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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.

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

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That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

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4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

Buy at Cost Plus World Market.

8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

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9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy comping on your mug to worry about humans.

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13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

Buy on Amazon.

15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

Buy on Amazon.

16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

Buy on Amazon.

17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

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