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20 Things You Might Not Know About Gremlins

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You know not to get them wet, expose them to bright light, or feed them after midnight. But here are 20 things you might not know about Joe Dante’s creature-filled dark comedy classic.

1. ITS UNEXPECTEDLY DARK THEMES ARE PARTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CREATION OF THE PG-13 RATING.

Truth be told, it’s Steven Spielberg who is really responsible for the introduction of the PG-13 rating. Both Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which he directed, and Gremlins, which he executive produced, were rated PG upon their release, and subsequently criticized for not being kid-appropriate. To avoid being slapped with an R rating in the future, Spielberg suggested that the MPAA add a rating between PG and R. On August 10, 1984, Red Dawn became the first movie to be released with the new PG-13 rating.

2. BUT GREMLINS COULD HAVE BEEN A WHOLE LOT DARKER.


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The original Gremlins script, written by Chris Columbus, was much, much darker. Case in point: Earlier scenes included the Gremlins eating Billy’s dog then decapitating his mom and throwing her head down the stairs. Spielberg, director Joe Dante, and Warner Bros. were all in agreement that they should tone down the gore in order to make the movie more family-friendly.

3. CHRIS COLUMBUS DIDN’T WRITE GREMLINS WITH THE IDEA THAT IT WOULD ACTUALLY BE MADE.

He wrote it as a spec script and writing sample. It found its way into the hands of Spielberg, who explained that, “It's one of the most original things I've come across in many years, which is why I bought it.”

4. THE GREMLINS WERE INSPIRED BY MICE THAT INHABITED COLUMBUS’S APARTMENT.

“By day, it was pleasant enough,” Columbus said of the Manhattan loft that he lived in while attending film school at NYU. “But at night, what sounded like a platoon of mice would come out and to hear them skittering around in the blackness was really creepy.” Those mice inspired the Gremlins.

5. THE SCRIPT DOESN’T INCLUDE MUCH GREMLIN DIALOGUE.

Much of the chatter spoken by Gizmo and the Gremlins is ad libbed, or in reaction to whatever is happening in the scene. Keeping the dialogue loose also allowed the filmmakers to localize the dialogue for the film’s various international markets.

6. HOWIE MANDEL IS THE VOICE OF GIZMO.

It was the suggestion of voice actor Frank Welker, who voiced Stripe in Gremlins (and Fred on Scooby-Doo before that), that Howie Mandel be hired for the role.

7. BUT MANDEL DIDN’T SING “GIZMO’S SONG.”

The song was written by Jerry Goldsmith, who hired a 13-year-old girl who was a member of his synagogue to sing it for the film.

8. MICHAEL WINSLOW HELPED TO VOICE THE GREMLINS.

Yes, this is the same Michael Winslow who is better known as “the guy who makes all those funny noises in the Police Academy film series."

9. TIM BURTON WAS IN CONTENTION TO DIRECT IT.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding Burton after the success of his short film, Frankenweenie—so much so that Spielberg considered him to direct Gremlins. But the fact that Burton had yet to direct a feature film worked against him, and the gig was given to Joe Dante. A year later, Burton released his first theatrical feature, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

10. SECURITY WAS TIGHT WITH THE GREMLINS.


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Because there was no CGI at the time of Gremlins, the creatures were animatronic puppets, each of which took a major chunk out of the film’s budget. Zach Galligan revealed that when leaving the set each night, security personnel asked the cast and crew to open the trunks of their cars to ensure that they hadn’t stolen any of the props.

11. BALLOONS CAME IN HANDY.

Creature creator Chris Walas used balloons in an innovative fashion: They were the secret VFX ingredient when the new Mogwai popped out of Gizmo’s body, and he used a balloon again to explode the Gremlin in the microwave.

12. PHOEBE CATES WAS A CONTROVERSIAL CASTING CHOICE.

Given her sweet demeanor as Kate, it’s hard to imagine that not everyone was on board with casting Cates. But her infamous topless scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High gave the studio pause about putting her in the lead.

13. CATES’S CHEMISTRY WITH ZACH GALLIGAN WAS WHAT LANDED HIM THE ROLE.

Though there were better-known actors like Emilio Estevez and Judd Nelson in contention for the role of Billy, Spielberg cast his vote for Galligan, based on the chemistry he and Cates displayed during auditions.

14. IT’S THE FIRST FILM TO FEATURE THE NOW-ICONIC AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT LOGO.

By now, Spielberg’s E.T.-themed logo for Amblin Entertainment is familiar to all moviegoers. But Gremlins marked its first on-screen appearance.

15. KINGSTON FALLS AND HILL VALLEY ARE ONE AND THE SAME.

If the fictional town of Kingston Falls in Gremlins looks familiar, that’s because it was filmed on the same set used for the town of Hill Valley in Back to the Futurereleased a year later.

16. THE FILM WAS ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR A CHRISTMAS RELEASE.

Offbeat as it may be, Gremlins is definitely a Christmas movie, and as such had been planned for release during the Christmas season. But when Warner Bros. realized it didn’t have a "summer movie" to put up against Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or Ghostbusters, it moved up the release date. The film performed well and ended up being the fourth highest-grossing film of 1984, behind Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

17. KATE’S STORY ABOUT HER FATHER’S DEATH WAS A POLARIZING SCENE.

As a nod to the popular urban legend, Kate tells the story about how her father died while dressed up as Santa Claus and climbing down the chimney. When the rough cut was complete, both Spielberg and the Warner Bros. executives wanted it cut, as it wasn’t clear whether it was meant to be sad or funny. Dante insisted that that’s what made it a perfect metaphor for the film itself, and insisted it be kept in. In Roger Ebert’s three-star review of the film, he singled out this scene in particular, citing her story as being “in the great tradition of 1950s sick jokes.”

18. BILLY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE HERO.

At the end of the film, Gizmo saves the day by pulling up a window blind and exposing Stripe to sunlight. Originally, Gizmo lifted the first blind, followed by Billy. Spielberg suggested the scene be edited so that it was clear that it’s Gizmo, not Billy, who is the movie’s hero.

19. GIZMO AND STRIPE WERE THE SAME CREATURE AT ONE TIME.


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It was also at Spielberg’s suggestion that Gizmo’s role in the film grew. Originally, it’s the cute little Mogwai pet himself who transforms into Stripe the Gremlin. But Spielberg knew that audiences would want to see as much of Gizmo as possible, so he withdrew the idea so that they would appear as totally separate characters.

20. THE GREMLINS MAY RISE AGAIN.

Though Gremlins did spawn a sequel (1990's Gremlins II: The Next Batch), there’s been much talk in recent years about a reboot of the original. In a 2012 interview with Screen Rant, Columbus didn't seem totally on board with the idea. “I think it’s impossible to re-create [Gremlins] in a CGI environment," he said. "I think it will inevitably lose some of its charm. Those are edgy Muppets in a sense and you don’t want to lose that sense of anarchy that those gremlins had, because behind the scenes are 25 puppeteers making them to come to life.”

But in August 2017, he seemed to have a different opinion on the matter, saying that he had completed a script for a third installment. “I’m really proud of the script,” Columbus told /Film. “It is as twisted and dark as anything, so we’ll see. It’s always a budgetary conversation when we’re going to shoot it. I wanted to go back to the really twisted sensibility of the first movie. I found that was a very easy place for me to fall back into and start writing again so hopefully we’ll see that movie soon.”

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20 John Carpenter Quotes About Horror Movies
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Though he’s made a variety of movies—from fantasy to science fiction films—John Carpenter will forever be known as a master of horror, thanks in large part to the role he played in reinventing the genre with 1978’s Halloween. To celebrate the award-winning filmmaker’s 70th birthday, we’ve gathered up 20 of his most memorable quotes about Hollywood.

1. ON THE DEFINITION OF HORROR

“Horror is a reaction; it's not a genre.”

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

2. ON THE RULES OF MOVIEMAKING

“I think the rules of filmmaking are essentially the same as they were since, I guess, The Birth Of A Nation. The way you make movies: long shot, close-up, camera movement, structure—it’s all the same. Not much has changed. But the technology of movies has vastly changed. From 35mm black-and-white to color, from nitrate film to safety film and now into digital—and yet we’re still breaking scenes into master shots and close-ups. The cinema narrative has not changed that much since the silent film.”

—From a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club

3. ON THE TWO TYPES OF HORROR STORIES

“There are two different stories in horror: internal and external. In external horror films, the evil comes from the outside, the other tribe, this thing in the darkness that we don’t understand. Internal is the human heart.”

—From a 2011 interview with Vulture

4. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

“One movie that showed me it was possible to make a low-budget horror movie was Night of the Living Dead (1968). When I saw that, I was like, 'Wow, that's really effective, but it's obviously low budget.' They didn't have any money but they actually made something cool. That was inspirational to me when I was in film school.”

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

5. ON THE TRUTH ABOUT HOLLYWOOD

“Film buffs who don't live in Hollywood have a fantasy about what it's like to be a director. Movies and the people who make movies have such glamor associated with them. But the truth is, it's not like that. It's very different. It's hard work. If you were suddenly catapulted into that situation—without any training—you would say after it was over: 'Oh, God! You're kidding! You mean, this is what it's like? This is what they put you through?' Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like this—and it's often worse. People have tried to describe the film business, but it's impossible to describe because it's so crazy. You must know your craft inside out and then pick up the rules as you go along.”

—From an essay for Santa Fe Studios

6. ON THE HORROR OF WATCHING HIS OWN MOVIES

“I don't watch my films. I've seen 'em enough after cutting them and putting the music on. I don't ever want to see them again.”

