13 Fascinating Facts About Natural Born Killers

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One of the most controversial movies ever made, 1994’s Natural Born Killers caught the attention of the media with its story about two mass murderers and the media’s boundless fascination with them. Here are some facts that know the difference between right and wrong, but don’t necessarily give a damn.

1. QUENTIN TARANTINO WROTE THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT.

It was titled Mickey and Mallory and focused more on the media than on Mickey Knox and Mallory Wilson. He sold the rights to the movie for $10,000 because he was unable to get it made himself (this was before Pulp Fiction). Tarantino ended up getting a story credit for Natural Born Killers, while Richard Rutowski, Oliver Stone, and David Veloz each got a screenwriting credit.

2. JAMES WOODS AND GARY OLDMAN WERE UP FOR THE PART OF DETECTIVE SCAGNETTI.

According to Tom Sizemore, he got the part of Detective Jack Scagnetti after writing a monologue for the character, which he made Oliver Stone listen to in the parking lot of a bar. In addition to reading up on Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, he got clean for 97 days before filming. Unfortunately, the sobriety didn’t last.

3. MICHAEL MADSEN ALMOST TOOK THE LEAD.

Michael Madsen was considered for the lead role of Mickey: "Oliver Stone wanted me, but the studios offered him an extra $20 million to cast Woody Harrelson," Madsen told The Guardian.

4. WAYNE GALE WAS PARTIALLY PATTERNED AFTER GERALDO RIVERA.

After briefly considering casting Geraldo Rivera himself in the role, Stone offered the part of TV tabloid journalist Wayne Gale to Robert Downey Jr. To prepare for the role, the actor spent some time with A Current Affair reporter Steve Dunleavy and his producer, Wayne Darwen. Both Dunleavy and Darwen have been individually credited as the inspiration for Downey’s character and his Australian accent.

5. RODNEY DANGERFIELD WROTE ALL THE "FILTHY STUFF" HIS CHARACTER SAID.

Oliver Stone didn’t give the comedian a script; he simply told Dangerfield he was going to play “the father from hell.”

6. STONE PLAYED LOUD MUSIC BETWEEN TAKES.

Sometimes it was “loud, industrial rock music” which was blasted through speakers to keep up the tension. Other times it was “African tribal music” being played at top volume.

7. THE SHOOT WAS A "NIGHTMARE" FOR THE DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY.

Cinematographer Robert Richardson’s wife became ill giving birth to their daughter, and told her husband that if he worked on Natural Born Killers she would divorce him (and eventually did). Adding to this stress: Richardson's brother ended up in a coma in the midst of production, the images he was shooting brought up bad childhood memories, and he broke a bone in his hand while shooting in the prison. Richardson “almost went mad” and described the experience of shooting Natural Born Killers as a “nightmare.”

8. THE PRISON SCENES WERE SHOT AT STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER.

The Illinois facility was also used in The Blues Brothers and Bad Boys. The more complicated scenes were shot in studios in Chicago on sets built to look like the prison. Actual prisoners were cast as extras, and paid $50 a day.

9. MICKEY AND MALLORY GOT MARRIED IN NEW MEXICO.

The unconventional wedding ceremony was shot on The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in Taos, New Mexico.

10. NO, COCA-COLA DIDN'T KNOW THEIR PRODUCT WOULD BE USED THE WAY IT WAS.

Coke agreed for their old polar bear commercial to be used in the movie, believing the ad would be shown while Tommy Lee Jones was watching the Super Bowl. Instead, it was juxtaposed with violence. The soda giant's board of directors was “furious,” but it was too late to do anything about it.

11. MICKEY AND MALLORY DIE IN THE ALTERNATE ENDING.

The killers survive in the final version because Oliver Stone believed that the 1990s were a time when the bad guys got away with it.

12. ROBERT DE NIRO WAS NOT PLEASED THAT JULIETTE LEWIS IMPROVISED.

Three years before Natural Born Killers, De Niro and Lewis had worked together on Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear. When De Niro praised her work in the film, Lewis explained that she improvised most of her lines, which De Niro did not like. He admonished the young actress for disrespecting the film's writers.

13. JOHN GRISHAM THOUGHT OLIVER STONE SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE ACTIONS OF MICKEY AND MALLORY COPYCATS.

Two of the most notable “copycat killers” to follow in the footsteps of Mickey and Mallory were Ben Darras and Sarah Edmondson, two Oklahoma teens who murdered businessman Bill Savage in Mississippi then shot and paralyzed convenience store clerk Patsy Byers in Louisiana. The teenagers claimed that their crime spree was inspired by Natural Born Killers, leading Byers's family to file a lawsuit against both Stone and Time Warner—an action that was fully supported by bestselling author/lawyer John Grisham, who was a personal friend of Savage's. Grisham claimed that because of the direct "causal link" between the film and the teens's actions, "the artist should be required to share responsibility along with the nutcase who pulled the trigger." The case against Stone and the studio was eventually dismissed.

8 Provocative Facts About the X Film Rating

iStock/tolgart
iStock/tolgart

When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) introduced the modern movie ratings system in 1968, they couldn’t have known that one of their classifications would become the calling card of pornography. The X rating, intended to denote films not suitable for anyone under the age of 17, went from being attached to Academy Award contenders to filling video store spaces located behind saloon doors. Fifty years after its debut, we’re taking a look at the most infamous letter in moviegoing history.

1. ACCEPTING THE RATING WAS VOLUNTARY (KIND OF).

In 1968, the MPAA and its president, Jack Valenti, introduced a four-tier system to classify films. G was suitable for all audiences; M was the equivalent of PG (which replaced M in 1970), indicating that juveniles should consult with a parent before attending; R was intended for adults, or children only with a guardian present; X marked films that shouldn’t be seen by adolescent eyes. But the MPAA never forced a film studio to submit to its decision. It could release a film with no rating at all. The problem? The MPAA’s arrangement with the National Association of Theater Owners meant that an unrated film would almost certainly have difficulty finding a theater to screen it.

2. A ROBERT DE NIRO MOVIE WAS THE FIRST TO GET SLAPPED WITH AN X.

Immediately after the introduction of the new MPAA system, the advisory board got its first bona fide sample of an X-rated submission: Director Brian De Palma’s Greetings, a 1968 film starring Robert De Niro as a New Yorker confronting the possibility of being drafted, garnered the rating due to its sexually explicit content, including nudity that would likely earn an R rating today. (De Palma would later run afoul of the MPAA multiple times; 1980's Dressed to Kill, 1981's Blow Out, and 1983's Scarface were all threatened with an X before being edited.)

3. FILMMAKERS COULD GIVE THEMSELVES THE RATING.

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Though it was quickly going to become taboo, there was a time when an X rating for a mainstream film was a badge of honor and an effective marketing tool that signaled a film was being made for discerning moviegoers—not just viewers looking for titillation. Arthur Krim, the head of United Artists, willingly gave 1969’s Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight film Midnight Cowboy an X of his own volition even after he realized the MPAA would give the film an R designation. (The MPAA later applied an R to the movie in 1971.)

4. IT WAS WELCOME AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS.

The X rating was not an impediment to critical or commercial acclaim. In 1970, Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture at the Academy Awards; Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971, earned four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture; Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972), starring Marlon Brando as a sex-obsessed American in France, got two nominations, including Brando for Best Actor.

5. THE XXX MARK MAY HAVE STEMMED FROM AN ALCOHOL DESIGNATION.

A neon XXX sign
iStock/07_av

In the hyperbole of film marketing, studios and advertisers didn’t believe one X was enough. Some films, like 1968’s Starlet!, were advertised as having an unofficial XXX designation to signify it was even more intense than other adult-oriented films. The label may have come from an old practice of denoting the strength of beer with a X, XX, or XXX label.

6. PORN TOOK OVER THE RATING DUE TO AN MPAA OVERSIGHT.

A rating of X in 1969 was no big deal. By the mid-1970s, it signaled to audiences that they were about to watch an anatomy lesson. That’s because the burgeoning adult film industry of the 1970s was screening films in theaters—VHS was not yet a household acronym—and blared advertisements with promises of “XXX” salaciousness. The MPAA never reviewed these films, and titles like 1972’s Deep Throat and 1978’s Debbie Does Dallas used the mark freely. The reason? The MPAA never bothered to copyright X as it applies to film ratings, allowing anyone to use it. In short order, the X rating became synonymous with pornography and grew into a scarlet letter for films. No reputable theaters would book such movies, and few newspapers would take ads for them.

7. PEOPLE COLLECT X-RATED FILMS.

The seedy, lurid films that applied their own X (or XXX) ratings in the 1970s and 1980s have developed a small but devout following of collectors who have a “strong desire to own, preserve, and reclaim erotic history,” according to one aficionado who spoke with The New York Times in 2014. These specialists focus mostly on the 16mm and 35mm films that were produced prior to the advent of VHS.

8. ONE STUDIO SUED OVER IT.

Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in 'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' (1989)
Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
The Criterion Collection

When the MPAA gave an X rating to the 1989 Pedro Almodóvar drama Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Miramax decided to sue, claiming such a label would harm the film financially. The studio lost the suit, but it signaled the end of the war.

In 1990, a year that saw 10 movies get slapped with an X, the MPAA overhauled the ratings system. It dropped the X in favor of NC-17, which it hoped would distance films with artistic merit from pornographic material. And this time, the pornography industry couldn't co-opt it: Learning from its past mistake, the MPAA trademarked the designation.

Stranger Things's David Harbour Shared Some Season 3 Spoilers—With Absolutely No Context

Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images

While Netflix likes to keep the details of Stranger Things a mystery, David Harbour, who plays Detective Hopper, likes to have fun with his fans.

Harbour posted a cryptic image to his Instagram which, while it clearly contains Stranger Things Season 3 spoilers in both the photo and the caption, does not give away any “context,” hence leaving us with very little real information.

Harbour did share that he has wrapped filming on season 3 of Stranger Things—and that we can kiss his mustache goodbye.

The mysterious post raises a number of questions. In the photo, Harbour rocks a hat that supports a local Hawkins business. The hat reads, "Gary's Plumbing & Heating, Warming Hawkins, IN since 1972."

We’re not sure if the hat is referencing the Gary already in the show, as he is the coroner, but we can’t wait to find out.

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