism in 1994 for presenting material that some veterans groups and members of Congress felt was politically charged. The museum agreed to omit text near the display that some felt dwelled on the horrific effects of the bomb, as well as references estimating the U.S. and rival casualties that might have been suffered if the bomb had not been deployed.

8. THE WEIRDEST ITEM THEY’VE CATALOGED IS A CRAPPY VIDEO GAME.

The box art for the Atari 2600 game E.T.

Amidst many internet lists of strange Smithsonian catalog items—taxidermied animals, beards, and other miscellanea—nothing seems more incongruous than the 2014 inclusion of a 1982 Atari video game based on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Renowned for being produced quickly and for helping to fuel the video game crash of the early 1980s, supplies of the cartridge were buried in a New Mexico landfill and only recently excavated. One went into the museum's archives.

9. THEY TURNED DOWN JIMMY DURANTE’S NOSE.

In the 1950s, actor and comedian Jimmy Durante was easily identified by his bulbous nose, a three-inch-long (from bridge to tip) feature that led to his nickname, “the Great Schnozzola.” Sensing a publicity opportunity, Durante’s management arranged for a makeup artist to create a plaster cast of Durante’s nose and offer it up to the Smithsonian as a piece of Americana. Frank Setzler, the museum’s head of anthropology was unimpressed. “Heavens, no,” he was quoted as saying. “Who would want that? The only place we could use it would be in the elephant display.”

10. AN UNDISCOVERED SPECIES OF DOLPHIN WAS LURKING IN THEIR INVENTORY.

A dolphin skull from a recently-discovered species

With so many specimens, the bowels of the Smithsonian almost certainly harbor secrets that can surprise even scientists. In 2016, two researchers in search of fossilized marine mammals stumbled across the skull of a 25-million-year-old river dolphin they named Arktocara yakataga. Said to have been found in Alaska, the dolphin may have dwelled in the Arctic. It was estimated that the skull—plucked from obscurity because one of the researchers found it “cute”—sat on the shelf for 50 years before being identified.

11. THEY’RE COMMITTED TO PRESERVING DOROTHY’S SLIPPERS.

Possibly the most iconic pair of footwear in pop culture, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz have become a Smithsonian trademark. In 2016, the Institution successfully raised over $300,000 on Kickstarter to build a state-of-the-art preservation case to protect the kicks from deterioration. While star Judy Garland wore several pairs during filming and the Smithsonian’s are mismatched, it’s clear that visitors want to keep them in condition for any future travels along the yellow brick road.

12. SMITHSON EVENTUALLY BECAME PART OF THE COLLECTION.

James Smithson's final resting place within the walls of the Smithsonian

In 1904, some 75 years after his death in Italy, Smithson’s remains were about to be disturbed. U.S. Smithsonian officials were alerted that his grave site would be displaced because of a nearby stone quarry expansion. The Institution took the opportunity to have his casket shipped to America so he could be interred at the site of his legacy—the Smithsonian itself. Escorted by Alexander Graham Bell, the casket traveled 14 days by sea. The body was entombed and topped off by a marker in the Smithsonian, where it remains viewable by the general public.

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