15 Quirky Facts About Ally McBeal

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For everything that can be said about Ally McBeal, its uniqueness can’t be argued. David E. Kelley’s legal dramedy—which aired its season finale 15 years ago today—was the talk of the country in the final few years of the 20th century with its dancing babies and (controversially) willowy stars. Here are some things you might not have known about the series that launched the careers of Calista Flockhart, Portia de Rossi, Lucy Liu, and Jane Krakowski.

1. IT WAS CREATED TO BE ON AFTER MELROSE PLACE.

With the promise of full creative control, Fox asked David E. Kelley—whose legal drama The Practice debuted six months before Ally McBeal—to create a show that would keep females in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic from changing the channel after Melrose Place on Monday nights. Their general directive was to create a show about “young, ambitious, and sexually supercharged business executives.” The former lawyer decided to make his characters attorneys.

2. BRIDGET FONDA WAS OFFERED THE ROLE OF ALLY.

In 1999 Fonda said she "refused to read the script for fear I might really like it. I’ve never wanted to do TV. I love feature films too much.”

3. FLOCKHART WAS TIRED AT HER AUDITION.

The stage actress was one of “hundreds” of actresses who tried out for the part (including Lara Flynn Boyle). "I was jet-lagged and tired, so I just went in there and thought, 'Well, whatever happens, happens,'" Flockhart told People Magazine in 1998. "When she walked in on a cold reading, she just was Ally," Kelley added.

4. FLOCKHART AND GIL BELLOWS ALREADY KNEW EACH OTHER.

Before the role of Billy—Ally's ex-turned-boss—was cast, the producers wanted Gil Bellows and Flockhart (who had already been cast as Ally) to read together. "I knew Calista from New York and knew she was a great actress," Bellows told MovieWeb. "They said they'd like to see us in a room together, so we met up ... and we had a scene together and then just sat side by side and talked a little bit." The next day Bellows was told to "hop on a plane and come shoot the pilot." Even though Bellows initially only signed a one-year contract, his character stayed for three.

5. "TELL HIM" WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO BE THE THEME SONG.

Kelley wanted Vonda Shepard’s cover of the 1962 Bert Berns song "Tell Him" to kick off the episodes; Shepard and her manager were hoping that Kelley would choose her original song, “Searching My Soul,” instead. After speeding the song up and cutting it down to one minute, Kelley changed his mind and did just that.

"Searching My Soul" had been released by Shepard in 1991 who, after recording two albums for Warner Bros., was dropped by the label. Fortunately for her, Kelley was a fan.

6. THE DANCING BABY WAS ON THE WEB BEFORE IT WAS ON THE SHOW.

The dancing baby was born in 1996, when Michael Girard wanted to display the capabilities of his animation software product, Kinetix Character Studio. When an Ally McBeal executive producer saw it, he knew it would work for the show as a way to acknowledge Ally’s biological clock.

7. ALLY WAS ON A COVER OF TIME MAGAZINE THAT ASKED IF FEMINISM WAS DEAD.

A few months after Newsweek called her "the quintessential postfeminist,” TIME’s June 29, 1998 cover—which featured the faces of Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Ally McBeal—posed the question: Is feminism dead? In a season two episode, Ally told John Cage (Peter MacNicol) that she had a dream she was on the cover of TIME as "the face of feminism."

8. PORTIA DE ROSSI WAS AN ACCIDENTAL METHOD ACTOR.

De Rossi had studied law at the University of Melbourne. Her interest in law disappeared once her acting career got going and she subsequently moved from Australia to Los Angeles. In 1998, she joined the show and got her big break in Hollywood as attorney Nelle Porter.

9. LUCY LIU’S MANAGER MADE HER PLAY LING WOO.

Liu initially auditioned to play Nelle. Even though Kelley liked her enough that he created the character of Ling Woo for her, Liu was set on taking a role in a play over what was initially going to just be a one-time appearance. Her manager thought otherwise: "She told me I was going to pass on the play that time and I was going to do this show, and that was that," Liu told Metro in 2014. "Then, of course, it became such a part of the zeitgeist and changed my career."

10. FOR A SHORT TIME THERE WAS A HALF-HOUR SITCOM VERSION OF THE SHOW.

In 1999, Fox ran Ally—a show that re-edited previous episodes into 30-minute installments, cutting out the courtroom stuff and adding in some unused scenes in the process. (The hope was that a 30-minute version had a better chance at syndication.) Less than half of its regular one-hour audience tuned in, so it was canceled after 10 episodes.

11. COURTNEY THORNE-SMITH QUIT THE SHOW BECAUSE SHE WASN’T EATING ENOUGH.

The actress who played Georgia Thomas admitted she pushed herself too hard to look thin for the show. "I started undereating, overexercising, pushing myself too hard, and brutalizing my immune system," she told US Weekly. "The amount of time I spent thinking about food and being upset about my body was insane."

12. LISA NICOLE CARSON BATTLED WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER.

After Carson had a breakdown in a hotel room, the McBeal and ER actress was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Given medication, she returned to work on the show and told Essence that "Everybody on the show was wonderful to me, but my contract wasn’t renewed for the final season. Nobody gave me an explanation, but I assumed it had to do with what had happened. I was devastated."

13. ALLY WAS SUPPOSED TO MARRY ROBERT DOWNEY JR.

In season four, Robert Downey Jr. joined the series as lawyer Larry Paul, who was supposed to marry Ally in the season finale. The title of the episode in question—"The Wedding"—remained, even after Downey was arrested on a drug-related charge and Kelley was forced to re-write “The Wedding” entirely, without Downey's presence.

14. DOWNEY JR.’S LOSS WAS JOSH GROBAN’S GAIN.

The rewritten version of "The Wedding" centered around a high school student (played by Josh Groban) suing a girl for dumping him as a prom date. Groban’s singing performance at the end of the episode led to three interview requests the following morning; they were his first three interviews ever.

15. KELLEY WROTE OR CO-WROTE ALL BUT ONE EPISODE.

The season five episode “Blowin’ in the Wind” was the lone episode out of the series' 112 installments where Kelley didn’t receive a writing credit. He tended to write each episode on yellow legal pads, in four days.

11 Surprising Facts About Sylvester Stallone

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As streetwise boxer Rocky Balboa (in eight films) and haunted Vietnam veteran John Rambo (in five films), the man born Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone has made his brand of muscular melodrama a staple of the action film genre across five decades.

The latest Rambo chapter, Rambo: Last Blood, opens September 20. In the meantime, check out some of the more intriguing facts about the actor, from his modest beginnings as an accidental porn star to his peculiar rivalry with Richard Gere to his waylaid plans to run a pudding empire.

1. An errant pair of forceps gave Sylvester Stallone his distinctive look.

Many comedians have paid their bills over the decades by adopting Sylvester Stallone’s distinctive lip droop and guttural baritone voice. The facial feature was the result of some slight mishandling at birth. When Stallone was born on July 6, 1946 in Manhattan, the physician used a pair of forceps to deliver him. The malpractice left his lip, chin, and part of his tongue partially paralyzed due to a severed nerve. Stallone later said his face and awkward demeanor earned him the nickname “Sylvia” and authority figures telling him his brain was “dormant.” Burdened with low self-esteem, Stallone turned to bodybuilding and later performing as a way of breaking through what seemed to be a consensus of low expectations.

2. sylvester Stallone attended college in Switzerland.

A publicity still of Sylvester Stallone from the 1981 film 'Victory' is pictured
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Despite a tumultuous adolescence in which he was kicked out of several schools for misbehavior, Stallone eventually graduated high school while living with his mother in Philadelphia. He went on to attend American College, a university in Leysin, Switzerland, where he also worked as a gym teacher and dorm bouncer in addition to selling hamburgers on campus. It was there he became interested in theater—both acting and writing.

Stallone continued his education at the University of Miami before moving to New York with the hopes of breaking into the entertainment industry. While auditioning for parts, Stallone worked as a movie theater usher and cleaned lion cages at the zoo. He was fired from the theater for trying to scalp tickets to a customer. Unknown to Stallone, the customer was the theater owner.

3. Sylvester Stallone’s mother was an expert in “rumpology.”

Stallone’s parents separated while he was still a child. His father, a beauty salon owner named Francesco Stallone, was apparently prone to corporal punishment, and would cuff his young son for misbehavior. (Stallone was once caught swatting flies with a lead pipe on the hood of his father’s brand-new car.) His mother, Jackie Stallone—whom he once described as “half-French, half-Martian"—later grew interested in the study of rumpology, or the study of the buttocks to reveal personality traits and future events.

4. Sylvester Stallone had a small part in a porno.

Actor Sylvester Stallone is pictured during a promotional tour for the film 'Rambo' in Madrid, Spain in January 2008
Carlos Alvarez, Getty Images

While struggling to make it as an actor, Stallone was talked into making an appearance in Party at Kitty and Stud’s, a 1970 softcore adult film that was not as explicit as other sex features of the era but still required Stallone to appear in the nude. While he was initially hesitant to take the role, Stallone was sleeping in a bus shelter at the time. He took the $200 for two days of work. Following the success of Rocky in 1976, the film’s producers capitalized on their now-valuable footage and re-released it under the title The Italian Stallion. In 2010, a 35mm negative of the film and all worldwide rights to it were auctioned off on eBay for $412,100.

5. Sylvester Stallone wrote a novel.

In addition to his acting ambitions, Stallone decided to pursue a career in writing. After numerous screenplays, he wrote Paradise Alley, a novel about siblings who get caught up in the circus world of professional wrestling in Hell’s Kitchen. Stallone finished the novel before deciding to turn it into a screenplay. Paradise Alley was eventually produced in 1978. The book, which was perceived as a novelization, was published that same year.

6. Sylvester Stallone was not a fan of the Rambo cartoon series.

After the success of 1982’s First Blood and 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II, Stallone was confronted with a litany of Rambo merchandising. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune in 1986, he said he disliked that the psychologically-tortured war veteran was being used to peddle toys. “I couldn’t control it,” he said. “I tried to stop it, but I don’t own the licensing rights.”

On the subject of Rambo: The Force of Freedom, a 1986 animated series featuring a considerably softened-up version of the character, Stallone was resigned. “They’re going to make this Saturday morning TV cartoon show for kids with what they tell me is a softened version of Rambo doing good deeds. First of all, that isn’t Rambo, but more important, they tell me I can’t stop them because it’s not me they’re using. It’s a likeness of a character I played and don’t own.” The show lasted just one season.

7. Sylvester Stallone never planned on the Rocky series enduring as long as it has.

Through the years, Stallone has made some definitive declarations about the Rocky series, which has been extended to eight films including its two spin-off installments, 2015’s Creed and 2018’s Creed II. Speaking with movie critic Roger Ebert in 1979 shortly before the release of Rocky II, Stallone indicated Rocky III that would conclude the series. “There’ll never be a Rocky IV,” he said. "You gotta call it a halt.” In 1985, while filming Rocky IV, Stallone told Interview magazine that he was finished. “Oh, this is it for Rocky,” he said. “Because I don’t know where you go after you battle Russia.” In 1990, following the release of Rocky V, Stallone declared that “There is no Rocky VI. He’s done.” Upon the release of Rocky Balboa in 2006, Stallone once more declared he was finished. "I couldn't top this," he told People. "I would have to wait another 10 years to build up a head of steam, and by that point, come on."

Creed was released nine years later. Following Creed II, he posted a message on Instagram that served as a “final farewell” to the character. Several months later, in July 2019, Stallone told Variety that, “There’s a good chance Rocky may ride again” and explained an idea involving Rocky befriending an immigrant street fighter. It would be the ninth film in the series.

8. Sylvester Stallone was offered the lead role in Beverly Hills Cop.

Actor Sylvester Stallone is pictured during production of the 1978 film 'Paradise Alley'
Central Press/Getty Images

In one of the more intriguing alternate casting decisions in Hollywood history, Stallone was originally offered the Axel Foley role in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. Not wishing to make a comedy, Stallone rewrote the script to focus more on the action, as Detroit cop Foley stampedes through Beverly Hills to find his friend’s killers. Stallone described his version as resembling “the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan on the beaches of Normandy” and said his climax involved a game of chicken between a Lamborghini and an oncoming train. Producers opted to go in another direction. It became one of Eddie Murphy’s biggest hits. Stallone would later use some of his ideas for a rogue cop in the 1986 film Cobra.

9. Sylester Stallone does not get along with Richard Gere.

While filming 1974’s The Lords of Flatbush, in which Stallone and then-unknown actor Richard Gere both played 1950s street toughs, the two actors apparently got off on the wrong foot. Stallone recalled that Gere drew his ire for being too physical during rehearsals—and worse, getting mustard on Stallone during a lunch break. Incensed, Stallone demanded the director choose one of them to stay and one of them to be fired. Gere was let go and replaced by Perry King.

10. Arnold Schwarzenegger once tricked sylvester stallone into starring in a box office bomb.

Actors Sylvester Stallone (L) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) are photographed during the premiere of 'The Expendables 2' in Hollywood, California in August 2012
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Stallone has often discussed his rivalry with Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the two action stars were believed to be the two biggest marquee attractions in the 1980s. Recalling his 1992 bomb Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Stallone told a journalist in 2014 that he believed Schwarzenegger was to blame. “I heard Arnold wanted to do that movie and after hearing that, I said I wanted to do it,” he said. “He tricked me. He’s always been clever.”

11. sylvester Stallone wanted to create a pudding empire.

In 2005, shortly before Rocky Balboa resurrected his film career, Stallone embarked on a line of fitness supplements. His company, Instone, produced a pudding snack that was low-carb and high in protein. Stallone even appeared on Larry King to hawk the product. A legal dispute with a food scientist over the rights to the concoction dragged on for years and Instone eventually folded.

Highclere Castle—the Real-Life Downton Abbey—Is Available to Rent on Airbnb

Highclere Castle, used as the setting for Downton Abbey
Highclere Castle, used as the setting for Downton Abbey
Emily_M_Wilson/iStock via Getty Images

Have you ever wanted to spend a night in a castle? And not just any castle—the Downton Abbey castle, Highclere Castle? On November 26, one lucky couple will get the opportunity to relive the TV show and movie, when castle owners Lady and Lord Carnarvon will cordially invite one person and their guest of choice to spend the night in the castle, which is located in Hampshire, England—about 45 miles west of London. On October 1 (Airbnb reservations go live at noon BST) anyone with a verified profile, positive reviews, and passion for Downton Abbey can vie for the opportunity. Even though the castle has 300 rooms, they are only making one bedroom available, for $159.

Upon arrival, the royals will host cocktails with the guests in the saloon. Visitors will hear stories from more than 300 years of Highclere Castle history (construction on the castle began in 1679, and has been in the Carnarvon family ever since).

“I am passionate about the stories and heritage of Highclere Castle and I am delighted to be able to share it with others who have a love of the building and its history,” Lady Carnarvon said in the Airbnb listing.

The Earl and Countess will host a dinner for the guests in the state dining room, and afterwards have coffee in the library. Before bed, the guests’ butler will escort them to their gallery bedroom. The next morning, guests will receive a complimentary breakfast, a private tour of the 100,000-square foot castle and 1000-acre grounds, and a special gift from the Carnarvons. (Airbnb will also make a donation to The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.)

It should be noted the castle doesn’t have Wi-Fi or central air, but it does have fireplaces and central heat. There are a few rules guests must follow, though: all newspapers must be ironed; one butler per person; cocktail dress is required at dinner; gossip is restricted to downstairs; the listing is midweek because, as the Dowanger once said, “What is a weekend?”

If you don’t win the opportunity to stay at Highclere, all is not lost: you can tour the castle year-round.

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