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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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The Dark Crystal Is Coming Back to Theaters
The Jim Henson Company
The Jim Henson Company

In 1982, Jim Henson and Frank Oz dared to venture into somewhat gloomier territory with the release of The Dark Crystal. Though the film, which centers on two Gelflings (a sort of creepy elf-like creature) attempting to save their species and restore peace to the world, wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, it has developed a large cult following in the more than 35 years since its release—even among those kids it scared the hell out of back in the day. Now, as Netflix preps its prequel series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, for release later this year, Nerdist reports that the original film will make its way back into theaters next month.

As part of Fathom Events’s ongoing effort to breathe big-screen life back into classic films with limited releases across the country, The Dark Crystal will be playing in more than 500 theaters nationwide on February 25 and February 28. In addition to the original film, the screenings will also feature a brand-new introduction courtesy of Lisa Henson, Jim’s daughter and current president/CEO of The Jim Henson Company, who will talk about the making of the film and how it fit within her father's creative legacy.

To find out whether The Dark Crystal will be coming back to a theater near you, log onto Fathom’s web page for the movie and type in your ZIP code; tickets are on sale now.

[h/t: Nerdist]

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15 Things You Didn't Know About Betty White
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Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 96th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. HER NAME IS BETTY, NOT ELIZABETH

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. SHE'S A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. HER FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE IS LOST TO HISTORY.

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Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. WHITE'S RISE TO STARDOM WAS DERAILED BY WORLD WAR II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. HER FIRST SITCOM HIT WAS IN THE EARLY 1950S.

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Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she's won five times.

6. WHITE LOVES A PARADE.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. SHE HAS BEEN MARRIED THREE TIMES.


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White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. HER MEET-CUTE WITH HUSBAND #3 HAPPENED ON PASSWORD.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. WHITE ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF BLANCHE ON THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

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Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. IF SHE HADN'T BEEN AN ACTOR, SHE'D HAVE BEEN A ZOOKEEPER.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. SHE DIDN'T DO AS GOOD AS IT GETS BECAUSE OF AN ANIMAL CRUELTY SCENE.

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White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN MADE WHITE THE OLDEST SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOST EVER.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. SHE IS THE OLDEST PERSON TO EARN AN EMMY NOMINATION.


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In 2014, White earned her 21st Emmy nod—and her third in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program—for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. SHE LOVES JUNK FOOD.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. SHE WANTS ROBERT REDFORD.

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White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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