12 Old Time Facts About Risky Business

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

On August 5, 1983, Tom Cruise—wearing Ray-Bans and his skivvies—starred in the teen dramedy Risky Business and slid his way into pop culture history. In his first starring role, Cruise dealt with a killer pimp named Guido, romanced a call girl named Lana, and charmed his way into Princeton. The film’s $63.5 million gross launched Cruise as a bona fide movie star, a title he still holds three decades later. Here are 12 things you might not know about the '80s classic, on its 35th anniversary.

1. AT ONE POINT THE MOVIE WAS TITLED WHITE BOYS OFF THE LAKE.

Because the movie took place, and was partly filmed, in Chicago’s affluent Highland Park suburb, located along Lake Michigan, writer-director Paul Brickman (who grew up in Highland Park) told Salon that, "The working title was White Boys Off the Lake. I think the studio rejected that because it sounded like an off-Broadway play. So we started doing word association to come up with a new title.”

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE CONFORMIST.

Brickman also told Salon that Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist was a huge influence on the film: “I thought, ‘Why can’t you present that as a film for youth and aspire to that kind of style and still have humor in it?’ That was the test: to meld a darker form of filmmaking with humor. Tone is what I wanted to play with.” Though Risky Business comes off as a satire about capitalism couched as a teen comedy, The Conformist is a political drama situated during Italy’s 1940’s Fascist regime.

3. THE DIRECTOR WAS NOT INITIALLY SOLD ON TOM CRUISE.


Warner Home Video

Cruise was filming The Outsiders in Tulsa, Oklahoma when he got the call to audition for Risky Business. Cruise told Interview, “Originally, Paul [Brickman] had seen Taps and said, ‘This guy for Joel? This guy is a killer! Let him do Amityville III!’ Somehow, my agent, without me knowing, arranged to have me just drop by the office to say hello. So I went in wearing a jean jacket, my tooth was chipped, my hair was greasy. I was pumped up and talking in an Oklahoma accent, ‘Hey, how y’all doing?’ Paul just sat there, looking at me.” Cruise returned to Tulsa but flew back to L.A. and auditioned again. “I walk in and see this stunningly gorgeous woman sitting there looking at me and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God,’” Cruise said. “Rebecca [De Mornay] had already been cast. They wanted to see the two of us together. I tested, and to make a short story long, we didn’t test that well. Paul just believed in me.”

4. CRUISE LOST WEIGHT IN ORDER TO LOOK MORE BABY-FACED.

According to an interview with Cruise in a September 5, 1983 issue of People, Cruise “shed 14 pounds in five weeks by jogging in the Florida sun and strict dieting. When he had reached his weight goal, he stopped exercising ‘so I could put on a little layer of baby fat’ for his unathletic character.” Cruise explained, “[Joel's] a very vulnerable person. I didn’t want any physical defenses up for him. No muscle armor at all.”  

5. CRUISE IMPROVISED THE UNDERWEAR SCENE.

In what became the movie’s most iconic moment, Cruise uses a candlestick holder as a mic and dances around his house to Bob Seger’s 1978 song “Old Time Rock and Roll." “I was just looking for something that was a timeless rock and roll piece that wouldn’t be dated,” Brickman told Yahoo! of his song choice. The scene wasn’t filmed at the Highland Park-located house; it was filmed at a schoolhouse in Skokie, Illinois.

Cruise told Cameron Crowe how the scene unfurled: “So I took the candlestick, and I said, ‘How about making this the audience?’ And then I just started ad libbing, using it as a guitar, jumping on the table. I waxed half the floor and kept the other half dirty, so I could slide in on my socks. As we went along, I threw more stuff in. Like the thing with the collar up, jumping on the bed. Originally, it was only one line in the script: ‘Joel dances in underwear through the house.’ We shot it in half a day.” And Cruise danced his way into history.

6. SEVERAL PARODIES EXIST OF THE SEGER DANCE SCENE—INCLUDING TWO INVOLVING BEN STILLER.

When Ron Reagan, Jr. hosted a 1986 episode of SNL, the cold open entailed Reagan being home alone at the White House, where he does what any First Kid would do: strip down to his underwear and dance to “Old Time Rock and Roll." During a scene in Scrubs, three of the characters hilariously recreate the dance moment. A 1992 episode of The Ben Stiller Show involves Stiller doing a spot-on impression of Cruise, who in the sketch is turning his life into a musical called Tom Cruise: Dress Casual, replete with a snippet of the underwear scene. Then, at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards, Stiller once again parodied Cruise—but this time as Cruise’s stunt double. Cruise appears in the skit as himself and allows Stiller to once again act out the underwear scene. The Stiller/Cruise comedic partnership continued years later when the good-humored Cruise worked with Stiller in the Stiller-directed 2008 film Tropic Thunder.

7. SEVERAL PORSCHE 928S WERE USED IN THE FILM.

“Porsche, there is no substitute,” Joel says as he speeds around town in his dad’s Porsche, only to have it later sink into Belmont Harbor. Porsche manufactured the 928 model from 1978 to 1995, and it was the first mass-produced Porsche with a V8 engine. Four of the 1979 models show up in the movie (and a 1981 model), including one that was gutted for the lake scene, and another that was painted gold. A collector tried to track down all of the Porsches but only found one of them, which he bought for $49,200 at a 2012 Hollywood memorabilia auction.

8. CRUISE THINKS THE FILM IS ABOUT CAPITALISM.

Ten years prior to casting Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, Cameron Crowe spoke with Cruise for Interview and asked him what he thought Risky Business was about. “It’s about today’s capitalistic society,” Cruise said, in 1986. “Do the means justify the ends? Do you want to help people, or do you just want to make money? Joel is questioning all of that. So am I ... I’m not saying I’m some erudite political figure—but it bothers me. At least I’m asking the question. The movie is Joel’s exploration of society, how he gets sucked into this wild capitalistic ride.”

9. THE MANUFACTURER OF THE CRYSTAL EGG WENT OUT OF BUSINESS IN 2011.

“I’m very disappointed in you,” Joel’s mom tells her son after she comes home from vacation to find her prized crystal egg cracked. Earlier in the film, hookers steal the egg from the mantel but return it to Joel by throwing it like a football. In real life, the egg was made by a century-old Corning, New York manufacturer named Steuben Glass Works, who made all kinds of prized pieces until they shuttered operations in 2011, mainly because the demand for crystal declined post-recession.

10. THE FILM WAS THE MOVIE DEBUT OF BOTH MEGAN MULLALLY AND BRONSON PINCHOT.

Before she was a Emmy-winning actress, Megan Mullally played a hooker in Risky Business. Wearing pink lingerie and with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth, she appears for just a few seconds. In the end credits she’s listed as “Call Girl.” Bronson Pinchot has much more screen time starring as Joel’s wise-cracking friend Barry. In a 2009 interview with The A.V Club, Pinchot said working with Cruise was “weird” and called Cruise “the biggest bore on the face of the Earth.”

11. TOM CRUISE AND REBECCA DE MORNAY DATED IN REAL LIFE.

Cruise has always been coy about his private life, but in 1986 he opened up to Rolling Stone about a girlfriend whom he fell in love with. “That girlfriend was his Risky Business costar, Rebecca De Mornay,” reads the article. “Despite their incendiary love scenes, they didn’t start dating until after the film’s release in late summer of 1983.” The long-distance relationship dissolved some time after Cruise shot the film Legend, in London, and before he went off to film Top Gun. “Relationships are hard,” Cruise told the magazine. “You have to know when you’re going to be in a different place from someone else, you have to have the strength to separate.” In 1987, Cruise married his first wife, actress Mimi Rogers.

12. TWO ENDINGS WERE SHOT, BUT BRICKMAN ONLY LIKED THE ORIGINAL.

At the end of Risky Business, Joel dines at a restaurant with Lana and he says, “I was just thinking where we’ll be in 10 years,” and she says they’re going to make it big. He asks, “Was this a setup?” and she says, “No.” Cut to them walking through a park at night and them talking about how they won’t be seeing each other for a while. She asks to spend the night with him and he jokingly asks if she has any money, and then his voiceover kicks in: “My name is Joel Goodsen. I deal in human fulfillment. I grossed over $8,000 in one night ... Time of your life, huh, kid?”

