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18 Things You Might Not Know About Frasier

Gale Adler/Paramount
Gale Adler/Paramount

The character of psychiatrist Frasier Crane was added to Cheers during the series’ third season as a temporary release for some of the Sam and Diane relationship tension. Dr. Crane was only supposed to be around for a few episodes, but thanks to a combination of good writing and Kelsey Grammer’s performance, Frasier became a series regular by Cheers's fifth season. He was so popular that he was eventually spun off into his own series, which premiered on September 16, 1993—and lasted an amazing 11 years. Here are some fun behind-the-scenes facts for all you Frasier fans.

1. THE ORIGINAL IDEA FOR THE SHOW HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH FRASIER.

Kelsey Grammer and the creative team behind Frasier (David Lee, David Angell, and Peter Casey) originally thought that any use of the Dr. Crane character would encourage unfair comparisons to Cheers, so their initial ideas involved Kelsey playing a paralyzed media mogul cared for by a street-smart nurse in a Manhattan penthouse. Paramount hated the idea and convinced all concerned that it would be unwise not to capitalize on the built-in Cheers audience.

2. THEY WANTED TO SET THE SHOW AS FAR AWAY FROM BOSTON AS POSSIBLE.

Once it was agreed that Grammer would continue as Dr. Crane, the creators still wanted to distance themselves from Boston and the whole "crossover syndrome." They knew that the network would insist on having former Cheers characters make guest appearances if the show was set anywhere in Massachusetts, so they moved Frasier across the country to Seattle. The gourmet coffee scene was just taking root in that area, which provided a central meeting place for the characters. The creators didn't want Frasier Crane to work in private practice, since that had already been done on The Bob Newhart Show. Grammer's resonant voice seemed natural for radio, so the concept of a call-in psychiatry show seemed natural.

3. LISA KUDROW COULD HAVE PLAYED ROZ ...

Future Friends star Lisa Kudrow originally won the role of Frasier’s producer, Roz Doyle. But during the third day of rehearsals prior to filming the pilot, the producers realized that while Kudrow was certainly funny enough, she just wasn’t forceful enough to match Grammer when he went all out. They needed a female “alpha dog” to play the part, so Kudrow was out and second choice Peri Gilpin was in. The character was named after Roz Doyle, one of the producers of Wings who died of breast cancer in 1991 at age 49.

4. ... AND ROSIE PEREZ WAS ALMOST DAPHNE.

Rosie Perez was this close to being psychic home health care worker Daphne. Grammer was pushing for the character to be a Latina, while the producers had their eye on Jane Leeves. Grammer’s main objection to the British Leeves was that the show might too closely resemble Nanny and the Professor, a warm and fuzzy family sitcom of the 1970s that starred Juliet Mills as an English nanny with psychic abilities. Grammer agreed to Leeves as the choice when his initial table reading with the actress went exceptionally well.

5. KELSEY GRAMMER SANG THE SHOW'S THEME SONG.

Composer Bruce Miller was given the challenging assignment of writing a theme song for the series that didn’t specifically mention psychiatry, radio, or the name “Frasier.” Lyricist Darryl Phinnesse came up with the cryptic phrase “tossed salad and scrambled eggs” as a metaphor for the “mixed up” patients that Dr. Crane saw regularly. Miller originally envisioned Mel Tormé singing the theme over the closing credits, but the producers preferred to employ Grammer’s golden throat.

6. THE SHOW'S DESIGNERS SPENT MAJOR MONEY FURNISHING FRASIER'S APARTMENT.

“So what do you think of what I’ve done with the place?” Frasier asked his father, Martin, in the pilot episode. “You know, every item here was carefully selected. The lamp by Corbu, this chair by Eames, and this couch is an exact replica of the one Coco Chanel had in her Paris atelier.” The show’s set designers spent almost half a million dollars to give Frasier’s apartment its “eclectic” look. The Coco Chanel replica sofa was covered with 24 yards of Italian suede for an estimated cost of about $15,000. The Eames chair was rented, but the Pastoe curved sideboard was purchased for $3,200 and the Wassily chair had a $1,395 price tag. Martin’s eyesore of a recliner was also on the pricey side, since the prop department couldn’t find an appropriately ugly chair at any second-hand store. The chair was eventually covered with tape and covered with fabric purchased from an exclusive shop that specialized in deliberately tacky 1970s-era textiles.

7. THE FIRST CUT OF THE PILOT WAS SIX MINUTES TOO LONG.

After seven passes, it still came in sixty seconds more than it should and the creative team decided they couldn’t cut any more. NBC agreed and said they would find the extra time—not by cutting a commercial, but by taking 15 seconds from the other 4 shows on that night.

8. JANE LEEVES WORKED WITH AN ACCENT COACH.

Leeves grew up just north of London, England, but since her character was from Manchester she used an affected Mancunian accent (which received a lot of criticism from fans when Frasier aired in the U.K.). Leeves worked with a voice coach to ensure that her accent would be understood by American viewers. John Mahoney, on the other hand, grew up in Manchester but emigrated to the U.S. when he was 19 years old. He concentrated on losing his accent shortly after settling in Illinois so that he would “blend in.”

9. THE CAST MEMBER WHO RECEIVED THE MOST FAN MAIL ISN'T THE ONE YOU MIGHT EXPECT.

When Frasier first started topping the Nielsen ratings every week, which cast member received the most fan mail? Eddie the dog. Leeves once wryly observed that when Entertainment Weekly used Frasier as a lead story in 1993, Eddie was the only cast member to appear on the cover. Eddie was portrayed by a Jack Russell Terrier named Moose, who'd originally been adopted by a family that wasn't aware of the breed's rambunctious nature. Moose had relentless energy—he dug holes in the back yard, chased anything in his path, chewed furniture and even climbed trees to escape his enclosure. His family gave him up to a rescue organization, which is where professional trainer Mathilde de Cagny discovered him. She decided he would be a good working dog because of his boundless energy and desire to always be doing something. Moose turned out to be an apt pupil, and learned to follow commands immediately. During the doggie auditions for the show, the producers were looking for a pooch that could stare endlessly at Kelsey Grammer (a running joke on the series), and Moose performed flawlessly, staring at Mathilde's outstretched index finger offstage until he was "released."

10. WHEN HE RETIRED, MOOSE WAS REPLACED BY HIS SON.

Moose retired at the age of 10 (after the end of Season 7) and his son Enzo took over the role of Eddie. Moose had been bred with the idea of achieving a look-alike replacement when it became obvious that Frasier would have a long run. Enzo had two siblings, a sister named Miko who was too small to play Eddie, and Moosie, who had noticeably different markings. Peri Gilpin, who played Roz, fell in love with Moosie and adopted him.

11. THE FRASIER WRITERS SOMETIMES WORKED SUBTLE HOMAGES TO CHEERS INTO THE SCRIPTS.

One famous example was the recreation of a scene where Sam and Diane were embroiled in a vicious argument that almost ended up in fisticuffs but instead resulted in a passionate embrace. Of course, when Frasier used the same tactic during a shouting match with financial analyst Julia Wilcox, he ended up being accused of sexual harassment.

12. MOST OF THE CHEERS CAST MADE APPEARANCES ON THE SHOW.

Most of the main Boston tavern regulars made appearances on Frasier. Lilith, logically, visited the most since she was Frasier’s ex and Frederick’s mom. Sam, Diane, and Woody all found themselves in Seattle for varying reasons, and a business trip to Boston in Season 9 enabled the Crane family to see the rest of the Cheers gang in one fell swoop. Noticeably absent, however, was Rebecca Howe, played by Kirstie Alley. Alley had contacted co-creator David Lee when Frasier was in the planning stages and informed him that as a Scientologist she did not believe in psychiatry and as a result would not be able to make an appearance on the series. Lee responded simply, “I don’t recall asking.”

13. THE EPISODE WHERE NILES CO-HOSTED HIS BROTHER'S SHOW WAS RE-WRITTEN WHEN GRAMMER WENT TO REHAB.

On the evening of September 21, 1996, Kelsey Grammer flipped his Dodge Viper (a gift from NBC) not far from his driveway in Agoura Hills, California. He wasn’t severely injured, but the resulting DUI arrest spurred him to check in at the Betty Ford Clinic. Frasier was on hiatus for the following three weeks due to the Major League Baseball playoffs, and the episode 4.05 (“Head Games”) was quickly rewritten to feature Niles hosting his brother’s radio program while Frasier was away at a convention. Grammer filmed his bit for the intro at a later date and it was tacked on to the show before broadcast.

14. THE PRODUCERS CREATED NILES SPECIFICALLY FOR DAVID HYDE PIERCE.

There wasn’t any particular plan in place to give Frasier a brother until the assistant casting director approached the creators with a photo of David Hyde Pierce in hand and asked, “Doesn’t he look like Kelsey did 10 years ago?” Startled by the physical resemblance, the creative team dug up some tapes of a short-lived Norman Lear-produced political sitcom called The Powers That Be, on which Pierce portrayed a shy, suicidal Congressman. A meeting was arranged with the actor and he was offered the newly created role of Niles Crane after a brief interview.

15. THE WRITERS EXPLAINED AWAY JANE LEEVES' PREGNANCY IN AN INTERESTING WAY.

Leeves was expecting in real life during Season 7, and her burgeoning baby bump was explained on the show as weight gain from Daphne’s sudden compulsive overeating as a method of dealing with her relationship with Niles. She was sent away to a spa for a few episodes and returned svelte (after daughter Isabella was born).

Roz’s pregnancy in Season 5, however, was strictly a plot device—an attempt by the writers to give the character a story arc of her own. Gilpin wasn’t with child, and she had a lot of explaining to do to friends and family members who thought she’d neglected to tell them about her impending motherhood. The entire Roz’s baby storyline was a misstep in retrospect, Gilpin and the producers agreed, and the infant remained behind the scenes for the most part because Grammer didn’t want the hassle of the tightly restricted work schedule of child actors.

16. EVEN THOUGH HE WAS RETIRED, MOOSE HAD ONE LAST CURTAIN CALL.

Moose was 14 when Frasier came to an end. The dog's fur had turned snow white and he was almost completely deaf, but his trainer carried him out onstage after the final episode taped so that the pooch could take his bows with the rest of the cast. David Hyde Pierce commented that it was one of the most moving moments of the evening, watching Moose recognize and react to the applause one last time.

17. KELSEY GRAMMER PLAYED FRASIER FOR A VERY, VERY LONG TIME ...

Counting the time he spent on Cheers, Kelsey Grammer played the character of Frasier Crane in prime time for 20 consecutive years, a record TV-land hadn’t seen since James Arness played Marshall Dillon on Gunsmoke for the same length of time. Grammer's publicist invited Arness to join Kelsey on The Today Show in 2004, but according to Grammer, Arness rejected the idea with a brief expletive that rhymes with “duck shoe.”

18. GRAMMER IS THE FIRST AMERICAN ACTOR TO BE NOMINATED FOR THE SAME CHARACTER ON THREE DIFFERENT SERIES.

Cheers and Frasier are obvious, but Frasier Crane also made an Emmy-nominated guest appearance on Wings.

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15 Things You Might Not Know About Chewbacca
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images

Even if you don't know the name Peter Mayhew, you surely know about Chewbacca—the seven-foot tall Wookiee he has played onscreen for over three decades. In honor of Mayhew’s birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about Han Solo's BFF.

1. HE WAS INSPIRED BY GEORGE LUCAS'S DOG.

The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’s big, hairy Alaskan malamute, Indiana. According to Lucas, the dog would always sit in the passenger seat of his car like a copilot, and people would confuse the dog for an actual person. And in case you're wondering: yes, that same dog was also the inspiration behind the name of one of Lucas’s other creations, Indiana Jones.

2. HIS NAME IS OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN.

The name “Chewbacca” was derived from the Russian word Sobaka (собака), meaning “dog.” The term “Wookiee” came from voice actor Terry McGovern; when he was doing voiceover tracks for Lucas's directorial debut, THX 1138, McGovern randomly improvised the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookiee” during one of the sessions.

3. HE'S REALLY, REALLY OLD.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Chewbacca is 200 years old.

4. PETER MAYHEW'S HEIGHT HELPED HIM LAND THE ROLE.

Peter Mayhew
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Mayhew was chosen to play everyone’s favorite Wookiee primarily because of his tremendous height: He's 7 feet 3 inches tall.

5. HIS SUIT IS MADE FROM A MIX OF ANIMAL HAIRS, AND EVENTUALLY INCLUDED A COOLING SYSTEM.

For the original trilogy (and the infamous holiday special), the Chewbacca costume was made with a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a base of mohair. A slightly altered original Chewie costume was used in 1999's The Phantom Menace for the Wookiee senator character Yarua, and a new costume used during Episode III included a specially made water-cooling system so that Mayhew could wear the suit for long periods of time and not be overheated.

6. ONE OF STANLEY KUBRICK'S CLOSEST CREATORS DESIGNED THE COSTUME.

Chewbacca's costume
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To create the original costume for Chewbacca, Lucas hired legendary makeup supervisor Stuart Freeborn, who was recruited because of his work on the apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Freeborn had also previously worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove to effectively disguise Peter Sellers in each of his three roles in that film.) Freeborn would go on to supervise the creation of Yoda in The Empire Strike Back and Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.

Lucas originally wanted Freeborn’s costume for Chewie to be a combination of a monkey, a dog, and a cat. According to Freeborn, the biggest problem during production with the costume was with Mayhew’s eyes. The actor’s body heat in the mask caused his face to detach from the costume's eyes and made them look separate from the mask.

7. FINDING CHEWBACCA'S VOICE WAS BEN BURTT'S FIRST ASSIGNMENT.

The first sound effect that director George Lucas hired now-legendary sound designer Ben Burtt for on Star Wars was Chewbacca’s voice (this was all the way back during the script stage). During the year of preliminary sound recording, Burtt principally used the vocalization of a black bear named Tarik from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California for Chewbacca. He would eventually synchronize those sounds with further walrus, lion, and badger vocalizations for the complete voice. The name of the language Chewbacca speaks came to be known in the Star Wars universe as “Shyriiwook.”

8. ROGER EBERT WAS NOT A FAN.

Roger Ebert was not a fan of the big guy. In his 1997 review of the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, Ebert basically called Chewbacca the worst character in the series. “This character was thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp," the famed critic wrote. "Much more could have been done. How can you be a space pilot and not be able to communicate in any meaningful way? Does Han Solo really understand Chewie's monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes? Never mind.”

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY MUCH MORE SCANTILY CLAD.

In the summary for Lucas’s second draft (dated January 28, 1975, when the film was called “Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars”), Chewbacca is described as “an eight-foot tall, savage-looking creature resembling a huge gray bushbaby-monkey with fierce ‘baboon’-like fangs. His large yellow eyes dominate a fur-covered face … [and] over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, a flak jacket painted in a bizarre camouflage pattern, brown cloth shorts, and little else.”

10. HIS DESIGN WAS BASED ON RALPH MCQUARRIE'S CONCEPT ART.

Chewbacca’s character design was based on concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had originally given McQuarrie a photo of a lemur for inspiration, and McQuarrie proceeded to draw the character as a female—but Chewbacca was soon changed to a male. McQuarrie based his furry design on an illustration by artist John Schoenherr, which was commissioned for Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin’s short story “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Sharp-eyed Chewbacca fans will recognize that Schoenherr’s drawing even includes what resembles the Wookiee’s signature weapon, the Bowcaster.

11. HE WON A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.

Fans were angry for decades that Chewie didn’t receive a medal of valor like Luke and Han did at the end of A New Hope, so MTV gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. The medal was given to Mayhew—decked out in full costume—by Princess Leia herself, actress Carrie Fisher. His acceptance speech, made entirely in Wookiee grunts, lasted 16 seconds. When asked why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the first film, Lucas explained, “Medals really don’t mean much to Wookiees. They don’t really put too much credence in them. They have different kinds of ceremonies.”

12. HE HAS A FAMILY BACK HOME.

According to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Chewbacca had a wife named Mallatobuck, a son named Lumpawaroo (a.k.a. “Lumpy”), and a father named Attichitcuk (aka “Itchy”). In the special, Chewie and Han visit the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” a celebration of the Wookiee home planet’s diverse ecosystem. The special featured appearances and musical numbers by Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur, and marked the first appearance of Boba Fett. Lucas hated the special so much that he limited its availability following its original airdate on November 17, 1978.

13. MAYHEW'S BIG FEET ARE WHAT KICKSTARTED HIS CAREER.

Mayhew’s path to playing Chewbacca began with a string of lucky breaks—and his big feet. A local London reporter was doing a story on people with big feet and happened to profile Mayhew. A movie producer saw the article and cast him—in an uncredited role—as Minoton the minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on Sinbad was also working on the Wookiee costume with Stuart Freeborn for Star Wars and suggested to the producers that they screen test Mayhew. The rest is Wookiee history.

14. MAYHEW KEPT HIS DAY JOB WHILE SHOOTING STAR WARS.

Peter Mayhew
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During the shooting of Star Wars, Mayhew kept working his day job as a deputy head porter in a London hospital. Though he was let go because of his sudden varying shooting schedule at Elstree Studios, he was eventually hired back after production wrapped.

15. DARTH VADER COULD HAVE BEEN CHEWBACCA.

Darth Vader
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David Prowse, the 6’5” actor who ended up portraying Darth Vader—in costume only—originally turned down the role of Chewbacca.  When given the choice between portraying the two characters, Prowse said, “I turned down the role of Chewbacca at once. I know that people remember villains longer than heroes. At the time I didn’t know I’d be wearing a mask, and throughout production I thought Vader’s voice would be mine.”

Additional Sources: Star Wars DVD special features
The Making of Star Wars: The definitive Story Behind the Original Film, J.W. Rinzler

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Shopping Malls Might be Dying, But Miami Is Planning to Build the Largest One in North America
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Shopping malls and the "American Dream" are two things that are often said to be dead or dying, but one developer sees it a little differently.

Part shopping outlet and part theme park, American Dream Miami is slated to become the largest mall in North America when it opens in Miami-Dade County, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Indeed, "mall" might not be the best word for this mega-complex. In addition to retail outlets, plans are in the works for an aquarium, water park, ski slope, live performing arts center, Ferris wheel, submarine ride, skating rink, and 2000 hotel rooms.

The project is being developed by Triple Five Group, which operates the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada—currently the two current largest shopping and entertainment centers on the continent. It also owns the American Dream Meadowlands in New Jersey.

This announcement comes at a time when shopping malls are being shuttered across the country. More than 6400 stores closed last year, and another 3600 are expected to go out of business this year, according to Business Insider.

American Dream Miami will cost $4 billion and cover 6.2 million square feet. Developers hope it will attract tourists as well as local thrill seekers who want a closer entertainment option than Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando. Developer Eskandar Ghermezian was reportedly inspired by a comment made by his daughter, who complained there was nothing to do in the area when it rained.

Critics of the project, however, called it "American Nightmare," arguing it would harm the environment and cause traffic congestion. The developer still needs to obtain several permits before construction can begin.

[h/t Sun-Sentinel]

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