10 Fun Facts About Burn After Reading

Focus Features
Focus Features

A fired CIA agent, his philandering wife, and a couple of not-so-clever gym employees' lives all come crashing together in Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2008 black comedy. On the 10th anniversary of the film's release, laugh a little bit harder at Burn After Reading knowing these 10 fun facts.

1. IT MARKED JOEL AND ETHAN COEN'S THIRD COLLABORATION WITH GEORGE CLOONEY.

George Clooney and Frances McDormand in 'Burn After Reading' (2008)
Focus Features

In Burn After Reading, George Clooney plays married federal marshal Harry Pfarrer, who's having an affair with Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton), the wife of CIA analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich). The film marked Clooney's third collaboration with the Coens. Clooney also starred in 2000’s O Brother Where Art Thou? and 2003’s Intolerable Cruelty. The Coens wrote the role of Pfarrer specifically for him.

2. THE COENS WROTE THE SCREENPLAY FOR BURN AFTER READING AT THE SAME TIME THEY WERE WRITING NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

While the Coens' standard practice is to work on one project at a time, they made an exception with Burn After Reading. "We actually wrote this script around the same time we were adapting No Country for Old Men," Joel Coen said. No Country for Old Men would go on to earn them Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture in 2008.

3. THEY PUT THE ACTORS AHEAD OF THE STORY.

Burn After Reading features many of the Coens' usual players, and in some ways they were thinking about the actors they wanted to work with—and what sort of situations they could put them in—before the finer details of the story itself. “We came up with the idea thinking about different parts we wanted to write for actors that we know—who we thought might be fun to throw together; George Clooney, Richard Jenkins, Frances McDormand, and Brad Pitt, each of whom we know and all of whom we have worked with before, except for Brad," Ethan Coen said. "We thought about a mix of characters, and a story, that might be interesting to see these actors play."

4. THE ROLE OF OSBORNE COX WAS WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR JOHN MALKOVICH.

John Malkovich in 'Burn After Reading' (2008)
Focus Features

Even though they had never worked with Malkovich before, the Coens wrote the lead role with the two-time Oscar nominee in mind.

“Like Brad, John Malkovich is someone we hadn’t worked with before but have wanted to for some time," Joel Coen said. "So we wrote John’s part specifically for him, which was a lot of fun to do.”

5. THE FILM MARKED THE FIRST TIME IN NEARLY 20 YEARS THAT THE COENS DIDN'T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Burn After Reading is one of the few films the Coens haven't shot with their longtime cinematographer Roger Deakins, who had already committed to working with Sam Mendes on Revolutionary Road. Instead, they tapped then-four-time Oscar nominee Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki as their director of photography for the project.

“Chivo spent a lot of time in New York City for pre-production, and we were able to go to places together and figure out where he would need to hide lights, where I would have to put in something architectural, and so on," production designer Jess Gonchor said. In the years since, Lubezki has been nominated for an additional four Oscars and won three of them. His first win came in 2014 for Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity; he won the next two years as well, for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) in 2015 and The Revenant in 2016 (both of those for Alejandro G. Iñárritu).

6. FRANCES MCDORMAND'S CHARACTER'S BOB HAIRDO HAD POLITICAL ROOTS.

It was modeled on Clinton/Lewinsky sex scandal whistleblower Linda Tripp—or, more specifically, Tripp's post-makeover hair after she helped usher the scandal into the spotlight.

7. TILDA SWINTON THOUGHT THAT SHE LOOKED LIKE A SIMPSONS CHARACTER.

Tilda Swinton in 'Burn After Reading' (2008)
Focus Features

McDormand's bob wasn't the movie's only statement hairdo. Tilda Swinton's character also had a look that was rather familiar. "Katie has a very rigid hairdo," Swinton said. "Straight, not a wisp of a curl, and a heart-stopping shade of iron-red, if there is such a natural color—which I doubt. I was reminded of Edna Krabappel’s, from The Simpsons.”

8. THE COENS ASKED THE ACTORS TO EMBRACE THEIR "INNER KNUCKLEHEADS."

In preparation for the film, the Coens said they "asked the actors to embrace their inner knucklehead[s]." Joel Coen elaborated: “The story is about middle-aged people, all of whom are undergoing professional, personal, and sexual crises touching on matters of national security. That’s what makes it a Washington tale. The plot concerns the Central Intelligence Agency and the world of physical fitness, and what happens when those two worlds intersect and collide; Internet dating is also in the mix.” Yes, there's a lot going on.

9. THE FILM'S THEATRICAL POSTER IS BASED ON ESPIONAGE THRILLERS FROM THE 1960S.

The typography was modeled after a similar font on the poster for the 1967 film The Comedians.

10. THE THEATRICAL POSTER FOR COMING UP DAISY, THE FICTIONAL MOVIE WITHIN THE MOVIE, SAYS IT WAS BASED ON A BOOK BY CORMAC MCCARTHY.

Brad Pitt, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen in 'Burn After Reading' (2008)
Focus Features

McCarthy, as you may know, is the author of No Country for Old Men. The small snippets of Coming Up Daisy shown in the film were actually directed by the Coens’ friend and frequent collaborator, Sam Raimi.

12 Facts About Revenge of the Nerds For Its 35th Anniversary

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

In the summer of 1984, nerds were mainly perceived as guys who wore pocket protectors and had tape on their glasses. But in Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs was inventing the type of nerd culture we’re familiar with today. Decades later, nerds rule the world.

Revenge of the Nerds starred then-unknowns Anthony Edwards, Robert Carradine, Curtis Armstrong, James Cromwell, Larry B. Scott, John Goodman, and Timothy Busfield. In the movie, the jock-filled Alpha Beta fraternity bullies the geeks on the campus of Adams College, so to fight back, they form a frat chapter under black fraternity Lambda Lambda Lambda (Tri-Lambs), and take down the jocks. The movie’s plot and title come from a magazine article published around that time about Silicon Valley innovators—who just happened to be nerds.

The film, which was budgeted at $6 million, only opened on 364 screens (it eventually expanded to 877). Somehow the movie had legs and grossed $40,874,452 at the box office and ranked as the 16th highest-grossing film of 1984. It was successful enough to spawn three sequels, none of which were as popular as the original. To celebrate Revenge of the Nerds' 35th anniversary, here are some geeky facts about the underdog comedy.

1. Greek officials at the University of Arizona objected to the movie being filmed on their campus.

The movie filmed at the University of Arizona, and involved the college’s Greek system. The Greek officials didn’t want the movie to be another Animal House, so they threatened to halt production. “We meet with the sororities, and we’re worried we’re about to deal with a bunch of feminists who are pissed because this is a fairly sexist movie,” the film’s director, Jeff Kanew, told the Arizona Daily Star. “I just say to them, ‘Look, I have kids, and I’ll tell you now, I’d let them see this movie. It’s about the triumph of the underdog, not judging a book by its cover. This is a good movie.’” The filmmakers won, and the Greeks allowed them to film there.

2. The set was one big party.

Ted McGinley—who played Alpha Beta honcho Stan Gable—told The A.V. Club: “I was so embarrassed to say Revenge Of The Nerds.” Kanew cast him because he saw him on the cover of a Men of USC calendar, sold at the University of Arizona bookstore. His good looks attracted “hot girls” from the UofA campus to watch the dailies with the cast and crew. “They had beer and pizza and sandwiches,” McGinley said. “I mean, you just don’t do that on movie sets. It was just so much fun, and I thought, ‘It can’t be better than this!’”

3. Curtis Armstrong knew it would be a good movie, even though his character wasn't fully fleshed out.

Curtis Armstrong filmed Risky Business but then was unemployed for a year before he got Revenge of the Nerds. “You have to realize the character of Booger in the original script was non-existent almost,” Armstrong told Entertainment Weekly. “What was there was just, ‘We’ve got b*sh!’ and ‘Mother’s little d**chebag’—those kinds of lines. I was looking at it and thinking, ‘How do I take this and even begin to make it likeable or accessible?’”

With its strong cast, writers, and director, Armstrong said, “It has to be a good movie. But I wasn’t sure how it was going to be taken as opposed to Risky Business, which was sort of an art-house-type movie. This was very much broader and very much cruder, but it had a message that went beyond sex jokes.”

4. The scenes between Booger and Takashi were improvised.

The actors would bring ideas to the director and vice versa, creating a lot of improvisation in the movie. In one scene, Booger and Takashi (Brian Tochi) engage in a friendly game of cards. But unbeknownst to Takashi, Booger tricks him. “We ran and got our cots, and Brian and I were next to each other,” Armstrong told Entertainment Weekly. “It wasn’t planned that we would be next to each other. It just happened that way.”

The production asked the guys to “come up with something” for them to film. “We had nothing at all!” Armstrong said. “We went to the prop people, and they had a deck of cards. And that’s where that scene [and Booger’s whole bit about taking money from Takashi] came from. And they liked it so much that, every time Takashi and I were in the room together, we would have to come up with something else.”

5. Lambda Lambda Lambda exists in real life.

On January 15, 2006, the University of Connecticut founded the co-ed social fraternity. It’s “unaffiliated with Greek Life” and is “dedicated to the enjoyment and enrichment of pop culture and to the brotherhood of its members. Tri-Lambs does not discriminate based on race, gender, religion, class, ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

6. Booger's belch came from a camel.

In one of the film's more memorable scenes, Booger and Ogre compete in a belching contest. Booger takes a swig of beer and lets out a robust seven-second belch and wins the contest. But the effects were added in post-production. “I can’t even belch on command,” Armstrong told USA Today. “If you said to me, ‘Can you belch now?' I couldn’t do it.”

To make up for Armstrong’s dearth of gas, “They wound up finding a recording of a camel having an orgasm,” Armstrong said. “They took this sound and blended it in with a human belch.”

7. Curtis Armstrong wrote a bio for Booger, but it turned out to be about himself.

Because his character wasn’t fully developed, Armstrong wrote a one-page bio for Booger. Years later he re-read the bio and realized he and Booger had similarities. “I’d basically retold my life as Booger without even being aware of it,” Armstrong told Entertainment Weekly. “[One detail] was that [Booger] used nose-picking and belching as a defense mechanism because [he’s] insecure. Now, mind you, I did not pick my nose and belch because I was insecure. However, I was insecure growing up. I didn’t have dates or anything like that; I was not good around girls. But I had other ways of defending myself other than being crude and picking my nose. When I look at it now with some distance, I realize all I was doing was writing about myself.”

8. A Dallas test screening almost killed Revenge of the Nerds.

The film tested well in Las Vegas—an 85—but when the Fox executives took the movie to Dallas, the number dipped. “You’re gonna send us to Dallas to screen a movie that celebrates nerds and in which the black guys intimidate the white football players?!” director Kanew told the Arizona Daily Star. The movie scored in the 60s, which caused Fox to cut marketing for the film and only release it on 364 screens. “I don’t really understand what happened, but it hung around and grew and grew and grew,” Kanew said.

9. Poindexter was originally named after a prop guy.

When Timothy Busfield auditioned for the movie, his character didn’t have many lines, so he had to read Lamar’s lines. At the time, the character was named Lipschultz, after the prop guy. All that was written for the character description was “a violin-playing Henry Kissinger.”

“There was one line Lipschultz had in the original, but our prop guy was named Lipschultz, and he didn’t like the fact that there was a nerd named Lipschultz, so they changed it to Poindexter,” Busfield said during a San Francisco Sketchfest Nerds reunion. Busfield found Poindexter’s costume at a thrift store and showed up to the audition with his hair parted, and danced to “Beat It.”

10. The sequel to Revenge of the Nerds afforded Anythony Edwards a pool.

Anthony Edwards told The A.V. Club that he didn’t want to appear in Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, but acquiesced because the producers talked him into it. He’s hardly in the film, but the money he earned afforded him a simple luxury. “I ended up with a pool in my backyard that I called the Revenge of the Nerds II pool,” Edwards said. “Not that I’m complaining, but they seriously overpaid me for my weeks of work on the film, so I used it to put in a pool.”

11. A remake (thankfully) got shut down.

After two weeks of filming in the fall of 2006, a Revenge of the Nerds remake stopped production. Emory University in Atlanta pulled out of filming, but according to Variety, the real reason was because a Fox Atomic executive “was not completely satisfied with the dailies.” The cast included Adam Brody and Jenna Dewan.

12. Revenge of the Nerds pushed nerdom into the mainstream.

“I’m not going to say Revenge of the Nerds was responsible for everything in nerd culture, but I do think you could make an argument that that attitude began with the last scene in Revenge,” Armstrong told HuffPost. “The last scene—the scene I probably love above all in that movie—we’re at the pep rally and come out in front of everybody as nerds, and encourage these people of different generations to join them in their nerdness. I get teary thinking about it, and you could certainly make an argument that that was the beginning of embracing nerd culture by everybody.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

The Office Star Ellie Kemper Wants to Do a Reunion Episode

NBC - NBCUniversal Media
NBC - NBCUniversal Media

While rumors of The Office getting a reboot have been swirling around for years, the outlook on that happening any time soon doesn't look good. But a reunion episode might just be possible.

Ellie Kemper, who played Erin Hannon in the beloved series, recently stopped by Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen to dish about the sitcom and her thoughts on whether it might be making a return to the small screen: "I would love there to be a reboot, but I don't think there will be. So, that's a sad answer," Kemper admitted. "But maybe like a reunion episode? That would be fun."

E! News reports that Kemper isn’t the only cast member that wants to get the band back together. Jenna Fischer, who played Pam Beesly, also thinks a reunion episode would be a hit. “I think it's a great idea," Fischer said in 2018. "I would be honored to come back in any way that I'm able to.”

A key player in the series' success, however, is not so enthusiastic about the idea. Steve Carell, who played the infamous Michael Scott, doesn’t think a revival would be well-received. "The climate's different," Carell told Esquire back in 2018. "I mean, the whole idea of that character, Michael Scott, so much of it was predicated on inappropriate behavior. I mean, he's certainly not a model boss. A lot of what is depicted on that show is completely wrong-minded. That's the point, you know? But I just don't know how that would fly now.”

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