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17 Clear-Eyed, Full-Hearted Facts About Friday Night Lights

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Based on the 1990 book by Buzz Bissinger and the 2004 movie of the same name, Friday Night Lights was, and remains, a beloved, unflinching television drama about the residents of the (fictional) high school football-crazed town of Dillon, Texas.

1. IT WAS THE SECOND TIME NBC TRIED TO MAKE A FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS SERIES.

The network tried to get the rights to Buzz Bissinger’s book soon after it came out. When they couldn’t purchase them because the movie rights were sold first, the network aired an unofficial adaptation titled Against the Grain in the fall of 1993, which starred Ben Affleck (then 21 years old) as the starting quarterback. It lasted eight episodes. And yes, it aired on Friday nights.

2. KYLE CHANDLER CLAIMS HE COULDN’T COACH HIS WAY "OUT OF A PAPER BAG."

Kyle Chandler met with executive producer Peter Berg (also the co-writer and director of the movie, and Buzz Bissinger’s second cousin) for the role of Coach Eric Taylor supremely hungover, "and I had smoked, like, 20 cigars—it was either my birthday or someone else's birthday, but it was a big bash—and I hadn't shaved or probably showered in a few days," Chandler recalled to The Hollywood Reporter. "So I show up on my motorcycle, probably late, and I just remember [Berg] looking at me and going: 'That. That's exactly what I f***ing want right there, just do that.'" The actor isn’t a big football fan; he found inspiration for playing Taylor from reading a biography of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, but still swears, "I couldn't coach my way out of a paper bag."

3. TWO ACTORS REPRISED THEIR ROLES FROM THE MOVIE.

Connie Britton played the coach’s wife again. In the movie version she was Sharon Gaines, wife of Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton). In the series, she was Tami Taylor. Initially, she was reluctant to play the role until Peter Berg convinced her that Tami would have a job and a life of her own in the TV series.

Brad Leland played the team booster again. For two years, Leland (unsuccessfully) pleaded with the writers to give his character, Buddy Garrity, a girlfriend or wife.

4. ZACH GILFORD WAS WORKING AT A SPORTING GOODS STORE WHEN HE WAS CAST AS MATT SARACEN.

Gilford and one other actor were up for Saracen: The other actor was double-booked to audition for a made-for-TV Disney movie, so Berg gave the part to Gilford.

5. MINKA KELLY WAS WORKING IN A PLASTIC SURGERY CLINIC.

The future Lyla Garrity was making ends meet as a scrub nurse, preparing women for their lip and breast implants when she wasn’t auditioning.

6. TAYLOR KITSCH DRANK TWO BEERS IN HIS AUDITION TAPE FOR TIM RIGGINS.

He finished one tallboy, then opened a second one before introducing himself in his video and doing the "Texas forever" scene. When he was called in to test, Berg interviewed him sports reporter-style.

7. MOST OF THE DILLON HIGH STUDENTS WERE NOT TEENAGERS.

When the series debuted on October 3, 2006, Jesse Plemons (Landry Clarke) was 18 years old and Aimee Teegarden (Julie Taylor) was 17. Minka Kelly was 26, Taylor Kitsch was 25, Zach Gilford was 24, and Adrianne Palicki (Tyra Collette) was 23.

8. THE SHOW WAS FILMED IN AUSTIN.

Friday Night Lights was the first series to shoot in Texas's capital city since The Real World paid a visit the year before in 2005. Before that was Ned Blessing, a short-lived Western that ran on CBS in 1993 and was shot on Willie Nelson’s ranch. Producers rented homes around Austin for filming, and used the nearby Pflugerville High School's football field for many of the big game scenes.

9. THE UNIFORMS AND SOME FOOTBALL FOOTAGE WERE TAKEN FROM THE PFLUGERVILLE PANTHERS.

Real footage from Pflugerville High School's football games was mixed with the taped footage to create the game action. One Pflugerville football player claimed the show was a “huge distraction” when he was interviewed during the first season, and claimed a senior pep rally had to be canceled because of the show’s shooting schedule. Another player claimed that in real life, the coaches yelled a lot more.

10. NOT ALL OF THE ACTORS COULD PLAY FOOTBALL.

Actor Gaius Charles, who played Brian "Smash" Williams, wasn’t a very skilled football player. But Michael B. Jordan, who played Vince Howard, was known for having great quarterbacking skills. Taylor Kitsch had played hockey for 20 years before starring on the show, and was also a noted athlete.

11. THERE WERE NO REHEARSALS.

For each scene, three camera operators simultaneously followed the cast wherever they chose to go, as opposed to standard TV production, where the actors are given marks for where to sit or stand. (The actors wore body mics, so even if they wandered off far away from cameras, they could still be heard.) The process cut production time down to eight hours a day, but also caused problems: then-NBC president Kevin Reilly told producers to cut back on the “jiggly” camera style after the pilot.

12. JASON STREET’S STORY WAS INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS.

Berg was conducting research for the show when he witnessed 15-year-old defensive back David Edwards collide with the opposing team’s wide receiver in a 2003 high school football game. The injury left Edwards paralyzed from the neck down. He passed away in 2008.

13. TOM ARNOLD HELPED SAVE THE SERIES FROM CANCELLATION.

When Friday Night Lights was in danger of being cancelled after its second season, "Tom Arnold, me, and Ben Silverman were having Chinese food somewhere [during the Sundance Film Festival]," Eric Shanks, DirecTV's former executive vice president of entertainment, recalled to Grantland. "Ben was talking about how Friday Night Lights was on the bubble, and that the audience was passionate but not huge. He didn’t know if it could support a network audience anymore. We just kind of cooked up the idea of DirecTV and NBC partnering on the show right there over Chinese food. Actually, Tom Arnold gets all the credit because he was the guy that set up the dinner and put everybody together." This arrangement remained in place for seasons three through five.

14. KYLE CHANDLER NIXED ANY SEX SCENES.

A sex scene between Coach and Tami Taylor was shot for the season two premiere, but Chandler was so uncomfortable that the footage was never used—and no sex scene between the two characters was ever written into the show again. In another incident involving the Taylors in the bedroom, Brad Leland pulled a prank by jumping in bed with Chandler and Britton in just his gym shorts.

15. CHANDLER WORKED AS A VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER WHILE FILMING THE SERIES.

Chandler worked 24 hours a week at his local firehouse without telling the cast and crew. In 2011, the actor taped two local PSAs urging viewers to become volunteer firefighters.

16. THE FOOTBALL DIDN’T STOP WHEN THE SHOW ENDED.

At the series wrap party, the cast and crew went to an Austin honky-tonk called Midnight Rodeo, then played touch football at two in the morning on the old football field.

17. MITT ROMNEY WAS REPRIMANDED FOR USING "CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, CAN’T LOSE" IN A PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN SPEECH.

Peter Berg wrote a letter to the GOP candidate, accusing him of plagiarism. He ended the letter by imploring Romney to "Please come up with your own campaign slogan."

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

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Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC

At its best, San Diego Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.

1. MAN IN HARRY POTTER T-SHIRT STABS ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE—WITH A PEN

In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.

2. MEMORABILIA THIEVES INVADE NEW YORK

Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’s Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."

3. CATWOMAN SAVES THE DAY


John Sciulli/Getty Images for Xbox

Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”

4. MAN POSES AS FUGITIVE-SEEKING INVESTIGATOR TO GET INTO VIP ROOM

The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of 2016 and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Just a few months later, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

5. MAN WALKS 645 MILES TO COMIC-CON, DRESSED AS A STORMTROOPER, TO HONOR HIS LATE WIFE


Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Disney

In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.

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