10 Behind-the-Scenes Facts About Daniel Radcliffe's New Show Miracle Workers

Courtesy of TBS
Courtesy of TBS

Have you ever wondered if someone is up there, answering your prayers? In the new comedy Miracle Workers, which premieres on TBS on February 12, there is someone up there answering prayers, and it’s Daniel Radcliffe. The Harry Potter star plays Craig, an angel at Heaven, Inc. who works in the Department of Answered Prayers. He’s the only one in the Department until Eliza, played by Geraldine Viswanathan, is transferred there. They soon must answer an “impossible prayer” in order to keep God, played by Steve Buscemi, from destroying Earth. (Radcliffe, Viswanathan, and Buscemi are joined by Karan Soni, who plays Sanjay, an executive who works closely with God, and Lolly Adefope, who plays Rosie, God’s assistant.)

Mental Floss hopped on the phone with Radcliffe to find out all about why he loves Miracle Workers, what he has in common with his character, and what he hopes viewers will take away from the new series.

1. Miracle Workers is based on a book, but differs a bit from its source material.

Miracle Workers is based on Simon Rich’s book What In God’s Name: A Novel. "The TV show is much more sort of secular than the book was in many ways,” Radcliffe tells Mental Floss. “There’s a few kind of Bible-y, Old Testament-y tropes in there, but it’s mainly much more this idea of heaven and God as a corporation and a CEO. There’s an internal bureaucracy to how everything works.”

The book has been compared to Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and, says Radcliffe, “One of the things that’s fun about Douglas Adam’s books, or loads of great books that fall into some sort of fantasy, sci-fi [category], is that they build these worlds. I think that the world Simon has built in this heavenly corporation is really a fun place to spend time as a viewer, hopefully. And part of the joy of the show is in seeing the mess of how it all supposedly works—or doesn’t work, in many cases.”

2. Radcliffe has wanted to be involved since reading the book ...

Radcliffe loved What In God’s Name from the get-go. After reading it, he met with Rich, “and I basically said, ‘I love this book, and if you ever turn it into anything—if that was film, TV, or radioplay, I don’t care—I would just love to be involved.’”

About a year later, Rich called Radcliffe and proposed a TV series. Usually when something like this happens, Radcliffe says, your agent sets up the call and you know you shouldn’t commit until you’ve run it by them. But when it came to Miracle Workers, “I was basically immediately in. It wasn’t one of those things where I have to like ‘Oh, I should need to talk this over with anyone.’ It was just like, ‘No. I am doing this. If this show is happening, then I want to be in it.’”

3. … and he would have played any character.

An image of Daniel Radcliffe on the set of Miracle Workers.
Courtesy of TBS

When it came time to figure out what his role would be, Radcliffe says that he was “literally up for anything. It was very much just a case of me saying to Simon: ‘Any role you see fit to use me in, please use me. I would love to have that happen.’” That said, Radcliffe admits that, “I always felt like Craig was the most natural fit. Or Craig is the one I would pick if I could pick. And I’m very happy that he chose Craig.”

Radcliffe didn’t just act in Miracle Workers; he also executive produced it (along with Rich, Buscemi, Lorne Michaels, Andrew Singer, and co-executive producer Katy Johnson). “I was involved in the development of the project, and casting and that side of the process,” Radcliffe says. “But once I got on set, I was focused on just acting. I don’t want to take credit away from the people who really worked very hard!”

4. Miracle Workers shows off Radcliffe’s comedic side.

As Radcliffe told us in 2014, when he’s on the hunt for new projects, he’s always looking for something that will challenge him. He’s dabbled in comedic roles before, especially in indie films and onstage (and, of course, in a memorable appearance on Extras)—but he says Miracle Workers is “the [first] time I feel like I’ve got to really do comedy in a way that many people in America may have a chance to see it, which is really exciting. I don’t think I’ve ever been in anything with quite [this] sense of humor before. So it was kind of new for me. And to be able to work on a series like this, which had a writer’s room ... I got to spend a little bit of time in that room, and I’m just in awe of how f***ing talented and funny people are. I’m very, very lucky I got to say their jokes.”

5. Radcliffe and his character have at least one thing in common.

Craig is a bit of an oddball; he’s extremely devoted to his job and doesn’t have many friends. And also, he really loves mustard. It’s something the character has in common with Radcliffe, who is emphatic on this point: “I f**king love mustard. If you have a steak or something and there’s some like mustard left in the bowl at the end [of dinner], I will eat that off a spoon.” When he read that moment in the script, “I swear I almost emailed Simon, like, ‘has someone told you something about me?’” Radcliffe says, laughing.

Craig’s method of eating mustard differs slightly from Radcliffe’s, however: The character squeezes packets directly into his mouth. “I worked out that the most efficient method of getting an entire packet of mustard into your mouth without just squeezing it all over your face is to tear off a corner, and then bite down. Put the entire packet into your mouth and just drag it out through your teeth,” Radcliffe says. “I don’t do that in real life.” Which isn’t to say he actually minded having to eat mustard while shooting. “Everyone on set was going ‘you must hate this,’” he says, “and I was having to pretend like, ‘Yeah, yeah. This is weird.’”

6. The Heaven Corporation’s industrial vibe comes from Miracle Workers’s set.

Miracle Workers was shot in Norcross, Georgia, in an airport-sized factory-turned-studio space. “They basically scaled [the factory operation] down so that now, I think one-tenth of the factory space is in use for its original purpose, and the rest of it’s just rented out for films and studio spaces,” Radcliffe says.

The production team took advantage of what was left in the factory for the set of Miracle Workers. “[That’s] why it does have this fantastic semi-bureaucratic, semi-industrial feel to it, the whole set,” Radcliffe says. “A lot of the time in the corridors we weren’t even using sets, we were just using the factory and the studio itself as our set.”

7. The show’s production and design teams clearly had a blast.

An image of Daniel Radcliffe, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Karan Soni in Miracle Workers.
Courtesy of TBS

The humor in Miracle Workers extends to the show’s sets and props—look in the background and you’re likely to find something that will get you giggling. “It was one of those projects where you could tell those departments were having a lot of fun,” Radcliffe says. “Sometimes the production designer’s job is to go unnoticed and create something incredibly naturalistic, but when you have to create a really unique, unexpected version of heaven, something that everybody has at some point had some concept of—I think those departments have a lot of fun just upending it [and], along with Simon, creating that world.”

8. Radcliffe’s favorite set was Craig’s office.

“I loved my, Craig’s, office,” he says. “Just an endless amount of jokes in the background, and an endless array of props to play with and get involved in the scene. It felt like I had imagined it, somehow. It was a really brilliant set, with the wall of prayers he’s answered just stretching up into infinity. There are so many great ideas in there.”

9. Answering an “impossible” prayer drives most of the action, but there are other hijinks, too.

In the Department of Answered Prayers, Craig separates the prayers into ones he thinks he can accomplish, and ones he labels “impossible,” which go directly up to God. When answering a prayer they’ve marked doable, the angels have to do it unobtrusively; being too obvious or taking a shortcut can lead to unintended consequences. So Craig spends inordinate amounts of time generating wind to precisely blow leaves away to reveal a missing item, for example.

But those minor miracles take a backseat when Craig and Eliza start trying to answer their impossible prayer, which involves Earthlings Laura and Sam (played by Sasha Compère and Jon Bass). “That’s really what drives the plot in every episode,” Radcliffe says. “There are things that they have to do along the way in order to [answer it], and some of that does involve orchestrating people on Earth’s lives, in hopefully as unobtrusive of a way as possible. But as the series goes on and we get more desperate, our miracles get a lot less subtle.” (And, it should be said, more hilarious.)

10. The humor in Miracle Workers is dark, but the message is uplifting.

One thing that really excites Radcliffe about Miracle Workers is ultimately what he hopes audiences will take away from it. “Simon’s tone in that world view is something that I’m excited to share with people—that sensibility that the world is a dark, chaotic place sometimes, but it’s the only one we have,” he says. “[The show] has a lot of faith in human beings, and there’s an immense amount of excitement for the idea of being alive—in spite of all the insanity that the world sometimes offers you. The jokes are very sharp, but there’s a generosity of spirit that I really love and hope that other people love, too!”

15 Facts About Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure on Its 30th Anniversary

MGM
MGM

In 1989, a couple of slackers from San Dimas, California hopped inside a time-traveling phone booth and gathered a gaggle of key figures from the past so they wouldn’t fail their high school history class. In 1991, they were at it again. Now, 30 years after Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter first cemented their place in sci-fi history as the lovable duo, the long-awaited threequel—Bill & Ted Face the Music—has been officially confirmed. Here are 15 things you might not know about the most excellent original film.

1. Bill and Ted were born in an improv class.

The idea for the characters of Bill and Ted came about in 1983, when UCLA classmates Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson formed a student improv workshop with a few of their peers. “One day, we decided to do a couple of guys who knew nothing about history, talking about history,” Solomon recalled to Cinemafantastique in a 1991 interview. “The initial improv was them studying history, while Ted’s father kept coming up to ask them to turn their music down.” (Solomon played Ted, Matheson was Bill.)

2. Originally, it was Bill & Ted & Bob.

When the skit originated, there was a third character, Bob. But “Bob” wasn’t as into it as Solomon and Matheson, so the trio became a duo.

3. Bill wanted to be Ted and Ted wanted to be Bill.

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Keanu Reeves playing Ted Logan, or another actor besides Alex Winter in the role of Bill S. Preston, Esq., but each actor actually auditioned for the opposite role. But when Solomon and Matheson saw their audition tapes, they thought the opposite would work better. In an online chat with Moviefone, Reeves claimed that he didn’t even know their roles had been switched until after he had been cast. “I got a call saying that I got the part,” Reeves recalled. “So I went to the wardrobe fitting… assuming I was playing Bill, and I get there and Alex Winter, who eventually played Bill, went to the wardrobe fitting thinking he was playing Ted. Then we were informed that that wasn't the case.”

4. Pauly Shore also wanted to be Ted.


Getty Images

Pauly Shore was among the hundreds of actors who auditioned for the role of Ted. In 1991, Shore hosted an MTV special, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Premiere Party, in which Shore corners Reeves in a back room to talk about his failed audition. Lucky for America, Shore did go on to find fame apart from Bill & Ted, and bring the phrase, “Hey, Bu-ddy!” into the popular lexicon.

5. No, Bio-Dome is not Bill & Ted's threequel.

Speaking of Pauly Shore ... For years, rumors circulated that the script for 1996’s Bio-Dome—starring Shore and Stephen Baldwin—was actually written as the third film in the Bill & Ted franchise. In 2011, Winter laid this rumor to rest when he told /Film that the story is “total urban legend as far as I know. No one involved in that movie had anything to do with Bill & Ted. So unless they were just going to try and reboot the franchise with that concept and different actors, I can’t see a connection.”

6. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter weren't quite nerdy enough.

The casting of Reeves and Winter posed a problem for the script. “Bill and Ted were conceived in our minds as these 14-year-old skinny guys, with low-rider bellbottoms and heavy metal T-shirts,” Solomon told Cinefantastique. “We actually had a scene that was even shot, with Bill and Ted walking past a group of popular kids who hate them. But once you cast Alex and Keanu, who look like pretty cool guys, that was hard to believe.”

7. George Carlin was a happy accident.


Getty Images

In a 2013 Reddit AMA, Alex Winter called the casting of George Carlin (as Rufus, Bill and Ted’s mentor) “a very happy accident. They were going after serious people first. Like Sean Connery. And someone had the idea, way after we started shooting, of George. That whole movie was a happy accident. No one thought it would ever see the light of day.”

8. The time machine was originally a van.

In Solomon and Matheson’s original script, it was a 1969 Chevy van that served as Bill and Ted’s time machine. But in the course of rewriting the script for Warner Bros., who showed early interest in producing the project, there was concern that a motor vehicle as time machine would ring too closely as a rip-off of Back to the Future, which arrived in theaters in 1985. It was director Stephen Herek who suggested a phone booth, as he thought it could lend itself to something akin to a roller coaster in the visuals. (The phone booth’s similarity to Doctor Who’s TARDIS was apparently not a big concern to the studio.)

9. Some Nintendo lover has that phone booth.

As part of a promotion for 1991’s Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure, Nintendo Power magazine gave away Bill & Ted’s phone booth as a contest prize. The lucky winner was one Kenneth Grayson, who Reddit tracked down for an AMA in 2011. Grayson spent much of the chat answering questions about whether or not any X-rated activities had ever taken place in the phone booth.

10. The script was written in four days. By hand.

In 1984, Solomon and Matheson wrote the script over the course of just four days. They wrote it by hand, on note paper, during a series of meetings at a couple of local coffee shops. The 2005 box set, Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection, features some of their handwritten notes.

11. Sci-fi wasn't part of the plan.

Keanu Reeves, Dan Shor, and Alex Winter in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
MGM

Though Matheson is the son of legendary sci-fi writer Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend, he didn’t intend for Bill & Ted to be a science-fiction movie. “I try to consciously fight it, out of a desire to break away, but maybe I have a predilection toward that because of my dad,” Matheson told Starlog Magazine of the inevitable fantasy elements that emerged. “He’s a great writer and craftsman, and always has suggestions.” In fact, it was the elder Matheson’s idea that the time travel story be its own movie. “We were going to write a sketch film, with this as one of the skits, but my dad said, ‘That sounds like a whole movie,’” Matheson recalled, “And he was right!”

12. Bill and Ted almost traveled straight to television.

Shortly after principal photography on the film was completed in 1987, the film’s financiers, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, went bankrupt. A straight-to-cable release was the most likely path for the time-traveling comedy until Orion Pictures and Nelson Entertainment bought the rights in 1988 for a 1989 release. Because of the delay to theaters, references to the year—which had been filmed as “1987”—had to be dubbed for 1988, resulting in a few scenes where the actors’ lips don’t quite match the sound.

13. Their journeys continued in a variety of media.

In addition to the 1991 sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the Bill & Ted franchise includes 1990’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, an animated series for which Reeves, Winter, and Carlin provided the voices. It lasted for one season. The title was revived as a live-action series in 1992, which included none of the original cast and ran for just seven episodes. In 1991, Marvel Comics launched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Comic Book, written by Evan Dorkin.

14. Back in the late 1980s, you could eat Bill and Ted.

As a tie-in to the animated series, you could—for a short while—actually start your morning with a bowl of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Cereal, which was touted as “A Most Awesome Breakfast Adventure.”

15. Bill and Ted will ride again.

Over the past several years there has been a lot of buzz about a third Bill & Ted movie coming to theaters. In 2011, Winter tweeted that the script had been completed and that he was getting ready to read it. When asked about the possibility of a threequel in 2013, Reeves told the Today Show, “I'm open to the idea of that. I think it’s pretty surreal, playing Bill and Ted at 50. But we have a good story in that. You can see the life and joy in those characters, and I think the world can always use some life and joy.” Several references to the possible project have been made since then, and it's now been confirmed that the third film, Bill and Ted Face the Music, is currently in pre-production.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, via a report from the Cannes Film Festival, Matheson and Solomon co-wrote the script and Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) is attached to direct. Reeves and Winter will, of course, be reprising their roles, which "will see the duo long past their days as time-traveling teenagers and now weighed down by middle age and the responsibilities of family. They’ve written thousands of tunes, but they have yet to write a good one, much less the greatest song ever written." Excellent!

6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars

getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards's more than 90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. Best Actor // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Beery won for The Champ (writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. Best Documentary Short Subject // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. Best Actress // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. Best Documentary Feature // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. Best Short Film (Live Action) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars current Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. Best Sound Editing // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened in 2013, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg told the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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