CLOSE

15 Things You Might Not Know About Memento

Long before the launch of his colossal Batman reboot, or original science fiction blockbusters like Inception and Interstellar, director Christopher Nolan made a name for himself with 2000's innovative psychological thriller Memento. Here are a few fascinating facts about the gripping mystery that you might want to jot down before you forget them. 

1. THE NOLAN BROTHERS CAME UP WITH THE IDEA WHILE ON A ROAD TRIP. 

In the summer of 1996, a 26-year-old Christopher Nolan set off from his Chicago home on a 2,000-mile drive toward his new life in Los Angeles with his 20-year-old brother Jonathan along for the ride. In lieu of the license plate game, the Nolan boys passed the time by chatting about potential creative projects, notably Jonathan’s idea for a film about a man with anterograde amnesia. 

2. JONATHAN NOLAN PUBLISHED A SHORT STORY VERSION OF THE FILM AFTER ITS RELEASE. 

Christopher spent the next few months begging Jonathan, who was a student at Georgetown University at the time, to whip up a draft of his idea. Jonathan eventually turned in Memento Mori, which, despite a few major differences, carried the basic backbone of the film that Christopher would eventually write and direct. 

Since Memento was released internationally in the fall of 2000, several months prior to the 2001 publication of “Memento Mori” in Esquire, the film’s script was eligible for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar at the 74th annual Academy Awards. It was nominated, but lost to Gosford Park

3. CHRISTOPHER NOLAN ORIGINALLY WANTED A BIGGER STAR FOR THE MAIN ROLE. 

Before deciding that the relatively unknown Guy Pearce would be more effective (not to mention affordable) in the role of the amnesia-stricken Leonard, Nolan considered some big-name actors like Brad Pitt, Charlie Sheen, and Thomas Jane for the part. Aaron Eckhart, a rising star who would later appear in 2008's The Dark Knight for Nolan, was also in contention for the part. 

4. MEMENTO DID NOT TAKE LONG TO MAKE.

Despite the intricate script, Memento was a rather breezy production. Shooting wrapped in just 25 days. What’s more, all of Carrie-Ann Moss’s scenes were shot in just eight days. 

5. IT DID TAKE A WHILE FOR THE FILM TO FIND A DISTRIBUTOR.

Due to the challenging nature of the story, Memento did not have an easy time finding distribution. In a conversation with The A.V. Club, Nolan recalled a lengthy period in which company after company passed on his picture: “We went through about six months of saying, ‘What the hell are we gonna do?’ That's a long time to be under that kind of pressure.” 

6. NOLAN’S GIRLFRIEND WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN GETTING THE MOVIE OFF THE GROUND. 

Without a helping hand from Emma Thomas—Nolan’s then-girlfriend, now-wife, and perennial producer—Memento might never have reached the screen. Thomas approached her associate Aaron Ryder, a producer at Newmarket Films, with the script, which won him over instantly. 

7. ALL OF THE BLACK-AND-WHITE DIALOGUE WAS IMPROVISED. 

According to actor Stephen Tobolowsky, the Memento script included zero dialogue for his character, the amnesia-afflicted Sammy Jankis. The actor was asked to improvise throughout the black-and-white flashback scenes that feature his character struggling with his memory impairment (making the line, “Test this, you f*****g quack” a Tobolowsky original). Pearce was also encouraged to improvise during the grayscale sequences in which he narrates Sammy’s story to an unseen listener.

8. JOE PANTOLIANO ALSO INVENTED ELEMENTS FOR HIS CHARACTER. 

Teddy, Leonard’s ill-fated tagalong played by Joe Pantoliano, seems to have a penchant for the element of surprise, always dropping in on Leonard (and the viewer) unannounced. It was Pantoliano’s idea that Teddy be sitting in Leonard’s car without his knowledge—thus scaring him half to death—in one scene midway through the movie. 

9. TOBOLOWSKY ACTUALLY HAD AMNESIA. 

Tobolowsky is hesitant to credit his talent alone for his mastering the part of Sammy. The actor believes that his personal experience with memory loss gave him an edge. Tobolowsky endured temporary anterograde amnesia following a medical procedure; for a period of time after the procedure, Tobolowsky found himself “waking up” in rooms in his home without any recollection of when or why he entered them. However, his condition was far less severe than that which we see in the movie. 

10. NEUROSCIENTISTS LOVE THIS FILM. 

In addition to positive critical reviews, Memento enjoyed a wealth of commendations from the scientific community over its realistic depiction of memory loss disorders. Representatives from the National Institute of Mental Health deemed the movie “close to a perfect exploration of the neurobiology of memory,” while renowned neuroscientist Christof Koch called it “the most accurate portrayal of the different memory systems in the popular media.” 

11. NOLAN WANTED TO MAKE A NONLINEAR FILM BECAUSE OF A SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY ABOUT PIZZA DELIVERY. 

The complicated chronology of Memento was more than just a stylistic preference to Nolan—it was a cultural necessity in a pre-DVR world. With more and more people watching movies on television leading up to Memento’s release, the director felt films were increasingly sacrificing narrative quality in favor of accessibility to viewers opting to leave the room. 

“I think that film narrative has been held back by television," Nolan told the Los Angeles Times. "It comes down to what I call the pizza delivery scenario: If a pizza arrives while you're watching TV, you have to answer the door, deal with the man, and then be able to get straight back into the story, having missed three or four minutes. With Memento, on the other hand, if you come in three minutes late you miss the whole movie.” 

12. THE DIRECTOR’S BIGGEST INFLUENCE WASN’T ANOTHER MOVIE, BUT A NOVEL. 

Nolan has shrugged off the idea that similarly nonlinear films such as Betrayal or Je t'aime, je t'aime played a significant role in his development of Memento, but he readily credits a piece of literature for inspiring his fascination with experimenting with narrative form: the 1983 novel Waterland by Graham Swift, which explores the personal turmoil of a history teacher in Greenwich, England. 

13. ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT JOBS ON SET WAS GIVEN TO A FARRELLY BROTHERS ALUM. 

For a movie that hinges so delicately on continuity, the script supervisor had a hugely important job. Memento left this responsibility in the hands of Steve Gehrke, who was known best in the industry for his work on Farrelly Brothers comedies like There’s Something About Mary and Me, Myself & Irene. Even Nolan found this funny, telling Indiewire, “We had this continuity guy, actually, the Farrelly Brothers' continuity guy, strangely, but he was fantastic and amazing and totally grasped the whole thing.”

Even with his interesting pedigree, Gehrke nailed the job. He performed so well that he has worked on almost all of Nolan’s films since. 

14. NOLAN CHOSE THE MOTEL FEATURED IN THE FILM BASED ON HOW DIFFICULT IT WAS TO NAVIGATE. 

As Nolan says on the DVD audio commentary, “If M.C. Escher was going to design a motel, this would be it.” 

15. YOU CAN WATCH THE MOVIE IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER (IF YOU PASS THE TEST).

The second disc of the 2002 limited edition Memento DVD package rewarded buyers with the option of watching the film in chronological order. In order to unlock this unadvertised feature, however, the user had to solve an interactive puzzle consisting of several memory-based questions.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
arrow
entertainment
15 Festive Facts About Jingle All the Way
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In all of Arnold Schwarzenegger's film oeuvre, Jingle All the Way might just be the one that most exhibits the ugliness of humanity. Set on a fevered Christmas Eve brimming with desperate last-minute shoppers, Schwarzenegger's Howard Langston and Sinbad's postal worker character Myron Larabee find themselves battling one another to make themselves look good to their sons by getting their hands on the elusive Turbo Man action figure. The comedic genius Phil Hartman; Rita Wilson; future young Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd; Laraine Newman; Harvey Korman; Martin Mull; Curtis Armstrong; and Chris Parnell were the other willing participants in this cult comedy, directed by Brian Levant. Here are some things you might not have known about the contemporary holiday classic.

1. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER WAS ABLE TO PLAY THE LEAD BECAUSE OF A DELAY ON A PLANET OF THE APES REMAKE.

