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12 Fascinating Facts About Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

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Now he’s the guy who makes those frenetic Sherlock Holmes movies and used to be married to Madonna. But Guy Ritchie was once the guy who made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a smash hit in England, a cult hit in the U.S., and the instigator of a new cycle of rough British crime comedies. Not bad for a guy’s first feature film. Grab a cup of tea (the entire British Empire was built on them, you know), and enjoy these tidbits about some of London’s most unsavory characters.

1. MRS. STING HELPED IT GET MADE.

Trudie Styler, a producer, actress, and wife of Sting, found the screenplay in the mid-1990s and basically loved it. What she didn’t love was the presentation: “It wasn’t an easy read,” she said. “It was a very long, rambling screenplay with terrible typos, and really poorly presented.” (Sounds like Guy Ritchie is even more similar to Quentin Tarantino than we realized.) Fortunately, the substance of what Ritchie was trying to achieve shone through his inelegant presentation. He’d also made a short film, “The Hard Case,” that showed Styler his potential.

2. TOM CRUISE HELPED IT GET RELEASED IN THE U.S.

The film was having trouble finding an American distributor when Trudie Styler called an acquaintance of hers, a movie star named Tom Cruise. Would he be interested in attending a screening for potential buyers in Hollywood? Not to become a buyer himself, necessarily, but just to see the movie? Cruise went to the screening, surrounded by suits and number-crunchers, and was a vocal and enthusiastic viewer. Producer Matthew Vaughn later recalled, “It was hysterical. You had all these mid-level executives sitting there, and Cruise walked in. He saw them all sit up and pay attention, all getting on their phones, and suddenly all these senior executives joined the screening … At the end, Tom got up in front of everyone and said ‘This is the best movie I’ve seen in years, you guys would be fools not to buy it.’”

3. BRAD PITT WAS A FAN, TOO—WHICH IS WHY HE’S IN SNATCH.

When Mr. Jolie sees a movie he loves, he’s been known to call the person who made it. That’s exactly what he did with Guy Ritchie. “He called me and told me that he wanted to be part of whatever I was doing next,” the director said. That turned out to be Snatch. Pitt and Ritchie remain friends to this day (or to the day of that 2013 Esquire interview, anyway).

4. THE BUDGET STARTED AT £20,000,000 AND WAS GRADUALLY REDUCED TO £800,000.

The initial budget was probably unrealistic for a first-time filmmaker anyway, though it’s indicative of how highly regarded Ritchie’s screenplay was (typos and all). After a flurry of excitement, and even some auditions and casting, much of the financing fell through and the project was postponed. Ritchie started making cuts (including everyone’s salary) and found new backers (including his own godparents), but it took a couple years. By that time, the slick production had become a scrappy, low-budget one, which probably better suited the underdog tone of the story anyway.

5. RAY WINSTONE WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY HATCHET HARRY.

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The English character actor was originally cast in the role, but had to drop out when the aforementioned delays screwed up the schedule. He was replaced by P.H. Moriarty.

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Fittingly, Winstone went on to star in Sexy Beast (2000), a British gangster film clearly inspired by Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

6. THE JOKE ABOUT SOMEONE FORGETTING TO BRING THE GUNS WAS ADDED BECAUSE, UMM, SOMEONE FORGOT TO BRING THE GUNS.

“Have you forgotten those guns, you dozy prat?” Bacon (Jason Statham) asks when the guys are preparing to rob the other gang of robbers, about 73 minutes into the film. As it turns out, someone had indeed neglected to bring the prop guns to the set that day. With no time to retrieve them, Ritchie had Statham make a joke out of it.

7. JASON STATHAM WAS SELLING FAKE PERFUME ON THE STREET WHEN GUY RITCHIE FOUND HIM.

Statham was doing some modeling work in the mid-1990s, but to supplement his income he also sold fake jewelry and perfume on street corners—“hustling,” as he put it. (His dear old dad had done the same in his day.) It was in this capacity that he was introduced to Ritchie, who needed a con artist for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and who’d already cast Statham’s friend, Vinnie Jones. It was the beginning of Statham’s acting career, and presumably the end of his fake-perfume-and-jewelry-vending career.

8. OF THE 44 SPEAKING ROLES, AT LEAST 17 WERE PLAYED BY PEOPLE WHO’D NEVER ACTED ON FILM OR TV BEFORE.

To get the film made, Ritchie called in favors and even put crew members to work in front of the camera. He also cast a lot of unknown (read: inexpensive) fledgling actors. A handful of them, like Statham and former soccer player Vinnie Jones, went on to have acting careers. Several others didn’t, either staying behind the scenes or leaving the business altogether.

9. MADONNA LIKED THE SOUNDTRACK SO MUCH SHE RELEASED IT ON HER RECORD LABEL (AND THEN MARRIED THE DIRECTOR).

The Queen of Pop was among the movie’s famous fans, and was particularly fond of its eclectic Brit-rock soundtrack. She contacted Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn and asked if her label, Maverick, could release the film’s soundtrack in the U.S. Ritchie said she “wined and dined” them in Hollywood a few times, but that it was Vaughn she was romantically interested in, not him. Madonna and Ritchie did start dating, though. They were married in 2000 (and divorced in 2008).

10. IT GOT A NEW ENDING AFTER TEST SCREENINGS.

The movie originally left things open-ended, with the four main characters walking off with the money and Big Chris (Vinnie Jones) and his son about to follow them to get it back. Test audiences didn’t care for it. Scrambling, Ritchie came up with the new, more elaborate finale (written “on the back of a [cigarette] packet,” according to star Nick Moran, who played Eddy), and the cast was reassembled to film it some months after the initial shoot had ended. One problem: Jason Flemyng, who plays Tom, had grown his hair out for another project and couldn’t cut it, which is why Tom wears a stocking cap in the last several minutes of the movie.

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11. SUPERMODEL CLAUDIA SCHIFFER WAS LEFT ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR.

She played Eddy’s girlfriend but was cut from the film entirely after test screenings. (The movie doesn’t have much use for female characters in general.) Happy ending, though: it was here that she met producer Matthew Vaughn, whom she later married.

12. IT WAS TURNED INTO A TV SHOW.

Lock, Stock... (as it was called) ran for seven episodes in the U.K. in the summer of 2000, centering on the occasionally criminal adventures of four friends who run a London pub called The Lock. None of the movie’s cast members were involved, and all of the characters except Bacon were renamed (or maybe it’s a different Bacon, who knows?). Guy Ritchie co-wrote the pilot but otherwise was not heavily involved.

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The Terrible Crime at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin 
Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
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Some of the most horrific murders in Wisconsin history involved none other than famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wright was in the middle of building a home, which he named Taliesin, for himself and his mistress in Spring Green, Wisconsin. He had recently left his wife and six children for Martha "Mamah" Borthwick, whose husband Edwin Cheney had commissioned Wright to build a house in Oak Park, Illinois. Cheney may have a gained a Frank Lloyd Wright house, but he lost his wife—Mamah and Wright became close, even traveling to Europe together, sans spouses, in 1909. The Cheneys divorced in 1911; Wright’s divorce would take more than another decade to be finalized.

On August 15, 1914, Wright was away attending to the construction of Midway Gardens in Chicago when he got a terrible message. “Taliesin destroyed by fire,” it read, and that was all. For the time being, at least, Wright was spared the details: Their servant, Julian Carlton, had attacked Mamah, her children, and Taliesin workmen, pouring gasoline under the door and setting the home ablaze. When some of the victims broke windows and tried to escape, Carlton hacked at them from outside of the house with a hatchet.

The Ogden Standard, September 5, 1914
A news account of the tragedy, September 5, 1914
Library of Congress // Public Domain

While precise accounts of the crime vary, according to biographer William Drennan, Carlton first killed Mamah and her two children, 8-year-old Martha and 12-year-old John, while they were eating lunch on a porch, bludgeoning them with a hatchet. Once Carlton had taken care of them, he went to a dining room where the workmen were eating, locked them in, and set fire to the place.

In the end, eight people died—seven victims and the murderer himself. The victims included Mamah and her children, draftsman Emil Brodelle, gardener David Lindblom, handyman Tom Brunker, and Ernest Weston, the son of carpenter William Weston.

The murderer didn’t die right away, though. He swallowed hydrochloric acid soon after the attack, and died of starvation about seven weeks later. Despite being questioned, Carlton never did give a motive for his killing spree. There’s some evidence to suggest a series of disputes with the workers, however, and that Carlton had recently been told he was being terminated.

Taliesin
Taliesin as it looks today
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As for the absolutely devastated Frank Lloyd Wright, he rebuilt Taliesin in Mamah’s honor. The land may have been cursed, however, because this second reincarnation of the house was also destroyed by fire. In 1925, a lightning storm apparently ignited the wiring, sparking a conflagration that eventually burned the house down. Not one to be deterred, Wright built Taliesin III on the same spot. Today, the home is open for tours and events.

A version of this story originally ran in 2011.

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8 Animals That Have Been Imprisoned or Arrested
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It might seem like a case of animals just being animals, but when eight donkeys in northern India recently ate nearly $1000 worth of greenery in their small town, they did four days in the big house. (Perhaps part of the problem? They ate expensive saplings that were planted right near the jail. Rookie mistake.) But whether they harmed property or people, were in cahoots with human outlaws, or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, these eight other critters are proof that "crime" can sometimes be cuddly.

1. THE PIGEON THAT WAS ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF ESPIONAGE.

In 2015, officials in India arrested a pigeon they suspected was a spy. The bird’s body was stamped with a message written partly in Urdu—Pakistan’s official language—and what appeared to be a Pakistani phone number. It had landed in a village close to the country’s shared border with Pakistan, near the Kashmir region that’s claimed by both countries and has been the subject of multiple wars between India and Pakistan beginning in 1947. Though there was a ceasefire in 1972 (the current situation is that India controls 45 percent of Kashmir, Pakistan 35 percent, and China 20 percent), because both countries believe they have rights to the area, it's frequently the site of military clashes and infiltration.

So when a 14-year-old boy found the suspicious-looking pigeon so close to Kashmir, he turned it over to authorities. The officials took it to a veterinary hospital for x-rays, and though they couldn’t find any concrete evidence of foreign fowl play, they kept the bird in custody, recording it as a “suspected spy” in their police diary.

That said, not everyone took the news as seriously as the Indian police did: In the days following the bird’s arrest, Pakistani social media was flooded with memes depicting the feathered detainee as a slick 007 type, and amused internet users coined hashtags like #PigeonVsIndia and #IfIWereAPigeon.

2. THE BEAVER THAT WAS APPREHENDED FOR A DESTRUCTIVE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SESSION.

In December 2016, a wild beaver must have decided that forest trees weren’t festive enough, because it wandered into a dollar store in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, to browse Christmas trees and decorations. Workers noticed the animal knocking items onto the floor, and called the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office.

Captain Yingling of the sheriff's office arrived on scene to prevent the "shopping" beaver from ruining the store. “The suspect attempted to flee the area but was apprehended by Animal Control,” the sheriff's department joked on their Facebook page.

Instead of allowing the beaver to finish up its holiday shopping, the St. Mary's County Sheriff handed the critter over to a wildlife rehab center. As for the police, they said the quirky incident just marked another day on the job: “As a law enforcement officer, you just never know what your next call may be...” they mused on Facebook.

3. THE FOUL-MOUTHED PARROT IN INDIA THAT WAS ARRESTED FOR REPEATEDLY INSULTING HIS OWNER'S STEPMOTHER.

In 2015, police in the Indian state of Maharashtra taught a foul-mouthed parrot named Hariyal a lesson in politeness after they “arrested” it for swearing at an elderly woman named Janabai. According to locals, the pet bird had picked up the rude habit from Janabi’s stepson, Suresh Sakharkar. The two were embroiled in an ugly property dispute, and the latter had reportedly spent the prior two years training Hariyal to spout epithets whenever the estranged relation walked past his house.

The situation escalated, and Janabi, Suresh, and his bird were eventually called to the police station. “Police should investigate and seize the parrot,” the embittered stepmother told Indian news channel Zee News. That said, Hariyal must have known he was in hot water, because he kept his beak shut. “We watched the parrot carefully but it did not utter a word at the police station after being confronted by the complainant,” a police inspector told reporters.

Instead of locking Hariyal up, officials gave the parrot over to Maharashtra’s forestry department, where he can presumably fly—and curse—freely for the remainder of his life.

4. THE SQUIRREL THAT WAS ARRESTED FOR "STALKING" A GERMAN WOMAN.

While walking down the street in the West German city of Bottrop in 2015, a woman realized that she had attracted a furry stalker: a tiny red squirrel. The animal was chasing her and acting aggressively. Frightened and unable to flee the rodent, the woman called the police for help. Authorities captured the squirrel, “arrested” it, and brought it back to the station. There, they discovered that the critter was suffering from exhaustion.

Police helped nurse the squirrel back to health by feeding it honey, and a spokesman said the squirrel would be sent to a rescue center instead of languishing away in a cell for its stalkerish habits.

5. THE BAD MONKEYS IN INDIA THAT WERE IMPRISONED IN "MONKEY JAIL."

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In 2004, a rogue monkey became infamous for terrorizing residents of the city of Patiala, in India’s northern Punjab region. The monkey was guilty of multiple crimes: It stole food from homes, ripped the buttons off people's shirts, threatened kids with bricks, and once even swiped someone’s math textbooks and calculator. To keep the marauding jungle creature off the streets, officials sentenced it to “monkey jail”—a now-defunct detainment center in Patiala that was reserved for ill-behaving primates.

The “monkey jail"—which appears to have operated from 1996 until the mid-2000s—was located in the corner of a local zoo. The 15-foot-wide barred cell was secured with chain-link fencing and wire mesh, and had a sign that read: "These monkeys have been caught from various cities of Punjab. They are notorious. Going near them is dangerous."

Punjab is filled with countless wild Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) monkeys. Some of the animals have moved into cities and towns in search of food, as humans continue to destroy their natural jungle habitat. Others were once used as animal guards, or trained as performing monkeys, and were set loose by their owners once they turned violent. Particularly ill-treated or mischievous primates have been known to destroy property and pester—or even attack—humans. But since Hindus revere Hanuman, the monkey god, killing the creatures is verboten.

Wildlife officers in Punjab took matters into their own hands by opening the monkey jail. They responded to public complaints by capturing the creatures with trapping cages and tranquilizer guns. Once the monkeys were locked up, there was little to no chance of "parole."

As of 2004, there were 13 jailed monkeys, all imprisoned for harassing people or committing petty crimes. Patiala’s primate penitentiary was eventually closed, and authorities announced it was going to be replaced by “reform school" that's intended to train the monkeys to be less aggressive.

6. THE CAT WHO WAS DETAINED FOR HELPING OUT WITH A PRISON BREAK.

On New Year’s Day 2013, a cat took the heat for scheming Brazilian inmates who were likely either planning a jailbreak or attempting to communicate with outlaws on the outside. The white feline was slinking around the main gates of a medium-security prison in Arapiraca—a city in northeast Brazil—when guards noticed that its body was wrapped in tape. They apprehended the kitty, and discovered that it was carrying items including several saws and drills, an earphone, a memory card, batteries, and a phone charger.

Prison officer Luiz de Oliveira Souza told reporters that the cat had been seen entering and exiting the jail before. It had been raised by inmates, and was often in the custody of one of their families. However, officials couldn’t figure out which of the jail’s 263 prisoners had tried to use the feline for their own nefarious purposes: “It’s tough to find out who’s responsible for the action as the cat doesn’t speak,” a prison spokesperson told local newspaper Estado de S.Paulo.

Following the cat’s “arrest” and brief imprisonment, it was taken to a local animal shelter to receive medical treatment.

7. THE TOUGH PRISON PET THAT WAS ACTUALLY A VERY GOOD BOY.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary

Unlike some animals on this list, Pep the dog was a very good boy. But in 1924, Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot allegedly sentenced the dark-haired Labrador to a life sentence without parole. Pep was taken to Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, where officials jokingly gave him his own inmate number and mug shot. Reporters nicknamed the canine "Pep The Cat-Murdering Dog," as he was said to have killed the governor’s wife’s cat.

Thanks to all the media hype, Pep had quite the tough reputation. But a few years after the canine’s imprisonment, the governor’s wife, Cornelia Pinchot, set the story straight in an interview with The New York Times. Turns out, Pep had never murdered her pet feline; her family simply bred Labradors, and owned too many dogs. Pep, she said, was a gift to the prisoners to lift their spirits.

Today, researchers say that partisan journalists twisted the facts around, and that Pep was actually a beloved prison pet that freely wandered the hallways and was adored by all. As for the "life sentence without parole" part, the Lab was eventually moved to a newer prison; when he died, he was buried on its grounds.

8. THE FEISTY DONKEY IN MEXICO THAT WAS LOCKED UP TO SETTLE A SCORE.

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In 2008, police in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas arrested a feisty donkey named Blacky after it bit a man in the chest, and kicked a second man trying to rescue him. Police apprehended the burro and locked it in the jail’s drunk tank. “Around here, if someone commits a crime they are jailed, no matter who they are,” said Officer Sinar Gomez.

Police said that the donkey would remain behind bars until its owner, Mauro Gutierrez, paid the injured parties’ medical bills and salary for the days they missed work. The boisterous burro served three days in jail, and Gutierrez settled the score by paying Blacky's victims.

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