CLOSE
Original image

15 Things You Might Not Know About Caddyshack

Original image

You may already know your favorite moments from Caddyshack, which turns 35 years old today, by heart. But after reading this list, you’ll be a lock for membership at Bushwood Country Club.

1. Caddyshack got made because of Animal House.

Caddyshack director and co-writer Harold Ramis was also a co-writer of the 1978 National Lampoon comedy classic Animal House, along with eventual Caddyshack co-writer and producer Douglas Kenney. Held to only a $3 million budget, their film of frat-house shenanigans went on to gross $141 million at the box office.

You would think that box office success would afford the filmmakers carte-blanche privileges for any follow-up project, but that wasn't the case. Ramis pitched two ideas to Orion Pictures (the now-defunct production company that would go on to make Caddyshack): One was a dark satirical comedy about the American Nazi Party in Skokie, Illinois, and the other was what Ramis dubbed a “revisionist Marxist western.” Both ideas were swiftly rejected, but another idea—a comedy about caddies at a country club, pitched by Kenney and co-writer Brian Doyle-Murray as “Animal House on a golf course”—was given an immediate green light.

2. The screenwriting process was (almost) entirely autobiographical.

To write their screenplay, Ramis, Kenney, and Doyle-Murray locked themselves in a room and tried to recall everything they knew about or experienced at golf courses and country clubs growing up—most of which came from Doyle-Murray, who caddied at Indian Hill Country Club in the suburbs of Chicago as a kid.

Doyle-Murray's sizeable Irish Catholic family even served as the inspiration for scenes and characters in the film. His brother Bill played head greensman Carl Spackler. Memories of living with their eight other siblings (including three sisters) inspired the opening scenes with main character Danny Noonan’s overcrowded house of siblings. Danny, who sets out to win the caddy tournament scholarship, was based on Doyle-Murray’s older brother Ed, who won a similar prize when he was young. The lumberyard that employs Danny is borrowed from the real life of Doyle-Murray’s father, who was an executive at J.J. Barney Lumber Company. The infamous "Baby Ruth in the pool" scene was culled from the Murray kids' real-life high school exploits.

Ramis drew from real-life experience while writing as well. He admittedly had only played golf twice in his life before directing the film, and recalled that he nailed someone in the nether regions with one of his first practice shots taken to prepare for the film. Naturally, he made use of this tale by contributing the scene where Judge Smails (played by Ted Knight) gets hit in the crotch with an errant golf ball.

3. The studio wouldn’t make the movie unless they got a star.

Warner Bros Pictures

The finished Caddyshack script was a whopping 250 pages in length, more than double the average screenplay. Studio bosses immediately demanded that it be cut down, and added a second stipulation: No star, no movie. First-time director Ramis offered them three, though the first two were untested as far as the studio was concerned.

The filmmakers originally envisioned actor Don Rickles as the slobbish condo magnate Al Czervik, but they settled on comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who'd garnered success in comedy circles and on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Caddyshack would be his first big feature film. Bill Murray was fresh off of three years at Saturday Night Live and had appeared in Meatballs (co-written by Ramis) and Where the Buffalo Roam. The studio finally went ahead when Ramis and company secured Chevy Chase to portray the film's pompous-but-well-meaning playboy Ty Webb (whom they had written the part for anyway, unbeknownst to the studio).

Chase was the biggest catch of the three, having received a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination for the 1979 box-office hit Foul Play. Ramis had Mickey Rourke in mind for the leading role of Danny Noonan, but felt that he couldn't convincingly portray the "goofy kid-next-door." Filmmakers ultimately settled on actor Michael O’Keefe.

4. Ramis didn’t know what he was doing from day one.

Getty Images

By 1980, Harold Ramis was already a comedy heavyweight, having garnered success live (with the Second City comedy troupe), on the radio (the National Lampoon Radio Hour), and on television (SCTV). He'd also co-written Meatballs and Animal House, but Caddyshack marked his first attempt at directing. Conflicting accounts from cast and crew say that Ramis looked through the camera lens instead of the viewfinder on the first day, and also mistakenly called out “Cut!” instead of “Action!” on early takes. The veracity of these jokes is uncertain, but it is true that the studio was so skeptical of Ramis's abilities that they asked associate producer Don MacDonald to submit a list of directors who could be quickly brought in as on-the-fly replacements, if needed. Luckily, Ramis figured things out, later directing such comedy classics as National Lampoon’s Vacation and Groundhog Day

5. The filmmakers got out of L.A. to avoid problems, but found new ones.

Orion Pictures wanted the production to be filmed in Los Angeles, but Ramis knew things would be better out from under the thumb of studio execs. He convinced the studio to look elsewhere, since the Illinois setting of the fictional Bushwood Country Club wouldn't include Southern California's palm trees. But the chosen site was Rolling Hills Country Club (now Grande Oaks) in Davie, Florida—which had palm trees! Rolling Hills was one of the few golf courses away from L.A. that would allow the production of a movie on its grounds.

Production was held up both completely (by Hurricane David) and sporadically (by the noise from flights leaving and entering nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport). The cast and crew took advantage of the hurricane delay by holding a huge indoor party at their hotel next to the country club.

6. Rodney Dangerfield’s audition was unorthodox, and on set, he felt that he got no respect.

Prior to Caddyshack, Dangerfield was known primarily as a comic from his appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show, and The Tonight Show (he appeared a total of 36 times). Caddyshack marked Dangerfield's first big-time appearance on the silver screen. For his audition, the comic allegedly arrived at executive producer Jon Peters's office in a black stretch limosine, wearing a long black trench coat with a cheap leisure suit underneath. When it was time for him to audition, he walked into the room, removed his pants, and said, “Let’s eat!” He won the role of nouveau-riche bigmouth Al Czervik, but became nervous whenever he turned on his personality in front of the camera. When actor Scott Colomby (slick caddy antagonist Tony D’Annunzio) asked Dangerfield about his struggles, Rodney allegedly said that he was bombing because nobody was laughing at his jokes. Colomby reassured the rookie actor that if they laughed they’d ruin the take.

7. Bill Murray showed up for six days and made comedy history.

As a youngster, Bill Murray was a groundskeeper, a caddy, and even ran a hot dog stand at the Indian Hill Country Club, the location that inspired the Illinois setting of the film. At first, Murray's appearance as oafish groundskeeper Carl Spackler was planned as a quick cameo, but his characterization was so funny that Ramis requested he stick with the production a bit longer. Murray filmed for a total of six days, and all of his lines—including his Dalai Lama speech—were improvised on-the-spot. In fact, the only script direction for what became his "Cinderella speech" read: “Carl cuts off the tops of flowers with a grass whip.” Murray took it from there and ad-libbed lines that would, in 2005, be named to the AFI's list of greatest movie quotes of all time.     

8. Ramis also cast an actor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and poked fun at his career in a clever way.

Actor Henry Wilcoxon plays the unassuming but hilarious role of Bishop Pickering—and it was the last film he made before he passed away in 1984. The actor had been involved in some of Hollywood's biggest epics: His stage and screen career reached back all the way to a role in 1931’s The Perfect Lady, and included roles in 1941's That Hamilton Woman and 1942's Mrs. Miniver, which won an Oscar for Best Picture.

Historically, Wilcoxon is best known for his collaborations with legendary director Cecil B. DeMille. Wilcoxon played Marc Antony in DeMille’s Cleopatra in 1934, Richard the Lion-Hearted in 1935’s The Crusades, and was in The Greatest Show on Earth—another Best Picture winner—in 1952. In his Caddyshack scene, Wilcoxon is struck by lightning after shouting "Rat farts!" when he missed a putt to end what would have been the best golf game of his life. Ramis knowingly added in a music cue from DeMille’s film The Ten Commandments. Wilcoxon appears in that film as well, playing Pentaur.

9. The film’s Zen golf techniques came from co-writer-producer Douglas Kenney.

The idea for Ty Webb quoting 17th-century Japanese poet Bashō and using Zen philosophy to better his golf score came from Kenney’s personal experimentation with Buddhist meditation and enlightenment. According to Doyle-Murray, Kenney “had an idea for a putter with electromagnetic sensors that would signal you to putt when you'd reach alpha state." Later, when the filmmakers wanted Ty Webb to make some sort of Zen sound, and Kenney wasn’t around to advise them, Ramis just gave Chevy Chase one direction: “Make a spiritual sounding sound.” Chase improvised Webb’s hilarious “Na-na-na-na-na” putting sound on the spot.

Caddyshack wasn't the only time the writer infused his projects with Zen; he tried to make a few movies about the topic. One rejected pitch was a comedy about Zen Buddhists in the Himalayas fighting the Red Chinese. He also tried to produce a film adaptation of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance before his accidental death in 1980, just a month after Caddyshack hit theaters.

10. Caddyshack evolved into something other than “Animal House on a golf course,” and employed a classic comedy trio for inspiration.

Ramis filmed scripted scenes of Danny and the caddies running wild at the country club, believing that his scenes with Tony D’Annunzio and Maggie O'Hooligan would form the main core of the story. But viewing the dailies after a few days of shooting, Ramis realized that the scenes featuring the golfers were too essential to let go. This forced Ramis and his co-screenwriters to reconfigure the narrative focus of the coming-of-age story about Danny into a broader comedic view of the country club itself, based around the hilarious vignettes involving Murray, Dangerfield, and Chase. Ramis would now conduct Caddyshack as if it were a Marx Brothers film. According to Ramis, he thought of Dangerfield as Groucho, Murray as Harpo, and Chase as Chico.

11. The introduction scene between Murray and Chase was based on the contents of a studio note.

The original script for Caddyshack did not include a scene where Carl Spackler and Ty Webb meet, so the studio sent Ramis a note requesting that he take advantage of the talent and come up with a funny scene for Murray and Chase. Some on the set were skeptical of the outcome, thanks to some bad blood between the two after Murray replaced Chase on SNL.

Ramis, Murray, and Chase met to discuss things when production broke for lunch, and they worked together to come up with an outline of a scene where Ty stumbles into Carl’s shed, and the two talk about Carl's rather unique strain of grass, which can be used both on golf courses and to smoke like marijuana. Like much of the comedic bits from the film, the scene was ultimately improvised by the SNL alums and was shot without incident. Murray would later talk about a fight that broke out between the two when Chase returned to co-host SNL while Murray was still on the cast, saying "It was kind of a non-event. It was just the significance of it. It was an Oedipal thing, a rupture.”

12. The Gopher wasn’t originally a big part of the movie.

When shooting concluded in September 1979, Ramis and editor William Carruth had a lot of footage to work with. With so much plot and so many jokes, their first rough cut of the film ran 4.5 hours long. They had already decided to abandon Danny as the main focal point in favor of the comedic heavyweights in Murray, Dangerfield, Chase, and Knight. Still, the filmmakers felt that they needed something to package the film and make the story more coherent. Executive producer Jon Peters suggested, on a whim, that they increase the role of the gopher, turning it into the narrative through-line that tied the film's bits together. The only problem? They didn’t really have a gopher.

During filming, Murray acted his scenes “hunting” the gopher by himself, and the only scene they shot with him trying to catch it involved a hand puppet made out of mink fur. (This cheap puppet can also be seen in the scene where Dangerfield yells “Hey, that kangaroo stole my ball!”)

Ramis looked into bringing in a live, trained gopher to act out the scenes, but Peters weasled some extra money out of the studio and tasked special effects supervisor John Dykstra (an Oscar-winning FX master who had worked on on Star Wars) to create a believable gopher puppet. This explains why Murray and the dancing rodent never appear together onscreen—the scenes in the gopher holes were shot by Dykstra after principal photography had concluded, and were cleverly stitched in to make the scenes appear seamless. The sound effects used for the gopher were the same sounds used for the dolphin in the 1960s TV series Flipper.

13. The owners of the country club were not happy about the explosions on the golf course.

The climactic scene of Murray’s gopher-killing plastic explosives knocking in Danny’s putt to win the unfriendly wager between Al Czervik (Dangerfield) and Judge Smails (Knight) were real pyrotechnics set aflame at Rolling Hills. To pull off the effect, an artificial green was rigged with several incendiary packs and put into place between two fairways.

This was news to the owners of the country club, who had made it clear to filmmakers that the outrageous climax couldn't be shot anywhere near their golf course. To get them to “comply,” producer Jon Peters invited them out for a swanky lunch away from the country club to “thank them for letting the film use the location.” Ramis then had the special effects crew blow up the fake green while they were away. The fireball from the explosion was so large that a pilot landing a plane at nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport radioed in to air traffic control that he thought he might have witnessed a crash.  

14. Harold Ramis made some unusual choices for the songs in the film.

As the 1980s began, it seemed like every movie was accompanied by a custom theme song or a catchy pop single, and Caddyshack was no different. But Harold Ramis’ first choice for the artist behind that song was a little unorthodox for the type of silly comedy he was making. The director first approached Pink Floyd—who had just released their sprawling concept double-album The Wall—to come up with a song to play over the film's opening and closing credits. The band politely declined, and soft rock icon Kenny Loggins stepped in to provide the song “I’m Alright” for the film. Loggins would go on to find additional soundtrack fame with 1986’s “Danger Zone” from the film Top Gun.

15. You can experience Caddyshack yourself at the Murray Bros. Caddyshack Restaurant.

On June 7, 2001, all six Murray brothers (Ed, Brian, Bill, Andy, John, and Joel) opened a Caddyshack-themed restaurant at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida. Designed to “look and feel like a country club gone awry,” the restaurant's menu includes a Double Bogey Cheeseburger, Pulled Pork Sandwedge, and the CaddyShake. Wall displays provide pictures and quotes from the film, and hidden gophers litter the décor. It's said that Bill Murray even stops in from time to time to sing a little karaoke.

Additional Source: Caddyshack DVD commentary

Original image
Getty
arrow
Lists
13 Fantastic Museums You Can Visit for Free on Saturday
Original image
Getty

On Saturday, September 23, museums and cultural institutions across the United States will open their doors to the public for free, as part of Smithsonian magazine’s annual Museum Day Live! event. Hundreds of museums are set to participate, ranging from world-famous institutions in major cities to tiny, local museums in small towns. While the full list of museums can be viewed, and tickets can be reserved, on the Smithsonian website, we’ve collected a small selection of the fantastic museums you can visit for free this Saturday.

1. NEWSEUM // WASHINGTON, D.C.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. is an entire museum dedicated to the First Amendment. Celebrating freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, the museum features exhibits on civil rights, the Berlin Wall, and the history of news media in America. Their latest special exhibitions take a look back at the event of September 11, 2001 and go inside the FBI's crime-fighting tactics.

2. INTREPID SEA, AIR & SPACE MUSEUM // NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

iStock

New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t just showcase America’s military and maritime history—it is a piece of that history. The museum itself is one of the Essex-class aircraft carriers built by the United States Navy during World War II. Visitors can explore its massive deck and interior, and view historic airplanes, a real World War II submarine, and a range of interactive exhibits. Normally, a ticket will set you back a whopping $33 (or $19 for New York City residents), but on Saturday, general admission is free with a Museum Day Live! ticket.

3. AUTRY MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN WEST // LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Perfect for art lovers, history buffs, and cinephiles alike, the Autry Museum of the American West (named for legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry) offers up an eclectic mix of art, historical artifacts from the real American West, and Western film memorabilia and props.

