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Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

8 Fascinating Fan Theories About Mad Men

Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

When Mad Men made its television debut nearly eight years ago, its storyline seemed straightforward enough: When he’s not creating brilliant advertising campaigns for some of the country’s most successful corporations, a handsome Madison Avenue executive named Don Draper likes to smoke, drink, and cheat on his wife.

But as the series continued, cracks began to show in Don's perfectly chiseled exterior. Who is Dickie Whitman? And where is this house of ill repute in which he was raised? As such, Mad Men took on a much more mysterious tone, one that ultimately led devoted viewers to wonder whether the show had ever been straightforward at all. Or if it they had been hoodwinked, and Mad Men had been some sort of strange 1960s fever dream all along. And so began the onslaught of elaborate fan theories about the rabbit hole that Mad Men just might be (some of them crazy, others entirely plausible).

1. DON DRAPER IS D.B. COOPER.

Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

On November 24, 1971, a well-dressed man in his mid-forties walked up to the Northwest Orient Airlines ticket counter at Portland International Airport and purchased a one-way ticket to Seattle under the name Dan Cooper. Once on board, he made his way to a seat at the back of the plane, ordered a bourbon and soda, and lit a cigarette … then passed a note to the flight attendant, informing her that he had a bomb. His demands were simple: $200,000 in cash, four parachutes, and a fuel truck awaiting the plane upon its arrival in Seattle. Long story short: after being informed that his demands had been met, the plane landed, refueled, and took off again. Twenty minutes later, Cooper—who would become known as D.B. Cooper because of a simple media miscommunication—parachuted from the plane, ransom money in tow, never to be heard from again.

Could D.B. Cooper—infamous hijacker and all-around man of mystery—and Don Draper be one and the same? The physical description certainly sounds familiar. And considering Don’s association with Bert Cooper and the Sterling Cooper ad agency, the alias would certainly make sense. Which could very well be why this theory has gained so much traction, particularly with Lindsey Green at Medium, who wrote an in-depth breakdown of the reasoning behind the idea, noting that the ending has been hinted at since the very beginning. “There’s always been something in the air with Mad Men, quite literally,” writes Green. “From Mohawk to American, North American Aviation, and Ted’s own little two-seater, airlines and aviation are about as prevalent on the show as aliases and fake identities. Even when Joan was upset after being served divorce papers from Dr. Harris, it was a model airplane she grabbed and threw at the unassuming receptionist as Don stood in the doorway. Mad Men has been telling us how the story ends from the very beginning. It ends on an airplane.”

2. MEGAN DRAPER IS SHARON TATE.

Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Of the many theories that have popped up surrounding possible plot lines, one that posits that aspiring actress Megan Draper is Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s version of Sharon Tate—and is destined to suffer the same fate—has gathered rampant attention. It all began when some eagle-eyed viewers noticed that in season six, Megan wore a T-shirt that was eerily similar to one worn by Tate. From there, additional “proof” began mounting, including a glimpse of Sally Draper reading Rosemary’s Baby, the book that Tate’s husband Roman Polanski adapted for the big-screen. When asked about the connection, Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant swore to Yahoo! that the choice of outfit “wasn't about Sharon Tate. It was about Megan just being political. That T-shirt [features] the Vietnam star, and in past shows you know Megan has made reference to not really supporting the Vietnam War.” For his part, Weiner himself told HitFix: “The Sharon Tate thing, you know, it’s so flimsy and thin, and at the same time, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of coincidence.’ I don’t know what to tell you. I would like to think that people would know that the show’s striving for historical accuracy that I would not add a person who was not murdered by the Manson family into that murder. So that in itself is the dumbest argument in the world for me.”

3. MEGAN DRAPER IS A GHOST.

Mad Men viewers sure do have a morbid fascination with Megan. Shortly after the show’s creators swore that the younger, shinier Mrs. Draper would not be murdered by Charles Manson, fan theorists took another shot at placing Megan in the afterlife: she's already dead! Mainly, this train of thought seems to have sprung from an episode in which Don nearly drowns at a pool party and, in that space between life and death, sees and is comforted by a hallucination of Megan. As Uproxx explains it: “The wording during [the pool party] sequence is very careful. During the hallucination, in addition to finding out that Megan is pregnant, Don asks, ‘How did you find me?’ Megan responds, ‘But I live here.’ The ‘here’ is not California; it can’t be the party. She’s clearly not actually there, but she could be in the afterlife. A few seconds later, Draper sees a dead Private Dinkins, who says, ‘I heard you were here.’ Again, ‘here’ is in the afterlife.”

4. FORGET MEGAN. IT’S BETTY WHO’S THE GONER.

Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

After all of the talk about Megan’s (assumed) imminent demise, Esquire posited a new theory in the summer of 2013: that if any of Don’s wives were going to kick the bucket, it would—and should—be Betty. “Think about it,” wrote Jen Chaney. “We already got to see Don and Betty together again this season, which seemed to bring closure to that relationship, for Betty at least. Betty is barely in the show these days, so losing that character makes sense from a narrative efficiency standpoint. If we agree that Don Draper's identity as Don Draper will likely cease to exist this season, it would make complete sense for Betty, the symbol of Don's old life as Don, to be gone.”

5. DON’S GOING TO DIE.

Image Credit: YouTube

Mortality has (obviously) always been a recurring theme in Mad Men. And as with any series that’s readying for its final episodes, viewers are anticipating some sort of finality with their finale. Being that Don Draper is the maddest of the titular Mad Men, his death is the only one that would be meaningful enough to really matter. Viewers have combed through hours of footage to point out bits of imagery that hint at Don’s ultimate demise (including the fact that he chose The Inferno as his Hawaiian beach read). But mostly, people reference a possible harbinger that’s been in front of their faces all along: the series’ iconic opening credits, which feature a faceless man falling out of a window.

6. PETE CAMPBELL WILL FALL OUT OF THAT WINDOW.

Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Oh, Pete Campbell. Smug, smarmy Pete Campbell. While plenty of viewers have probably gleefully envisioned an episode in which the whiny, overprivileged up-and-comer who everyone loves to hate says bye-bye to the world, Salon dedicated more than 2400 words to the topic in 2012. “Pete Campbell will take a header out a Time & Life Building window, probably around Thanksgiving on the show. (I’m iffy on the when but feeling solid on the who, what, and where),” declared writer Robin Sayers. “I can argue that I came to this conclusion logically, because I was a sociology of media major in college, focused on film and TV theory and I did intern as a script analyst for the late, great Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice, Klute). Plus, I worked in the T&L Building for nearly a decade, so I know that, indeed, its windows can in fact be ‘opened’ … And now I can only see poor Vincent Kartheiser dropping on that stark poster heralding Season 5, even though the cut of that guy’s jib is more Draper than Dyckman.” Okay, so the details on this one are admittedly dated—but it could still happen. Right?

7. DON IS JEWISH.

This one isn’t so much a fan theory as it is one fan’s theory. In discussing the many hypotheses viewers have put forth, Weiner admitted that he kind of enjoys it. “I have no complaint,” Weiner told HitFix in January. “I don’t care how it’s being watched. I mean, I hate the screen within a screen within a screen watching, but I love that people watch the show.” He then recounted one strange encounter with a fan: “You get in this weird situation the first season where people were like, ‘I know Don Draper’s secret. He’s Jewish.’ And I was like, ‘Did I ever put anything in there that said he wasn’t?’ Because he’s not. I mean, I know that.”

8. IT’S ALL LEADING UP TO MAD WOMEN.

Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Don Draper may be the star of Mad Men, but neither he nor his business ventures would have been as successful if it weren’t for the women behind the men—namely, Peggy Olson and Joan Harris. Throughout the series’ seven seasons, we’ve seen each of their characters grow, both in their personal lives and their professional positions. Maybe it’s time they strike out on their own?

In The Hollywood Reporter’s recent oral history of Mad Men, Lionsgate COO Sandra Stern recounted that “when we first started negotiating with AMC, one of the things they wanted was a spinoff. We talked about doing a contemporary one. Given the fact that [Mad Men] ends nearly 50 years ago, most of the characters would be dead. Sally was the one character young enough that you could see her 30 or 40 years later. There was a time we wanted a Peggy spin­off, too, and, a la Better Call Saul, a minor character going off to L.A. Matt wasn't comfortable committing to a spinoff.” Which doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t happen. Even if Christina Hendricks, a.k.a. Joan, hasn’t heard anything about it yet.

Earlier this week, the Huffington Post asked Hendricks about the rumors of a Peggy and Joan spinoff. “You're the first I'm hearing it from. It hasn't reached my ears yet,” she replied. Then added: “That would be amazing. If they wanted me, I'd be there.” (Are you listening, Matthew Weiner?)

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11 Single Facts About Bridget Jones’s Diary
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Miramax

While it's not officially a holiday movie, so much of the action in Bridget Jones's Diary happens around the most wonderful time of the year that the rom-com has become essential wintertime viewing for many movie fans. Based on Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of a very single, and hopelessly romantic, working professional named Bridget (Renée Zellweger) who is determined to improve her love life. Enter two strapping gentlemen (Colin Firth and Hugh Grant) to vie for her heart. Get to know more about the timeless dramedy that’s been delighting audiences since 2001. Just as it is.

1. THE SOURCE NOVEL CAME ABOUT FROM AN ANONYMOUS COLUMN ABOUT SINGLE LIFE.

In the foreword of Bridget Jones’s Diary, author Helen Fielding wrote about how she came to conjure up the story: “The Independent asked me to write a column, as myself, about single life in London. Much as I needed the money, the idea of writing about myself in that way seemed hopelessly embarrassing and revealing. I offered to write an anonymous column instead, using an exaggerated, comic, fictional character. I assumed no one would read it, and it would be dropped after six weeks for being too silly.”

2. SEVERAL CHARACTERS ARE BASED ON PEOPLE IN HELEN FIELDING’S LIFE.


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These include Jude (Tracey MacLeod) and Shazzer (Sharon Maguire, also the film’s director). In a column for the Evening Standard, MacLeod described how she didn’t even realize she inspired part of her best friend’s story until Fielding’s book launch party. “At the launch party for the first Bridget book, I was cornered by a smug married friend, ‘So ... what's it like being Jude?’ she asked,” MacLeod writes. “I was outraged. Of course I wasn't Jude, with her self-help books and horrible boyfriend. My boyfriend wasn't anything like Vile Richard ... But as more people began to believe that Jude and Shazzer were thinly-veiled portraits of myself and Sharon, I secretly got to like the idea.”

3. TONI COLLETTE DECLINED THE LEAD, AND KATE WINSLET WAS CONSIDERED FOR IT.

Before Zellweger stole the show, Aussie Toni Collette and Brit Kate Winslet were up for the part. According to AMC, “Toni Collette declined the role because she was on Broadway starring in The Wild Party at the time, and Kate Winslet was considered but the producers decided she was too young.”

4. HUGH GRANT ONLY SIGNED ON WHEN RICHARD CURTIS WAS ANNOUNCED AS THE WRITER. 


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“The only reason [I was a hard sell] was because I didn't feel they had the script quite right for a long time,” Firth told Cinema.com. “And I kept saying, ‘It's not working. Just get Richard Curtis to come in and help rewrite it.’ Eventually they did, and as soon as Richard came on board, I signed on the dotted line. So that's all it was.”

5. RENÉE ZELLWEGER GAINED 17 POUNDS FOR THE PART.

Zellweger’s weight gain for the role had the media abuzz for a while. According to The Guardian, “In order to play the eponymous heroine in the film adaptation of Fielding's bestseller, the actress gained 17 pounds, consulting a dietitian and endocrinologist who devised a regime of three full meals a day, multiple snacks, and no exercise.”

6. ZELLWEGER WORKED AT PICADOR FOR THREE WEEKS.

Zellweger went full Method for her iconic role, and became a temporary employee of the Picador publishing house. “We came up with a plan: she would be Bridget Cavendish, Bridget for obvious reasons and Cavendish as she was to be passed off as the sister of Jonathan Cavendish, a friend of one of our company chairmen,” Picador publicist Camilla Elworthy told The Guardian. “That last bit at least is true, and no one was to know that Jonathan Cavendish was one of the film's producers.”

7. ZELLWEGER KEPT A PHOTO OF JIM CARREY ON HER DESK.


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While working at Picador, Zellweger kept a picture of Jim Carrey on her desk—which made her alter ego Bridget Cavendish seem like some sort of obsessed fan. “Under the name Bridget Cavendish, she answered phones, served coffee, and made photocopies—without being recognized by any of her co-workers, who offered career advice and wondered privately why she kept a photo of Jim Carrey (her then-boyfriend) on her desk,” noted Hollywood.com.

8. ZELLWEGER INVITED HER BOSS AT PICADOR TO BE AN EXTRA ON SET.

In Camilla Elworthy’s write-up for The Guardian, she noted how she became a part of the production. “Renée sent me a thank you letter and gift after she'd gone and I have seen her a few times since then," Elworthy wrote. "She invited me on to the film set one day. She informed me that I had to stick around and be an extra and made sure that I was put somewhere that I would be seen ... As a result, half my head can be seen for half a nano-second in the launch party scene.”

9. THE EPIC FIGHT SCENE BETWEEN GRANT AND COLIN FIRTH WASN’T CHOREOGRAPHED.

You can thank the two actors for the hilarity of the iconic scene. In a Vulture article about the greatest fight scenes in movie history, writer Denise Martin recalled the improvised spar, writing, “No stunt coordinators. No elaborate choreography. Just a perfectly realized wimp brawl between two upper-middle-class Englishmen coming to awkward fisticuffs in front of a Greek restaurant.”

10. FIELDING ASKED FRIEND SALMAN RUSHDIE TO CAMEO IN THE FILM.

Recalling how he came to be part of the film, famed novelist Salman Rushdie told Texas Monthly, “Helen Fielding, the author of the book, is an old pal of mine, and she asked if I’d come along and make a fool of myself, and I said, ‘Why not?’”

11. GRANT DIDN’T HEAR ZELLWEGER SPEAK IN HER AMERICAN ACCENT UNTIL THE FILM’S WRAP PARTY.

Zellweger was so engrossed with Bridget Jones that one of her leading love interests didn’t meet the real actress until the end of the shoot. “Not once did she stop speaking with that accent, until the wrap party,” Grant told Cinema.com, “when suddenly this weird ... Texan appeared. I wanted to call security, I didn't know who the f*ck she was!”

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15 Surprising Facts About Scarface
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Universal Home Video

Say hello to our little list. Here are a few facts to break out at your next screening of Scarface, Brian De Palma’s gangsters-and-cocaine classic, which arrived in theaters on this day in 1983.

1. IT WASN'T THE FIRST SCARFACE.

Brian De Palma's Scarface is a loose remake of the 1932 movie of the same name, which is also about the rise and fall of an American immigrant gangster. The producer of the 1983 version, Martin Bregman, saw the original on late night TV and thought the idea could be modernized—though it still pays respect to the original film. De Palma's flick is dedicated to the original film’s director, Howard Hawks, and screenwriter, Ben Hecht.

2. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A SIDNEY LUMET FILM.

At one point in the film's production, Sidney Lumet—the socially conscious director of such classics as Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men—was brought on as its director. "Sidney Lumet came up with the idea of what's happening today in Miami, and it inspired Bregman," Pacino told Empire Magazine. "He and Oliver Stone got together and produced a script that had a lot of energy and was very well written. Oliver Stone was writing about stuff that was touching on things that were going on in the world, he was in touch with that energy and that rage and that underbelly."

3. OLIVER STONE WASN'T INTERESTED IN WRITING THE SCRIPT, UNTIL LUMET GOT INVOLVED.


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Producer Bregman offered relative newcomer Oliver Stone a chance to overhaul the screenplay, but Stone—who was still reeling from the box office disappointment of his film, The Hand—wasn't interested. "I didn’t like the original movie that much," Stone told Creative Screenwriting. "It didn’t really hit me at all and I had no desire to make another Italian gangster picture because so many had been done so well, there would be no point to it. The origin of it, according to Marty Bregman, [was that] Al had seen the '30s version on television, he loved it and expressed to Marty as his long time mentor/partner that he’d like to do a role like that. So Marty presented it to me and I had no interest in doing a period piece."

But when Bregman contacted Stone again about the project later, his opinion changed. "Sidney Lumet had stepped into the deal," Stone said. "Sidney had a great idea to take the 1930s American prohibition gangster movie and make it into a modern immigrant gangster movie dealing with the same problems that we had then, that we’re prohibiting drugs instead of alcohol. There’s a prohibition against drugs that’s created the same criminal class as (prohibition of alcohol) created the Mafia. It was a remarkable idea."

4. UNFORTUNATELY, ACCORDING TO STONE, LUMET HATED HIS SCRIPT.

While the chance to work with Lumet was part of what lured Stone to the project, it was his script that ultimately led to the director's departure from the film. According to Stone: "Sidney Lumet hated my script. I don’t know if he’d say that in public himself, I sound like a petulant screenwriter saying that, I’d rather not say that word. Let me say that Sidney did not understand my script, whereas Bregman wanted to continue in that direction with Al."

5. STONE HAD FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE WITH THE SUBJECT MATTER.

In order to create the most accurate picture possible, Stone spent time in Florida and the Caribbean interviewing people on both sides of the law for research. "It got hairy," Stone admitted of the research process. "It gave me all this color. I wanted to do a sun-drenched, tropical Third World gangster, cigar, sexy Miami movie."

Unfortunately, while penning the screenplay, Stone was also dealing with his own cocaine habit, which gave him an insight into what the drug can do to users. Stone actually tried to kick his habit by leaving the country to complete the script so he could be far away from his access to the drug.

"I moved to Paris and got out of the cocaine world too because that was another problem for me," he said. "I was doing coke at the time, and I really regretted it. I got into a habit of it and I was an addictive personality. I did it, not to an extreme or to a place where I was as destructive as some people, but certainly to where I was going stale mentally. I moved out of L.A. with my wife at the time and moved back to France to try and get into another world and see the world differently. And I wrote the script totally f***ing cold sober."

6. BRIAN DE PALMA DIDN'T WANT TO AUDITION MICHELLE PFEIFFER.


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De Palma was hesitant to audition the relatively untested Pfeiffer because at the time she was best known for the box office bomb Grease 2. Glenn Close, Geena Davis, Carrie Fisher, Kelly McGillis, Sharon Stone and Sigourney Weaver were all considered for the role of Elvira, but Bregman pushed for Pfeiffer to audition and she got the part.

7. YES, THERE IS A LOT OF SWEARING.

According to the Family Media Guide, which monitors profanity, sexual content, and violence in movies, Scarface features 207 uses of the “F” word, which works out to about 1.21 F-bombs per minute. In 2014, Martin Scorsese more than doubled that with a record-setting 506 F-bombs thrown in The Wolf of Wall Street.

8. TONY MONTANA WAS NAMED FOR A FOOTBALL STAR.

Stone, who was a San Francisco 49ers fan, named the character of Tony Montana after Joe Montana, his favorite football player.

9. TONY IS ONLY REFERRED TO AS "SCARFACE" ONCE, AND IT'S IN SPANISH.

Hector, the Colombian gangster who threatens Tony with the chainsaw, refers to Tony as “cara cicatriz,” meaning “scar face” in Spanish.

That chainsaw scene, by the way, was based on a real incident. To research the movie, Stone embedded himself with Miami law enforcement and based the infamous chainsaw sequence on a gangland story he heard from the Miami-Dade County police.

10. VERY LITTLE OF THE FILM WAS ACTUALLY SHOT IN MIAMI.

The film was originally going to be shot entirely on location in Miami, but protests by the local Cuban-American community forced the movie to leave Miami two weeks into production. Besides footage from those two weeks, the rest of the movie was shot in Los Angeles, New York, and Santa Barbara.

11. ALL THAT "COCAINE" LED TO PROBLEMS WITH PACINO'S NASAL PASSAGES.

Though there has long been a myth that Pacino snorted real cocaine on camera for Scarface, the "cocaine" used in the movie was supposedly powdered milk (even if De Palma has never officially stated what the crew used as a drug stand-in). But just because it wasn't real doesn't mean that it didn't create problems for Pacino's nasal passages. "For years after, I have had things up in there," Pacino said in 2015. "I don't know what happened to my nose, but it's changed."

12. PACINO'S NOSE WASN'T HIS ONLY BODY PART TO SUFFER DAMAGE.

Still of Al Pacino as Tony Montana in 'Scarface' (1983)
Universal Home Video

In the film's very bloody conclusion, Montana famously asks the assailants who've invaded his home to "say hello to my little friend," which happens to be a very large gun. That gun took a beating from all the blanks it had to fire, so much so that Pacino ended up burning his hand on its barrel. "My hand stuck to that sucker," he said. Ultimately, the actor—and his bandaged hands—had to sit out some of the action in the last few weeks of production.

13. STEVEN SPIELBERG DIRECTED A SINGLE SHOT.

De Palma and Spielberg had been friends since the two began making studio movies in the mid-1970s, and they made a habit of visiting each other’s sets. Spielberg was on hand for one of the days of shooting the Colombians’ initial attack on Tony Montana’s house at the end of the movie, so De Palma let Spielberg direct the low-angle shot where the attackers first enter the house.

14. SOME COOL TECHNOLOGY WENT INTO THE GUN MUZZLE FLASHES.

In order to heighten the severity of the gunfire, De Palma and the special effects coordinators created a mechanism to synchronize the gunfire with the open shutter on the movie camera to show the huge muzzle flash coming from the guns in the final shootout.

15. SADDAM HUSSEIN WAS A FAN OF THE FILM.

The trust fund the former Iraqi dictator set up to launder money was called “Montana Management,” a nod to the company Tony uses to launder money in the movie.

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