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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.”

10 Timeless Facts About The Land Before Time

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Five years before Jurassic Park roared into theaters, a gentler, more meditative dinosaur film endeared itself to audiences of all ages. Initially met with mixed reviews, The Land Before Time is now regarded as an animated classic. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the Steven Spielberg-produced film, which arrived in theaters 30 years ago.

1. IT WAS CONCEIVED AS A DIALOGUE-FREE MOVIE.

Gabriel Damon and Candace Hutson in The Land Before Time (1988)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In the mid-1980s, executive producer Steven Spielberg began toying with the idea of a Bambi-esque dinosaur film. “Basically,” he later said, “I wanted to do a soft picture … about five little dinosaurs and how they grow up and work together as a group.” Inspiration came from the “Rite of Spring” sequence from Disney’s Fantasia (1940)—a scene in which prehistoric beasts wordlessly go about their business. At first, Spielberg wanted his own dinosaur characters to follow suit and remain mum. Ultimately, however, it was feared that a non-verbal approach might bore or confuse the film’s intended audience. As such, the animals were given lines.

2. DIRECTOR DON BLUTH WAS AN EX-DISNEY EMPLOYEE.

Don Bluth grew up idolizing Disney’s work, and began working for the studio in 1955. Over the next two decades, he did various odd jobs until he was brought on as a full-time animator in 1971. Once on the inside, Bluth got to peek behind the magician’s curtain—and disliked what he found there. “I think [Walt Disney] would’ve seen that the pictures were losing their luster,” Bluth said. Frustrated by the studio’s cost-cutting measures, he resigned in 1979. Joining him were fellow animators Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy. Together the trio launched their own company, Sullivan Bluth Studios, and began working on The Land Before Time in 1986.

3. OVER 600 BACKGROUND PAINTINGS WERE MADE FOR THE FILM.

Most of these depicted beautiful but barren wastelands, which presented a real challenge for the creative team. As one studio press release put it, “The artists had to create a believable environment in which there was almost no foliage.” Whenever possible, Bluth’s illustrators emphasized vibrant colors. This kept their backdrops from looking too drab or monotonous—despite the desolate setting.

4. LITTLEFOOT’S ORIGINAL NAME WAS “THUNDERFOOT.”

This was changed when the filmmakers learned that there was a triceratops in a popular children’s book called Thunderfoot. Speaking of three-horned dinosaurs: Cera evolved from a pugnacious male character called Bambo.

5. THE FILMMAKERS HAD TO CUT ABOUT 10 MINUTES OF FOOTAGE.

“We compromised a lot with The Land Before Time,” Goldman admitted. Nowhere was this fact more apparent than on the cutting room floor. Spielberg and his fellow executive producer George Lucas deemed 19 individual scenes “too scary.” “We’ll have kids crying in the lobby, and angry parents,” Spielberg warned. “You don’t want that.”

6. “ROOTER” WAS INTRODUCED AT THE URGING OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGISTS.

In Bambi, the title character’s mom dies off-screen. The same cannot be said for Littlefoot’s mother, whose slow demise goes on for several agonizing minutes. Naturally, there was some concern about how children would react to this. “A lot of research went into the mother dying sequence,” Pomeroy said. “Psychologists were approached and shown the film. They gave their professional opinions of how the sequence could be depicted.” Thus, Rooter was born.

One scene after Littlefoot’s mom passes, the wise reptile consoles him, saying “You’ll always miss her, but she’ll always be with you as long as you remember the things she taught you.” Sharp-eared fans might recognize Rooter’s voice as that of Pat Hingle, who also narrates the movie.

7. JAMES HORNER DID THE SOUNDTRACK.

The late, Oscar-winning composer behind Braveheart (1995), Titanic (1997), and Avatar (2009) put together a soaring score. Along with lyricist Will Jennings, he also penned the original song “If We Hold On Together,” which Diana Ross sings as the end credits roll.

8. THE ACTRESS BEHIND DUCKY PASSED AWAY BEFORE THE MOVIE’S RELEASE.

Judith Barsi’s career was off to a great start. By age 10, this daughter of Hungarian immigrants had already appeared in 70 commercials and voiced the leading lady in Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). For The Land Before Time, Barsi voiced the ever-optimistic Ducky, which was reportedly her favorite role. Then tragedy struck: In July of 1988, Barsi’s father József murdered both her and her mother before taking his own life.

9. IT HAD A RECORD-SETTING OPENING WEEKEND.

From the get-go, The Land Before Time had some stiff competition. Universal released it on November 18, 1988—the same day that Disney’s Oliver & Company hit theaters. Yet, for a solid month, Bluth gave Oliver a box office beating. The Land Before Time enjoyed the highest-grossing opening weekend that any animated film had ever seen, pulling in $7.5 million to Oliver & Company’s $4 million. Since then, of course, The Land Before Time has long been dethroned; today, Incredibles 2 (2018) holds this coveted distinction with a $182.7 million first-weekend showing.

10. THERE ONCE WAS TALK OF A LAND BEFORE TIME STAGE MUSICAL.

“The time has come for dinosaurs on Broadway,” the late theatrical producer Irving Welzer told The New York Times in 1997. Emboldened by the recent cinematic success of Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1996), Welzer expressed an interest helping Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, and the rest of the gang make their Big Apple debut. Soon, however, the idea faded.

Billie Lourd Shares What (Very Little) She Can About Star Wars: Episode IX

Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

​Nearly nothing is known about the final film in the latest Star Wars series, except that J.J. Abrams, who helmed The Force Awakens, will be returning as director, and many of the cast members from both Abrams's earlier effort and The Last Jedi will be reprising their roles. Even the late Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away on December 27, 2016, will be included in Episode IX, through unused footage from the previous two films.

Though all the stars of the upcoming film are sworn to secrecy about it, Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, is spilling what she can. Lourd, who played the minor role of Lieutenant Connix in the last two films, teased what it was like being back on set.

"I gotta watch myself because the Star Wars PD is going to come get me, but it is incredible. I’ve read the script and I’ve been on set," Lourd told ​Entertainment Tonight. "I was on set for, like, three weeks back in September, and it is going to be magical. I can’t say much more, but I’m so excited about it and so grateful to be a part of it. Star Wars is my heart. I love it."

A lot of things are riding on Episode IX, especially considering how divided fans were over The Last Jedi. Though with Abrams back in the director's chair, it seems likely that the new film will be a return to form. The as-yet-untitled film hits theaters on December 20, 2019.

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