17 Solid Facts About Stripes

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Stripes was originally pitched by director Ivan Reitman as a Cheech and Chong Army movie. But it turned into a modern comedy classic featuring an embarrassment of acting riches with a cast that included Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, and P.J. Soles. It was also the first shot in the spotlight for Sean Young, John Larroquette, Judge Reinhold, Timothy Busfield, and “Hey! It’s that guy!” actor John Diehl. Here are 17 things you might not have known about the 1981 hit.

1. HAROLD RAMIS AND COLUMBIA PICTURES DID NOT WANT HAROLD RAMIS IN THE MOVIE.

With the knowledge that the studio didn’t want him, and more comfortable with writing at that point than with acting, Ramis was reluctant to play Russell. He even had Dennis Quaid (P.J. Soles’s husband at the time) read for his part. Bill Murray stepped in and insisted that he only wanted to work with Ramis.

2. BILL MURRAY AND P.J. SOLES DID BOOT CAMP FOR THREE DAYS.

Both John Winger and Stella initially planned to wake up at 0500 and jog with real soldiers for two weeks.

3. THEY FILMED THE SPATULA SCENE AT 3 A.M.

It was improvised by Murray.

4. THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT LIKED THE SCRIPT.

So they gave the crew a ton of access, including allowing Ivan Reitman and company to shoot in Fort Knox and letting real troops play extras.

5. MURRAY WAS UNEASY ABOUT MAKING A MOVIE WHERE HE CARRIED A MACHINE GUN.

He reasoned with himself that if guns were used to save your friends, it was okay.

6. ARMY RECRUITMENT NUMBERS WENT UP AFTER THE MOVIE WAS RELEASED.

By about 10 percent.

7. MOST OF THE CAST WAS DRUNK FOR TWO WEEKS FOLLOWING JOHN LENNON’S DEATH.

John Larroquette (Capt. Stillman) later admitted that he was drunk in the scene when he dressed down the company after they watched and participated in mud wrestling. Even after filming moved to Los Angeles, Murray and Warren Oates (Sgt. Hulka) had a drunken evening beside the grave of late actor Strother Martin.

8. JOHN LARROQUETTE BROKE HIS NOSE.

Larroquette permanently scarred his nose running into a door in the scene where he discovers that the EM-50 has been stolen.

9. WARREN OATES CHIPPED HIS TOOTH.

Unbeknownst to Warren Oates, Reitman told the actors to grab Hulka and drag him into the mud in one of the obstacle course scenes. After his tooth got chipped and he screamed at Reitman, he insisted that they could just shoot from the other side of his face and filming could continue before he was talked into seeing a dentist.

10. HULKA WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE.

The fall from the high platform was meant to be fatal. The character and actor were too well liked for that part of the script to not change.

11. KENTUCKY DOUBLED FOR CZECHOSLOVAKIA.

The Czechoslovakia scenes were filmed at the Jim Beam-owned Chapeze Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Ramis said that the third act was set in that country because Reitman’s family were Czech refugees.

12. LARROQUETTE AD LIBBED “I WISH I WAS A LOOFAH.”

Reitman told Larroquette to improvise stuff to say while looking at naked women in the shower. He came up with “I wish I was a loofah.” After Reitman yelled “Cut!” he asked the actor what a loofah was.

13. A NINE-MINUTE ACID TRIP SCENE WAS SHOT BUT CUT.

John and Russell took LSD and went on a mission to fight rebels in the Colombian jungle. Reitman didn’t think it fit with the tone of the rest of the movie.

14. A SCENE WITH CRUISER AND HULKA WAS CUT, TOO.

Cruiser pulled a grenade pin and counted too slowly before losing count entirely. Hulka then grabbed it out of his hand and threw it to save their lives.

15. DIEHL WAS PAID $1500 A WEEK TO PLAY CRUISER.

The young actor was very happy with the salary.

16. MURRAY AND JOHN CANDY HAD DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO BOND WITH THE PLATOON.

Murray arranged a screening of the 1968 film The Bofors Gun, a dark military drama set in West Germany following World War II. Candy invited the company to his house to watch the famous Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard fight and enjoy a spaghetti dinner made by his wife.

17. ONLY CANDY AND PSYCHO KNEW THE LYRICS TO “DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY”

Conrad Dunn (Psycho) recalled that he and Candy had to teach it to the rest of the outfit.

Josh Trank Wouldn't Mind Erasing Fantastic Four From Film History

Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

It’s not every day that you hear a director talking about wanting to completely erase one of their projects from film history. But when the topic of the 2015 box office bomb Fantastic Four comes up, director Josh Trank isn't mincing words. The director tweeted that he would “gladly” donate to a GoFundMe page to have his failed adaptation erased from the cinematic history books.

It's no secret that Fantastic Four is a sore subject for Trank. The production was plagued with rumors that there was a bit of friction on set, particularly between the director and star Miles Teller. Even once the film had wrapped, reports about the troubled production plagued Trank, and eventually led to him parting ways with Disney, for whom he was supposedly developing a standalone Boba Fett movie. (It didn't help that Fantastic Four tanked at the box office and even won a Razzie for Worst Picture).

The topic of starting a GoFundMe page for the film started after Trank responded to fans rallying for a page to get the rat at the end of Martin Scorsese's The Departed digitally erased. When asked if he would support a page to get rid of Fantastic Four, Trank seemed to oblige (though he has since deleted the tweet).


It’s no secret the previous Fantastic Four movies have had little success, but now that Disney and Fox are joining forces, the series could be entering into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe now these superheroes will finally get the movie they deserve.

Hollywood's Brief Love Affair With Young Einstein Star Yahoo Serious

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The theater owners and exhibitors attending the ShoWest convention in February 1989 had a lot to look forward to. In an attempt to stir their interest in upcoming studio releases, major distributors were showing off stars and footage: Paramount led with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Columbia had Ghostbusters II. But it was Warner Bros. that caused the biggest stir.

In addition to Lethal Weapon 2, the studio had Tim Burton’s Batman, a straight-faced adaptation of the comic, and Michael Keaton—who slipped into a screening of some early footage—was no longer being derided as a poor casting choice. Then, in the midst of all this star power, the studio brought out a 35-year-old actor-writer-director with a shock of orange hair and an Australian accent.

The man had never appeared in a feature film before, much less starred in one, but Warner was gambling that his forthcoming comedy about a Tasmanian Albert Einstein who invents rock music and runs into Thomas Edison would be a hit. It had already become the sixth highest-grossing film in Australia's history, besting both E.T. and Rambo: First Blood Part II.

The man’s real name was Greg Pead, but Warner Bros. introduced him as Yahoo Serious, Hollywood’s next big comedy attraction.

 

To understand Warner’s appetite for an unproven commodity like Yahoo Serious, it helps to recall the peculiar preoccupation American popular culture had with Australians in the 1980s. Energizer had created a hit ad campaign with Mark “Jacko” Jackson, a pro football player who aggressively promoted their batteries in a series of ads; meanwhile, Paul Hogan parlayed his fish-out-of-water comedy, Crocodile Dundee, into the second highest-grossing film of 1986. (Serious would later bristle at comparisons to Hogan, whom he referred to as a “marketing guy” who sold cigarettes on Australian television.)

Born in Cardiff, Australia on July 27, 1953, Serious grew up in rural bush country and mounted car tires at a garage in order to pay his way through the National Art School. When he was expelled for illustrating the school's facade with satirical jokes that the faculty didn’t find particularly funny, Serious moved on to direct Coaltown, a documentary about the coal mining industry, and pursued painting.

Serious would later recall that the desire for a larger audience led him away from art and into feature filmmaking. ''It hit me like a ton of bricks one day,” Serious told The New York Times in 1989. “I remember having a cup of coffee and I went, 'Well, look, there is a giant canvas in every little town everywhere around the world. And on this giant canvas there are 24 frames of image on that screen every second and it's the most wonderful living art form.'” It was around this same time, in 1980, that Serious changed his name.

To get a feel for the language of film, Serious sat through repeated viewings of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove; he aspired to have the kind of total autonomy over his movies that directors like Woody Allen and Charlie Chaplin enjoyed.

In 1983, Serious was traveling along the Amazon River when he spotted someone wearing a T-shirt depicting Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out. The image is now pervasive, appearing on posters and other merchandise, but it seemed unique to the performer, who was struck by the idea that Einstein was once young and never took himself too seriously. And the concept for Young Einstein was born.

 

Serious's idea, which transplanted Einstein to Tasmania and imagined encounters with Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, and the atomic bomb, took years to assemble. He borrowed camera equipment and sold his car to help finance the film; he shot an eight-minute trailer that convinced investors he was capable of making a feature. His mother even cooked meals for the crew on set.

In order to maintain creative control, Serious gave up profit participation in Young Einstein, which he starred in, co-produced, co-wrote, and directed. When the film was released in Australia in 1988, it made an impressive $1.6 million at the box office and drew the attention of Warner Bros., which likely had visions of a Crocodile Dundee-esque hit. American press had a field day with Serious, who appeared on the cover of TIME and was given airtime on MTV.

Critics and audiences weren’t quite as enamored. The Orlando Sentinel suggested that "Tedious Oddball" would be a more appropriate name for the film's creator. In his one-star review, Roger Ebert wrote that, "Young Einstein is a one-joke movie, and I didn't laugh much the first time." In the U.S., Young Einstein grossed just over $11 million, a fairly weak showing for a summer comedy. It was bested in its opening weekend by both Ron Howard’s Parenthood and the Sylvester Stallone action-grunter Lock Up.

 

Although American distributors quickly cooled on Serious, Australia's enthusiasm for the filmmaker didn’t dampen. When Serious released 1993’s Reckless Kelly, a fictionalized account of outlaw Ned Kelly, it made $5.4 million in Australia—three times as much as Young Einstein. Serious took a seven-year sabbatical, then returned with 2000’s Mr. Accident, a slapstick comedy about an injury-prone man who tries to thwart a scheme to inject nicotine into eggs. Meeting a tepid critical and financial reception, it would be his third and (likely) final film.

At roughly the same time Mr. Accident was released, Serious took issue with upstart search engine Yahoo!, alleging the site was piggybacking on his popularity. He filed a lawsuit, which was quickly dropped when he failed to prove the URL had damaged him in any way.

Yahoo Serious attends an event
Paul McConnell, Getty Images

The amused headlines stemming from that incident were the last examples of Serious capturing attention in America. Having completed just three films, no other projects have come to fruition; Serious launched a website detailing some of his background and to air some of his Yahoo!-related grievances.

Now 65, Serious currently serves as founding director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, an Australian aid organization dedicated to improving the living conditions of Papua New Guineans. The board’s website lists him as Yahoo Serious, which is the name he claims that all of his family and friends have called him since he changed it in 1980.

“You can choose every aspect of your life,” Serious once said. “Why not your name?”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER