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7 Movies That Could Have Starred Daniel Day-Lewis

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Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Ah, Daniel Day-Lewis. God of Method acting, three-time Best Actor Oscar winner, and a famously selective actor who somehow still ended up in a movie with Fergie. The man has had a lot of cinematic flybys in his life—some for the better, some for the worse. Here are seven of them, in honor of his 60th birthday (on April 29).

1. THE LORD OF THE RINGS (2001)

Daniel Day-Lewis’ most famous could’ve-been is the role of Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which he turned down multiple times. The actor’s not too keen on big-budget studio franchises in general, saying in a 2009 interview that “I wouldn’t really want to be involved in making films I wouldn’t want to go and see … When I’m working on something I’m intrigued by, I’m never bored. I’m incapable of being bored. And if I found myself working on a film and during the course of that work I was bored, because I didn’t really know what the hell I was involved in, I would find that infinitely demoralizing and it might well make me decide to pack my bags.” Jackson would eventually settle on Viggo Mortensen for the role, though he’d have to go through several other actors first.

2. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994)

The Lord of the Rings wasn’t the first genre offering that Day-Lewis passed on. Back in the 1990s, he was offered the role of Lestat in Interview with the Vampire. At the time, however, he was filming In the Name of the Father and refused to read any scripts. According to a 1994 Premiere profile, Interview with the Vampire producer David Geffen called the actor’s agent “on an almost daily basis” over a period of months before Day-Lewis eventually declined. Tom Cruise filled out the fangs.

3. PHILADELPHIA (1993)

The lead role in Philadelphia is another one Day-Lewis said no to, to the apparent irritation of writer Ron Nyswaner. “Tom Hanks really wanted to play Andrew Beckett,” Nyswaner later recalled. “[Director] Jonathan [Demme] and I, and the producers, had been thinking of more, perhaps, conventional casting. Honestly, it was Daniel Day-Lewis. And Daniel Day-Lewis passed. We were so pissed off … [laughing] How dare he! This is going to be such an important picture! Tom Hanks and Jonathan Demme had lunch, and Tom Hanks said, ‘I think I can do this.’” Hanks would go on to win the Best Actor Oscar for the role, beating out Day-Lewis, who was nominated for In the Name of the Father.

4. PULP FICTION (1994)

This time, it was Day-Lewis who got turned down. Well, sort of. Pulp Fiction co-executive producer Harvey Weinstein hated Quentin Tarantino’s idea of casting John Travolta as Vincent Vega, as the Saturday Night Fever star hadn’t exactly been lighting the box office on fire at the time. As a result, Weinstein reached out to other actors, one of whom was Day-Lewis. He “and Bruce Willis, who was the biggest star in Hollywood, had both gotten their hands on the script and wanted to play Vincent Vega,” Tarantino’s agent, Mike Simpson, recalled to Vanity Fair. With the deadline to secure Travolta looming, Weinstein caved into Tarantino’s wishes. When Weinstein saw the finished film, according to Miramax’s then-head of production Richard Gladstein, he jokingly commented that, “I’m so glad I had the idea to cast John Travolta.”

5. SID AND NANCY (1986)

Early in his career, just around the time he was breaking out with My Beautiful Laundrette and A Room with a View, Day-Lewis expressed interest in playing Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, the role that would instead be Gary Oldman’s breakout. “I think [Day-Lewis] would have been very good, too,” said director Alex Cox. “He gives one the impression of possessing a soul, and would probably have handled the romantic aspect well. But Gary was an authentic Bermonsey boy … he really understood the ambitious aspect, the desperate need to get out of South London at all costs.”

6. TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009)

File this one under “not in a million years.” Terminator Salvation director McG wanted Day-Lewis for the cyborg role that would eventually go to Sam Worthington. “I’m looking for credible actors,” the director said while the movie was still in the casting process. “We’ve already got Christian Bale, who is one of the greatest actors of his generation [to play John Connor]. I’d love to get Daniel Day-Lewis, but I don't know if he goes in for this kind of movie.” Not so much.

7. BATMAN FOREVER (1995)

Equally unlikely, if not more so: According to actor Billy Baldwin, he and Day-Lewis were both on the shortlist of actors director Joel Schumacher was considering to play the Caped Crusader in Batman Forever. “Tim Burton and Michael Keaton had left, so Joel had the luxury of replacing Michael Keaton and he told me that his four choices—which was an eclectic, diverse array—were Daniel Day-Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, Val Kilmer, and me.” It was apparently studio Warner Bros.’ choice to go with Kilmer; one doubts Day-Lewis would have answered their calls.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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