Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

15 Things You Might Not Know About Thelma & Louise

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise was controversial at the time of its release on May 24, 1991. To write that the two main characters’ weekend getaway went awry would be a massive understatement, and the actions resulting from it made some men uncomfortable. Six Academy Award nominations (and one win), plus almost a quarter-century later, it’s considered a classic, important film. Before you can say “peaches” (don’t say “peaches”), here are some facts about the film.

1. IT WAS CALLIE KHOURI’S FIRST SCREENPLAY.

Intrigued by the idea of “women outlaws,” the Kentucky-raised Khouri spent six months writing Thelma & Louise in 1988 while producing rock videos for artists like Alice Cooper. She won the movie’s only Oscar, for Best Original Screenplay. Khouri later wrote the films Something to Talk About and Divine Sisters of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and created the current ABC TV drama Nashville. It’s theorized that Thelma was based on Khouri’s friend, country singer Pam Tillis.

2. KHOURI HAD DOUBTS ABOUT RIDLEY SCOTT DIRECTING.

Scott, who was then mostly known for his sci-fi action movies like Blade Runner and Alien, allayed her concerns upon their first meeting. For one thing, the Englishman proved to understand the south of the Mason-Dixon line humor in the script. For another, Scott pointed out that he had cast a woman in a lead role that would usually go to a man in Alien.

3. GEORGE CLOONEY AUDITIONED FIVE TIMES TO PLAY J.D.

Clooney was on the short list for the role that eventually went to Brad Pitt, and became his big break. “The funniest thing is, I didn’t watch that movie for a long time,” Clooney admitted during a Q&A at the Telluride Film Festival. “I was really stuck doing a lot of bad TV at that time. And I had auditioned and auditioned, and it got right down to Brad and I, and he got it. And I just couldn’t watch that movie for a couple of years ... When I saw it, I thought actually that was the right choice. [Brad] was really good in it, and I would have f***ed it up somehow."

4. BRAD PITT WAS PAID $6,000 FOR HIS WORK IN THE FILM.

That was in 1991. Just five years later, he earned $10 million for his work in Barry Levinson's Sleepers.

5. GEENA DAVIS HAD A HAND IN CASTING PITT.

Geena Davis admitted that she kept messing up her lines when auditioning with Pitt because he was so attractive. When Scott and the casting director were discussing who to cast, she reportedly jumped in: "The blond one. Duh!” Julie Strain was hired to play Davis’ body double in the movie, but Davis opted to shoot her sex scene with Pitt directly.

6. GEENA DAVIS WAS DARRYL’S EX-FIANCéE IN REAL LIFE.

Christopher McDonald and Geena Davis were engaged before she met Jeff Goldblum on the set of Transylvania 6-5000. McDonald, who had since married, described the experience of acting with Davis on Thelma & Louise as “cathartic.” Davis was equally game, despite not initially being informed of McDonald’s casting.

7. MCDONALD GAINED 36 POUNDS TO PLAY DARRYL.

The actor wore Darryl’s Roman numeral gold chain to the audition, as well as a polyester leisure suit. After the movie came out, two girls recognized him, one telling the other to shoot him.

8. HOLLY HUNTER, FRANCES MCDORMAND, JODIE FOSTER, MICHELLE PFEIFFER, MERYL STREEP, AND GOLDIE HAWN WERE ALL CONSIDERED FOR THELMA OR LOUISE.

In its early stages, Khouri pictured her movie as a low-budget affair, with Hunter and McDormand as the leads. (In what was probably a coincidence, Hunter and McDormand knew each other from when they were roommates at the Yale School of Drama.) With Ridley Scott as producer, Foster and Pfeiffer were attached, but eventually moved on to do other work. Streep and Hawn met with Scott, with Streep wanting either Thelma or Louise to survive the movie.

9. GEENA DAVIS WANTED TO PLAY LOUISE, NOT THELMA.

Davis’ agent called Ridley Scott every week for a year to get Davis in a room with the director so that she could convince him to let her play Louise. Then she met Susan Sarandon: "Pretty much the second Susan walked in the room, I was, Are you kidding that I could play Louise? Susan was so self-possessed, so centered and together."

10. THE ACTORS WEREN’T ALWAYS SOBER.

Upon Sarandon’s request to do some Method acting, Davis admits that for the roadhouse scene, “We asked the prop guy, ‘Do you have any real tequila? Because it’s easier to act if we taste alcohol.' So we pounded back quite a few, and we’re laughing between takes and both feeling, We’re so drunk! This is great!” Michael Madsen (Jimmy) said that he and Pitt smoked a few joints during filming.

11. HARVEY KEITEL STOLE SOME OF STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY’S LINES.

After Tobolowsky (Max) was told by Ridley Scott before a scene that Keitel (Detective Hal Slocumb) wanted to improvise, he was okay with it. Then Keitel proceeded to say some of Max’s lines. The veteran character actor made improvisation work to his advantage later on when he ad-libbed the funny “deli run” order riff to flesh out the surveillance scene.

12. THE GRAND CANYON SCENE WAS ACTUALLY SHOT IN UTAH.

Most of the film was shot around Bakersfield, California. But Thelma and Louise were near Moab, Utah when they drove off the precipice, under Dead Horse Point State Park.

13. SUSAN SARANDON INSISTED THAT THE ENDING NOT CHANGE.

Thelma and Louise drive off a cliff at the end of Khouri’s original script. Sarandon told Ridley Scott that she didn't want that to change. Scott responded that while Louise would definitely die, she might shove Thelma out of the Thunderbird at the last second.

14. THERE WAS AN ALTERNATE ENDING.

On the DVD release, it was revealed that a different cut of the ending was made where you could see the Thunderbird descend to B.B. King’s “Better Not Look Down.” In the final, more upbeat version, the car and its occupants freeze in mid-air.

15. THE MOVIE INSPIRED TORI AMOS TO WRITE "ME AND A GUN."

“Me and a Gun” tells the true story of one of Amos’ fans kidnapping and assaulting her after a gig. Seven years after the incident, the singer-songwriter cried while watching Thelma & Louise in a theater, then went home and wrote the song.

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Move Over, MoviePass: AMC Is Launching a $20 Per Month Subscription
iStock
iStock

Attention serial movie-watchers: There's a new subscription service vying for your attention. Nearly a year after MoviePass brought its fee down to less than $10 a month to see one movie a day, AMC Theatres is rolling out its own monthly plan as an alternative. As Variety reports, you can now see three movies per week at any AMC cinema if you pay $19.95 a month.

The new program, called AMC Stubs A-List, has some clear disadvantages compared to MoviePass. AMC's monthly fee is nearly twice as high and it's good for less than half the amount of movie tickets. And while AMC Stubs A-List only works at AMC locations, MoviePass can be used at pretty much any movie theater that accepts Mastercard.

But once you look at the fine print of both deals, AMC's selling points start to emerge. A subscription through AMC gets you access to films shown in 3D, IMAX, Dolby Cinema, and RealD—none of which are covered by MoviePass. And unlike MoviePass subscribers, people with AMC can watch multiple movies in a single day, watch the same movie more than once, and book tickets in advance online. (That means actually getting to see a big movie on opening weekend before it's been spoiled for you).

There's another reason MoviePass users may have to jump ship: Its critics say its business model is unsustainable. For every movie ticket that's purchased with MoviePass, the company has to pay the full price. That means MoviePass actually loses money as more people sign up.

This has led some people to speculate the service is on its way to collapse, but MoviePass insists it has a strategy to stay afloat. Instead of relying on money from subscriptions, it wants to use the consumer data it has collected from its millions of customers to turn a profit. It's also investing in movies through its MoviePass Ventures arm (the company helped fund the new movie Gotti, which is currently making headlines for its zero percent Rotten Tomatoes rating). But if those plans aren't enough to quiet the hesitations you have about the company, you'll have the chance to make the switch to AMC on June 26.

[h/t Variety]

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MCA/Universal Home Video
25 Incisive Facts About Jaws
MCA/Universal Home Video
MCA/Universal Home Video

Daah dun, daah dun, daah dun, dun dun, dun dun, dun dun. Today is the 43rd anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s original blockbuster, Jaws. Here are 25 fascinating facts you may not have known about the Oscar-winning shark flick.

1. THE BOOK COULD HAVE BEEN CALLED SOMETHING ELSE.

The film is adapted from author Peter Benchley’s bestselling novel of the same name, which Benchley based on a series of shark attacks that occurred off the coast of New Jersey in 1916 and after an incident where a New York fisherman named Frank Mundus caught a 4,500-pound shark off the coast of Montauk in 1964. Other title ideas Benchley had before settling on Jaws were “The Stillness in the Water,” “The Silence of the Deep,” “Leviathan Rising,” and “The Jaws of Death."

2. THE BOOK’S AUTHOR MAKES A CAMEO IN THE MOVIE.

Benchley himself can be seen in a cameo in the film as the news reporter who addresses the camera on the beach. Benchley had previously worked as a news reporter for the Washington Post before penning Jaws.

Steven Spielberg also makes a cameo in the movie: His voice is the Amity Island dispatcher who calls Quint’s boat, the Orca, with Sheriff Brody’s wife on the line.

3. STEVEN SPIELBERG GOT THE DIRECTING JOB BECAUSE OF DUEL.

Spielberg was chosen to direct Jaws by producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown (who had also worked with the then-28-year-old director on his 1974 film The Sugarland Express) because of his film Duel, which featured a maniacal trucker terrorizing a mild-mannered driver. The producers thought the movie was thematically similar to the story for Jaws, making Spielberg a great fit.

4. THERE’S NOT A LOT OF JAWS IN JAWS.


MCA/Universal Home Video

The shark doesn’t fully appear in a shot until one hour and 21 minutes into the two-hour film. The reason it isn’t shown is because the mechanical shark that was built rarely worked during filming, so Spielberg had to create inventive ways (like Quint’s yellow barrels) to shoot around the non-functional shark.

5. IT TOOK A VERY LONG TIME TO MAKE.

Jaws was marred with so many technical problems (including the shark not working and shooting in the Atlantic Ocean) that the originally scheduled 65-day shoot ballooned into 159 days, not counting post-production.

6. AMITY ISLAND WAS ACTUALLY MARTHA’S VINEYARD.

To create the fictional town of Amity, the production shot on location in Edgartown and Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Strict land ordinances kept the production from building anywhere—Quint’s shack was the one and only set built for the movie, while the defaced Amity Island billboard had to be constructed and taken down all in one day.

7. THE SHARK WEIGHED MORE THAN A TON.

The pneumatically-powered shark, designed and built by production designer Joe Alves, weighed in at 1.2 tons and measured 25 feet in length. Part of the reason that Martha’s Vineyard was chosen as a location was because the surrounding ocean bed had a depth of 35 feet for up to 12 miles offshore, which was perfect for scenes that required the mechanical shark rig to be rested on the shallow ocean floor.

8. SPIELBERG TOOK INSPIRATION FROM HIS LEGAL COUNSEL.

The director nicknamed the shark “Bruce” after his lawyer, Bruce Ramer, who also currently represents other celebrities like Demi Moore, Ben Stiller, and Clint Eastwood.

9. SOME GOOD, OLD-FASHIONED ELBOW GREASE HELPED CREATE THE OPENING SCENE.

The opening scene took three days to shoot. To achieve the jolting motions of the shark attacking the swimmer in the opening sequence, a harness with cables was attached to actress Susan Backlinie’s legs and was pulled by crewmembers back and forth along the shoreline. Spielberg told the crew not to let Backlinie know when she would be yanked back and forth, so her terrified reaction is genuine.

Spielberg went on to spoof his own opening scene for Jaws in his 1979 World War II comedy 1941. The scene features Backlinie once again taking a skinny dip at the beach, but instead of being attacked by a shark she’s scooped up by a passing Japanese submarine.

10. SOME EAVESDROPPING GOT ROY SCHEIDER THE LEAD.

Scheider got the part of Chief Martin Brody after overhearing Spielberg talking to a friend at a Hollywood party about the scene where the shark leaps out of the water and onto Quint’s boat. Scheider was instantly enthralled, and asked Spielberg if he could be in the film. Spielberg loved Scheider from his role in The French Connection, and later offered the actor the part.

11. RICHARD DREYFUSS WASN’T THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY HOOPER.

Spielberg initially approached Jon Voight, Timothy Bottoms, and Jeff Bridges to play oceanographer Matt Hooper. When none of them could commit to the role, Spielberg’s friend George Lucas suggested Richard Dreyfuss, whom Lucas has directed in American Graffiti. Dreyfuss would later accept the part because he thought he was terrible in the title role of the film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz a year earlier.

12. ROBERT SHAW WASN’T THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY QUINT.

When actors Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden—the first and second choices to play the grizzled fisherman Quint, respectively—both turned Spielberg down, producers Zanuck and Brown recommended English actor Robert Shaw, whom they had previously worked with on 1973's The Sting.

13. A LOCAL MARTHA’S VINEYARD FISHERMAN WAS THE REAL QUINT.

Shaw based his performance of Quint on Martha’s Vineyard native and fisherman Craig Kingsbury, a non-actor who appears in the film as Ben Gardner. Kingsbury helped Shaw with his accent and allegedly told Shaw old sea stories that the actor incorporated into his improvised dialogue as Quint.

14. GREGORY PECK FORCED A SCENE TO BE CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

In early drafts of the screenplay, Quint was originally introduced while causing a disturbance in a movie theater while watching John Huston’s 1958 adaptation of Moby Dick. The scene was shot, but actor Gregory Peck—who plays Captain Ahab in that movie—owned the rights to the film version of Moby Dick and wouldn’t let the filmmakers on Jaws use the footage, so the sequence was cut.

15. THE BOOK WAS VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE MOVIE.

Early drafts of the screenplay featured a subplot where Hooper has an affair with Chief Brody’s wife, which was carted over from the book. Another detail left out of the movie from the book was that Mayor Vaughn was under pressure from the mafia, not local business owners, to keep Amity’s beaches open because of their real estate investments on the island.

16. SPIELBERG ADDED AN OFFSCREEN IMPROV MOMENT.

The scene where Brody’s son Sean mimics his father’s movements at the dinner table was based on a real thing that happened between Scheider and child actor Jay Mello in between takes. Spielberg loved the off-the-cuff moment so much that he re-staged it and put it in the movie.

Another iconic moment was also a spontaneous one: Brody’s famous “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” line was entirely improvised by Scheider on the day of shooting.

17.  ROBERT SHAW PUT HIS OWN SPIN ON THE INDIANAPOLIS SPEECH.


MCA/Universal Home Video

Quint’s U.S.S. Indianapolis speech wasn’t in the novel, and the backstory of Quint being a sailor on the ship first appeared in an uncredited rewrite of the script by playwright Howard Sackler. Later, writer-director (and Spielberg’s friend) John Milius expanded the characteristic into a multi-page monologue, which was then whittled down and spruced up by actor Robert Shaw (himself a playwright) on the day of shooting.

18. SOME REAL SHARK FOOTAGE WAS USED.

Zanuck demanded that real shark footage be used in the movie, and Spielberg used it sparingly. He hired experts Ron and Valerie Taylor to shoot underwater footage of 14-foot sharks off the coast of Australia. For scale, they hired a little person actor named Carl Rizzo to appear as Hooper in a mini shark cage in hopes that they could create the illusion of a shark attacking the character. After trying to get the right shot for about a week, the sharks would only swim around the cage. Then, during a take when Rizzo wasn’t in the cage, a shark became entangled in the cage’s bridle, causing it to thrash and roll around. This footage was included in the final film.

19. DESPITE ALL THE BLOODY SHARK ATTACKS, THE MOVIE IS RATED PG.

Jaws was initially rated R by the MPAA. But after some of the more gruesome frames of the shot showing the severed leg of the man attacked by the shark in the estuary were trimmed down, the film was given a PG-rating (the PG-13-rating wasn’t created until after Spielberg’s own film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, caused the MPAA to change the system in 1984). The poster for the film still reads that the movie “MAY BE TOO INTENSE FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN.”

20. SPIELBERG DIDN’T DIRECT SOME OF THE FINAL SCENES.

Spielberg didn’t direct the shot of the shark exploding. In fact, he had already returned to Los Angeles to begin post-production on the film after the film’s grueling shooting schedule and left the shot up to the production’s second unit.

21. THE POSTER IMAGE CAME ABOUT BY CHANCE.

The film’s iconic poster image was designed by artist Roger Kastel for the paperback edition of Benchley’s book. Kastel modeled the image of the massive shark emerging from the bottom of the frame after a great white shark diorama at the American Museum of Natural History. The female swimmer at the top was actually a model that Kastel was sketching at his studio for an ad in Good Housekeeping. He asked her to stay an extra half-hour and had her pose for the image by standing on a stool and pretending to swim.

22. JAWS WAS HUGE.

Jaws was the first movie released in more than 400 theaters in the United States, and the first movie to gross over $100 million at the box office. It was the highest grossing movie of all time until Star Wars was released two years later.

23. SPIELBERG INCLUDED A NOD TO HIS PREVIOUS MOVIE.

The faint roaring sound that is heard after the shark is blown up was also used by Spielberg in Duel, when that film’s villainous truck falls off a cliff.

24. IT ORIGINALLY ENDED JUST LIKE MOBY DICK.

The original ending in the script had the shark dying of harpoon injuries inflicted by Quint and Brody à la Moby Dick, but Spielberg thought the movie needed a crowd-pleasing finale and came up with the exploding tank as seen in the final film. The dialogue and foreshadowing of the tank were then dropped in as they shot the movie.

25. THE MAIN THEME MUSIC IS EASY TO PLAY.

The sole music notes played for composer John Williams’s Jaws theme are E and F. Jaws marked the second time Williams worked with Spielberg after his film The Sugarland Express, and Williams has composed the music for every Spielberg movie since with the exception of 1985's The Color Purple and 2015's Bridge of Spies.

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