Arnold Schwarzenegger signed up to star in the Apes remake in March of 1994, but 20th Century Fox rejected multiple scripts for the movie, including one co-written by Chris Columbus (Gremlins, The Goonies). Columbus left the project in late 1995, and Schwarzenegger followed him soon after, freeing him to sign up for Jingle All the Way, produced by Columbus, in February 1996. Fox's Planet of the Apes reboot found its way into theaters in 2001, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Tim Burton.

2. SINBAD THOUGHT HE SCREWED UP THE AUDITION.

Sinbad in 'Jingle All the Way' (1996)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Filming was delayed so that Sinbad could follow through on his commitment to travel to Bosnia with Hillary Clinton. Even though Columbus agreed to wait for him, the comedian still thought he "messed up" his audition and told his manager-brother he was going to quit show business.

3. OFFICER HUMMELL WAS INITIALLY WRITTEN AS A WOMAN.

Though the role of Officer Hummell was written for a woman, the part went to Robert Conrad. Conrad's explanation was that the producers "wanted someone who could pull up next to Arnold and tell him to pull over and he pulls over."

4. IT WAS CHRIS PARNELL'S FIRST MOVIE.

The future SNL star played the toy store clerk. "Well, it was my first movie role, and I didn't know how they typically shot scenes," Parnell admitted in a Reddit AMA. "So I had to laugh a lot, and I sort of spent all of my laughing energy in the wider takes, so by the time we got to the close-up shots, it was a real struggle to keep that going."

5. MARTIN MULL STAYED ON SET FOR OVER TWO WEEKS LONGER THAN HE WAS SUPPOSED TO.

Mull (KQRS D.J. a.k.a. Mr. Ponytail Man) was told it would just be a one- to two-day shoot for him. Unfortunately, his part had to be shot on a rainy day, and it didn't rain in Minneapolis for two and a half weeks.

6. PHIL HARTMAN MADE UP A BACKSTORY FOR HIS CHARACTER.


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Hartman (Ted Maltin) was probably joking for the film's official production notes, but you never know. "Ted is a guy who sued his employer for headaches caused by toner fumes and now hangs around the neighborhood and helps all the housewives," Hartman said. He also offered a take on how he was kind of being pigeonholed in Hollywood when he added, "Ted's another weasel to add my list of weasels."

7. HARTMAN ENTERTAINED HIS BORED YOUNG CO-STARS.

To keep young E.J. De la Pena (Johnny Maltin) and Jake Lloyd (Jamie Langston) from getting bored shooting a car scene all day, Hartman improvised songs designed to bring kids to hysterics. One tune contained the lyrics “You make my butt shine, the more you kiss it, the more it shines! The clock is ticking, so keep on licking, oh how you make my buttocks shine!”

"When you’re an 8 year old hearing that kind of potty humor, it was hilarious!" De la Pena remembered. "And we had a lot of fun."

8. JAMES BELUSHI HAD EXPERIENCE PLAYING SANTA BEFORE.

Belushi sort of trained to portray the Mall of America Santa in the movie by playing Kris Kringle for four years in "about 20" different homes, according to his estimation.

9. SHOOTING BEGAN IN MID-APRIL.

The Minneapolis/St.Paul areas were chosen because the producers figured they had the longest winter. But they also filmed in Los Angeles' Universal Studios for the big parade over a three week span, where it was typical hot California weather on the verge of summer. Sinbad remembered it was 100 degrees on the days when he wore the Dementor costume, and the water in his helmet had started to boil.

10. THE REAL TURBO MAN DIDN'T SWEAT.

Daniel Riordan's Turbo Man suit ensured he wouldn't have trouble with the scorching heat. He was wearing a vest underneath used by race car drivers. "They're very thin membrane vests that are filled with small, plastic tubing that's tightly coiled, back and forth, and they run cold water through it," Riordan explained. "So when they run it, it's like this cold water right up against your body and it was amazing. The sensation was fantastic."

11. TURBO MAN FIGURES WERE SOLD AT WAL-MART.

200,000 were originally produced and sold at 2,300 Wal-Mart shops for $25. They would have made more but, as Fox’s president of licensing and merchandising explained to Entertainment Weekly, there were only six and a half months to produce and promote Turbo Man toys, and it usually takes "well over a year."

12. THEY ALMOST SOLD DEMENTOR DOLLS TOO.

Sinbad recalled that the studio didn't sell Dementor action figures even though they tested high during research. "I had a prototype of the doll but they said 'give it back, we'll get you the real one when it comes out,'" Sinbad said." ...And dude, it NEVER came out!" Sinbad told Redditers his theory: "I think that they didn't want the competition between Turbo Man and my doll."

13. SOME PARENTS HAD ALCOHOL-RELATED COMPLAINTS AFTER TEST SCREENINGS.


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Schwarzenegger and Sinbad talking at a bar over some alcohol, and the fact that reindeer also imbibed in beer, were among some of the problems mothers and other early viewers took issue with.

14. THE FILMMAKERS WERE SUED FOR PLAGIARISM, AND LOST.

Randy Kornfield penned the official script, but high school teacher Brian Alan Webster alleged his Could This Be Christmas? script was very similar. The publishing firm that had the rights to Webster's script won a $19 million lawsuit from 20th Century Fox, but the ruling was overturned in 2004. Webster's screenplay was about “the quest of a Caucasian mother attempting to obtain a hard-to-get action figure toy as a Christmas gift for her son. In the course of this pursuit, she competes with an African-American woman, similarly seeking to give the action figure doll as a Christmas gift.”

15. THERE WAS A SEQUEL STARRING LARRY THE CABLE GUY.

None of the original cast members nor characters returned in the straight-to-DVD Jingle All the Way 2 (2014). It was produced by 20th Century Fox and WWE Studios and featured wrestler Santino Marella. Sinbad expressed incredulity when a Redditer inquired if he was asked to return for it. "What they are doing a new version without me! Ain't gonna work!"

Additional Sources:

Schaefer, Stephen: "Sinbad leaps at the chance to go postal in Jingle All the Way," December 6, 1996; Des Moines Register

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Twentieth Century Fox
arrow
entertainment
10 Rich Facts About Wall Street
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

It’s often said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Wall Street could have easily turned this sentiment into a tagline. A gripping financial thriller, the Oliver Stone classic is a cautionary tale whose message is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was released 30 years ago today.

1. OLIVER STONE WOULD DELIBERATELY TICK OFF MICHAEL DOUGLAS BETWEEN TAKES.

“As a director, he really tests you,” Douglas said of Stone. Around two weeks after shooting had started, Stone showed up at the actor’s trailer and asked “Are you on drugs? Because you look like you’ve never acted before in your life.” Mortified, Douglas took a look at some footage they’d already shot. Yet, after diligently reviewing it, he could find nothing wrong with his performance. “I came back to Oliver and said … ‘I think it’s okay,” Douglas remembers. “Yeah, it is, isn’t it?” Stone replied.

Eventually, Douglas wised up to his boss’s overly critical act. “Basically, what he wanted was to ratchet up that much more nastiness in Gordon Gekko,” Douglas explained. “And he was willing … for me to hate him for the rest of that movie just to bring it up a little more.” 

2. WALL STREET WON BOTH AN OSCAR AND A RAZZIE.


Getty Images

Douglas’s cold portrayal of the unscrupulous Gekko netted him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1988. On the other hand, critics were thoroughly unimpressed by leading lady Daryl Hannah, who took home a Worst Supporting Actress Razzie.

3. GORDON GEKKO’S FAMOUS PHONE WEIGHED TWO POUNDS.

In one pivotal scene, Gekko rings Bud with a state-of-the-art mobile communication device. Specifically, it’s a Motorola DynaTac 8000X. Released in 1983, this brick-shaped cell phone was 13 inches long, weighed two pounds, and cost the equivalent of $8,806 in modern dollars. During the 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the anachronistic gadget returned for a quick sight gag.

4. CHARLIE SHEEN CHOSE TO HAVE HIS REAL FATHER PORTRAY HIS FICTIONAL ONE.

“It was interesting having my dad play my dad,” Sheen said on the DVD's “making of” documentary. Wall Street’s most dramatic arc revolves around Bud and Carl Fox, who were played by Charlie and Martin Sheen, respectively. Stone had built a strong working relationship with the former on the set of 1986’s Platoon. So when the time came to cast Carl, he had the younger Sheen make the call, asking “Do you want Jack Lemmon or do you want your father?” “Oh, Jack Lemmon’s a genius,” the actor said, “but my dad’s my dad and he’s kind of a genius, too.”

5. SCREENWRITER STANLEY WEISER COULDN'T FIND INSPIRATION IN EITHER CRIME AND PUNISHMENT OR THE GREAT GATSBY.

Before the writer could get started, Stone gave him a little homework. Originally, the film was conceived as “Crime and Punishment on Wall Street.” When Weiser was brought aboard one fateful Friday, Stone told him to read Dostoyevsky’s novel over the weekend. “Not having taken an Evelyn Wood Speed Reading class, I went to UCLA and purchased the Cliffs Notes,” Weiser wrote in 2008.

But the literary exercise proved futile. “On Monday, I explained to Oliver that the paradigm for that masterwork would not mesh well with the story we wanted to tell.” In a flash, Stone hit him with another assignment. “Okay,” he ordered, “read The Great Gatsby tonight, and see if we can mine something out of it.” This time, Weiser simply rented the 1974 movie adaptation. Once again, though, inspiration eluded him.

Wall Street as we know it didn’t really start to take shape until after a change in tactic: When Gatsby led him nowhere, Weiser read everything about finance that he could track down and, along with Stone, “spent three weeks visiting brokerage houses, interviewing investors and getting a feel for the Weltanschauung of Wall Street.”

6. PARTS OF THE MOVIE WERE SHOT AT THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE DURING WORKING HOURS.


Getty Images

Permission was secured with the help of Kenneth Lipper, a longtime Wall Street insider who also served as New York City's deputy mayor from 1982 to 1985. For the film, Stone brought him on board as the chief technical advisor.

7. TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE FILM’S RELEASE, THERE WAS A MAJOR WALL STREET CRASH IN REAL LIFE.

Historians now call it “Black Monday.” On October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by a staggering 22.6 percent. It was the largest single-day stock market decline of all time, with $500 billion suddenly going up in smoke. Wall Street would hit theaters on December 11, leading conspiracy theorists to wonder if Stone had seen the crisis coming and made his movie to exploit it. 

“I did not foresee the crash, as some people say, because if I had, I would have made a lot of money,” Stone quipped.

8. GEKKO WAS BASED ON THREE BIG-NAME FINANCIERS. 


Getty Images

“If you need a friend, get a dog,” Gekko advises his young protégé. This quote was adapted from a remark that corporate raider Carl Icahn once made (which he had cribbed from Harry Truman). In 1985, Icahn became a notorious figure by taking over TWA airlines under the pretense of making it more profitable only to sell off its assets for his own gain. Gekko, no doubt, would’ve approved.

Wall Street’s charismatic antagonist also took cues from Asher Edelman, a financier and major league art enthusiast. Another source of inspiration was arbiter Ivan Boesky, who confessed to illegal insider trading in 1986 and ended up in jail in 1988 (more about him later).

9. STONE’S FATHER WAS A STOCKBROKER.

A survivor of the Great Depression, Louis Stone had a huge influence on his cinematically-inclined son. “The main motivation to make Wall Street was my father,” the director admitted. “He always said there were no good business movies, because the businessman was always the villain.” In the end, Wall Street was dedicated to the elder Stone, who passed away two years before its release. 

10. GEKKO’S BIG LINE IS NUMBER 57 ON THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE’S TOP 100 MOVIE QUOTES LIST.

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” finished just ahead of “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” from The Godfather: Part II. Gekko might as well have been quoting Boesky: At a 1985 commencement address given at UC Berkeley, the trader said “Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

Newsweek later reported on the speech—and made a telling observation. “The strangest thing, when we come to look back,” the magazine argued, “will not just be that Ivan Boesky could say that at a business school graduation, but that it was greeted with laughter and applause.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios