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23 Fun Facts About Tremors

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Talk about an underground classic. Tremors—easily the greatest subterranean monster movie ever made—turned 25 this month. So, we’ve dug up some trivia that’ll help get you in the mood for an anniversary screening. Just watch your step…

1. The Premise Came to Screenwriter S. S. Wilson During a Rocky, Southwestern Hike.

Giant, worm-like beasts terrorizing Nevada. Now there’s an idea as wild as the West. The Tremors franchise has proved remarkably successful, having spawned a short-lived TV series, a prequel, and two sequels (with a third coming this October). But how did it all begin? According to Wilson, we can thank some scrap paper and the Armed Forces’ film division.

“I had a job working as an editor at a navy base in the middle of the Mojave Desert,” he explains. “On weekends, when they weren’t shooting at the gunnery ranges, I was allowed to go hiking out there. One day, while climbing over large boulders, I had a thought. ‘What if something was under the ground and I couldn’t get off this rock?’” Wilson jotted his idea down, pursued it years later, and the rest is history.

2. Saturday Night Live Forced the Movie to Change its Name.

Tremors (1990) began pre-production with the working title “Land Sharks.” However, upon realizing that SNL had already unleashed a recurring character called LandShark to spoof Jaws (1975), Wilson and company decided to change the movie's name.

3. A Menagerie of Real-Life Animals Inspired the Creatures’ Design.

The real stars of Tremors are four grotesque carnivores called “graboids.” Though there’s nothing quite like them in the animal kingdom, Mother Nature still played a big role in bringing these things to life. Special effects artists Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. threw bits and pieces of such real-world critters as elephants, crocodiles, dinosaurs, rhinos, slugs, and catfish into their graboid sketches. You may have noticed that, weirdly, this list excludes earthworms, which the pair found “very boring.”

4. Tremors, Gladiator (2000), and Iron Man (2008) Share a Key Filming Location

Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, California, has also provided backdrops for Star Trek V (1989), Dinosaur (2000), Man of Steel (2013) and hundreds of other movies. In Tremors, these majestic mountains border Perfection, Nevada, a fictional near-ghost town.

5. Some Early Graboid Concept Art Was Deemed “Too Phallic.”

Gillis and Woodruff dropped the idea of a turtle-like neck when somebody alleged that their monster’s blubbery folds resembled “foreskin.” As Gillis recalls, producer Gale Ann Hurd “said that when we would fax the drawings over, all the women in [her] office would pass ‘em around and giggle.”

6. Like Many PG-13 Movies, Tremors Gets Away with a Solitary F-Bomb.

Fun fact: The Motion Picture Association of America—best-known for its (in)famous ratings system—allows “one nonsexual F word per script” in PG-13 films. Tremors takes advantage at the 34:07-mark, when Val tells off a recently-killed Graboid.

7. Wilson and Co-writer Brent Maddock Thought It’d Be More Realistic if Their Film Never Revealed Where these Graboids Came From.

Wilson in particular was fed up with the Sci-Fi genre’s standard monster origin clichés. “[They’re] either radioactive, or they’re a biological experiment, or they’re from outer space, or they’ve always been there," he said. "Those are the only choices you have.” Thus, Tremors offers no information about its creatures’ beginnings (though later films claimed the man-eaters were prehistoric reptiles).

8. It was Reba McEntire’s First Movie.

McEntire postponed her honeymoon with fellow musician Narvel Blackstock until after Tremors finished shooting to play the fearless, gun-toting Heather Gummer.

9. Only One Full-Length Graboid Model Was Constructed.

After an overzealous graboid fatally crashes into a cement wall, our heroes Valentine “Val” McGee (Kevin Bacon), Earl Bassett (Fred Ward), and Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter) unearth the monster’s corpse. What they actually expose is a massive, one-of-a-kind dummy you can see in all its pebbly glory above.

10. The Car Scene Was Supposed to Be a Lot More Explicit.

Horror’s all about what you don’t see. During one chilling sequence, a hungry graboid devours a middle-aged doctor, traps his petrified wife inside their station wagon, and drags the entire vehicle underground. At first, director Ron Underwood planned on recording the car as it sank into a pit filled with vermiculite, an earthy, “dirt-like” substance. But, maddeningly, this material hardened without warning and his crew was forced to improvise.

Their solution? Subtlety. Following a brief struggle, the finished movie cuts to a distant, wide-action shot of two headlight beams shining upwards into a starry sky before flickering out. The insinuation of a deadly off-screen burial was pulled off with some last-minute imagination.

11. The “Golden Oldie” Val Hears is “Dropkick Me, Jesus (Through the Goalposts of Life)” by Bobby Bare.

Yes, that’s an actual country song title. Val and Earl discover what happened to the good doctor’s car when this 1977 Grammy nominee starts blaring from its (now-submerged) radio.

12. Chinese-American Actor Victor Wong (Walter Chang) Came up With His Character’s Last Name.

In Tremors, Tremors 3 (2001), and Tremors: The Series (2003), a lot of action unfolds around Chang’s Market (located in “downtown” Perfection). At first, the original film’s script called for a Vietnamese store owner, but when Wong was cast, his role’s nationality was tweaked. Upon getting asked to suggest a Chinese last name, Wong proposed “Chang.”

13. The Flick’s Original Intro Wound Up on the Cutting Room Floor.

Tremors opens with Kevin Bacon peeing into a canyon. Admittedly, that’s hard to top. Still, a much darker beginning—wherein the mule of Perfection’s town drunk is gobbled up inside his rickety, wooden pen—was shot but ultimately deleted.

14. Universal Pictures Chose to Replace Most of the Soundtrack.

A strong score with a western twang spices up this movie’s unique flavor. But did you know that Ernest Troost—who was officially credited with composing it—actually wrote relatively little of the finished product? Instead, Robert Folk created the lion’s share after Troost’s offerings were largely removed. “He must have had a very good lawyer,” Folk says, “because the provision in his contract stated, that if any of his music were used, that he would have screen credit… I was asked [if I wanted to share] screen credit and I really didn’t.”

15. Michael Gross Started Filming One Day After Finishing the Beloved Sitcom Family Ties.

Kindly Mr. Keaton of Family Ties fame couldn’t be more different from Tremors’ breakout character. Gross’ tenure as Burt Gummer—a no-nonsense, gun-toting, and often anti-social survivalist—began less than 24 hours after the show which made him famous had its wrap party. On a related note, we’ll apparently be seeing plenty of Gross in the upcoming Tremors 5.

16. A Tentacle Hand Puppet Was Grudgingly-Built, Yet Widely-Used.

Three mechanical, full-length, state-of-the-art tentacles and a slightly-shorter “attack” version all earn significant screen time. But Maddock felt something rather basic was missing: a hand puppet. At first, the effects artists didn’t take his suggestion very seriously, but as the simple prop proved increasingly helpful during difficult shots, their tune changed.

17. Tremors Gave Kevin Bacon Severe Sleepwalking Nightmares.

For years, Bacon considered Tremors a low point in his professional career. “I broke down and fell to the sidewalk, screaming to my pregnant wife, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing a movie about underground worms!’” he told The Telegraph.

He’s since warmed up to the movie, but still remembers “Having these crazy dreams about monsters” while filming. Those nightmares also led to some very bizarre evenings for Bacon’s then-pregnant wife, Kyra Sedgwick. “I would pick her up,” he said, “and sleep-walk and carry her out onto the street… She’d be like ‘Honey, honey, honey, you’re asleep!’ and I’d say ‘No! I’ve gotta get you out of here!”

18. Underwood Nearly Appeared as a Cross-Gendered Stunt-Double.

Directors' cameos don’t get much stranger than this. When the time came to film Tremors’ climax, Finn Carter’s stunt double was a no-show. So Underwood grabbed a wig and jumped into the fray himself for a few frames he later cut.

19. The Moving Graboid “Humps” Were Achieved With a Boat Buoy.

Insert Jaws theme here: By chaining these maritime units to a truck and dragging them through underground troughs, the team created an ominous tunneling effect complete with rapidly flying dirt during key action scenes.

20. Tremors’ Ending Was Altered When Test Audiences Reacted Poorly.

Val and Earl spend the entire movie pining for the greener pastures of a nearby town named Bixby. Yet, as their graboid-slaying quest unfolds, Val finds himself growing close to Rhonda. Naturally, pre-launch viewers hoped they’d kiss after vanquishing the monsters. Instead, Tremors originally ended with the two men driving to Bixby before getting a change of heart and turning around. Clearly, this wouldn’t do—or at least, that's how Underwood’s test audience felt. The last few minutes were then swiftly re-shot to include that requisite smooch.

21. The SyFy Channel Later Gave Graboids a Faux Scientific Name.

Before Tremors: The Series debuted on SyFy, a (now-defunct) tie-in website claimed that, following the first film’s events, scientists coined the Latin name Caederus mexicana for this newfound species.

22. Slither (2006) Includes a Sneaky Tremors Reference.

In an obvious nod to Fred Ward, the heroine in this campy delight teaches at “Earl Bassett Community School.”

23. There’s a Tremors Exhibit at the Lone Pine Film History Museum.

Their wonderful display includes an enormous prop graboid head and a scale model of Chang’s Market. Next time you’re in eastern California, be sure to check it out!

Additional Sources: “The Making of Tremors,” Collector’s Edition DVD Bonus Feature; The Ultimate Tremors FAQ

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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