—From a 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly

7. ON THE EMOTIONAL TOLL MAKING MOVIES CAN TAKE ON A DIRECTOR

“I’ve been feeling old for years and years, and I think the movie business did it to me. At one point I just did movie after movie, and it starts tearing you down physically—emotionally too, if you do one after another. The stress, the emotional exertion of dealing with others. I’ve worked with really great actors and really difficult actors. The difficult ones are no fun. And the style of the movies today have changed a great deal. To me, I’m not a big fan of handheld. That’s just my tastes. That’s a quick fix for low budget. Let the operator direct it! Walk around. That’s how you burn through the pages. And found footage—how many times do we need to do that?”

—From a 2014 interview with Deadline

8. ON WHAT MAKES A GOOD HORROR FILM

“There’s a very specific secret: It should be scary.”

—From a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club

9. ON THE PERCEPTION OF A MOVIEMAKER

“In England, I'm a horror movie director. In Germany, I'm a filmmaker. In the U.S., I'm a bum.”

—From The Films of John Carpenter

10. ON STANDING OUT

“I don't want to be in the mainstream. I don't want to be a part of the demographics. I want to be an individual. I wear each of my films as a badge of pride. That's why I cherish all my bad reviews. If the critics start liking my movies, then I'm in deep trouble.”

—From an essay for Santa Fe Studios

11. ON MAINTAINING CONTROL

“My years in the business have taught me not to worry about what you can’t control.”

—From a 2007 interview with MovieMaker Magazine

12. ON HIS FAVORITE MOVIES

“I have two different categories of favorite films. One is the emotional favorites, which means these are generally films that I saw when I was a kid; anything you see in your formative years is more powerful, because it really stays with you forever. The second category is films that I saw while I was learning the craft of motion pictures.”

—From a 2011 interview with Rotten Tomatoes

13. ON BEING STUCK IN THE 1980S

“Well, They Live was a primal scream against Reaganism of the '80s. And the '80s never went away. They're still with us. That's what makes They Live look so fresh—it's a document of greed and insanity. It's about life in the United States then and now. If anything, things have gotten worse.”

—From a 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly

14. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF INSTINCT

“I think every director depends primarily on his instincts. That’s what’s got him where he is, what’s going to carry him through the good times and the bad. I generally go with what I instinctually think I can do well.”

—From a 2011 interview with Vulture

15. ON BEING TYPECAST AS A DIRECTOR

“I haven't just made horror. I've made all sorts of movies. There have been fantasy movies, thrillers, horrors, science fiction. In terms of the ultimate reward, listen, man, when I was a kid, when I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a movie director, and I got to be a movie director. I lived my f*cking dream, you can't get better than that. That's the ultimate.”

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

16. ON THE REALITY OF MONSTERS

“Monsters in movies are us, always us, one way or the other. They’re us with hats on. The zombies in George Romero’s movies are us. They’re hungry. Monsters are us, the dangerous parts of us. The part that wants to destroy; the part of us with the reptile brain. The part of us that’s vicious and cruel. We express these in our stories as these monsters out there.”

—From a 2011 interview with the Buenos Aires Herald

17. ON MOVIES AS A SENSORY EXPERIENCE

“A movie’s not just the pictures. It’s the story and it’s the perspective and it’s the tempo and it’s the silence and it’s the music—it’s all the stuff that’s going on. All the sensory stuff. Sometimes you can get a lot of suspense going in a non-horror film. It all depends. But, look, if there was one secret way of doing a horror movie then everybody would be doing it.”

—From a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club

18. ON THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF HORROR

"Horror is a universal language; we're all afraid. We're born afraid, we're all afraid of things: death, disfigurement, loss of a loved one. Everything that I'm afraid of, you're afraid of and vice versa. So everybody feels fear and suspense. We were little kids once and so it's taking that basic human condition and emotion and just f*cking with it and playing with it. You can invent new horrors."

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

19. ON THE REMAKE TREND

“It’s a brand new world out there in terms of trying to get advertising. There’s so much going on that if you come up with a movie that people have never heard of they don’t pay attention to it—no matter how good it is. So it becomes, 'Let’s remake something that maybe rings a bell and that you’ve heard of before.' That way, you’re already ahead. I’m flattered, but I understand what’s going on. They’re picking everything to remake. I think they’ve just run down the list of other titles and have finally got to mine.”

—From a 2007 interview with MovieMaker Magazine

20. ON THE LASTING INFLUENCE OF HALLOWEEN

“I didn’t think there was any more story [to Halloween], and I didn’t want to do it again. All of my ideas were for the first Halloween—there shouldn’t have been any more! I’m flattered by the fact that people want to remake them, but they remake everything these days, so it doesn’t make me that special. But Michael Myers was an absence of character. And yet all the sequels are trying to explain that. That’s silliness—it just misses the whole point of the first movie, to me. He’s part person, part supernatural force. The sequels rooted around in motivation. I thought that was a mistake. However, I couldn’t stop them from making sequels. So my agents said, ‘Why don’t you become an executive producer and you can share the revenue?’ But I had to write the second movie, and every night I sat there and wrote with a six-pack of beer trying to get through this thing. And I didn’t do a very good job, but that was it. I couldn’t do any more."

—From a 2014 interview with Deadline

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15 Surprising Facts About Half Baked
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Universal Pictures

You may have known these facts about Half Baked—Tamra Davis's stoner comedy starring Dave Chappelle, Guillermo Díaz, and Jim Breuer—at one point. But it’s easy to see how the film, which was released 20 years ago, could make viewers a little forgetful.

1. THE SCRIPT WAS A TEAM EFFORT.

Half Baked was written by star Dave Chappelle and his writing partner Neal Brennan. Five years later, the duo would go on to co-create Chappelle’s Show for Comedy Central. (Brennan even has a cameo in Half Baked as the cashier at the burger joint where Scarface works.)

2. NEW YORK CITY WAS A KEY INSPIRATION.

Chappelle was inspired to write Half Baked after a friend told him about New York City drug dealers who conveniently deliver illicit substances to customers’ apartments.

3. THE OPENING SCENE WAS A RISK FOR THE STUDIO.

The studio originally wanted to cut the opening scene showing kids smoking marijuana and getting the munchies, but decided to keep it after audiences at test screenings found it hilarious.

4. DIRECTING IT WAS A NO-BRAINER FOR TAMRA DAVIS.

Tamra Davis
Francois Durand/Getty Images

It's a good thing that opening scene stayed in, as it's what sold Tamra Davis on the project. In fact, she only read 10 pages of Chappelle and Brennan’s script before accepting the directing job.

"The reason why I wanted to do this movie was because the opening scene is so funny," she told Mass Appeal in 2017. "And they were like, 'No, it sends a bad message, kids smoking pot.' I was like, 'Can I screen the movie? Nobody’s ever seen this movie, can we look at it first and see how the movie plays before you guys start giving me cuts?'"

5. THE FILM HAS A MUSIC VIDEO PEDIGREE.

Davis is also humorously listed as the director of Sir Smoka Lot’s “Samson Gets Me Lifted” music video in the film. Prior to directing feature films like Half Baked and Billy Madison, Davis directed more than 30 actual music videos, including Tone Lōc’s “Wild Thing” and Hanson’s “MMMBop.”

6. MOST OF "NEW YORK" IS REALLY TORONTO.

The film was shot over 40 days, primarily in Toronto. Three days of exterior shooting were done in New York to feature landmarks like Washington Square Park.

7. PRODUCERS PULLED OUT ALL THE STOPS ON CAMEOS.

Tracy Morgan makes a cameo as the VJ who introduces Sir Smoka Lot’s music video. Other cameos in the film include Jon Stewart, Tommy Chong, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Janeane Garofalo, and Bob Saget.

8. THERE WAS A REAL GUY ON THE COUCH.

The Guy on the Couch was inspired by a friend of Chappelle’s who constantly crashed on Chappelle’s couch while he and Brennan toiled away at writing the screenplay. In the film, the role of the Guy went to comedian Steven Wright.

9. THE BEASTIE BOYS INSPIRED THE FILM'S DESIGN.

Davis drew inspiration of the prop and color design of the guys’ apartment from the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal Recording Studios. The connection makes sense, as Davis was married to Mike D of the Beastie Boys.

10. THE PRISON HAD VERY CLEAN WATER.

The exterior of the prison where Kenny is locked up is actually the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant in Toronto. (The same facility played the role of Elsinore Brewery in 1983's Strange Brew.)  Some prison interiors, including the cafeteria scenes, where shot in an actual prison.

11. THE DIRECTOR HAS A TINY CAMEO.

All the acting with Killer’s fake dog paws was done on-set by Davis.

12. THE CAST GOT GREAT SOUVENIRS.

Many members of the cast and crew kept blocks of the fake medicinal marijuana as a joke after production wrapped.

13. NO, THAT'S NOT JERRY GARCIA.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Jerry Garcia did not appear in Half Baked. Garcia is played by impersonator David Bluestein.

14. ALL THAT "POT" WAS TOBACCO.

The actors smoked a tobacco-based substitute to stand in for marijuana in the film (though there are some rumors that the scene featuring Snoop Dogg featured real marijuana).

15. IT ALMOST HAD A DARKER ENDING.

The original ending of the movie was supposed to be much darker. In it, Thurgood abandoned his girlfriend Mary Jane and jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge after the joint he threw away.

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