15 Snappy Facts About Legally Blonde

Proving that she's no airhead, Elle Woods scored a near-perfect 179 on the LSAT, got into Harvard Law School, and changed the game in the process. Thanks to Reese Witherspoon and company, Legally Blonde—which was released 15 years ago today—was one of the first surprise critical and financial hits of the 21st century. Here are some facts about the movie that should interest you, even if you don’t know a Vanderbilt.

1. ELLE WAS NAMED AFTER THE MAGAZINE.

The film was based on the book of the same name by Amanda Brown, who spent her time at Stanford Law School reading copies of Elle and writing a bunch of letters back home, detailing the classmates to whom she didn’t relate. Brown later made a manuscript based on those letters and sent it to an agent, who was initially drawn to it because it was the only manuscript in the slush pile written on pink paper.

2. THE "OVESTER" LINE CAME FROM REAL LIFE.

Brown attended a meeting for The Women of Stanford Law, where she heard a woman say she spent three years at Stanford trying to change “semester” to “ovester.” Brown laughed ... but she was the only one.

3. THE TOILET PAPER VOTE WAS REAL, TOO.

Elle’s sorority group voting against the switch from Charmin to generic came from co-screenwriter Karen McCullah Lutz’s time as a sorority sister at James Madison University. Lutz offered her sisters activity points for stealing TP from the administration building.

4. CHLOË SEVIGNY TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF VIVIAN.

Selma Blair played Warner Huntington III’s law school girlfriend after Sevigny opted to take a part in a movie that filmed in Paris instead.

5. THE ACTRESS WHO PLAYED MARGOT HELPED THE ACTRESS WHO PLAYED SERENA GET THE PART.

Alanna Ubach stressed to Jessica Cauffiel—who was already cast as Margot—that she really needed the part, so Cauffiel told her to copy her movements during their screen test together and pretend that they hadn’t planned it together beforehand.

6. REESE WITHERSPOON STUDIED SORORITY BEHAVIOR TO PREPARE FOR HER ROLE.

Witherspoon went to dinner and took trips with sorority girls to Neiman Marcus and their USC and Stanford dorm rooms, paying attention to what they did and said.

7. STANFORD DIDN’T ALLOW FOR THEIR NAME TO BE USED IN THE MOVIE, BUT WAS THE STAND-IN FOR HARVARD LAW SCHOOL.

In Amanda Brown’s book, Elle attended USC before going to Stanford Law. Though neither USC nor Stanford would allow for their university to be associated with the movie, USC did allow shooting to take place on campus. UCLA declined the chance to replace USC as Elle's undergrad college, but also allowed filming on campus. (Elle went to the fictitious CULA in the movie.) Harvard has the opposite policies of Stanford, allowing usage of their name, but cited their long-standing rule of not permitting any commercial filming there to producers.

8. IT WAS ROBERT LUKETIC’S FIRST TIME DIRECTING A FEATURE FILM.

The Australian was “terrified” the night before day one of shooting, and couldn’t sleep. He got the job thanks to his short film Titsiana Booberini, which was about a mustached check-out girl who discovers hair remover.

9. MATTHEW DAVIS HAD A BIG CRUSH ON REESE WITHERSPOON.

The actor playing Warner had a thing for Witherspoon—whom he ruthlessly dumps in the movie—since he was 15 years old, and was such a “bumbling idiot” that producers had to make sure he was feeling okay on set. When he told the married Witherspoon his feelings for her, she professionally told him he was sweet for saying so and that they should get back to work.

10. DAVIS BASED WARNER HUNTINGTON III ON A FORMER PRESIDENT.

He read the autobiography of George W. Bush for research.

11. THE BACKGROUND ACTORS DURING THE OPENING CREDITS WERE REAL CALTECH FRAT BROTHERS CONDUCTING AN INITIATION RITE.

A mother explained to the Los Angeles Times that she spotted her son in a bathing suit covered with shortening and oil in the movie. Her son was involved in the game “Grease Frosh,” where two teams have a race to determine who can carry a freshman from one end of a field to another faster, while covered in grease. On that specific filmed contest, the team that wore absorbent pirate and clown costumes won.

12. THE ENDING WAS CHANGED BECAUSE OF TEST AUDIENCES.

Initially, the movie ended with Witherspoon and Luke Wilson kissing on the courthouse steps, then cutting to Elle Woods and Vivian forming a “Blonde Legal Defense Club.” Test audiences were too invested in what happened to Elle’s life to like that conclusion.

13. PARTS OF THE GRADUATION SCENE WERE SHOT IN LONDON, WITH WIGS.

To address test audience feedback on the ending, a graduation scene was added, set two years later. Because Witherspoon was in England working on her next project, parts of the scene were shot at Dulwich College in London, while some of the other actors were filmed back in California. Witherspoon was wearing a wig because she changed her hair for her role in The Importance of Being Earnest, as was Luke Wilson, who had shaved his head by then for The Royal Tenenbaums.

14. THERE WERE BROADWAY AND WEST END MUSICALS BASED ON THE MOVIE.

There was also a 2007 reality series on MTV to find the next actress to play Elle Woods for the Broadway show (MTV even aired an entire performance). Its London West End production lasted for three years after winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical.

15. A LEGALLY BLONDE PRODUCTION GOT AN OHIO DRAMA TEACHER FIRED IN 2012.

After the news got national attention, Loveland High School went ahead and allowed the musical to continue as planned.

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MGM Home Entertainment
11 Fun Facts About A Fish Called Wanda
MGM Home Entertainment
MGM Home Entertainment

In 1988, the British heist comedy A Fish Called Wanda had audiences in the UK and across the pond rolling in the aisles. Thirty years later, the Oscar-winning ensemble movie about a clueless (but don’t call him stupid) weapons expert, a bumbling barrister, a quick-witted femme fatale, and a stuttering con artist remains a cult favorite. Starring John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, and of course, the eponymous fish, the film is packed with smart writing, silly slapstick, and some of the strongest comic performances of its starring actors’ careers. Here are 11 facts about A Fish Called Wanda for your unreserved enjoyment (just don’t ask us to repeat the part in the middle).

1. IT WAS DIRECTOR CHARLES CRICHTON’S FIRST FILM IN TWO DECADES.

Back in the 1950s, Charles Crichton was a famous director of Ealing Comedies—a series of comedy films produced by London’s Ealing Studios—who was known for his work on films like The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), Hue and Cry (1947), and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). By 1988, however, he hadn’t directed a feature film in two decades (though he had worked on TV shows and documentary shorts). He came out of semi-retirement to work on what would become his final film at the behest of John Cleese.

2. CRICHTON AND JOHN CLEESE SPENT FIVE YEARS WRITING THE FILM.

A Fish Called Wanda was years, even decades, in the making. Cleese and Crichton first met and began discussing ideas for a comedy heist film, inspired by The Lavender Hill Mob, all the way back in 1969. Though they parted ways professionally, Cleese continued to look for opportunities to collaborate on a film with Crichton. More than a decade later, he finally got his chance when he found himself working with Crichton on a series of business management training videos.

Though Crichton was already in his late seventies, Cleese managed to convince the semi-retired director to brainstorm ideas for a feature film with him. For the next few years, the two met periodically to throw around ideas and work on the script. All in all, the entire scriptwriting and pre-production process took more than five years and cost $150,000 of Cleese’s own money.

3. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE EALING COMEDIES.

Unsurprisingly, A Fish Called Wanda was heavily indebted to the Ealing Comedies, especially Crichton’s own The Lavender Hill Mob, a heist comedy which starred Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway as a pair of bumbling bank robbers. Cleese, however, claimed the parallels between the Ealing Comedies and A Fish Called Wanda were unintentional, but embraced the comparison.

“I knew that my memory of all these great Ealing films was very present, although I wasn’t consciously trying to write an Ealing comedy,” Cleese explained. “But I do remember when we interviewed Johnny Jympson when we were looking for an editor, and Johnny’d read it, and he came in and sat down, and Charlie said, ‘What’d you think?’ and Johnny was almost nervous and he hemmed and hawed a little bit and then he said very uncertainly, ‘Well, it’s an Ealing comedy, isn’t it?’ and we both said, ‘Yes!’”

4. THE ACTORS HELPED SHAPE THEIR CHARACTERS.

Cleese encouraged Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, and Jamie Lee Curtis to contribute ideas and help develop their characters. Curtis, in particular, was responsible for major changes to Wanda’s personality. "She was a sexually brazen, cold-hearted manipulator, who simply wanted money,” Curtis told The New York Times. “I didn't find that real. I decided she didn't altogether know what she wanted, but finds a wonderful power in manipulating people and feels personal satisfaction in trying to fool them. She plays a slightly different role for each man, yet she enjoys being herself, and she's not cold-hearted, not vicious.''

Curtis told The New York Times she reveled in the rare opportunity to shape her own character: ''Most films, one person is in charge, and you're afraid even to raise your hand with a suggestion,'' she explained. ''That's frustrating if you're a bright person and trust your instincts. But this was totally a collaborative effort, and I'm afraid it's spoiled me.'' She was, apparently, so enthusiastic a contributor over the course of a two-week rehearsal period that Palin gave her a shirt that read, “Wait, I have an idea.”

5. KEVIN KLINE’S CHARACTER WAS INSPIRED BY A LOS ANGELES SELF-HELP GURU.

In A Fish Called Wanda, Kline’s Otto is a pseudo-intellectual who constantly misinterprets everything from the teachings of Buddhist philosophy to the writings of Nietzsche. According to Cleese, his character was inspired by the real-life self-help guru Zen Master Rama, sometimes called the “yuppie guru.”

“I got the real key to the character out of Los Angeles Magazine,” Cleese explained in an interview. “I found a double-page spread for a guru, and I’m pretty sure his name was Zen Master Rama, and he looked about 32 and very unsure of himself, and he had a funny sort of hairstyle like a dandelion at the end of September. But the key thing was the line across the top of this two page advertisement for the seminars he ran at weekends, which was ‘Buddhism gives you the competitive edge.’ And I thought this was unbelievably funny.”

6. CLEESE’S CHARACTER WAS NAMED AFTER CARY GRANT.

Cleese named his character Archie Leach after movie star Cary Grant, who was born Archibald Leach. Though Cleese’s bumbling lawyer has little in common with the famously debonair Grant, Cleese explained that he chose the name because he and Grant shared a hometown, and because it was the closest he would ever get to “being Cary Grant.”

7. THE ORIGINAL ENDING WAS MUCH DARKER.

A Fish Called Wanda started off as a much darker comedy, but test audiences in America were apparently uncomfortable with the film’s cruelty, and lack of romantic payoff, so Crichton and his cast went in for a few re-shoots. In addition to softening Palin’s character a bit, they ended up re-shooting the film’s ending three times.

“We played the whole movie with this very sort of dark intent—it was a very black comedy—and of course, when they tested the movie in America, it tested very funny, except that people didn’t like that there was no real love story,” Curtis said, further explaining:

“The original ending of the movie was much darker. The costume designer and I had a really great time costuming this character, and in a department store in London on sale, we found a pair of shark shoes, and we bought them because we just thought, ‘Well, she’s just a shark.’ And we wore them in that last scene, and literally the last shot of the movie was going down my leg and freeze framing on the shark shoe. And right then, you knew she was going to take him for everything. The minute they got off the plane, she was going to bop him on the head, take the stuff, and leave.”

8. CLEESE CUT A BIG CHUNK OF THE CATHCART TOWERS SCENE.

In addition to changing the ending, Cleese cut several minutes from the film’s penultimate scene, in which Archie tries to get the stuttering Ken (Palin) to telling him where Wanda, Otto, and the diamonds are. Ken, whose stutter gets worse under pressure, can’t seem to utter the two words “Cathcart Towers.”

Initially, the scene was a Monty Python-esque series of increasingly absurd stunts—Ken attempting to sing the words (which remains in the final film), Archie trying to feed a tissue through a typewriter, Ken writing in toothpaste on a window—but Cleese worried the scene, which arrives at the climax of the film, was overly long and dragging the plot down, and so deleted most of it.

9. ONE AUDIENCE MEMBER LAUGHED HIMSELF TO DEATH.

Ole Bentzen, a Belgian audience member, was so tickled by the scene in which Ken has French fries stuck up his nose, that he actually laughed himself to death. The scene reminded him of a similar experience at a family dinner, in which his family had shoved cauliflower up their noses to great comic effect. He began laughing so hard, his heart rate escalated dangerously, causing a fatal heart attack.

10. IT WAS NOMINATED FOR THREE OSCARS.

Comedy movies rarely fare well at the Oscars, but A Fish Called Wanda was an exception. The film was nominated for three awards: for Best Original Screenplay (for Cleese and Crichton), Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Kline, who took home the statuette.

11. IT WAS THE TOP VIDEO RENTAL OF 1989.

A Fish Called Wanda beat a number of higher-budget blockbuster movies, including Die Hard (1988) and Coming to America (1988), as well as the Oscar-winning Rain Man (1988), to become the top video rental of 1989. Its success was due, in part, to an advertising partnership with Cadbury Schweppes, which plastered grocery stores for weeks with ads for the film.

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TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

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