But in the alternate ending, they dine at the same restaurant and have a similar conversation. “Was our night together just a setup?” he asks Lana and she says “no” then adds “Why does it have to be so tough?” He summons her to come over and sit on his lap, which she does. The camera pulls back to reveal a stunning view of Lake Michigan (it’s obvious they’re dining inside the Hancock building). While still on his lap, the couple embrace and Joel’s voiceover is exactly the same except “time of your life” gets changed to “isn’t life grand?”—a subtle yet more sarcastic and ambiguous ending.

“We had to change the ending to make it more upbeat and commercial,” Cruise told Cameron Crowe. “Geffen Films felt it was too ... basically they felt it was a bummer, okay? At one point, Paul [Brickman] said he wouldn’t direct the new ending. They were going to hire another director to direct it. Paul really fought it. We all did … In the end, I think we got across the same point, though. Joel knows in his heart that this woman is more important than money.” At a 30th anniversary screening of the film, Brickman finally showed an audience the ending he had intended for the film.

15 Fascinating Facts About Schindler’s List

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

In 1993, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List brought to the screen a story that had gone untold since the tragic events of the Holocaust. Oskar Schindler, a Nazi party member, used his pull within the party to save the lives of more than 1000 Jewish individuals by recruiting them to work in his Polish factory. Here are some facts about Spielberg’s groundbreaking film on its 25th anniversary.

1. The story was relayed to author Thomas Keneally in a Beverly Hills leather goods shop.

In October 1980, Australian novelist Thomas Keneally had stopped into a leather goods shop off of Rodeo Drive after a book tour stopover from a film festival in Sorrento, Italy, where one of his books was adapted into a movie. When the owner of the shop, Leopold Page, learned that Keneally was a writer, he began telling him “the greatest story of humanity man to man.” That story was how Page, his wife, and thousands of other Jews were saved by a Nazi factory owner named Oskar Schindler during World War II.

Page gave Keneally photocopies of documents related to Schindler, including speeches, firsthand accounts, testimonies, and the actual list of names of the people he saved. It inspired Keneally to write the book Schindler’s Ark, on which the movie is based. Page (whose real name was Poldek Pfefferberg) ended up becoming a consultant on the film.

2. Keneally wasn't the first person Leopold Page told about Oskar Schindler.

The film rights to Page’s story were actually first purchased by MGM for $50,000 in the 1960s after Page had similarly ambushed the wife of film producer Marvin Gosch at his leather shop. Mrs. Gosch told the story to her husband, who agreed to produce a film version, even going so far as hiring Casablanca co-screenwriter Howard Koch to write the script. Koch and Gosch began interviewing Schindler Jews in and around the Los Angeles area, and even Schindler himself, before the project stalled, leaving the story unknown to the public at large.

3. Schindler made more than one list.

Liam Neeson, Agnieszka Krukówna, Krzysztof Luft, Friedrich von Thun, and Marta Bizon in Schindler's List (1993)
Universal Pictures

Seven lists in all were made by Oskar Schindler and his associates during the war, while four are known to still exist. Two are at the Yad Vashem in Israel, one is at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and one privately owned list was unsuccessfully auctioned off via eBay in 2013.

The movie refers to the first two lists created in 1944, otherwise known as “The Lists of Life.” The five subsequent lists were updates to the first two versions, which included the names of more than 1000 Jews who Schindler saved by recruiting them to work in his factory.

4. Steven Spielberg first learned of Schindler in the early 1980s.

Former MCA/Universal president Sid Sheinberg, a father figure to Spielberg, gave the director Keneally’s book when it was first published in 1982, to which Spielberg allegedly replied, “It’ll make a helluva story. Is it true?”

Eventually the studio bought the rights to the book, and when Page met with Spielberg to discuss the story, the director promised the Holocaust survivor that he would make the film adaptation within 10 years. The project languished for over a decade because Spielberg was reluctant to take on such serious subject matter. Spielberg’s hesitation actually stopped Hollywood veteran Billy Wilder from making Schindler’s List his final film. Wilder tried to buy the rights to Keneally’s book, but Spielberg and MCA/Universal scooped them up before he could.

5. Spielberg refused to accept a salary for making the movie.

Though Spielberg is already an extremely wealthy man as a result of the many big-budget movies that have made him one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, he decided that a story as important as Schindler’s List shouldn’t be made with an eye toward financial reward. The director relinquished his salary for the movie and any proceeds he would stand to make in perpetuity, calling any such personal gains “blood money.” Instead, Spielberg used the film’s profits to found the USC Shoah Foundation, which was established in 1994 to honor and remember the survivors of the Holocaust by collecting personal recollections and audio visual interviews.

6. Before Spielberg agreed to make the movie, he tried to get other directors to make it.

Part of Spielberg’s reluctance to make Schindler's List was that he didn’t feel that he was prepared or mature enough to tackle a film about the Holocaust. So he tried to recruit other directors to make the film. He first approached director Roman Polanski, a Holocaust survivor whose own mother was killed in Auschwitz. Polanski declined, but would go on to make his own film about the Holocaust, The Pianist, which earned him a Best Director Oscar in 2003. Spielberg then offered the movie to director Sydney Pollack, who also passed.

The job was then offered to legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who accepted. Scorsese was set to put the film into production when Spielberg had an epiphany on the set of the revisionist Peter Pan story Hook and realized that he was finally prepared to make Schindler’s List. To make up for the change of heart, Spielberg traded Scorsese the rights to a movie he’d been developing that Scorsese would make into his next film: the remake of Cape Fear.

7. The movie was a gamble for Universal, so they made Spielberg a dino-sized deal.

When Spielberg finally decided to make Schindler’s List, it had taken him so long that Sheinberg and Universal balked. The relatively low-budget $23 million three-hour black-and-white Holocaust movie was too much of a risk, so they asked Spielberg to make another project that had been brewing at the studio: Jurassic Park. Make the lucrative summer movie first, they said, and then he could go and make his passion project. Spielberg agreed, and both movies were released in 1993; Jurassic Park in June and Schindler’s List in December.

8. Spielberg didn't want a movie star with Hollywood clout to portray Schindler.

Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson auditioned for the role of Oskar Schindler, and actor Warren Beatty was far enough along in the process that he even made it as far as a script reading. But according to Spielberg, Beatty was dropped because, “Warren would have played it like Oskar Schindler through Warren Beatty.”

For the role, Spielberg cast then relatively unknown Irish actor Liam Neeson, whom the director had seen in a Broadway play called Anna Christie. “Liam was the closest in my experience of what Schindler was like,” Spielberg told The New York Times. “His charm, the way women love him, his strength. He actually looks a little bit like Schindler, the same height, although Schindler was a rotund man,” he said. “If I had made the movie in 1964, I would have cast Gert Frobe, the late German actor. That’s what he looked like.”

Besides having Neeson listen to recordings of Schindler, the director also told him to study the gestures of former Time Warner chairman Steven J. Ross, another of Spielberg’s mentors, and the man to whom he dedicated the film.

9. Spielberg did his own research.

In order to gain a more personal perspective on the film, Spielberg traveled to Poland before principal photography began to interview Holocaust survivors and visit the real-life locations that he planned to portray in the movie. While there, he visited the former Gestapo headquarters on Pomorska Street, Schindler’s actual apartment, and Amon Goeth’s villa.

Eventually the film shot on location for 92 days in Poland by recreating the Płaszów camp in a nearby abandoned rock quarry. The production was also allowed to shoot scenes outside the gates of Auschwitz.

10. The little girl in the red coat was real.

Promotional image for 25th anniversary rerelease of Schindler's List.
Universal Pictures

A symbol of innocence in the movie, the little girl in the red coat who appears during the liquidation of the ghetto in the movie was based on a real person. In the film, the little girl is played by actress Oliwia Dabrowska, who—at the age of three—promised Spielberg that she would not watch the film until she was 18 years old. She allegedly watched the movie when she was 11, breaking her promise, and spent years rejecting the experience. Later, she told the Daily Mail, “I realized I had been part of something I could be proud of. Spielberg was right: I had to grow up to watch the film.”

The actual girl in the red coat was named Roma Ligocka; a survivor of the Krakow ghetto, she was known amongst the Jews living there by her red winter coat. Ligocka, now a painter who lives in Germany, later wrote a biography about surviving the Holocaust called The Girl in the Red Coat.

11. The movie wasn't supposed to be in English.

For a better sense of reality, Spielberg originally wanted to shoot the movie completely in Polish and German using subtitles, but he eventually decided against it because he felt that it would take away from the urgency and importance of the images onscreen. According to Spielberg, “I wanted people to watch the images, not read the subtitles. There’s too much safety in reading. It would have been an excuse to take their eyes off the screen and watch something else.”

12. The studio didn't want the movie to be in black and white.

The only person at MCA/Universal who agreed with Spielberg and director of cinematography Janusz Kaminski’s decision to shoot the movie in black and white was Sheinberg. Everyone else lobbied against the idea, saying that it would stylize the Holocaust. Spielberg and Kaminski chose to shoot the film in a grimy, unstylish fashion and format inspired by German Expressionist and Italian Neorealist films. Also, according to Spielberg, “It’s entirely appropriate because I’ve only experienced the Holocaust through other people’s testimonies and through archival footage which is, of course, all in black and white.”

13. Spielberg's passion project paid off in Oscars.

Schindler’s List was the big winner at the 66th Academy Awards. The film won a total of seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director awards for Spielberg. Neeson and Ralph Fiennes were both nominated for their performances, and the film also received nods for Costume Design, Makeup, and Sound.

14. Schindler's List is technically a student film.

Steven Spielberg gives a speech
Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images

Thirty-three years after dropping out of college, Spielberg finally received a BA in Film and Video Production from his newly minted alma mater, Cal State Long Beach, in 2002. The director re-enrolled in secret, and gained his remaining credits by writing essays and submitting projects under a pseudonym. In order to pass a film course, he submitted Schindler’s List as his student project. Spielberg describes the time gap between leaving school and earning his degree as his “longest post-production schedule.”

15. Spielberg thinks the film may be even more important to watch today.

In honor of the film's 25th anniversary, it's currently back in theaters. But Spielberg believes that the film may be even more important for today's audiences to see. "I think this is maybe the most important time to re-release this film," the director said in a recent interview with Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News. Citing the spike in hate crimes targeting religious minorities since
2016, he said, "Hate's less parenthetical today, it's more a headline."

Additional Sources:
The Making of Schindler’s List: Behind the Scenes of an Epic Film, by Franciszek Palowski

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2015.

The Most-Searched Holiday Movie in Every State, Mapped

iStock.com/chrispecoraro
iStock.com/chrispecoraro

Do you live in a Gremlins state or a Home Alone state? StreamingObserver is here to tell you. The streaming-industry site recently used Rotten Tomatoes and other public data sources to figure out the most popular Christmas movies in each state. Spoiler: It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t quite the Christmas classic you thought it was.

The list takes some liberties with what might be considered a “Christmas” movie. Die Hard (a favorite in Missouri and Wisconsin) made the list, as did Batman Returns (California’s most-searched movie) and Edward Scissorhands (popular in Nevada and Arizona). They aren’t quite the traditional Hallmark holiday fare, but they each include at least some nod to the Christmas season.

Then there’s the more standard Yuletide entertainment, like A Christmas Carol (Tennessee’s favorite) and Frosty the Snowman (South Dakota's pick). Christmas in Connecticut, oddly enough, is Montana’s favorite (unclear whether that’s the 1945 film or the 1992 TV movie), while Connecticut’s favorite is the 1983 Eddie Murphy film Trading Places. The Apartment, The Snowman, Miracle on 34th Street, and The Best Man Holiday also make an appearance. Seven states list Gremlins as their favorite, while six chose Home Alone and three chose Scrooged.

The data is based on Google searches, rather than surveys, so it's possible that the movie at the top of each state's list isn't so much beloved as it is curiosity-inspiring. It's possible that all these people are Googling Gremlins, then deciding not to watch it. But we feel fairly confident saying a lot of people will be watching Die Hard this Christmas season. (Tip: You can't stream it on Netflix right now, but you can rent it on Amazon.)

The 2018 results are fairly different from StreamingObserver's 2016 data, which you can compare here. Do you agree with your state's preferences?

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