10 Fascinating Facts About True Detective

HBO
HBO

Can you smell the psychosphere? The first season of True Detective smashed through viewers' consciousnesses, scoring one of HBO’s biggest hits, infecting pop culture with a host of bonkers quotes, and launching what is now a tripartite anthology of detective mysteries. First, it was Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) tromping through Louisiana, then it was a trio of cops (Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch) navigating a crooked California. Now, in True Detective season 3, it’s Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali looking for missing girls in 1980s Arkansas.

Series creator Nic Pizzolatto merged hard-boiled noir and religious myth into a swirl of infectious stories. The vibe and look of the series' first season was crafted by director Cary Joji Fukunaga (and marked by a jaw-dropping extended tracking shot that was unusual for TV), while the second season was touched by incredible talents like Justin Lin and Game of Thrones alum Jeremy Podeswa. The series returns for a third psyche-testing tale on Sunday, January 13, with an episode directed by Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room).

Here are 10 facts about the Emmy Award-winning show about bad people keeping the other bad people at bay.

1. The first season was probably inspired by a real-life cult case.

During the series' first season, Nic Pizzolatto told fans who were trying to piece things together to do an internet search for “Satanism,” “preschool,” and “Louisiana.” The results? The story of the Hosanna Church child abuse scandal. In Ponchatoula, Louisiana, a group connected with the church used its facilities for a series of crimes against children and animals, with its leader and former pastor Louis David Lamonica claiming in his confession that the rituals were in service of Satanic worship. In season one, Rust and Marty investigate a ritualistic murder that has connections to a church and the local government.

2. Matthew McConaughey was supposed to play Marty.

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in True Detective
HBO

The show’s creators originally wanted Matthew McConaughey for the role of the personable, traditional detective Marty Hart because of his Lincoln Lawyer prowess, but McConaughey was fascinated by Rust and angled for that part instead. Fortunately, he suggested to producers that his friend Woody Harrelson play Marty instead.

3. Beyoncé danced at Carcosa.

The unforgettable location of the show’s season one climax looked like something out of Serial Killer Lair Quarterly, but it was a run-down 19th century fort. New Orleans's pie-shaped Fort Macomb was abandoned by the United States Army after an 1867 barracks fire and left to rot since. While you can’t visit it for yourself, you can wallow in its uneasy majesty in both True Detective and in Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” It was one of several Louisiana locations the artist used for the blockbuster music video.

4. HBO's programming president took the blame for the second season not being up to snuff.

Fans weren’t as enamored with the second season of True Detective, which featured a messy (yet more straightforward) tale of corruption, mob influence, and infrastructure policy. In a rare move, HBO’s longtime programming president Michael Lombardo said it was his fault—specifically for rushing Pizzolatto to repeat the success of season one in an unrealistic time frame. “When we tell somebody to hit an air date as opposed to allowing the writing to find its own natural resting place, when it’s ready, when it’s baked—we’ve failed,” he said. In 2016, after 33 years with the network, Lombardo departed HBO.

5. The theme song in season 2 changed every week without people noticing.

Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams in True Detective
Lacey Terrell, HBO

TV theme songs are fairly standard, including the first season of True Detective (The Handsome Family’s super creepy “Far From Any Road”). Occasionally show’s (like The Leftovers) will toy with having a new song every week, but what T. Bone Burnett pulled off for the second season of True Detective was almost certainly unique. He used different portions of the same song—Leonard Cohen’s “Nevermind”—to intro the show in narratively meaningful ways. The changes were subtle, showcasing different lyrics from the droning tune each episode.

6. Rachel McAdams threw up after filming a shoot-out.

Rachel McAdams’s character, Ani Bezzerides, was weighed down by gambling debts, a knife collection, and regret. The investigation takes her deep into dark personal memories she thought she’d left buried. When they shot a lengthy shoot-out sequence, McAdams had to run 200 yards while reloading her weapon in an intensely violent scene. When it was over, she threw up, but she didn't blame the power of the sequence. “It was probably my own fault because I’d been drinking an energy drink,” she told The Telegraph. “But it was really fun.”

7. McAdams’s sparring dummy was named Woody.

No relation to her True Detective predecessor, but a nice coincidence. McAdams took notice of her stunt double throwing knives and wanted to learn, so they would go to work on a wooden target shaped like a man. The weapon—more intimate than a gun—colored her character’s fierceness and her overall philosophy.

8. Mcconaughey created a document chronicling the four major eras of Rust cohle.

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective
HBO

With the story in season one ping-ponging from the past to the present (and ultimately into the future), McConaughey centered himself through each epoch with notes on what shaped Cohle throughout each major event. There are his undercover narcotics days, his 1995 return to policing, the 2002 ritualistic murder case, and the 2012 “Time is a flat circle” guy swilling beer during a police interview. On that last note, McConaughey told Rolling Stone that Cohle had, “lived longer than he hoped ... He’s a guy who’s resigned to his indentured servitude of being alive.”

9. Nic Pizzolatto didn't know he was writing a third season of True Detective when he began writing the story.

The catalyst for the newest season of True Detective was the writer thinking about dementia and the puzzle of a detective questioning what his life (and life’s work) was about. Mahershala Ali’s character is shown both in his youth during a major case and much later when he’s experiencing the early symptoms of memory loss. Pizzolatto didn’t know until he got deeper into the idea that it would be for the show, thinking it might be a movie instead.

“It felt like an impossible math problem at first," Pizzolatto told Entertainment Weekly. "Once I was 40 pages in and I was starting to see how the puzzle would fit together, I was like, 'Oh, this is a True Detective.'"

10. Mahershala Ali used pictures of his grandfather to land the lead role.

Mahershala Ali in 'True Detective'
HBO

The main detective of the third season, Wayne Hays, was originally meant to be white, but Ali convinced producers to hire him in the role. Obviously, his Oscar win didn't hurt, but the Moonlight star also campaigned for the role by sending pictures of his grandfather—who was a state police officer—to Pizzolatto and arguing that the story would be deepened by the examination of race at the time.

“You’re asking someone questions, and [you’re] the lead detective. If [they’re] white, they might not look at me," Ali explained to Variety of his pitch. "When I ask them a question, they’re addressing [the white detective]. Racism is not experienced as the n-word, all the time. It’s more like, ‘Yo, you wouldn’t even look me in the eye.’ Or I said thank you and he just brushed me off.”

His pitch worked. Producers called Ali a few days later to tell him he’d gotten the gig.

Disney's Most Magical Destinations Have Been Reimagined as Vintage Travel Posters

UpgradedPoints.com
UpgradedPoints.com

Many of the iconic settings of animated Disney movies were modeled after real places around the world. Ussé Castle in France’s Loire Valley, for example, is widely rumored to have been the inspiration behind the original Sleeping Beauty story. (Although the castle in the movie more closely resembles Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle.) Likewise, the fictional island in Moana was made to look like Samoa, and the Sultan’s palace in Aladdin shares some similarities with India's Taj Mahal.

If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring Agrabah or Neverland, then you’ll probably enjoy getting lost in these Disney-inspired travel posters from the designers at UpgradedPoints.com, an online resource that helps individuals maximize their credit card travel rewards. Only one of the posters features a real destination ("Beautiful France"), but these illustrations let you get one step closer to scaling Pride Rock or plumbing the depths of Atlantica.

All of the images are rendered in a vintage style with enticing slogans attached—much like the exotic travel posters that were prevalent in the 1930s.

“A few of our designers wanted to capture that longing to experience the true locations of these fantastic films, and the inner child in all of us couldn’t resist seeing how they interpreted the locations of their favorite films,” UpgradedPoints.com writes. “The results are breathtaking and make us wish we could fall into our favorite Disney movies.”

