Carsey-Werner Distribution
Carsey-Werner Distribution

16 Far Out Facts About 3rd Rock from the Sun

Carsey-Werner Distribution
Carsey-Werner Distribution

3rd Rock From the Sun was something of an anomaly—a broad sitcom known for its bawdy humor and physical comedy that also featured award-winning acting and was the subject of critical acclaim. It ran from 1996 to 2001 on NBC and starred John Lithgow, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, French Stewart, and Kristen Johnston as four aliens from a galaxy on the Cepheus-Draco border posing as humans living in the fictional town of Rutherford, Ohio, and working alongside unsuspecting humans including Dr. Mary Albright (Jane Curtin). On the 15th anniversary of the series' finale, here are 16 far out facts about the show.

1. THE PILOT WAS SHOT FOR ABC.

But ABC didn’t put it on the 1995-'96 fall schedule. NBC took a look at it, and liked enough of what they saw. Still, some NBC executives weren’t sure if it was “an NBC show,” so the pilot was re-shot.

2. EARLY REVIEWS SAID IT WAS FULL OF CHEAP SEX JOKES.

"Once it gets past a fixation on breast jokes, its talented cast and clever writing could make it a diverting, screwball sitcom,” said the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “When goofy, 3rd Rock rolls. When dirty, it's stone-cold bad,” said Matt Roush of USA Today. Those serve as good representative examples of the general critical reaction to the first few episodes.

3. MOST OF THE EPISODE TITLES HAVE THE WORD "DICK" IN THEM.

Of 3rd Rock from the Sun’s 139 installments, 108 episodes have the main character Dick Solomon's first name in the title, the first instance being the second episode “Post Nasal Dick,” and the final pun being “Dick Soup for the Soul.”

4. FRENCH STEWART CAME UP WITH THE DISTINCTIVE HARRY SQUINT.

He brought it with him to his initial audition, and it became a signature for his character Harry.

5. STEWART PHYSICALLY SUFFERED FOR HIS ART.

The actor claimed he woke up with bruises and huge rug burns on his body on days following tapings, and that his chiropractic bills were “insane.”

6. KRISTEN JOHNSTON SUFFERED FROM DEPRESSION THROUGHOUT THE SHOW'S RUN.

“You can’t tell anybody, 'I’m so bummed you gave me an Emmy.' You can’t be sad when you’re being celebrated. So it was a big conflict and there’s no shrink that can understand it,” Johnson explained to Entertainment Weekly. Johnston also battled with drugs and alcohol in multiple stages of her life and was diagnosed with lupus myelitis, a rare form of the disease that affects the spinal cord, in 2013. She’s currently in remission, and wrote in her memoir 2012 Guts that she had been clean and sober for five years.

7. JANE CURTIN WORKED ON IT BECAUSE OF CONEHEADS.

3rd Rock creators Terry and Bonnie Turner had written the 1993 movie version of Coneheads with Dan Aykroyd and Tom Davis. Curtin trusted the two because of her relationship with them.

8. JOHN LITHGOW’S SON WAS IN 48 EPISODES.

Ian Lithgow portrayed Leon, a dumb student in Harry Solomon’s physics class. David DeLuise, son of Dom DeLuise, played Bug Pollone in 46 episodes.

9. IT HAD A CLEVER TWILIGHT ZONE CONNECTION.

Lithgow and William Shatner, who played the aliens’ leader the Big Giant Head, both played the man that sees a gremlin on the wing of an airplane in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Shatner did it first in the classic 1963 TV episode, with Lithgow taking his turn in a remake for 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie. In 3rd Rock’s “Dick’s Big Giant Headache,” the Big Giant Head recounted that he had seen something on the wing of the plane during his flight. Dick’s response was that the same thing happened to him.

10. THERE WAS AN INADVERTENT BREAKING BAD CONNECTION.

Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Bob Odenkirk were guest stars on separate episodes that all happened to originally air in 1999: Cranston played a Neil Diamond impersonator in “Paranoid Dick,” Aaron Paul was the nameless, shouty student who announced that Tommy and Alissa were prom king and queen in “Dick’s Big Giant Headache: Part 2,” and Odenkirk played Gary the insurance agent in “The Fifth Solomon.”

11. AN EXPENSIVE EPISODE WAS BROADCAST IN 3-D.

The two-part season two finale, “A Nightmare on Dick Street,” was shot on a budget of $1.5 million and $10 million was spent on the promotional campaign for Barq’s root beer and Little Caesars Pizza to help distribute the necessary eyewear to watch it.

12. A PHYSICIST AND COLUMBIA MATH AND PHYSICS PROFESSOR WROTE SOME OF DICK SOLOMON’S DIALOGUE.

Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, helped with the “physics-speak” for Lithgow’s character.

13. PHIL HARTMAN WAS EDITED OUT OF AN EPISODE DUE TO HIS PASSING.

Eight days after the airing of the season three finale, Phil Hartman was tragically murdered. When the episode re-aired a week before the following season’s premiere, Hartman’s scenes were re-shot with a different actor as a different character, so the resolution to the cliffhanger involving Hartman's character wouldn’t seem awkwardly re-cast or possibly considered disrespectful.

14. JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT LEFT THE SERIES EARLY TO GO TO COLLEGE.

Gordon-Levitt only appeared in a little over half of the show’s episodes in the sixth and final season (including the series finale) so he could concentrate on his Columbia University studies. The former child star told Details how he was “scared and depressed” for a time, fearing that he wouldn’t be able to find acting work ever again.

15. IT AIRED DURING 13 DIFFERENT TIMESLOTS THROUGHOUT ITS SIX-SEASON RUN, TO THE ANNOYANCE OF LITHGOW.

The star once referred to 3rd Rock from the Sun with “more than a trace of irritation” as “the wandering Jew” of network television. When the show was canceled, he told The New York Times that even Seinfeld could not have stayed on the air if they had to deal with the same scheduling changes.

16. AN ALTERNATE ENDING TO THE SERIES FINALE RAN IN SYNDICATION.

Spoiler: On NBC, “The Thing That Wouldn’t Die” ended with the four aliens beaming back to their home planet, leaving Dick’s beloved Mary behind. In the alternate ending that was filmed in case the show got a reprieve from its cancellation, Dick returns to take Mary with him. The scene is a special feature on DVD.

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Twentieth Century Fox
Big Is Coming Back to Theaters for Its 30th Anniversary
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Break out your giant piano: Big is coming back to theaters! As Entertainment Weekly reports, the hit Tom Hanks-starring comedy will be making its triumphant return to the big screen to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and 20th Century Fox.

Though the movie itself was released on June 3, 1988, these special anniversary screenings will take place next month. More than 700 theaters across the country will welcome Big back into cinemas on July 15 and July 18, with 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. screenings on both days.

Though the role of Josh Baskin—a teenager who magically gets his wish to be a grown-up, with both hilarious and dramatic complications—seemed tailor-made for Hanks and his talents, the production wasn’t all smooth sailing. Originally, Steven Spielberg (whose sister co-wrote the script with Gary Ross) was attached to direct, with Harrison Ford in the lead. When Penny Marshall came on board, Hanks was her first choice, but he passed on the part (as did Kevin Costner, Warren Beatty, Albert Brooks, and a string of other in-demand actors). Robert De Niro was attached for a time, but that eventually fell apart, too.

Fortunately, the project came full circle and Hanks was eventually convinced to come aboard. He earned his first of five (and counting) Best Actor Oscar nominations for the role.

Visit the Fathom Events website to find out if Big is coming (back) to a theater near you

[h/t: Entertainment Weekly]

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Columbia Pictures
10 Fun Facts About Can’t Hardly Wait
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

When the teen film Can’t Hardly Wait—which was named after the Replacements song of the same name—arrived in theaters on June 12, 1998, it grossed $25,605,015 on a $10 million budget. In the 20 years since, the movie has found an even larger audience through DVD and cable. The premise follows Preston Meyers (Empire Records’s Ethan Embry) trying to connect with his dream girl, Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt), all the while seeking advice from his best friend, Denise Fleming (a pre-Six Feet Under Lauren Ambrose).

Originally called The Party, most of the movie takes place during a rambunctious graduation party, featuring a before-they-were-famous cast, and Jenna Elfman as a stripper dressed as an angel. The movie culminates with Preston and Amanda sealing their romance and living happily ever after. Written and directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, the two would later team up for Josie and the Pussycats. Here are 10 fun-filled facts about the ’90s teen comedy.

1. THE PLOT WAS BASED ON LOGISTICS.

Can't Hardly Wait was Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan’s directorial debut, so they liked the idea of having a self-contained and low-budget story to direct. “It was all practical,” Elfont told TIME. “The idea of doing a movie set at a party came first, because it seemed like it would be really cheap to shoot a movie in one location. Then we thought, what hasn’t been done? Nobody’s really done a high-school movie in a while. So we kind of fell into it that way. It was kind of an accident.”

2. SEVERAL SCENES IN THE FILM WERE CHANGED TO AVOID AN R RATING.

A year before the raunchy American Pie was released and jumpstarted R-rated teen films, Can’t Hardly Wait got watered down to get a PG-13 rating. Sony had issues with the underage drinking, and the fact there was no parental supervision at the party. “Well, who would have a high school party and have your parents there?!” Hewitt asked the Los Angeles Times. Seth Green, who played the virginal Kenny Fisher in the movie, gave a rundown of deleted or altered scenes, to Vulture.

“When [Jennifer] Love [Hewitt] first walks into the party, there’s a kid behind her holding a balloon and covering his mouth,” he said. “That used to be a beer bong, but the most expensive CG in the movie was [used] to make it [look] like that kid was smiling and holding a balloon. And then, there’s a scene where Charlie [Korsmo] and Peter [Facinelli] are at the piano. They toast, and then they cut to a wide shot where neither of them are drinking and then cut back to a close-up of them putting their glasses down because you can’t show the kids drinking.”

3. ETHAN EMBRY FORCED HIS WAY INTO PLAYING THE LEAD.

“It had been a while that I had the opportunity to play the ‘guy that gets the girl,’” Embry told VH1. “I had done those roles when I was a lot younger and this was the first time that someone would see me as a lead.” After Embry auditioned for the movie, he got offered the William Lichter part, which eventually went to Charlie Korsmo. But Embry turned the supporting part down. “I wanted to play the guy who gets the girl. That was sort of the driving thing.”

4. MELISSA JOAN HART AND JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT GOT “HIGH” ON B12 VITAMINS.

Hart purposefully chose the small role of the manic Yearbook Girl, as she was working full-time on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and couldn’t fit in a bigger part. While filming a night scene with Hewitt, Hart took B12 vitamins to stay energized, and offered them to a skeptical Hewitt, who thought the vitamins were drugs. “I finally convinced her it’s a vitamin, you can do it,” Hart told TV Guide. “So we took B12 vitamins, and then there was an owl in the tree. [Hewitt] was like, ‘See I’m high now, because there’s not really an owl in the tree.’ We were having these silly night giggles and just attributing it to B12 vitamins.”

5. JASON SEGEL HAD A CAMEO.

The actor was a year away from starring on Freaks and Geeks and seven from How I Met Your Mother when he signed on to play Watermelon Guy. Kaplan and Elfont recognized his talent immediately. “We knew how funny Jason was but there wasn’t a bigger part for him, so we were, like, let’s cast him as this watermelon guy,” Elfont told TIME.

Many other actors either got their start in the movie or became more famous as a result, including Lauren Ambrose and Freddy Rodriguez (both from Six Feet Under), Clea DuVall, Selma Blair, and Sean Patrick Thomas. “Everyone in that age range came in to read because there were no other jobs,” Kaplan told TIME. “That whole crop of people who turned out to be so talented and do so well for themselves afterward were in our movie literally, I think, because there was nothing else for them to do.”

6. EMBRY DOESN’T REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT THE SHOOT.

Embry admitted to VH1 to being “the world’s biggest stoner” while making the film. “Nothing sticks out because I was so stoned the entire time,” he said. He also confessed, “I haven’t seen the movie all the way through ... I never read the script.”

One thing he did remember, though, was the only scene he filmed with Hewitt, at the end of the movie. Before their characters kissed at the train station, Hewitt—knowing he smoked—had a basket of breath mints sent to Embry’s trailer. “And there was a basket of breath mints, you know? Like real pretty,” he said. “Like almost you give somebody flowers or a fruit basket but she gave me 50 breath mints. And it’s all different types. It was all very sweet. And that always makes me laugh thinking of that. Aww, Jennifer wanted me to smell good.” Embry took advantage of the gift and popped some breath mints into his mouth before filming. “They were rather nice cottonmouth alleviators,” he said during a Reddit AMA.

7. EMBRY DOESN’T KNOW—OR CARE—WHAT HIS CHARACTER'S LETTER SAID.

Early on at the party, Amanda finds and reads Preston’s letter and spends the rest of the film trying to find him. It must’ve been a powerful letter, because it finally brings them together at the end. “It was a prop! It was an envelope,” he told VH1. “I think I remember the directors asking me if I knew what was in there. It was a prop. It doesn’t matter. Like I know what’s in there? It’s called acting.”

8. THE CAST WOULD LOVE TO DO A SEQUEL.

In 2015, some of the cast reunited at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a screening of the film. Hewitt tweeted: “Can’t Hardly Wait reunion movie anyone? Let’s get them to make it!” In a 2013 interview with VH1, Embry was tepid about a sequel. “Maybe if they paid me more than last time,” he said about a second one. “[He and Amanda] would have to not be together anymore. Amanda and him had a horrible breakup and there were kids involved. He drinks himself silly over a typewriter. I’d make that sequel.” But in a 2015 interview with The Huffington Post, Embry changed his tune. “Of course I would be thrilled to work with any of the players involved again,” he said. “If all the stars aligned, I would be happy to entertain that possibility.”

Peter Facinelli, who played Amanda’s ex-boyfriend Mike Dexter, told IFC his thoughts on a sequel. “You know how the whole movie takes place at the high school party? We could have the whole movie take place at the reunion. I thought it’d be a fun movie.”

9. PETER FACINELLI THINKS MIKE DEXTER TURNED INTO A LOSER.

If a sequel did occur, Facinelli has an idea about what happened to Mike. “Now he’s basically the loser,” he told IFC. “The nerd was the loser in the first movie. Now he’s like the loser and then he kind of climbs back and gets back on his horse. And the nerdy kid is now the Bill Gates who is kind of like the Mike Dexter, bossing everyone around. I think [Dexter’s] just literally a loser. He’s filled with self-doubt and he would basically rise to self-confidence again and come back on top.”

10. EMBRY THINKS PRESTON AND AMANDA ENDED UP WITH WEIRD JOBS.

VH1 asked Embry where he thinks the characters would be today, and he said: “She’s j*rking off dudes in Vancouver, and he’s making horror movies in upstate New York.”

Elfont took a more serious approach to the question, for TIME. “[The on-screen text at the end of the movie] says they’re still together,” Elfont said. “Who am I to argue?”

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