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15 Fun Facts About Weird Science

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John Hughes’ strangest teen angst comedy, Weird Science, turns 30 years old today. And technology still hasn’t caught up with its bold idea of turning Barbie dolls into living sexbots. Despite our failure to achieve this (so far), the movie stands as an odd blip on the mid-’80s cultural landscape. Here are 15 facts to consider the next time you watch it.

1. ONE OF THE STARS USED TO BE A BALLET DANCER.

Ilan Mitchell-Smith—a.k.a. The Other One, not Anthony Michael Hall—attended the Joffrey Ballet School on scholarship before he got into acting. After his brief acting stint, he became an academic, and is now a professor of medieval English literature at Cal State Long Beach.

2. IN JAPAN, IT WAS CALLED ELECTRIC VENUS

… which a reporter for The Austin Chronicle once misheard as Electric Penis. Other foreign titles include: Touch Me, I’m Yours (Danish); Dream Woman (Finnish, Swedish, and a few others); Oh, This Science (Russian); Cool Magic with Lisa (German).

3. IT WAS WRITER-DIRECTOR JOHN HUGHES’ SECOND MOVIE THAT YEAR, AND HIS THIRD IN 15 MONTHS.

Hughes had written several earlier comedies (including Mr. Mom and National Lampoon’s Vacation), but his first time writing and directing was on Sixteen Candles, which was released on May 4, 1984. The Breakfast Club came out on February 15, 1985, followed six months later by Weird Science. The man was busy.

4. THREE MONTHS AFTER THE FILM OPENED, GEEK ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL AND BULLY ROBERT DOWNEY JR. WERE REUNITED AS SNL CAST MEMBERS.

Hall was only 17 at the time, making him the youngest SNL cast member to date. He and Downey were two of six new hires who only lasted that one season before Lorne Michaels retooled the cast. Here they are on “Weekend Update,” reviewing a book with farts.

5. WEIRD SCIENCE IS WHY ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL DIDN’T APPEAR IN NATIONAL LAMPOON’S EUROPEAN VACATION.

He played young Rusty in the original Vacation (written by Hughes), but chose to make Weird Science instead of the sequel. And thus was born the tradition of the Griswolds' kids being played by a different actor in every Vacation movie.

6. THE HIGH SCHOOL USED IN EXTERIOR SHOTS WAS THE SAME ONE USED IN SIXTEEN CANDLES AND RISKY BUSINESS.

That’d be Niles East High School, in Skokie, Illinois. It had closed in 1980, which is why it was available for film shoots. Since then, it has been torn down.

7. WEIRD SCIENCE AND SIXTEEN CANDLES ARE SET IN THE SAME FICTIONAL TOWN OF SHERMER, ILLINOIS.

Hughes made up the name, but he got it from a real source: Shermerville was the original name of Northbrook, Illinois, Hughes’ hometown. (The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are also set at Shermer High School.)

8. JOHN HUGHES DIDN’T KNOW THE WEIRD SCIENCE TV SERIES EXISTED UNTIL HE SAW A COMMERCIAL FOR IT.

Hughes was emphatically unsupportive of the idea of turning any of his films into TV shows. He tried to talk Paramount out of the Ferris Bueller series, and refused to help Universal in any way with Uncle Buck. (Both sitcoms premiered in 1990 and were dead within a year.) By the time Universal got to Weird Science, in 1994, they didn’t even bother asking. Several years later, Hughes told an interviewer, “Then there was the time I was sitting at home, watching TV, and this commercial comes on for this new show. I’m watching it, thinking ‘Jesus, they ripped me off. This looks just like Weird Science.’ Imagine my surprise.” The Weird Science series ran on USA Network for 88 episodes from 1994 to 1998.

9. THE SCENE WHERE GARY TALKS LIKE AN OLD AFRICAN-AMERICAN BLUESMAN WAS INSPIRED BY RICHARD PRYOR.

Hall recounted in an interview that he and John Hughes would “watch Richard Pryor movies on the weekend. And we would imitate this character called Mudball that Richard Pryor would do. And so it was really just a product of being Richard Pryor fans that John said, ‘Hey, why don’t we create this scene where you go into a bar and do that?’”

10. BILL PAXTON SHOWED UP TO THE HOUSE PARTY IN DISGUISE.

Paxton, of course, played Chet, Wyatt’s jerky older brother. Ilan Mitchell-Smith said there was a fun “feeling of chaos” on the set when the party scenes were being filmed, and that Paxton “dressed in sunglasses and a trench coat and put on some kind of hat” and snuck into the background. Whether he’s visible in any shots that made it into the movie isn’t clear, but if you can spot him, you owe it to the world to share.

11. IT TAKES ITS TITLE FROM A 1950S COMIC BOOK, BUT OTHER SIMILARITIES ARE COINCIDENTAL.

EC Comics published 22 issues of Weird Science between 1950 and 1953, alongside more popular anthology titles like Tales from the Crypt. Hollywood mega-producer Joel Silver got the rights to all the old EC stuff in the ’80s, and Hughes was in his office one day when boxes of the comics were being delivered and unpacked. Seeing the title Weird Science, and thinking of a beautiful woman he and Silver had seen earlier that day, Hughes said, “What if two kids figure out a way to make that girl that was in the commissary?” This is according to Silver’s recollection, anyway. “I already had rights to the EC books, so that’s how I convinced them to let me have the title.” Now, there was a story in an issue of Weird Science that bore a superficial resemblance to Hughes’ idea—“Made of the Future,” in which a man builds a wife from a kit he got on a trip to the year 2150

12. ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL MADE TWICE AS MUCH MONEY AS ILAN MITCHELL-SMITH.

That’s according to Mitchell-Smith, who was asked about his salary during a Q&A several years ago. “I don’t think most people talk about this, but what do I care? I made $150,000. Which is a lot of money, especially for a 15-year-old.” Asked what his co-star made, he said, “I think he made $300,000.” 

13. BILL PAXTON GOT HIS CHARACTER’S DISTINCTIVE MILITARY-STYLE HAIRCUT WITHOUT HUGHES’ PERMISSION.

His first day on the set, “I told [the film’s makeup artist] I wanted to do a haircut that was really intense,” Paxton told The AV Club in 2012. “He’s the one who suggested the flattop, but long on the sides and slicked back. And he was afraid he was going to lose his job to cut it like that without having it approved by the producer or the director, but I said, ‘Just do it.’” Fortunately, Hughes loved it, along with everything else Paxton brought to the character.

14. LISA WAS NAMED AFTER AN EARLY APPLE COMPUTER.

The Apple Lisa was the first personal computer to have a graphical user interface (i.e., you can point and click at icons instead of having to type line commands). Released in 1983, it was aimed at business users and sold for $9,995 ($23,700 in 2015 dollars). It sold poorly (duh), but had a lasting influence on computers and on John Hughes’ imagination.

15. DURING FILMING, ROBERT DOWNEY JR. POOPED IN ANOTHER ACTOR’S TRAILER.

In 1997, Downey told Playboy that he was “the serial dumper” on the set, and that he “defecated in a fellow castmate’s trailer, much to the chagrin of Bill Paxton and Robert Rusler. It was a real bad scene. Joel Silver freaked. I never admitted it.” Asked whose trailer it was, Downey said it was LeBrock’s. But in a 2014 interview with Howard Stern, Downey recanted, saying it wasn’t LeBrock's but Babette Prop's (who played a member of the biker gang that shows up at the house party). LeBrock took to Facebook to thank Downey for clearing up the old legend.

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Move Over, MoviePass: AMC Is Launching a $20 Per Month Subscription
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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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25 Incisive Facts About Jaws
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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.


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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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