Keep scrolling to see the posters, and for more travel inspiration, read up on eight real-life locations that inspired Disney places (plus one that didn't).

A Disney-inspired poster of France
UpgradedPoints.com

An Atlantica travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Disney-inspired poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Disney-inspired poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Lion King travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Neverland travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

11 Memorable Facts About Cats the Musical

Mike Clarke/Getty Images
Mike Clarke/Getty Images

“It was better than Cats!” Decades after Andrew Lloyd Webber's famed musical opened on Broadway on October 7, 1982, this tongue-in-cheek idiom remains a part of our lexicon (thanks to Saturday Night Live). Although the feline extravaganza divided the critics, it won over audiences of all ages and became an industry juggernaut—one that single-handedly generated more than $3 billion for New York City's economy—and that was before it made a return to the Great White Way in 2016. In honor of Andrew Lloyd Webber's birthday on March 22, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

1. The work that Cats the musical is based on was originally going to include dogs.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, published in 1939, is a collection of feline-themed poems written by the great T. S. Eliot. A whimsical, lighthearted effort, the volume has been delighting cat fanciers for generations—and it could have become just as big of a hit with dog lovers, too. At first, Eliot envisioned the book as an assemblage of canine- and tabby-related poems. However, he came to believe that “dogs don’t seem to lend themselves to verse quite so well, collectively, as cats.” (Spoken like a true ailurophile.) According to his publisher, Eliot decided that “it would be improper to wrap [felines] up with dogs” and barely even mentioned them in the finished product.

For his part, Andrew Lloyd Webber has described his attitude towards cats as “quite neutral.” Still, the composer felt that Eliot’s rhymes could form the basis of a daring, West End-worthy soundtrack. It seemed like an irresistible challenge. “I wanted to set that exciting verse to music,” he explained. “When I [had] written with lyricists in the past … the lyrics have been written to the music. So I was intrigued to see whether I could write a complete piece the other way ‘round.”

2. "Memory" was inspired by a poem that T.S. Eliot never finished.

In 1980, Webber approached T.S. Eliot’s widow, Valerie, to ask for her blessing on the project. She not only said “yes,” but provided the songwriter with some helpful notes and letters that her husband had written about Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats—including a half-finished, eight-line poem called “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat.” Feeling that it was too melancholy for children, Eliot decided to omit the piece from Practical Cats. But the dramatic power of the poem made it irresistible for Webber and Trevor Nunn, the show’s original director. By combining lines from “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat” with those of another Eliot poem, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” they laid the foundation for what became the powerful ballad “Memory.” A smash hit within a smash hit, this showstopper has been covered by such icons as Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow.

3. Dame Judi Dench left the cast of Cats when her Achilles tendon snapped.

One of Britain’s most esteemed actresses, Dench was brought in to play Grizabella for Cats’s original run on the West End. Then, about three weeks into rehearsals, she was going through a scene with co-star Wayne Sleep (Mr. Mistoffelees) when disaster struck. “She went, ‘You kicked me!’” Sleep recalls in the above video. “And I said, ‘I didn’t, actually, are you alright?’” She wasn’t. Somehow, Dench had managed to tear her Achilles tendon. As a last-minute replacement, Elaine Paige of Evita fame was brought aboard. In an eerie coincidence, Paige had heard a recorded version of “Memory” on a local radio station less than 24 hours before she was asked to play Grizabella. Also, an actual black cat had crossed her path that day. Spooky.

4. To finance the show, Andrew Lloyd Webber ended up mortgaging his house.

Although Andrew Lloyd Webber had previously won great acclaim as one of the creative minds behind Jesus Christ Superstar and other hit shows, Cats had a hard time finding investors. According to choreographer Gillian Lynne, “[it] was very, very difficult to finance because everyone said ‘A show about cats? You must be raving mad.’” In fact, the musical fell so far short of its fundraising goals that Webber ended up taking out a second mortgage on his home to help get Cats the musical off the ground.

5. When Cats the musical came to Broadway, its venue got a huge makeover.

Cats made its West End debut on May 11, 1981. Seventeen months later, a Broadway production of the musical launched what was to become an 18-year run at the Winter Garden Theatre. But before the show could open, some major adjustments had to be made to the venue. Cats came with an enormous, sprawling set which was far too large for the theatre’s available performing space. To make some more room, the stage had to be expanded. Consequently, several rows of orchestra seats were removed, along with the Winter Garden’s proscenium arch. And that was just the beginning. For Grizabella’s climactic ascent into the Heaviside Layer on a giant, levitating tire, the crew installed a hydraulic lift in the orchestra pit and carved a massive hole through the auditorium ceiling. Finally, the theater’s walls were painted black to set the proper mood. After Cats closed in 2000, the original look of the Winter Garden was painstakingly restored—at a cost of $8 million.

6. Cats the musical set longevity records on both sides of the Atlantic.

The original London production took its final bow on May 11, 2002, exactly 21 years after the show had opened—which, at the time, made Cats the longest-running musical in the West End’s history. (It would lose that title to Les Miserables in 2006.) Across the pond, the show was performed at the Winter Garden for the 6138th time on June 19, 1997, putting Cats ahead of A Chorus Line as the longest-running show on Broadway. To celebrate, a massive outdoor celebration was held between 50th and 51st streets, complete with a laser light show and an exclusive after-party for Cats alums.

7. One theatergoer sued the show for $6 million.

Like Hair, Cats involves a lot of performer-audience interaction. See it live, and you might just spot a leotard-clad actor licking himself near your seat before the curtain goes up. In some productions, the character Rum Tum Tugger even rushes out into the crowd and finds an unsuspecting patron to dance with. At a Broadway performance on January 30, 1996, Tugger was played by stage veteran David Hibbard. That night, he singled out one Evelyn Amato as his would-be dance partner. Mildly put, she did not appreciate his antics. Alleging that Hibbard had gyrated his pelvis in her face, Amato sued the musical and its creative team for $6 million.

8. Thanks to Cats the musical, T.S. Eliot received a posthumous Tony.

Because most of the songs in Cats are almost verbatim recitations of Eliot’s poems, he’s regarded as its primary lyricist—even though he died in 1965, long before the show was conceived. Still, Eliot’s contributions earned him a 1983 Tony for Best Book of a Musical. A visibly moved Valerie Eliot took the stage to accept this prize on her late spouse’s behalf. “Tonight’s honor would have given my husband particular pleasure because he loved the theatre,” she told the crowd. Eliot also shared the Best Original Score Tony with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

9. The original Broadway production used more than 3000 pounds of yak hair.

Major productions of Cats use meticulously crafted yak hair wigs, which currently cost around $2300 apiece and can take 40 hours or more to produce. Adding to the expense is the fact that costumers can’t just recycle an old wig after some performer gets recast. “Each wig is made specifically for the actor,” explains wigmaker Hannah McGregor in the above video. Since people tend to have differently shaped heads, precise measurements are taken of every cast member’s skull before he or she is fitted with a new head of hair. “[Their wigs] have to fit them perfectly,” McGregor adds, “because of the amount of jumping and skipping they do as cats.” Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, over its 18-year run, the first Broadway production used 3247 pounds of yak hair. (In comparison, the heaviest actual yaks only weigh around 2200 pounds.)

10. A recent revival included hip hop.

In December 2014, Cats returned to the West End with an all-new cast and music. “The Rum Tum Tugger,” a popular Act I song, was reimagined as a hip hop number. “I’ve come to the conclusion, having read [Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats] again, that maybe Eliot was the inventor of rap,” Webber told the press.

11. Another revival featured an internet-famous feline for one night only.

On September 30, Grumpy Cat made her Broadway debut in Cats, briefly taking the stage with the cast. Despite being named Honorary Jellicle Cat, she hated every minute of it.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER