Pack your bags for a Las Vegas family vacation with the Griswolds—and don’t forget these 15 little-known facts!
1.Vegas Vacation is the fourth movie in the Griswold’s series of vacations, but it isn’t technically the last.
A made-for-TV sequel to Christmas Vacation, titled National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure, was made in 2003 and features the character Audrey Griswold.
2. Vegas Vacation is the first Vacation movie not written by John Hughes.
It’s also the first in the series to lose the “National Lampoon’s” moniker.
3. This film marks the fourth time that the Griswold kids, Audrey and Rusty, were recast.
In the four movies, Rusty and Audrey have been played by Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron; Jason Lively and Dana Hill; Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis; and Ethan Embry and Marisol Nichols. Barron reprised her role as Audrey in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure.
4. Comedy legend Sid Caesar makes his last on-screen appearance in a theatrically released film in Vegas Vacation.
He plays Mr. Ellis, the character at the Keno game at the end of the movie.
5. 1992 Playboy Playmate of the Year Corinna Harney is one of the women Clark hits on at the blackjack table.
Vegas Vacation was her first theatrically released film appearance.
6. Vegas Vacation is the first Vacation movie to be rated PG.
The rest of the movies in the series are either rated R or PG-13.
7. Vegas Vacation is the lowest grossing movie in the Vacation franchise.
It had a theatrical gross of $36,400,360. Christmas Vacation is the highest grossing installment with $71,319,526.
8. Jilly from Philly is played by the film’s producer, Jerry Weintraub.
9. Weintraub’s connections helped him shoot in one Vegas’s swankiest hotels.
The production was granted access to the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas because Weintraub was close friends with Steve Wynn, the billionaire who owned the Mirage at the time.
10. Fans of classic Nickelodeon might recognize the fake I.D. salesman and Frank Sinatra impersonator.
He’s played by Toby Huss, aka Artie the Strongest Man in the World from The Adventures of Pete & Pete.
11. Wayne Newton’s house in the movie is actually Wayne Newton’s house in real life.
Called “Casa de Shenandoah,” the property went up for auction in 2013 for $70 million.
12. The cast boasts more than one Saturday Night Live alum.
The reception desk employee at the Mirage is played by Julia Sweeney, who appeared on Saturday Night Live from 1990-1994. Chevy Chase famously appeared in the original SNLcast from 1975-1976.
13. This is the third Vacation movie to incorporate Lindsay Buckingham’s song “Holiday Road.”
It was left out of Christmas Vacation.
14. Clark plays a number of fake games with Uncle Eddie at the rundown casino.
Pick a Number Between 1-10; Coin Toss; War; Rock, Paper, Scissors; and Guess Which Hand were all made up. Only a version of War is played in actual casinos.
15. The sign at the end of the movie says Chicago is 1,880 miles from Las Vegas.
In fact, Chicago is only a little over 1,700 miles from Las Vegas.
Do you fight the urge to say “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” when introducing yourself? Have you spent the past 30 years mispronouncing the word “marriage”? If so, you may be a diehard fan of The Princess Bride. The cult film (and the book on which it’s based) has inspired board games, merchandise, and countless pop culture references. Now, two theme park designers from Universal have conceived the inconceivable. As Nerdist reports, Jon Plsek and Olivia West have designed the plans for a hypothetical attraction called “The Princess Ride.”
Their idea follows the classic river boat ride structure and adds highlights from the movie around each corner. After watching Buttercup and Wesley’s love story unfold, riders are taken past the Cliffs of Insanity, through the Fire Swamp, and into the Pit of Despair. The climax unfolds at Prince Humperdinck’s castle and leads up to the two protagonists riding off into the sunset. The last thing the passengers see is Miracle Max and Valerie waving goodbye saying, “Hope ya had fun stormin’ the castle!”
The ride’s designers make a living turning stories into thrilling attractions. Plsek works as a concept artist for Universal Creative, the group behind Universal’s theme parks, and West works there as a concept writer. While The Princess Ride was just a fun side project for the pair, it isn’t hard to imagine their ride bringing Princess Bride fans to the parks in real life.
Bad Lieutenant can be accused of many things, but one charge you can't level against it is false advertising. Harvey Keitel's title character, whose name is never given, is indeed a bad, bad lieutenant: corrupt, sleazy, drug-addled, irresponsible, and lascivious, all while he's on the job. (Imagine what his weekends must be like!)
Abel Ferrara's nightmarish character study was controversial when it was released 25 years ago today, and rated NC-17 for its graphic nudity (including a famous glimpse at Lil’ Harvey), unsettling sexual violence, and frank depiction of drug use. The film packs a wallop, no doubt. Here's some behind-the-scenes info to help you cope with it.
1. THE PLACID WOMAN WHO HELPS THE LIEUTENANT FREEBASE HEROIN WROTE THE MOVIE.
That's Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who starred in Abel Ferrara's revenge-exploitation thriller Ms. 45 (1981) more than a decade earlier, when she was 17 years old. She and Ferrara are credited together for writing Bad Lieutenant, though she always insisted that wasn't the case. "I wrote this alone," she said. "Abel is a wonderful director, but he's not a screenwriter." She said elsewhere that she "wrote every word of that screenplay," though everyone agrees the finished movie included a lot of improvisation. Lund was a fascinating, tragic character herself—a musical prodigy who became an enthusiastic and unapologetic user of heroin before switching to cocaine in the mid-1990s. She died of heart failure in 1999 at age 37.
2. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN WAS SUPPOSED TO STAR IN IT.
Christopher Walken had starred in Ferrara's previous film, King of New York (1990), and was set to play the lead in Bad Lieutenant before pulling out at almost the last minute. Ferrara was shocked. "[Walken] says, 'You know, I don't think I'm right for it.' Which is, you know, a fine thing to say, unless it's three weeks from when you're supposed to start shooting," Ferrara said. "It definitely caught me by surprise. It put me in terminal shock, actually." Harvey Keitel replaced him (though not without difficulty; see below), and the film's editor, Anthony Redman, thought Keitel was a better choice anyway. "Chris is too elegant for the part," he said. "Harvey is not elegant."
3. HARVEY KEITEL'S INITIAL REACTION TO THE SCRIPT WAS NOT PROMISING.
"When we gave [Keitel] the script the first time, he read about five pages and threw it in the garbage," Ferrara said. Keitel's recollection was a little more diplomatic. As he told Roger Ebert, "I read a certain amount of pages and I put it down. I said, 'There's no way I'm gonna make this movie.' And then I asked myself, 'How often am I a lead in a movie? Read it, maybe I can salvage something from it …' When I read the part about the nun, I understood why Abel wanted to make it."
4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
"It was always, in my mind, a comedy," Ferrara said. He cited the scene where the Lieutenant pulls the teenage girls over as a specific example of how Christopher Walken would have played it, and how Harvey Keitel changed it. "The lieutenant was going to end up dancing in the streets with the girls as the sun came up. They'd be wearing his gun belt and hat, and they'd have the radio on, you know what I mean? But oh my God, Harvey, he turned it into this whole other thing." Boy, did he.
5. THAT SCENE WITH THE TEENAGE GIRLS HAD A REAL-LIFE ELEMENT THAT MADE IT EVEN CREEPIER.
One of the young women was Keitel's nanny. Ferrara: "I said, 'You sure you want to do this with your babysitter?' He says, 'Yeah, I want to try something.'"
6. MUCH OF IT WAS FILMED GUERRILLA-STYLE.
Like many indie-minded directors of low-budget films, Ferrara didn't bother with permits most of the time. "We weren't permitted on any of this stuff," editor Anthony Redman admitted. "We just walked on and started shooting." For the scene where a strung-out Lieutenant walks through a bumpin' nightclub, they sent Keitel through an actual, functioning club during peak operating hours.
7. A GREAT DEAL OF THE DIALOGUE AND ACTION WERE MADE UP ON THE FLY.
The script was only about 65 pages at first, which would have made for about a 65-minute movie. "It left a lot of room for improvisation," producer Randy Sabusawa said, "but the ideas were pretty distilled. They were there."
Script supervisor Karen Kelsall said supervising the script was a challenge. "Abel didn't stick to a script," she said. "Abel used a script as a way to get the money to make a movie, and then the script was kind of—we called it the daily news. It changed every day. It changed in the middle of scenes." Ferrara was unapologetic about the script's brevity. "The idea of wanting 90 pages ... is ridiculous."
8. AND THERE WERE EVEN MORE IDEAS THAT THEY DIDN'T USE.
Ferrara said a scene that epitomized the movie for him—even though he never got around to filming it—was one where the Lieutenant robs an electronics store, leaves, then gets a call about a robbery at the electronics store. He responds in an official capacity (they don't recognize him), takes a statement, walks out, and throws the statement in the garbage. "And that to me is the Bad Lieutenant, you know?" Ferrara said.
9. THE BASEBALL PLAYOFF SERIES IS FICTIONAL.
The Mets have battled the Dodgers for the National League championship once, in 1988. (The Dodgers beat 'em and went on to win the World Series.) For the narrative Ferrara wanted—the Mets coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant—he had to make it up. He used footage from real Mets-Dodgers games (including Darryl Strawberry's three-run homer from a game in July 1991) and added fictional play-by-play. But the statistics were accurate: No team had ever been down by three in a best-of-seven series and then come back to win. (It's happened once since then, when the 2004 Red Sox did it.)
10. THEY HAD HELP FROM THE COP WHO SOLVED A SIMILAR CASE.
The disgusting crime at the center of the film (we won't dwell on it) was inspired by a real-life incident from 1981, which mayor Ed Koch called "the most heinous crime in the history of New York City." The street cop who solved it, Bo Dietl, advised Ferrara on the film and had an on-screen role as one of the detectives in our Lieutenant's circle of friends.
11. THEY DESECRATED THE CHURCH AS RESPECTFULLY AS THEY COULD.
Production designer Charles Lagola had his team cover the church’s altar and other surfaces with plastic wrap, then painted the graffiti and other defacements on the plastic.
12. IT WAS RATED NC-17 IN THEATERS, WITH AN R-RATED VERSION FOR HOME VIDEO.
Blockbuster and some of the other retail chains wouldn't carry NC-17 or unrated films, so sometimes studios would produce edited versions. (See also: Requiem for a Dream.) The tamer version of Bad Lieutenant was five minutes and 19 seconds shorter, with parts of the rape scene, the drug-injecting scene, and much of the car interrogation scene excised.
13. THE "SEQUEL" HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, NOR DID FERRARA APPROVE OF IT.
First Look International
Movie buffs were baffled in 2009, when Werner Herzog directed Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, starring Nicolas Cage. It sounds like a sequel (or a remake), but in fact had no connection at all to the earlier film except that both were produced by Edward R. Pressman. Herzog said he'd never seen Ferrara's movie and wanted to change the title (Pressman wouldn't let him); Ferrara, outspoken as always, initially wished fiery death on everyone involved. Ferrara and Herzog finally met at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, where Herzog initiated a conversation about the whole affair and Ferrara expressed his frustration cordially.
DVD interviews with Abel Ferrara, Anthony Redman, Randy Sabusawa, and Karen Kelsall.