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15 Secrets of the Hollywood Creature Feature

A tentacled monster breaks through the walls of an armed fortress; a head explodes; a T. rex eats a man whole in one bite. Everyone loves a good (or even a bad) monster movie. But how do industry experts manage to bring monsters that originate in the darkest depths of the human imagination to life on the silver screen? Today’s cinema creatures are generally made with a hybrid approach that employs both practical and computer effects which have been fine-tuned through trial and error since the beginnings of motion pictures themselves. We sat down with three industry leaders—Todd Masters of MastersFX and Michael Spatola and Lee Joyner of the Cinema Makeup School—to get the inside scoop on some little-known facts behind the craft and some intriguing details on the makings of some of our favorite bits of monster magic.

1. The Rise of CGI Means Production Crews Are Thin on Time and Patience.

Gone are the days when a single gunshot wound took all day and 20 pre-packed blood balloons to film. Now, wounds that appear in-scene are generally done practically with actual makeup effects, then obscured digitally until they are ready to be revealed on film. Blood is also usually added to small wounds like gunshots or puncture points in post-production. Pre-production time for most big effects films has, in effect, been seriously trimmed down. Joyner says he was part of a team of 70 that had almost a year to prepare for the 1998 iteration of Godzilla, though most modern films only allot a couple of months working with 10 to 40 people before filming begins.

2. Not All Effects Are as Complicated as They Seem.

Michael Spatola says in his book The Monstrous Make-Up Manual that zombie skin can be created simply by painting flesh-colored latex onto glass. He also points out that the best way to impale an actor with a spike or an arrow is still rigging the weapon on the torso and then “whip-panning” the camera to the injured character. Not only does it hold up, it’s also much less expensive than any CG version of the same effect. According to Joyner, a great way to bite off a character’s nose is to have an actor wear a prosthetic during all of filming until it’s time for chomp down, like in the 1977 version of Sorcerer.

3. Fans and Professionals Agree: Practical Effects Still Rule.

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Following the 2011 release of The Thing—a remake of the 1982 special effects classic—many fans were outraged to see Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc.’s practical effects covered up digitally in post-production. The result was ADI’s Alec Gillis turning to Kickstarter for $350k to make Harbinger Down (now in production with Spatola heading the Effects Department) without any CGI monsters whatsoever. Even CG-heavy films can benefit from old-school tricks: the tiny robot known as Wheelie in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen had a practical puppet counterpart that was used extensively in the film, though initially director Michael Bay hadn’t called for one.

4. MastersFX Bought the Entire World’s Supply of Sex Toy Vinyl for one horror flick.

Effects artists are always looking for new ways to make their manufactured creatures seem life-like, so when Todd Masters and crew discovered how well a material used in the sex novelty industry worked for making things like guts and body parts, they decided it would be perfect for the thousands of parasitic worms needed for the 2006 horror film Slither. When the production of the movie drained the global supply of this particular material, someone had crates of sex toys shipped in to be melted down. Masters says he was walking through his shop one day when he saw “a couple of the tables were just filled with sex toys and people were cutting them into chunks we could melt down.” Call it up-cycled cinema.

5. Special Effects Departments Often Contribute More to a Finished Film Than You Notice.

Keeping movie-goers in a state of suspended disbelief usually goes much further than just making rubber monster suits or realistic blood gags. The effects team for the original Predator film, for instance, also had to make all of the large fallen trees for each shot; the real trees in the jungle where filming took place were not big enough for Ah-nold and his entourage to hide behind.

6. Even if you haven't seen Doug Jones, you've seen Doug Jones.

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Though you may not be familiar with this icon of character acting, Doug Jones has played almost as many roles in full monster make-up as he has without. Jones was the Silver Surfer in the Fantastic Four sequel, Abe Sapien in the Hellboy franchise, both the faun and the freaky “Pale Male” creature (the one with the eyes in his hands) in Pan’s Labyrinth, one of The Gentlemen in the season four Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Hush," and Cochise in the TBS sci-fi series Falling Skies. Actors have always been an important part of bringing creatures to life, though—the six-foot-nine Kevin Peter Hall played both Harry in Harry and the Hendersons and the original Predator (Hall also appears as a helicopter pilot in the 1987 Predator and as a mutant bear in the 1979 B-horror flick, Prophesy).

7. Blood Can Now Be Bought in Bulk.

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Todd Masters, who is responsible for the effects in HBO’s True Blood, says his company used to make all of their own blood in-house. “Finally, after going through about 55 gallons of blood every so many weeks,” it stopped being practical, he says. Fake blood has been made of everything from chocolate syrup (as in the 1960 Hitchcock classic, Psycho) to corn syrup and food coloring (The Godfather). Bruce Campbell of the Evil Dead franchise has a recipe that uses non-dairy creamer as a base. But today Masters says he orders most of his blood from a company called My Blood that specializes in liquid gore for cinema—available in a variety of colors and thicknesses.

8. Creature Designers May Decide the Look of a Monster, but Are Hands-Off When It Comes to the Way It Sounds.

Visual effects, special effects, and sound effects are all separate departments. Masters says the special effects team basically has to cross their fingers that whatever the audio engineers come up with as a voice will work for their monsters. Probably the most famous example of creature sounds in film comes from Jurassic Park (1993), for which sound designer Gary Rydstrom won an Oscar by incorporating the calls of various animals—the velociraptor chirp, for instance, was actually the sound of a tortoise having sex, and the famous T. rex roar was made by slowing down the trumpet of a baby elephant.

9. Makeup Effects Artists Like to Appear in Front of the Camera, Too.

Many iconic effects artists love to make cameos: Greg Nicotero can be seen as a zombie chowing down on a deer carcass in the 2010 episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead titled “Tell It to the Frogs”; Tom Savini sports a sweet revolver codpiece in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn (1996); Academy Award winner Rick Baker appears in makeup in many of his films, including showing up as an alien in Men In Black II and III and also as a bearded zombie in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Todd Masters appears as a male nurse in the 1991 film Shatterbrain and Lee Joyner played a crime scene tech in 1992’s Innocent Blood.

10. Special Effects Artists Don’t Mind Telling You How It’s Done

Keeping true to the tradition of the “Godfather of Makeup,” Dick Smith (who actually did Marlon Brando’s makeup for The Godfather), special effects artists function in a professional community without any secrets. Smith was the guy that figured out how to make facial prosthetics in multiple pieces instead of as a singular latex mask, paving the way for all of the modern-day masters. He also kept up correspondence with the likes of Tom Savini and J.J. Abrams long before they had the resumes we know them for today. This is perhaps why, as Masters put it, “very few (special effects) shops have an exclusive staff nowadays” and artists work primarily as freelancers for a number of different studios.

11. The Original Monster From Aliens (1986) Was First Tested as a Garbage-Bag Beast.

John Rosengrant, who worked for Stan Winston Studios for a number of years before starting his own effects company in 2008 called Legacy Effects, said that his first full-sized test of the creature for the monster sequel was made of foam and garbage bags. Thus, the term “garbage bag test” was coined for a very rough test of a practical effect in pre-production, though the approach (and the term) is used much less now that digital tests are more commonplace.

12. Many Special Effects Artists Are Multi-Talented

“Rick Baker,” says Masters, “is an amazing painter.” He also points out that artists Chet Zar, Jamie Salmon, and Ron Mueck were all monster-makers at one point before they started “pursuing the ‘finer’ things.” John Criswell (Where the Wild Things Are, Predators) makes his own clothes, and Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger are known to shred on the electric guitar. Masters, too, is into fine art (primarily life-sketching), but he, Joyner, and Spatola all proudly point out that their hobby became their career.

13. Occasionally a Happy Accident Will Make It on Screen.

Though many of the industry kinks were worked out during the heyday of the monster movie in the 1980s, sometimes a whoopsy can make for an awesome effect. In the 2008 documentary Fantastic Flesh, Eli Roth says that the leg-shaving scene in Cabin Fever (2002) was supposed to use an effect in which “the skin was supposed to peel off like a banana,” but many of the pre-fab materials were frozen by accident during shipping. The effect that appears on screen in the finished version of the film uses a simple makeup application that is revealed as the actress removes a layer of shaving cream with a blade-less razor. “It wound up being so much more effective,” said Roth.

14. Special Effects Studios Have More Body Parts Than They Know What to Do With.

What does a studio do with all of that stuff lying around? Rent it out, of course! Masters says that his effects studio has made a pretty healthy business out of renting prosthetic children to studios for filming. “Having real babies on set can be kind of a nuisance,” he explains, but now, “you actually don’t need to have a kid on the set anymore.” Masters says that pseudo-children from his shop can even be made into performers through the process of performance transfer, but that’s another story altogether.

15. With Regard to Pre-Production, CG Effects and Practical Effects Cost About the Same.

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Masters says that the modeling and testing phases of both the classic and modern digital approaches to effects-rendering require about the same amount of work, but it’s the touch-ups in post-production (“making it look real,” he says) that drive up the cost of computer generated graphics. Spatola uses the example of the first Spiderman film (2002), in which a number of practical pieces were made for production then cast aside in favor of digital models. He says that it cost an extra $9 million just to get the digital suits to look right for that film on top of the initial production budget. “I could’ve made them some suits that would’ve looked great for less than a million,” he says. 

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11 Magical Facts About Willow
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Five years after the release of Return of the Jedi (1983) and four years after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), George Lucas gave audiences the story for another film about an unlikely hero on an epic journey, but this time he had three Magic Acorns and a taller friend instead of a whip and gun to help him along. Willow (1988) was directed by Ron Howard and starred former Ewok and future Leprechaun, Warwick Davis.

Over the past few decades, Willow—which was released 30 years ago today—has become a cult classic that's been passed down from generation to generation. Before you sit down to explore that world again (or for the first time), here are 11 things you might not have know about Willow.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR WARWICK DAVIS.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Warwick Davis revealed that George Lucas first mentioned the idea for the film to Davis’s mother during the filming of one of the Ewok TV specials in 1983, in which he was reprising his role as Wicket. Lucas had been developing the idea for more than a decade at that point, but working with Davis on Return of the Jedi helped him realize the vision. “George just simply said that he had this idea, and he was writing this story, with me in mind,” Davis said. “He didn't say at that time that it was going to be called Willow. He said, 'It's not for quite yet; it's for a few years ahead, when Warwick is a bit older.'" The role was Davis’s first time not wearing a mask or costume on screen.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED MUNCHKINS.

Five years after he mentioned the idea, Lucas was ready to make his film with Ron Howard directing and a then-17-year-old Davis as the lead. The original title was presumably inspired by the characters from L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the subsequent Victor Fleming film.

3. IT WAS CRITICIZED FOR BEING A COPY OF STAR WARS.

Having thought of the two worlds simultaneously, Lucas may have cribbed some of his own work and other well-known stories a little too much for Willow, and some critics noticed. “Without anything like [Star Wars’s] eager, enthusiastic tone, and indeed with an understandable weariness, Willow recapitulates images from Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, Gulliver's Travels, Mad Max, Peter Pan, Star Wars itself, The Hobbit saga, Japanese monster films of the 1950s, the Bible, and a million fairy tales," wrote Janet Maslin of The New York Times. "One tiny figure combines the best attributes of Tinkerbell, the Good Witch Glinda, and the White Rock Girl.”

Later in her review, Maslin continued to point out the similarities between the two films: “When the sorcerer tells Willow to follow his heart, he becomes the Obi-Wan Kenobi of a film that also has its Darth Vader, R2-D2, C-3P0 and Princess Leia stand-ins. Much energy has gone into the creation of their names, some of which (General Kael) have recognizable sources and others (Burglekutt, Cherlindrea, Airk) have only tongue-twisting in mind. Not even the names have anything like Star Wars-level staying power.”

4. IT WAS THE LARGEST CASTING CALL FOR LITTLE PEOPLE IN MOVIE HISTORY.

Lucas has previously cast several little people for roles in Return of the Jedi, and there were more than 100 actors hired to portray Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. But, according to Davis, the casting call for Willow was the largest ever at the time with between 225 and 240 actors hired for the film.

5. THE DEATH DOGS WERE REAL DOGS IN COSTUME.

The big bad in the film, Bavmorda, has demon dogs that terrorize Willow’s village. The dogs are more boar-like than canine, but they were portrayed by Rottweilers. The prop team outfitted the dogs with rubber masks and used animatronic heads for close-up scenes.

6. IT WAS THE FIRST USE OF MORPHING IN A FILM.

While trying to use magic to turn an animal back into a human, Willow fails several times before eventually getting it right, but he does succeed in turning the animal into another animal, which is shown in stages. To achieve this, the visual effects teamed used a technique known as "morphing."

The film’s visual effects supervisor, Dennis Muren of Industrial Light & Magic, explained the technique to The Telegraph:

The way things had been up till that time, if a character had to change at some way from a dog into a person or something like that it could be done with a series of mechanical props. You would have to cut away to a person watching it, and then cut back to another prop which is pushing the ears out, for example, so it didn't look fake ... we shot five different pieces of film, of a goat, an ostrich, a tiger, a tortoise, and a woman and had one actually change into the shape of the other one without having to cut away. The technique is much more realistic because the cuts are done for dramatic reasons, rather than to stop it from looking bad.”

7. THE STORY WAS CONTINUED IN SEVERAL NOVELS.

Willow has yet to receive a sequel, but fans of the story can return to the world in a trilogy of books that author Chris Claremont wrote in collaboration with Lucas between 1995 and 2000. According to the Amazon synopsis of Shadow Moon, the first book picks up 13 years after the events of the film, and baby Elora Danan’s friendless upbringing has turned her into a “spoiled brat who seemingly takes joy in making miserable the lives around her. The fate of the Great Realms rests in her hands, and she couldn't care less. Only a stranger can lead her to her destiny.”

8. THERE IS A MISSING SCENE CONCERNING THE MAGIC ACORNS.

Hardcore fans of the film have noticed that there is a continuity error that involves the Magic Acorns Willow was given by the High Aldwin. During an interview with The Empire Podcast, Davis explained that in a scene near the end of the film, he throws a second acorn and is inexplicably out after having only used two of the three Magic Acorns he had been given earlier in the film. Included in the Blu-ray release is the cut scene, in which Willow uses an acorn (his second) in a boat during a storm and accidentally turns the boat to stone. Davis says that his hair is wet in the next scene that did make it into the original version of the film, but the acorn is never referenced.

9. JOHN CUSACK AUDITIONED FOR THE PART OF MADMARTIGAN.

Val Kilmer in 'Willow' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Val Kilmer famously played the role of the reluctant hero two years after played Iceman in Top Gun (1986), but he was not the only big name to audition for the role. Davis revealed in a commentary track that he once read with John Cusack, who in 1987 had already starred in Sixteen Candles (1984), Stand by Me (1986), and Hot Pursuit (1987).

10. THERE IS A NOD TO SISKEL AND EBERT.

During a battle scene later in the film, Willow and his compatriots have to fight a two-headed beast outside of the castle. The name of the stop motion beast is the Eborsisk, which is a combination of the names of famed film critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.

11. THE BABY NEVER ACTED AGAIN.

A scene from 'Willow' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

As is the case with most shows and films, the role of the baby Elora was played by twins, in this case Kate and Ruth Greenfield. The IMDb pages for both actresses only has the one credit. In 2007, Davis shared a picture of him posing with a woman named Laura Hopkirk, who said that she played the baby for the scenes shot in New Zealand, but she is not credited online.

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30 Things You Might Not Know About Cheers
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On May 20, 1993—25 years ago today—television audiences said farewell to Sam Malone, the fictional Red Sox pitcher-turned-proprietor of Cheers. Though it's the Boston bar where everybody knows your name, there’s plenty you probably don’t know about the classic sitcom, which spent 11 seasons on the air.

1. CHEERS ALMOST DIDN’T MAKE IT THROUGH SEASON ONE.

Like many of television’s greatest success stories (e.g. Seinfeld), Cheers was not an immediate hit. It premiered on September 30, 1982 to dismal ratings—77th place out of 100 shows that week, according to Nielsen. It was NBC’s entertainment president at the time, Brandon Tartikoff, who saved the show from cancellation during its first season.

2. THE BULL & FINCH PUB, ON WHICH CHEERS IS MODELED, IS NOW CALLED CHEERS

Talk about life imitating art. After it was decided that the series would be set in a bar instead of a hotel, co-creators Glen and Les Charles decided the locale should be moved to New England. “Boston was chosen partially because only five short-lived television shows claimed the city and the East Coast pubs were real neighborhood hangouts,” wrote Dennis A. Bjorklund in his book, Toasting Cheers.

As the show’s popularity rose, it didn’t take long for word to spread that the Beacon Hill tavern was the “real” Cheers (though only the exterior shots were filmed there), turning the neighborhood hangout into a tourist attraction. To satisfy the masses, a second location—this one was actually called "Cheers" and featuring a replica of the bar viewers were used to—was opened in nearby Faneuil Hall in 2001. One year later, the Bull & Finch officially changed its name to Cheers.

3. SAM MALONE WAS ORIGINALLY A PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER.

In the script’s earliest incarnations, Sam Malone was an ex-football player, which made sense considering that Fred Dryer—the former NFL defensive end who would go on to star in Hunter—was a top choice to play the role of Sam (opposite Julia Duffy as Diane; William Devane was also a strong contender). Ultimately, it was the chemistry between Ted Danson and Shelley Long that led to them getting the gigs. Once the casting was finalized, the creators swapped out football for baseball, based on Danson’s body type.

4. TED DANSON ATTENDED BARTENDING SCHOOL.

Danson spent two weeks at a bartending school in Burbank, California as part of his training to play Sam.

5. NORM AND CLIFF WEREN’T INTENDED TO BE REGULAR CHARACTERS.

Both George Wendt and John Ratzenberger auditioned for the same role in the pilot, a minor character named George who had a single line: “Beer!” The character’s name was changed to Norm Peterson when Wendt was cast. But Ratzenberger wasn’t about to give up so easily. “As I was leaving the office after the audition, I turned around and asked them, ‘Do you have a bar know-it-all?,’” the Bridgeport, Connecticut-born Ratzenberger recalled to Ability Magazine. “None of the creators was from New England. They were all Hollywood-centered. And I said, ‘Well, every local bar in New England has got a know-it-all—someone who pretends to have the knowledge of all mankind between his ears and is not shy about sharing it.’” Thus, Cliff Clavin was born.

6. NORM PETERSON IS BASED ON A REAL GUY.

In 2012, co-creator Les Charles told GQ that Norm was based on a real person. “I worked at a bar after college, and we had a guy who came in every night. He wasn't named Norm, [but he] was always going to have just one beer, and then he'd say, ‘Maybe I'll just have one more.’ We had to help him out of the bar every night. His wife would call, and he'd always say, ‘Tell her I'm not here.’”

7. NORM’S NEVER-SEEN WIFE VERA IS VOICED BY GEORGE WENDT’S REAL WIFE.

Though she’s only credited in one episode, George Wendt’s wife, Bernadette Birkett, provided the voice for Norm’s wife, Vera. Birkett did make one appearance on the show—as a love interest of Cliff’s—in season three.

8. JOHN RATZENBERGER IMPROVISED MANY OF CLIFF’S FUN FACTS.

Many of the random (and untrue) facts that Cliff Clavin offers up were ad libbed by Ratzenberger. “After a couple of years on the show they realized they could trust me not to mess it up,” Ratzenberger told Deseret News in 1993. “So little by little they've let me just sort of run off. Because I know when to stop … It's easy to improvise comedy. It really is. But the art is knowing when to shut up and let other people talk. That's a hard thing to learn.”

9. SOME OF THE DIALOGUE CAME FROM REAL BAR CONVERSATIONS.

In order to nail the bar talk aspect of the series, the creators regularly visited bars in the Los Angeles area to eavesdrop on patrons’ conversations. In the series premiere, there’s an argument about the sweatiest movie ever made, which was lifted from one of these overheard conversations.

10. CHEERS WASN’T AFRAID TO TACKLE SOCIAL ISSUES.

Cheers’ writers never shied away from taboo topics such as alcoholism or homosexuality, through they always had a sense of humor about them. The season one episode “The Boys in the Bar,” in which one of Sam’s former teammates announces that he is gay, earned writers Ken Levine and David Isaacs a GLAAD Media Award.

11. PLANS FOR AN HIV SCARE FOR SAM HAD TO BE ABANDONED.

In 1988, the Writers Guild of America went on strike, which meant that several planned episodes of the series were never filmed. Among them was a season six cliffhanger in which Sam learns that a former girlfriend is HIV positive.

12. RHEA WASN’T THE ONLY PERLMAN ON THE SET.

Rhea Perlman wasn’t the only member of her family to grace the set of Cheers. Her younger sister, Heide, produced more than two dozen episodes between 1985 and 1986 and wrote several episodes throughout the show’s run. Perlman’s father, Phil, played one of the bar regulars (named Phil).

13. JAY THOMAS MURDERED EDDIE LEBEC.


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When character actor Jay Thomas wasn’t portraying Carla’s Bruin-turned-ice-show-performer husband Eddie LeBec, he was the host of a popular morning radio show in Los Angeles. Which is exactly what led to his character being killed off rather prematurely by way of Zamboni. “A few episodes of recurring bliss and then one day on Jay’s radio show, a caller asked him what it was like to be on Cheers,” recounted writer Ken Levine. “He said something to the effect of, ‘It’s brutal. I have to kiss Rhea Perlman.’ Well, guess who happened to be listening ... Jay Thomas was never seen on Cheers again.”

14. A CHEERS MINI-EPISODE WAS PRODUCED FOR THE U.S. TREASURY.

Early in Cheers’ run, its creators were contracted by the U.S. Treasury to create a special mini-episode to promote the purchase of U.S. savings bonds. Titled “Uncle Sam Malone,” the episode never aired on television nor is it included on any of the DVDs; it was intended to be screened for promotional purposes at savings bond drives only.

15. A “LOST” SCENE ALSO AIRED AS PART OF THE 1983 SUPER BOWL XVII PREGAME SHOW.

Back in early 1983, writers Ken Levine and David Isaacs wrote a special one-off scene to air before Super Bowl XVII in which Sam, Diane, Carla, Norm, Cliff, and NBC announcer Pete Axthelm bet on who will win the big game. “They ran it just before game time and it was seen by 80,000,000 people,” Levine recalled of the spot on his blog. “Nothing we've ever written before or since has been seen by that many eyeballs at one time. But the scene was never repeated. It never appeared on any DVDs. It just disappeared.” (Until now: You can watch it at the link above.)

16. TED DANSON WORE A HAIRPIECE TO PLAY HAIR-OBSESSED SAM


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A fact that became apparent when he accepted the Emmy—sans hairpiece—in 1990. In the 1993 episode “It’s Lonely on the Top,” Sam shares his follicular challenge with Carla.

17. VIEWERS FREQUENTLY COMPLAINED ABOUT THE VOLUME OF THE LAUGH TRACK, EVEN THOUGH THERE WAS NO LAUGH TRACK.

In 1983, a quick disclaimer—spoken by one of the regular cast members—was added to the beginning of each episode: “Cheers was filmed before a live studio audience.” This was a direct response to viewer complaints that the “laugh track” was too loud.

18. THE PART OF FRASIER WAS WRITTEN FOR JOHN LITHGOW.


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After recent roles in All That Jazz, Blow Out, and The World According to Garp (for which he received his first of two consecutive Oscar nominations), Lithgow was not interested in working on the small screen. “I just said, 'No,’” Lithgow recalled to The Hollywood Reporter. “I barely even remembered that … It was like swatting away a fly … I just wasn’t going to do a series.”

19. KELSEY GRAMMER PLAYED FRASIER CRANE FOR 20 YEARS.

Grammer made his Cheers debut in the third season premiere in 1984. Though he was intended to be a short-lived character, Crane’s popularity with audiences led to him becoming a series regular. Four months after Cheers ended in May of 1993, Frasier made its debut (on the redesigned Cheers stage, no less) and ran for its own 11 seasons. Grammer’s two-decade run as the pretentious psychiatrist is a record-breaking one for an American comedy actor.

20. TONY SOPRANO'S MOM PLAYED FRASIER'S MOM, TOO.


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Nancy Marchand's character threatened to kill Diane. The role of Frasier's mom was played by Tom Hanks' wife Rita Wilson in a 2001 Frasier flashback.

21. KIRSTIE ALLEY IS THE ONLY MAIN CHARACTER WHO DIDN’T MAKE A GUEST APPEARANCE ON FRASIER.

Throughout Frasier’s 11-season run, Kirstie Alley was the only one of Cheers’ main actors to not make an appearance on the popular spinoff, possibly because the psychiatric profession conflicts with her beliefs as a Scientologist. “Kirstie once said ... she'd never do a show about a psychiatrist,” Kelsey Grammer told Entertainment Weekly in 2002.

22. FRASIER’S DAD WAS MAGICALLY RESURRECTED FOR THE SPINOFF.

When Frasier talked about his family on Cheers, he noted that his father—also a well-respected psychiatrist—had passed away. Yet his ex-cop dad, played by John Mahoney, is a main character in Frasier. Incidentally, Mahoney made a one-off appearance in Cheers’ eleventh season, as a fast-talking jingle writer named Sy Flembeck:

23. NORM’S FIRST NAME IS HILLARY.

His full name is Hillary Norman Peterson.

24. THAT WOODY PLAYED WOODY WAS A TOTAL COINCIDENCE.

Though many of the non-regular bar patrons’ real names were used in filming, that Woody Harrelson ended up playing Woody Boyd is by sheer coincidence. The character’s name was written into the script long before any actors had auditioned for the role.

25. NORM DRANK “NEAR BEER.”

The bar on the set may have been fully functional, but that doesn’t mean the cast got to spend the day throwing back cold ones. Norm may have had it the worst. As the bar’s resident lush, he’s rarely seen without a sudsy glass of beer in his hand. But what’s really in that glass is “near beer,” a weakened strain of ale mixed with a bit of salt to keep a perfect head on the glass at all times. Which Wendt unfortunately had to consume on more than one occasion.

26. THE SHOW HELPED PROMOTE THE IDEA OF A DESIGNATED DRIVER.

It was important to the producers of Cheers that no tipsy bar patron ever drove him or herself home, so there are frequent references to calling cabs and designated drivers. The Harvard Alcohol Project had a hand in spreading this message.

27. SAM AND DIANE DID GET MARRIED AT THE END OF SEASON FIVE.

Because Cheers was filmed in front of a live studio audience, the producers had to occasionally trick the audience so that show developments weren’t leaked. In order to keep Shelley Long’s departure from the series a secret, the live audience saw Sam and Diane get married at the end of season five. The real ending—which sees Diane leaving for six months to finish her book, only to return for a guest appearance in the final season—was filmed on a closed set.

28. CHEERS HABLA ESPAÑOL.

In September 2011, a Spanish version of the series—also called Cheers—made its debut. It starred Alberto San Juan as a former soccer player turned Irish pub owner and ran for just one season.

29. THE END OF THE SHOW IS ALL TED DANSON’S FAULT.

Though understandably so. When Danson announced that he’d be leaving the series at the end of the 1992-1993 season, producers decided that Woody could take over the bar. But Woody Harrelson wasn’t interested in continuing the show without Danson, and so its series finale was set.

30. THE CAST AND CREW GOT REALLY, REALLY DRUNK FOR THEIR SENDOFF.

NBC made a major event of the series finale, with cast and crew celebrating at Boston’s Bull & Finch Pub, where thousands of fans gathered outside to watch the show on two Jumbotrons. Then the drinks started flowing … and flowing … and flowing. “The show ended at eleven,” Ken Levine wrote in a 2013 remembrance of the evening for Vulture. “The next half-hour was an emotional tsunami. Everyone was hugging and crying and doing a lot of drinking. We were all completely wrecked.”

Then it was time for the cast to make an appearance on The Tonight Show. “The cast, in no condition to face anybody, much less 40 million people, dutifully trooped downstairs to do the live show,” Levine continued. “Us non-celeb types stayed back and watched on TV … in horror. They were so drunk they needed designated walkers. They giggled like schoolgirls over nothing, fired spitballs into each other’s mouths, squirted water guns, Woody Harrelson implied he gave oral sex to both Ted Danson and Oliver Stone, and Kirstie Alley sang a song where the only lyric was ‘dick, dick, dick.’”

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