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6 Movies That Almost Starred Robert Downey Jr.

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Given the Midas touch he has with movies nowadays, it’s easy to forget that Robert Downey Jr. used to be one of Hollywood’s biggest liabilities. Though he has always been a formidable talent, a series of drug-related arrests and failed attempts at rehabilitation made him a tough sell to studios, particularly in the mid-1990s. (Even in the case of Iron Man, the filmmakers had to aggressively sell Downey for the role after the studio rejected the idea. Twice.) In honor of Downey’s 50th birthday, we’re recounting six films that might have featured him on the movie poster had life gone differently.

1. PRETTY IN PINK (1986)

Imagine if Duckie had gotten the girl at the end of Pretty in Pink? That was, in fact, how the movie was intended to end. But the script changed after Jon Cryer landed the part, despite Molly Ringwald pushing for Robert Downey, Jr., who was competing with Cryer for the role. In the book You Couldn’t Ignore More if You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation, Ringwald explained that the changed ending made more sense to her once Cryer came on board, as she just wasn’t feeling the romantic vibe. As Ringwald put it, “I mean, if they remade the movie now, [Duckie] would be, like, the gay friend who comes out at the end. … I feel bad saying that I really fought for Robert Downey, Jr., because it sort of seems like I don’t appreciate Jon’s performance, which I totally do—it’s just, it really did affect the movie.”

Cryer addressed Ringwald’s comments in the DVD commentary on Pretty in Pink: Everything’s Duckie Edition, saying that, "Molly dropped the bomb that she would’ve been fine with the original ending if Robert Downey Jr., had played Duckie … But since it was me, she just couldn’t see it. It was like, wow, so I’m that unattractive? Thanks, Mol!”

2. SAY ANYTHING… (1989)

Had Downey been cast as Lloyd Dobler in Cameron Crowe’s beloved high school romance, he probably would have owned the role. But today, it’s hard to imagine anyone but a lovestruck John Cusack hoisting that boombox up over his head, Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” blasting. Though Crowe wrote the role specifically with Cusack in mind, he wasn’t sure that Cusack (who was 23 years old when the film was released) would be interested in playing another high school student. So he went against his gut and auditioned other actors for the role, including Kirk Cameron! The role was actually offered to Downey, who turned it down—prompting Crowe to go back to his original idea and offer it to Cusack, who signed on immediately.

3. BACKDRAFT (1991)

Truthfully, we’re not exactly sure how high up on Ron Howard’s list Downey was to play firefighter extraordinaire Brian McCaffrey. But Downey’s consideration for the part is particularly amusing considering that you can actually watch his audition tape (right here), and that he got beat out for it by William Baldwin. In Downey’s defense, Brad Pitt also unsuccessfully auditioned for the part.

4. WILD THINGS (1998)

Much like Showgirls, there are two schools of thought when it comes to this strange erotic-teen movie hybrid: love it or hate it. Which is something that Kevin Bacon, who both starred in and executive produced the movie, understands. “When I first picked up the script, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is the trashiest piece of crap I’ve ever read,’” Bacon told Entertainment Weekly. “But every few pages, I kept discovering that it wasn’t what it seemed. Every few pages, there was another surprise.” One surprise was having to replace Downey, who had been cast as Sam Lombardo, with Matt Dillon. “It was during his rehab, and he’d just been on Diane Sawyer’s show,” the movie’s director, John McNaughton, told Entertainment Weekly. “And to the people in Hollywood, that was a great career move. That made him hot.” But that didn’t matter to movie’s insurance bonders, who were reluctant to cover Downey. “There were just too many lawyers and insurance people and bond-company people involved,” said producer Rodney Liber.

5. AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS (2001)

In 2000, after spending a year incarcerated, Downey’s career seemed to be on the upswing. After landing a regular role on Ally McBeal, he was being touted as the next great comeback story … until he was arrested again in November. The show’s producers stuck by him, but the question mark hanging over his availability and fitness to film led producers on America’s Sweethearts to rethink his casting as Eddie Thomas, and eventually replace him with John Cusack. (When Downey was arrested again just a few months later, he was fired from Ally McBeal, too.)

6. MELINDA AND MELINDA (2004)

Woody Allen faced double trouble when it came down to the paperwork on his 2004 dramedy, Melinda and Melinda. “We were originally going to work with Winona Ryder and Robert Downey Jr. and I couldn’t get insurance on them,” Allen said in Conversations with Woody Allen. “The insurance companies are very prissy and sticky and gave us a hard time. We were heartbroken because I had worked with Winona before [on Celebrity] and I thought she was perfect for this … And I had always wanted to work with Bob Downey and always thought he was a huge talent.” Ryder and Downey were replaced with Radha Mitchell and Will Ferrell.

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8 of the Weirdest Gallup Polls
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Born in Jefferson, Iowa on November 18, 1901, George Gallup studied journalism and psychology, focusing on how to measure readers’ interest in newspaper and magazine content. In 1935, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion to scientifically measure public opinions on topics such as government spending, criminal justice, and presidential candidates. Although he died in 1984, The Gallup Poll continues his legacy of trying to determine and report the will of the people in an unbiased, independent way. To celebrate his day of birth, we compiled a list of some of the weirdest, funniest Gallup polls over the years.

1. THREE IN FOUR AMERICANS BELIEVE IN THE PARANORMAL (2005)

According to this Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief. Specifically, 41 percent believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 37 percent believe in haunted houses, and 21 percent believe in witches. What about channeling spirits, you might ask? Only 9 percent of Americans believe that it’s possible to channel a spirit so that it takes temporary control of one's body. Interestingly, believing in paranormal phenomena was relatively similar across people of different genders, races, ages, and education levels.

2. ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS THINK THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH (1999)

In this poll, Gallup tried to determine the popularity of heliocentric versus geocentric views. While 79 percent of Americans correctly stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Three percent chose to remain indifferent, saying they had no opinion either way.

3. 22 PERCENT OF AMERICANS ARE HESITANT TO SUPPORT A MORMON (2011)

Gallup first measured anti-Mormon sentiment back in 1967, and it was still an issue in 2011, a year before Mormon Mitt Romney ran for president. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even if that candidate belonged to their preferred political party. Strangely, Americans’ bias against Mormons has remained stable since the 1960s, despite decreasing bias against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women.

4. MISSISSIPPIANS GO TO CHURCH THE MOST; VERMONTERS THE LEAST (2010)

This 2010 poll amusingly confirms the stereotype that southerners are more religious than the rest of the country. Although 42 percent of all Americans attend church regularly (which Gallup defines as weekly or almost weekly), there are large variations based on geography. For example, 63 percent of people in Mississippi attend church regularly, followed by 58 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. Rounding out the lowest levels of church attendance, on the other hand, were Vermont, where 23 percent of residents attend church regularly, New Hampshire, at 26 percent, and Maine at 27 percent.

5. ONE IN FOUR AMERICANS DON’T KNOW WHICH COUNTRY AMERICA GAINED INDEPENDENCE FROM (1999)

Although 76 percent of Americans knew that the United States gained independence from Great Britain as a result of the Revolutionary War, 24 percent weren’t so sure. Two percent thought the correct answer was France, 3 percent said a different country (such as Mexico, China, or Russia), and 19 percent had no opinion. Certain groups of people who consider themselves patriotic, including men, older people, and white people (according to Gallup polls), were more likely to know that America gained its independence from Great Britain.

6. ONE THIRD OF AMERICANS BELIEVE IN GHOSTS (2000)

This Halloween-themed Gallup poll asked Americans about their habits and behavior on the last day of October. Predictably, two-thirds of Americans reported that someone in their house planned to give candy to trick-or-treaters and more than three-quarters of parents with kids reported that their kids would wear a costume. More surprisingly, 31 percent of American adults claimed to believe in ghosts, an increase from 1978, when only 11 percent of American adults admitted to a belief in ghosts.

7. 5 PERCENT OF WORKING MILLENNIALS THRIVE IN ALL FIVE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING (2016)

This recent Gallup poll is funny in a sad way, as it sheds light on the tragicomic life of a millennial. In this poll, well-being is defined as having purpose, social support, manageable finances, a strong community, and good physical health. Sadly, only 5 percent of working millennials—defined as people born between 1980 and 1996—were thriving in these five indicators of well-being. To counter this lack of well-being, Gallup’s report recommends that managers promote work-life balance and improve their communication with millennial employees.

8. THE WORLD IS BECOMING SLIGHTLY MORE NEGATIVE (2014)

If you seem to feel more stress, sadness, anxiety, and pain than ever before, Gallup has the proof that it’s not all in your head. According to the company’s worldwide negative experience index, negative feelings such as stress, sadness, and anger have increased since 2007. Unsurprisingly, people living in war-torn, dangerous parts of the word—Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Sierra Leone—reported the highest levels of negative emotions.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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