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15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Payback

There was nearly as much action and intrigue behind the scenes of this 1999 Mel Gibson flick as there was in the movie. Check out these 15 little-known facts about Payback.

1. Payback is based on the novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake.

The Hunter (written by Westlake under the pseudonym “Richard Stark”) was previously adapted for the screen in 1967 as Point Blank, directed by John Boorman and starring Lee Marvin.

2. Payback is Brian Helgeland’s directorial debut.

Before making Payback, Helgeland had primarily been known as a screenwriter—he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for 1997’s L.A. Confidential.

3. Mel Gibson and Helgeland met on set of the film Conspiracy Theory, which Helgeland wrote.

Helgeland showed Gibson the first 30 pages of the script for Payback and Gibson—acting on behalf of his production company, Icon Productions—guaranteed to make the movie if Helgeland could start shooting within 12 weeks.

4. Maria Bello was cast after Helgeland saw an audition she did for a completely different movie.

Helgeland was having difficulty finding an actress to play the Rosie character, so he took a look at a random group of Warner Brothers casting tapes. He came across the audition tape Bello made for a Superman movie that was never greenlighted and liked it so much that he sought her out to play Rosie.

5. Helgeland was inspired by gritty crime dramas from the 1970s.

He used films like The Getaway, Dirty Harry, and Charley Varrick for visual references. In fact, the restaurant that Stegman takes Val to is named Varrick’s as a nod to Charley Varrick.

6. Albert Brooks and Ted Danson auditioned to play Val Resnick.

Gregg Henry (Scandal, The Killing) was ultimately cast.

7.  Helgeland originally storyboarded the entire movie—only to scrap his plans.

Instead, he elected to block every shot on set each day to lend a more spontaneous and gritty feel to the film.

8. All of the film’s exteriors were shot in Chicago.

But all of the interiors were shot in Los Angeles.

9. Helgeland wanted to shoot the film in black and white.

But the studio wouldn’t let him. Instead, a bleach bypass process was done in post-production in order to filter down the film’s color tones to make it more reminiscent of a black and white movie.

10. All of the cars used in the film were from 1989 or earlier.

This gave the movie a throwback feel. Additionally, all of the phones are rotary phones. Helgeland didn’t want viewers to be able to pin down the era in which the film took place.

11. Helgeland was fired as director before the film wrapped production.

He and the studio disagreed over the original ending of Payback, and when a consensus couldn’t be achieved, Helgeland was fired. A new director was brought in to reshoot—these new scenes make up about 30 percent of the theatrical cut.

12. The studio couldn’t have had worse timing with Helgeland’s firing.

Helgeland got the axe just three days after winning his Academy Award for LA Confidential.

13. The original version didn’t have a voiceover.

Nor did it include Kris Kristofferson’s character, and it had a completely different ending.

14. The image of Mel Gibson from the film’s theatrical poster is from Helgeland’s original ending.

It doesn’t actually appear in the film’s theatrical release.

15. In 2007, Helgeland was able to re-cut the film into his original vision.

It was released as Payback: Straight Up—The Director’s Cut.

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13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.

1. ON ADVICE

"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

2. ON REGRETS

"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks

3. ON DEATH

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert

4. ON NERVES

''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times

5. ON ACTING

"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age

6. ON MARRIAGE

"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with About.com

7. ON LYING

“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair

8. ON HIS SUNGLASSES

"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

9. ON MISCONCEPTIONS

"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN

10. ON DIRECTING

"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV

11. ON ROGER CORMAN

"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World

12. ON PLAYING THE JOKER

"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman

13. ON BASKETBALL

"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

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There's a Simple Trick to Sort Movies and TV Shows by Year on Netflix
Netflix
Netflix

Netflix is stocked with so many movies and TV shows that it’s not always easy to actually find what you’re looking for. And while sorting by genre can help a little, even that’s a bit too broad for some. There’s one helpful hack, though, that you probably didn’t know about—and it could make the endless browsing much less painful.

As POPSUGAR reports: By simply opening Netflix up to one of its specific category pages—Horror, Drama, Comedy, Originals, etc.—you can then sort by release year with just a few clicks. All you need to do is look at the top of the page, where you’ll see an icon that looks like a box with four dots in it.

Screenshot of the Netflix Menu
Netflix

Once you click on it, it will expand to a tab labeled “Suggestions for You.” Just hit that again and a dropdown menu will appear that allows you to sort by year released or alphabetical and reverse-alphabetical orders. When sorted by release year, the more recent movies or shows will be up top and they'll get older as you scroll to the bottom of the page.


Netflix

This tip further filters your Netflix options, so if you’re in the mood for a classic drama, old-school comedy, or a retro bit of sci-fi, you don’t have to endlessly scroll through every page to find the right one.

If you want to dig deeper into Netflix’s categories, here’s a way to find all sorts of hidden ones the streaming giant doesn’t tell you about. And also check out these 12 additional Netflix tricks that should make your binge-watching that much easier.

[h/t POPSUGAR]

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