4. MUSEUM OF ARTS AND SCIENCES // DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

A massive art, science, and history museum located on a 90-acre nature preserve, the Museum of Arts and Sciences features the largest collection of Florida art anywhere in the world, as well as the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia in all of Florida. Its diverse exhibits are alternately awe-inspiring, informative, and quirky, ranging from an exploration of 2000 years of sculpture art to an exhibition of 19th and 20th century advertising posters.

5. INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE HORSE AT THE KENTUCKY HORSE PARK // LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY

The International Museum of the Horse explores the history of—you guessed it!—the horse. That might sound like a narrow scope, but the museum doesn’t just display horse racing artifacts or teach you about modern horse breeds. Instead, it endeavors to tackle the 50-million-year evolution of the horse and its relationship with humans from ancient times to modern times.

6. THE PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM // CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Pete LaMotte, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The 160-year-old Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Museum Day Live! In addition to their vast exhibits of animal specimens and cultural artifacts, the museum will be hosting a live animal feeding and a butterfly release throughout the day.

7. OGDEN MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN ART // NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art aims to teach visitors about the rich culture and diverse visual arts of the American South. Right now, visitors can view a collection of William Eggleston's photographs and check out the museum's 10th annual invitational exhibition of ceramic teacups and teapots.

8. BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY // BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

Marcin Wichary, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Located in a 19th century oyster cannery on the Baltimore waterfront, the Baltimore Museum of Industry tells the story of American manufacturing from garment making to video game design. Visitors this weekend can meet video game designers and create custom games at the museum’s interactive “Video Game Wizards” exhibit.

9. SYLVAN HEIGHTS BIRD PARK // SCOTLAND NECK, NORTH CAROLINA

You can meet 2000 birds from around the world this weekend at the 18-acre Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Visitors to the massive garden can walk through aviaries displaying birds from every continent except Antarctica, including ducks, geese, swans, and exotic birds from all over the world.

10. DELTA BLUES MUSEUM // CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI

Visit Mississippi, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Visitors to the Delta Blues Museum can learn about the unique American musical art form in “the land where blues began,” with audiovisual exhibits centered on blues and rock legend Don Nix, as well as Paramount Records illustrator Anthony Mostrom.

11. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NUCLEAR SCIENCE & HISTORY // ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

America’s only congressionally chartered museum dedicated to the story of the Atomic Age, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History features exhibits on everything from nuclear medicine to representations of atomic power in pop culture. Adult visitors to the museum will delight in its impressively nuanced take on nuclear technology, while kids will love the museum’s outdoor airplane exhibit and hands-on science activities at Little Albert’s Lab.

12. MUSEUM OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN // PINEDALE, WYOMING

sporst, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Dedicated to the mountain men who explored and settled Wyoming in the 19th century, the Museum of the Mountain Man brings American folklore and legends to life. The museum features exhibits on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and tells the story of American folk legend and famed mountain man Hugh Glass (the man Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar playing in 2015's The Revenant).

13. BESH BA GOWAH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK AND MUSEUM // GLOBE, ARIZONA

Arizona’s Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum lets visitors connect with history firsthand. The museum is home to the ruins and artifacts of the Salado Indians who inhabited Arizona from the 13th century through the 15th century, and even lets visitors wander through an 800-year-old Salado pueblo.

Original image
Gramercy Pictures
arrow
entertainment
20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers Movies
Original image
Gramercy Pictures

Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. John Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’s 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS' WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating, “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Ethan Coen, Frances McDormand and Joel Coen at the Oscars
Ethan Coen, Frances McDormand, and Joel Coen celebrate their Oscar wins in 1997.
KIM KULISH/AFP/Getty Images

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

Billy Bob Thornton in the Coen brothers' 'The Man Who Wasn't There' (2001)
© 2001 - USA Films

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that features a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

A still from the Coen Brothers' 'The Ladykillers.'
Melinda Sue Gordon, SMPSP - © 2004 - Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination).

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

A photo of Oscar Isaac in the Coen brothers' 'Inside Llewyn Davis' (2013).
© 2013 - CBS Films

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. “The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, ‘Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that.”

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen brothers are plenty fond of The Dude; after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios