20 Fascinating Facts About Mad Men

Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

In “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” Mad Men’s pilot episode, Don Draper drops a hard truth on client/love interest (who isn’t his wife) Rachel Menken when he tells her that he’s “living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.” Amazingly, that was 10 years ago. As fans of Matthew Weiner’s acclaimed advertising drama celebrate the beloved series' 10th anniversary, we’ve gathered up 20 facts you might not have known about Mad Men.

1. DON DRAPER OWES A DEBT OF GRATITUDE TO TED DANSON.

Matthew Weiner dreamed up the idea for Mad Men while working as a writer on the Ted Danson sitcom Becker. He wrote the pilot in 1999.

2. THE MAD MEN PILOT GOT WEINER HIS JOB ON THE SOPRANOS.


Getty Images

In 2002, Weiner sent the Mad Men pilot to David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, as a writing sample. In 2012, The New York Times asked Chase how Weiner came to his attention. “We were looking for writers, as we always were, and he was submitted,” Chase recalled. “He told me later that he insisted that he be submitted—his agents didn’t want to do it. And what was submitted to me was the pilot for Mad Men. And it was quite good, and I met with him and he was hired. And then two or three years later, he took that pilot and apparently got somewhere with it.”

3. HBO PASSED ON MAD MEN—AND IT’S ALL DAVID CHASE’S FAULT.


Getty Images

Before AMC signed on to broadcast Mad Men, Weiner spent some time shopping the script around. Considering its dark content, HBO seemed like the perfect fit. David Chase thought so, too, and delivered the script for the Mad Men pilot to the network's executives himself. Though HBO has never made any official comment about passing on the series, according to a 2009 story in Vanity Fair, both Chase and Weiner told the writer that “HBO indicated it would make Mad Men on the condition that Chase be an executive producer, and Chase said he had further discussion with Weiner about directing the pilot, but despite being ‘very tempted’ by directing, he said no to both propositions, wanting to move away from weekly television.”

4. DON DRAPER IS BASED ON A REAL PERSON.

At least parts of Don Draper are based on a real person: Draper Daniels, the legendary Chicago ad man who, while creative head at Leo Burnett, invented the Marlboro Man. In 2009, Daniels’ wife even penned a piece for Chicago Magazine about the real-life Don Draper, noting that Weiner “acknowledged that he based his protagonist Don Draper in part on Draper Daniels, whom he called ‘one of the great copy guys.’”

5. THE PILOT WAS SHOT WHILE THE SOPRANOS WAS ON HIATUS.

Because The Sopranos’s final season was shot in two parts, Weiner took advantage of the hiatus he had to shoot the pilot episode of Mad Men. He was able to recruit several of his collaborators on The Sopranos to help. “Matt asked Alan Taylor to direct while all his buddies on The Sopranos were on hiatus,” Rob Sorcher, AMC’s former executive VP of programming and production, told TV Insider. “They shot the pilot in 10 days in Queens.”

6. THE PILOT IS THE ONLY EPISODE THAT SHOT IN NEW YORK CITY.

Though Mad Men is largely a New York story, all but one episode—the pilot—were shot in Los Angeles.

7. THE FIRST AND SECOND EPISODES WERE SHOT ONE YEAR APART.

In TV Insider’s oral history of the series, Weiner said that nearly a year elapsed between shooting the pilot for Mad Men and its second episode. “There’s seven years between when I first wrote the pilot, and then writing the second episode,” Weiner explained. “A lot about my vision changed in terms of how the storytelling would be done. Ultimately it was done very much in the pilot the way we continued to do it. But I didn’t know if it was just going to be a premise, or if we were going to be able to do something like that every week.”

8. ROGER STERLING WANTED TO BE DON DRAPER.


Frank Ockenfels/AMC

John Slattery, who played Roger Sterling, originally auditioned for the role of Don Draper. When asked by ShortList.com whether he secretly hated Jon Hamm for getting the part, Slattery laughed that, “[Hamm] says I did, and not even secretly, but … no, I didn’t hate him, deep down. The thing is, it was apparent from the beginning how annoyingly good he was in that role. I don’t think people appreciate how difficult it is to play something as subtle as he does. Trying to communicate so much from a guy who keeps his cards so close to his chest is almost an impossibility.”

9. BETTY DRAPER WANTED TO BE PEGGY OLSON.


Getty Images

January Jones auditioned not once but twice for the role of Peggy Olson, which eventually went to Elisabeth Moss. But Weiner had another part in mind for Jones, even if he hadn’t really written it yet. “I came in for Peggy twice,” Jones told The Hollywood Reporter. “Matt said, ‘Well, there’s another role, but I don’t really know what’s going to happen with her.’ He didn’t have any scenes for me, so he quickly wrote a couple.”

10. WEINER WAS ALLOWED THREE “SH*TS” PER SHOW.

In 2011, Weiner participated in a wide-ranging Q&A with Curb Your Enthusiasm star Jeff Garlin in Los Angeles. When asked about how Mad Men might have been different had it sold to HBO, Weiner replied that “Mad Men is TV-14, not even TV-MA. I’m allowed three 'sh*ts' a show. I can say ‘Jesus,’ I can say ‘Christ,’ but I can’t say ‘Jesus Christ’ unless he’s actually there.”

11. MAD MEN BOOSTED LUCKY STRIKE'S SALES.

The old-school cigarette brand, which played a recurring role on the show since its very beginning, benefited from its association with Mad Men: The company nearly doubled its sales during the show's run (selling an additional 10 billion cigarettes).

12. WEINER’S WIFE CONTRIBUTED SOME MAJOR PLOT POINTS.

“My wife, Linda Brettler, is a big contributor to the show,” Weiner told Fresh Air. “She reads the scripts and so forth and really weighs in on things. And later and later in the process each year, actually, it’s gotten more helpful for her to see, like, what I’m trying to do and then weigh in on it.” Weiner points to a very specific example of this, with season five’s “Lady Lazarus” episode: “It’s the [episode] where Megan quits, where Megan rejects Don’s way of life, and Don doesn’t even know how painful it’s going to be … [My wife] pitched this idea that he opens it and sees that elevator is not there. And to me, yes, it is really physical danger—'I almost dodged a bullet.' But what it was really about to me is, how do I convey to the audience that this man—because we’ve seen him react to things: he’s going to drink, he’s going to go and bang some stranger, he’s going to medicate in whatever way he does—how do we express the deep feelings of loss that he has as he says goodbye to his wife, to his idealized version of his romantic relationship?”

13. WEINER PAID $250,000 TO USE A BEATLES SONG.

Weiner paid big bucks to close out that “Lady Lazarus” episode, spending $250,000 to license the rights to The Beatles’s “Tomorrow Never Knows”—which was a small price to pay for authenticity. “It was always my feeling that the show lacked a certain authenticity because we never could have an actual master recording of The Beatles performing,” Weiner told The New York Times. “Not just someone singing their song or a version of their song, but them, doing a song in the show. It always felt to me like a flaw. Because they are the band, probably, of the 20th century.”

14. JESSICA PARÉ SCORED A HIT WITH HER RENDITION OF “ZOU BISOU BISOU."


Ron Jaffe/AMC

Jessica Paré, as the new Mrs. Draper, stole the season five premiere when she serenaded Don with her sexy take on “Zou Bisou Bisou.” It didn’t take long for her performance to transcend television and take over the music world, eventually becoming the number one song on Billboard’s World Digital chart

15. PETE CAMPBELL AND STAN RIZZO WERE TEEN IDOLS IN THE 1990S.

Both Vincent Kartheiser and Jay Ferguson—who played Pete Campbell and Stan Rizzo, respectively—got a taste of what it feels like to be a teen idol back in the 1990s. Kartheiser’s career kicked off in 1993 with a small role in the Christian Slater film Untamed Heart; bigger parts in Little Big League, The Indian in the Cupboard, and Alaska followed. Ferguson’s fame came when he was cast as Ponyboy Curtis in the 1990 TV adaptation of The Outsiders.

16. FREDDY RUMSEN IS BILL MURRAY’S BROTHER.


Jordin Althaus/AMC

Booze-swilling ad man Freddy Rumsen is played by Joel Murray, brother of Bill Murray.

17. NO, THE ACTORS DIDN'T SMOKE REAL CIGARETTES.

“You don’t want actors smoking real cigarettes,” Weiner told The New York Times. “They get agitated and nervous. I’ve been on sets where people throw up, they’ve smoked so much.” Instead, they smoke herbal cigarettes. “They’re disgusting,” Christina Hendricks told Esquire.

18. THE WRITERS’ ROOM WAS FULL OF WOMEN.

In 2009, The Wall Street Journal went behind the scenes of Mad Men and discovered something interesting: It was a female-dominated world. At the time, seven of the show’s nine writers were female. And five of the third season’s 13 episodes were directed by women.

19. THE DRAPERS’ CREEPY NEIGHBOR GLEN IS WEINER’S SON.


Ron Jaffe/AMC

Glen Bishop, the Drapers’ creepy kid neighbor who obsesses over Betty before moving on to Sally, is played by Matthew Weiner’s son, Marten. “He was cast because he was the best person available for the role,” Weiner told NPR. “I would have never thought of him if he wasn’t my son. It was actually someone else’s idea, and I was counseled against it from all the complications that could happen from him failing at that job. But he really nailed it, and he’s a really good actor.”

20. KIERNAN SHIPKA NEVER SAW THE SHOW.


Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

In 2013, then-13-year-old Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper, told The Huffington Post that she had never actually watched an episode of Mad Men. “I’m probably allowed to watch them, but I don’t because obviously I wasn’t allowed to at the beginning,” she explained. “Now I figure it’s just best to sort of wait until the show’s over and maybe when I’m 16 or 17, I’ll binge watch them or something fun … I’ll go on Netflix or something.”

Orson Welles's Former Hollywood Hills Estate Is Taking Vacation Reservations

Fred Mott, Getty Images
Fred Mott, Getty Images

Orson Welles's former Hollywood Hills estate is a perfect place to get away from society, grow a bushy beard, and brood over a bottle of whiskey.

Interested? The late Hollywood icon's 3000-square-foot home is available to rent for about $755 a night through HomeAway. The house, which sits on its own private 15,000-square-foot knoll, was home to Welles at the very beginning of his career and is where he wrote the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane. Bring along your typewriter and try to channel some of his greatness.

Quite a few other celebrities have inhabited the house as well, including Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. Features of the grand four-bedroom mansion—built in 1928—include a lagoon pool, Jacuzzi, deck, and both canyon and city views.

There's never been a better time to rent Welles's abode: his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is set to premiere at this month's Venice Film Festival before arriving on Netflix. The unfinished flick, which was shot intermittently between 1970 and 1976, has been completed and restored for its much-anticipated release. (Of course the mansion has plenty of TVs for your viewing pleasure.)

The property has a three- to five-night stay minimum, depending on the season. For more pictures, see below or head to HomeAway. And since you're already in vacation-planning mode, another creative celebrity abode to consider is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Montgomery, Alabama home, which is available to rent via Airbnb.

Orson Welles' house
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles mansion
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios