10 Things You Might Not Know About Mr. T

Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Laurence Tureaud, better known as "Mr. T," has been everything from a bodyguard to the stars to a cartoon to a member of The A-Team. Here are 10 things you might not know about the not-so-tough guy, who is celebrating his 65th birthday on May 21.

1. HIS ICONIC “I PITY THE FOOL” LINE CAME FROM ROCKY III.

In his first starring role, in 1982, Mr. T plays Rocky Balboa’s competitor Clubber Lang in the Sylvester Stallone written and directed Rocky III. During a part in the movie when Lang’s being interviewed about his upcoming boxing match, he’s asked if he hates Rocky: “No, I don’t hate Balboa, but I pity the fool. And I would destroy any man who tries to take what I got.” His prediction for the fight? “Pain!” Unfortunately, Rocky beats the crap out of Lang, so who’s the fool now? Nevertheless, the catchphrase stuck and launched more than 30 years of double entendres and jokes, including Mr. T starring in a reality show called I Pity the Fool, where he was a motivational speaker.

2. DESPITE GIVING UP HIS GOLD CHAINS A DECADE AGO, MR. T BECAME A SPOKESMAN FOR SELLING GOLD.

Following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, Mr. T retired his mass of gold chains because “of the situation we’re in now (after Katrina), I told myself, ‘No, T, you can never wear your gold again.’ It’s an insult to God.” But in 2010, when the value of gold was skyrocketing, he signed up to promote Gold Promise, a gold-buying company. On the Bloomberg Business show Taking Stock, Mr. T said gold was something special to him, and that he bought his first gold chain in 1977, which he said cost him $129 and took him three months to get out of layaway. In 1983, an appraiser valued his gold collection at $43,316; by 2010 it was worth $123,480.

3. HE BEAT HIS TOUGHEST ENEMY: CANCER.

In 1995, after finding a small malignant tumor on his ear, Mr. T was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. “Can you imagine that? Cancer with my name on it—personalized cancer,” he recalled to Coping with Cancer magazine. At first he was lucky: after five treatments of radiation spanning four weeks, the cancer dissolved. But 11 months later the cancer returned, which resulted in him undergoing six weeks of high-dose chemotherapy. “My fame couldn’t save me!” he said. “My gold, my money couldn’t stop cancer from appearing on my body. If they can’t save me, then I don’t need them.” He then gave some advice: “I pity the fool who just gives up. We all gonna die eventually from something or other, but don’t be a wimp. Put up a good fight.” Mr. T’s now cancer free.

4. HE TURNED DOWN A CAMEO IN THE A-TEAM MOVIE.

When The A-Team film came out in 2010, Mr. T was not in it. Instead, actor Quinton Jackson played the role Mr. T made famous: B.A. Baracus. Mr. T went on The Wendy Williams Show and said he was approached to do a cameo in the film. “You must be out of your mind,” he said. “I’ve done cameos in other movies, but to ask me to come and take seconds? Mr. T takes seconds? I pity the fool.” Mr. T later condemned the movie’s violence. “People die in the film and there’s plenty of sex but when we did it, no one got hurt and it was all played for fun and family entertainment,” Mr T. told The Guardian. “These seem to be elements nobody is interested in anymore. It was too graphic for me. I’ve no doubt it will do big business at the box office but it’s nothing like the show we turned out every week.”

5. HE ANGERED HIS ILLINOIS NEIGHBORS WHEN HE CUT DOWN TREES.

The Chicago-born Mr. T had a home in the tony Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. In 1987, reportedly because of his allergies, he took a chainsaw to approximately 100 oak trees surrounding his property. Ironically, at the time—and every year since then—Lake Forest has been named a “Tree City, USA,” so its trees are considered sacred. According to a 1987 article in The New York Times, Mr. T would’ve needed to eradicate all trees in surrounding states to cure his allergies. “He’s smiling and laughing about all this,” one neighbor commented. “He thinks it’s a joke.” His neighbors dubbed the incident “The Lake Forest Chain Saw Massacre.”

6. IN 2014, HE WAS INDUCTED INTO THE WWE WRESTLING HALL OF FAME.

In the 1980s, Mr. T wrestled alongside Hulk Hogan in a couple of WrestleManias. In 2009, T turned down a chance to be inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame, because Pete Rose was inducted. “This guy can’t even get into his own Hall of Fame,” Mr. T told Ringside. “They put him in and he only did one WrestleMania, and he didn’t even wrestle.” Apparently T made peace with the Hall of Fame’s decision because last year he accepted the offer to be inducted. During his 40-minute induction ceremony speech—which was cut short because it was getting long—he talked extensively about his mother, especially how she raised him and his siblings as a single parent.

7. LAST YEAR HE AND “ROWDY” RODDY PIPER BURIED THEIR 30-YEAR FEUD.

During the first WrestleMania, in 1985, Mr. T and Hulk Hogan wrestled against Piper and Paul Orndorff. Hogan and T won the match, which led to some hostility between Piper and T. The pair met up again at WrestleMania 2, and Piper lost again. In a recent interview, Piper said his disdain for Mr. T started before WrestleMania 1, when they met at a press conference and Piper accidentally touched him even though he didn’t realize you’re not supposed to touch Mr. T. Piper said he thought Mr. T was arrogant, and told an anecdote about Mr. T making fun of Piper with a rubber chicken. In 2014 at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, the two, who were with their sons, ran into each other and shared a moment. Piper was impressed with how Mr. T’s son had just obtained a master’s degree and felt Mr. T had raised his son right.

8. HE’S SUPPOSEDLY DOING ANOTHER REALITY SHOW.

As if I Pity the Fool wasn’t enough, Mr. T has signed on to do a home improvement repair show for the DIY Network called … wait for it … I Pity the Tool. He and a team of people will knock down walls and renovate houses for families who live in “outdated spaces”—a sort of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, except with the added possibility of seeing Mr. T yell at some tools.

9. HE’S IN DEMAND TO STAR IN THE EXPENDABLES 4.

One person who’s been absent from The Expendables franchise is Mr. T, and some people think it’s an outrage. A Facebook page called “1,000,000 Strong for Mr. T in The Expendables 4 serves as a petition to Hollywood to cast Mr. T in the next Expendables project. The page was formed a few years ago during the casting of The Expendables 3, but Mr. T was overlooked. “Did you sleep on your Bruce Willis sheets when you were a kid? Did you eat Sylvester Stallone cereal? Did you play with an Arnold Schwarzenegger action figure or was it of a character he played? Mr. T had his own cartoon. Mr. T should be cast in the next Expendables movie,” reads the page’s mission. Earlier this year Fox announced that they are developing an Expendables TV series, so maybe there’s a chance for Mr. T yet.

10. HE IS ABLE TO MAKE FUN OF HIMSELF.

In one of Conan O’Brien’s favorite remote shoots, in October of 2000 he and Mr. T went apple picking at an orchard in New York—and hilarity ensued. Preying upon T’s angry persona, in the segment Conan coerces Mr. T to yell at the apples so they’ll fall off the tree (they don't). Then Mr. T pulverizes a bee inside an apple and wheels Conan around in a wheelbarrow. The pair pretends to cut a tree (more Mr. T tree violence), and they finally drive off with a lot of apples tucked inside Mr. T’s Bentley.

Josh Trank Wouldn't Mind Erasing Fantastic Four From Film History

Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

It’s not every day that you hear a director talking about wanting to completely erase one of their projects from film history. But when the topic of the 2015 box office bomb Fantastic Four comes up, director Josh Trank isn't mincing words. The director tweeted that he would “gladly” donate to a GoFundMe page to have his failed adaptation erased from the cinematic history books.

It's no secret that Fantastic Four is a sore subject for Trank. The production was plagued with rumors that there was a bit of friction on set, particularly between the director and star Miles Teller. Even once the film had wrapped, reports about the troubled production plagued Trank, and eventually led to him parting ways with Disney, for whom he was supposedly developing a standalone Boba Fett movie. (It didn't help that Fantastic Four tanked at the box office and even won a Razzie for Worst Picture).

The topic of starting a GoFundMe page for the film started after Trank responded to fans rallying for a page to get the rat at the end of Martin Scorsese's The Departed digitally erased. When asked if he would support a page to get rid of Fantastic Four, Trank seemed to oblige (though he has since deleted the tweet).


It’s no secret the previous Fantastic Four movies have had little success, but now that Disney and Fox are joining forces, the series could be entering into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe now these superheroes will finally get the movie they deserve.

Hollywood's Brief Love Affair With Young Einstein Star Yahoo Serious

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The theater owners and exhibitors attending the ShoWest convention in February 1989 had a lot to look forward to. In an attempt to stir their interest in upcoming studio releases, major distributors were showing off stars and footage: Paramount led with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Columbia had Ghostbusters II. But it was Warner Bros. that caused the biggest stir.

In addition to Lethal Weapon 2, the studio had Tim Burton’s Batman, a straight-faced adaptation of the comic, and Michael Keaton—who slipped into a screening of some early footage—was no longer being derided as a poor casting choice. Then, in the midst of all this star power, the studio brought out a 35-year-old actor-writer-director with a shock of orange hair and an Australian accent.

The man had never appeared in a feature film before, much less starred in one, but Warner was gambling that his forthcoming comedy about a Tasmanian Albert Einstein who invents rock music and runs into Thomas Edison would be a hit. It had already become the sixth highest-grossing film in Australia's history, besting both E.T. and Rambo: First Blood Part II.

The man’s real name was Greg Pead, but Warner Bros. introduced him as Yahoo Serious, Hollywood’s next big comedy attraction.

 

To understand Warner’s appetite for an unproven commodity like Yahoo Serious, it helps to recall the peculiar preoccupation American popular culture had with Australians in the 1980s. Energizer had created a hit ad campaign with Mark “Jacko” Jackson, a pro football player who aggressively promoted their batteries in a series of ads; meanwhile, Paul Hogan parlayed his fish-out-of-water comedy, Crocodile Dundee, into the second highest-grossing film of 1986. (Serious would later bristle at comparisons to Hogan, whom he referred to as a “marketing guy” who sold cigarettes on Australian television.)

Born in Cardiff, Australia on July 27, 1953, Serious grew up in rural bush country and mounted car tires at a garage in order to pay his way through the National Art School. When he was expelled for illustrating the school's facade with satirical jokes that the faculty didn’t find particularly funny, Serious moved on to direct Coaltown, a documentary about the coal mining industry, and pursued painting.

Serious would later recall that the desire for a larger audience led him away from art and into feature filmmaking. ''It hit me like a ton of bricks one day,” Serious told The New York Times in 1989. “I remember having a cup of coffee and I went, 'Well, look, there is a giant canvas in every little town everywhere around the world. And on this giant canvas there are 24 frames of image on that screen every second and it's the most wonderful living art form.'” It was around this same time, in 1980, that Serious changed his name.

To get a feel for the language of film, Serious sat through repeated viewings of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove; he aspired to have the kind of total autonomy over his movies that directors like Woody Allen and Charlie Chaplin enjoyed.

In 1983, Serious was traveling along the Amazon River when he spotted someone wearing a T-shirt depicting Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out. The image is now pervasive, appearing on posters and other merchandise, but it seemed unique to the performer, who was struck by the idea that Einstein was once young and never took himself too seriously. And the concept for Young Einstein was born.

 

Serious's idea, which transplanted Einstein to Tasmania and imagined encounters with Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, and the atomic bomb, took years to assemble. He borrowed camera equipment and sold his car to help finance the film; he shot an eight-minute trailer that convinced investors he was capable of making a feature. His mother even cooked meals for the crew on set.

In order to maintain creative control, Serious gave up profit participation in Young Einstein, which he starred in, co-produced, co-wrote, and directed. When the film was released in Australia in 1988, it made an impressive $1.6 million at the box office and drew the attention of Warner Bros., which likely had visions of a Crocodile Dundee-esque hit. American press had a field day with Serious, who appeared on the cover of TIME and was given airtime on MTV.

Critics and audiences weren’t quite as enamored. The Orlando Sentinel suggested that "Tedious Oddball" would be a more appropriate name for the film's creator. In his one-star review, Roger Ebert wrote that, "Young Einstein is a one-joke movie, and I didn't laugh much the first time." In the U.S., Young Einstein grossed just over $11 million, a fairly weak showing for a summer comedy. It was bested in its opening weekend by both Ron Howard’s Parenthood and the Sylvester Stallone action-grunter Lock Up.

 

Although American distributors quickly cooled on Serious, Australia's enthusiasm for the filmmaker didn’t dampen. When Serious released 1993’s Reckless Kelly, a fictionalized account of outlaw Ned Kelly, it made $5.4 million in Australia—three times as much as Young Einstein. Serious took a seven-year sabbatical, then returned with 2000’s Mr. Accident, a slapstick comedy about an injury-prone man who tries to thwart a scheme to inject nicotine into eggs. Meeting a tepid critical and financial reception, it would be his third and (likely) final film.

At roughly the same time Mr. Accident was released, Serious took issue with upstart search engine Yahoo!, alleging the site was piggybacking on his popularity. He filed a lawsuit, which was quickly dropped when he failed to prove the URL had damaged him in any way.

Yahoo Serious attends an event
Paul McConnell, Getty Images

The amused headlines stemming from that incident were the last examples of Serious capturing attention in America. Having completed just three films, no other projects have come to fruition; Serious launched a website detailing some of his background and to air some of his Yahoo!-related grievances.

Now 65, Serious currently serves as founding director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, an Australian aid organization dedicated to improving the living conditions of Papua New Guineans. The board’s website lists him as Yahoo Serious, which is the name he claims that all of his family and friends have called him since he changed it in 1980.

“You can choose every aspect of your life,” Serious once said. “Why not your name?”

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