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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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13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.

1. ON ADVICE

"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

2. ON REGRETS

"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks

3. ON DEATH

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert

4. ON NERVES

''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times

5. ON ACTING

"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age

6. ON MARRIAGE

"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with About.com

7. ON LYING

“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair

8. ON HIS SUNGLASSES

"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

9. ON MISCONCEPTIONS

"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN

10. ON DIRECTING

"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV

11. ON ROGER CORMAN

"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World

12. ON PLAYING THE JOKER

"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman

13. ON BASKETBALL

"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

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There's a Simple Trick to Sort Movies and TV Shows by Year on Netflix
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Netflix

Netflix is stocked with so many movies and TV shows that it’s not always easy to actually find what you’re looking for. And while sorting by genre can help a little, even that’s a bit too broad for some. There’s one helpful hack, though, that you probably didn’t know about—and it could make the endless browsing much less painful.

As POPSUGAR reports: By simply opening Netflix up to one of its specific category pages—Horror, Drama, Comedy, Originals, etc.—you can then sort by release year with just a few clicks. All you need to do is look at the top of the page, where you’ll see an icon that looks like a box with four dots in it.

Screenshot of the Netflix Menu
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Once you click on it, it will expand to a tab labeled “Suggestions for You.” Just hit that again and a dropdown menu will appear that allows you to sort by year released or alphabetical and reverse-alphabetical orders. When sorted by release year, the more recent movies or shows will be up top and they'll get older as you scroll to the bottom of the page.


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This tip further filters your Netflix options, so if you’re in the mood for a classic drama, old-school comedy, or a retro bit of sci-fi, you don’t have to endlessly scroll through every page to find the right one.

If you want to dig deeper into Netflix’s categories, here’s a way to find all sorts of hidden ones the streaming giant doesn’t tell you about. And also check out these 12 additional Netflix tricks that should make your binge-watching that much easier.

[h/t POPSUGAR]

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