CLOSE
Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

12 Feathered Facts About 'Charlie's Angels'

Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

An all-female cast for a crime drama was practically unheard of when ABC premiered Charlie’s Angels on September 22, 1976. Would audiences tolerate a lack of testosterone in a television world inhabited by Erik Estrada?

They would, and in substantial numbers. By November, the show was seen by over half of all viewers watching television during its time slot, making stars out of Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith. Though the show would see regular cast changes throughout its five-year run, it never strayed from the formula: photogenic women caught up in private investigation cases provided by unseen benefactor Charlie Townsend. With its 40th anniversary around the corner, check out some facts about a proposed all-male spin-off, Farrah's abrupt exit, and how the Bionic Man affected their shooting schedule.

1. ABC HATED THE IDEA.   

ABC network executives Barry Diller and Michael Eisner were not at all sold on the premise of three female leads in an hour-long action series. When producer Aaron Spelling and partner Leonard Goldberg brought the project to them, they declared it “the worst idea we have ever heard.” Because Spelling had a deal from a previous television movie arrangement that guaranteed him $25,000 to script a new pilot, he convinced Eisner that they might as well get something for their money. Eisner agreed, and ABC commissioned a script.

2. THE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS THE ALLEY CATS.

Sony Pictures

The 1970s were a crucial decade for feminism, with women successfully putting forward the idea of gender equality. Which made it a bad time for a network to consider calling a female-led series The Alley Cats, which is what Spelling and Goldberg had originally proposed. Kate Jackson, who had more acting experience than any of the other leads and was initially designated the “star,” preferred it be called Harry’s Angels, after the original name of their unseen benefactor. When his name was changed to avoid confusion over the detective show Harry-O, the series settled on Charlie’s Angels.

3. THE ORIGINAL CHARLIE GOT FIRED FOR BEING DRUNK.

Producers decided on the novel concept of Charlie Townsend giving the Angels their case information via a Western Electric Speakerphone and never showing up in person. Spelling hired veteran actor Gig Young for what amounted to a voiceover role, but when Young showed up to record his lines, he was drunk. A frantic Spelling called John Forsythe (Dynasty) at 12:30 a.m. and begged him to perform the part before he had to turn in the pilot to ABC executives. Forsythe drove to the 20th Century Fox lot in his bedroom slippers to do Spelling the favor; he wound up on the show for its entire five-year run.

4. FARRAH FAWCETT’S CONTRACT STIPULATED SHE FINISHED SHOOTING IN TIME TO COOK HER BIONIC HUSBAND’S DINNER.

Farrah Fawcett, a.k.a. Farrah Fawcett-Majors, was known mainly for shampoo commercials and for being the wife of The Six Million Dollar Man star Lee Majors before being cast in Angels. While she would shortly eclipse Jackson as the star of the show—her agent, Jay Bernstein, planted her on as many magazine covers as possible—her primary focus was her marriage. Her contract with Spelling stipulated that she was finished with each day’s shooting at exactly 7 p.m. to make it home in time to cook dinner for Majors.

5. AT THE HEIGHT OF ANGELS MANIA, FAWCETT QUIT.

Sony Pictures

The show was an enormous hit for ABC, easily winning its time slot and delivering some of the best ratings the network had ever seen. What could go wrong? Plenty: before the end of the first season, Fawcett-Majors announced she was leaving the show. According to People, marital trouble and a desire to move to film work was behind the departure. ABC, which had a verbal agreement with her, sued. Eventually, Fawcett-Majors was released from her contract conditional on making six guest appearances during the next two seasons. Cheryl Ladd played her character’s sister, Kris Munroe, beginning in season two; ratings remained high.

6. THE SHOW WAS AFFECTED BY DUSTIN HOFFMAN.

Kate Jackson was already growing tired of the show’s simplistic narratives when the shooting schedule forced her to pass on an opportunity to star opposite Dustin Hoffman in 1979’s divorce drama Kramer vs. Kramer. The role went to Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar. A dismayed Jackson was alleged to have become more unpleasant on set, prompting producers to let her go before the start of the fourth season. Michelle Pfeiffer was considered before model Shelley Hack was brought in to replace Jackson.

7. THE FARRAH POSTER CAME BEFORE THE SHOW AIRED.

Fawcett-Majors adorned more bedroom walls than sheetrock in the late 1970s, having posed for a now-iconic bathing suit shoot that went on to sell over 12 million copies. The photographer, Bruce McBloom, was a friend of the Majors family and had been enlisted by ABC to take publicity shots during the filming of the pilot in 1976. Months later, McBloom got a call saying Fawcett-Majors was the only Angel who had agreed to pose for a poster; she insisted McBloom be the cameraman. He did the session at her house—with the actress swapping out a bikini for the red swimsuit—six months before Angels aired. In 2009, the outfit was donated to the Smithsonian.  

8. THE NETWORK ALWAYS WANTED TO SHOW CHARLIE.

Forsythe was never seen on camera in the series, but ABC continually pushed for an episode where the women would finally have a face-to-face with their boss. Producer Leonard Goldberg told the Archive of American Television that the network “talked often about the episode where you got to see Charlie. Every year the network would say, ‘Sweeps are coming. Let’s show Charlie.’” Ultimately, they couldn’t be persuaded.  

9. THE CLOTHES BUDGET WAS $20,000 PER EPISODE.

Charlie’s Angels stuck to its promise of glossy content, with viewers virtually guaranteed the ladies would fight crime while sporting the latest in high fashion. To that end, producers spared no expense in the show’s wardrobe department, allotting $20,000 per episode. (Even the shoes, which were rarely onscreen, were high-end.) Costumes were changed a minimum of eight times per hour. Fawcett-Majors broke some kind of record when, during one of her guest appearances, she sported 12 different outfits.

10. THEY VISITED THE LOVE BOAT.

To help draw attention to the 1979-80 season with new Jackson replacement Shelley Hack, Spelling had the team visit the dock of his highly successful series The Love Boat to investigate a $5 million stash of gold and bronze. While the network expected a ratings bump for Hack, it was not to be: the actress was written out of the show by the end of the season. She did not take it well. “A business decision was made,” she told People in 1980. “Change the time slot or bring on some new publicity. How to get publicity? A new Angel hunt. Who is the obvious person to replace? I am—the new kid on the block.” Tanya Roberts became the sixth (and final) Angel for the show’s last season.

11. AN ALL-MALE SPIN-OFF WAS ATTEMPTED.

Seemingly misunderstanding the appeal of Charlie’s Angels down to its very marrow, Spelling arranged for a spin-off titled Toni’s Boys. The Boys backdoor pilot, which was part of the show’s fourth season, featured three men going undercover at the behest of a female Charlie named Toni Blake (Barbara Stanwyck). Toni had a friendly rivalry with Charlie, and used a rodeo rider and athlete among her operatives. Spelling promised a series if the public “took to it,” which they did not.

12. REVIVAL ATTEMPTS HAVE RARELY BEEN SUCCESSFUL.

Getty

Fans have not been kind toward previous attempts to rekindle that ‘70s-era Angel aesthetic. While the Drew Barrymore-produced feature performed well in 2000, its 2003 sequel was a disappointment; Spelling himself tried with Angels ’88, which was victimized by a Writers Guild strike that year, was delayed for so long it became Angels '89 and then never aired; a 2011 revival made it only four episodes. It was recently reported that actress-director Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect) will try again for Sony Pictures.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Miramax
arrow
entertainment
11 Single Facts About Bridget Jones’s Diary
Miramax
Miramax

While it's not officially a holiday movie, so much of the action in Bridget Jones's Diary happens around the most wonderful time of the year that the rom-com has become essential wintertime viewing for many movie fans. Based on Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of a very single, and hopelessly romantic, working professional named Bridget (Renée Zellweger) who is determined to improve her love life. Enter two strapping gentlemen (Colin Firth and Hugh Grant) to vie for her heart. Get to know more about the timeless dramedy that’s been delighting audiences since 2001. Just as it is.

1. THE SOURCE NOVEL CAME ABOUT FROM AN ANONYMOUS COLUMN ABOUT SINGLE LIFE.

In the foreword of Bridget Jones’s Diary, author Helen Fielding wrote about how she came to conjure up the story: “The Independent asked me to write a column, as myself, about single life in London. Much as I needed the money, the idea of writing about myself in that way seemed hopelessly embarrassing and revealing. I offered to write an anonymous column instead, using an exaggerated, comic, fictional character. I assumed no one would read it, and it would be dropped after six weeks for being too silly.”

2. SEVERAL CHARACTERS ARE BASED ON PEOPLE IN HELEN FIELDING’S LIFE.


Miramax

These include Jude (Tracey MacLeod) and Shazzer (Sharon Maguire, also the film’s director). In a column for the Evening Standard, MacLeod described how she didn’t even realize she inspired part of her best friend’s story until Fielding’s book launch party. “At the launch party for the first Bridget book, I was cornered by a smug married friend, ‘So ... what's it like being Jude?’ she asked,” MacLeod writes. “I was outraged. Of course I wasn't Jude, with her self-help books and horrible boyfriend. My boyfriend wasn't anything like Vile Richard ... But as more people began to believe that Jude and Shazzer were thinly-veiled portraits of myself and Sharon, I secretly got to like the idea.”

3. TONI COLLETTE DECLINED THE LEAD, AND KATE WINSLET WAS CONSIDERED FOR IT.

Before Zellweger stole the show, Aussie Toni Collette and Brit Kate Winslet were up for the part. According to AMC, “Toni Collette declined the role because she was on Broadway starring in The Wild Party at the time, and Kate Winslet was considered but the producers decided she was too young.”

4. HUGH GRANT ONLY SIGNED ON WHEN RICHARD CURTIS WAS ANNOUNCED AS THE WRITER. 


Miramax

“The only reason [I was a hard sell] was because I didn't feel they had the script quite right for a long time,” Firth told Cinema.com. “And I kept saying, ‘It's not working. Just get Richard Curtis to come in and help rewrite it.’ Eventually they did, and as soon as Richard came on board, I signed on the dotted line. So that's all it was.”

5. RENÉE ZELLWEGER GAINED 17 POUNDS FOR THE PART.

Zellweger’s weight gain for the role had the media abuzz for a while. According to The Guardian, “In order to play the eponymous heroine in the film adaptation of Fielding's bestseller, the actress gained 17 pounds, consulting a dietitian and endocrinologist who devised a regime of three full meals a day, multiple snacks, and no exercise.”

6. ZELLWEGER WORKED AT PICADOR FOR THREE WEEKS.

Zellweger went full Method for her iconic role, and became a temporary employee of the Picador publishing house. “We came up with a plan: she would be Bridget Cavendish, Bridget for obvious reasons and Cavendish as she was to be passed off as the sister of Jonathan Cavendish, a friend of one of our company chairmen,” Picador publicist Camilla Elworthy told The Guardian. “That last bit at least is true, and no one was to know that Jonathan Cavendish was one of the film's producers.”

7. ZELLWEGER KEPT A PHOTO OF JIM CARREY ON HER DESK.


Miramax

While working at Picador, Zellweger kept a picture of Jim Carrey on her desk—which made her alter ego Bridget Cavendish seem like some sort of obsessed fan. “Under the name Bridget Cavendish, she answered phones, served coffee, and made photocopies—without being recognized by any of her co-workers, who offered career advice and wondered privately why she kept a photo of Jim Carrey (her then-boyfriend) on her desk,” noted Hollywood.com.

8. ZELLWEGER INVITED HER BOSS AT PICADOR TO BE AN EXTRA ON SET.

In Camilla Elworthy’s write-up for The Guardian, she noted how she became a part of the production. “Renée sent me a thank you letter and gift after she'd gone and I have seen her a few times since then," Elworthy wrote. "She invited me on to the film set one day. She informed me that I had to stick around and be an extra and made sure that I was put somewhere that I would be seen ... As a result, half my head can be seen for half a nano-second in the launch party scene.”

9. THE EPIC FIGHT SCENE BETWEEN GRANT AND COLIN FIRTH WASN’T CHOREOGRAPHED.

You can thank the two actors for the hilarity of the iconic scene. In a Vulture article about the greatest fight scenes in movie history, writer Denise Martin recalled the improvised spar, writing, “No stunt coordinators. No elaborate choreography. Just a perfectly realized wimp brawl between two upper-middle-class Englishmen coming to awkward fisticuffs in front of a Greek restaurant.”

10. FIELDING ASKED FRIEND SALMAN RUSHDIE TO CAMEO IN THE FILM.

Recalling how he came to be part of the film, famed novelist Salman Rushdie told Texas Monthly, “Helen Fielding, the author of the book, is an old pal of mine, and she asked if I’d come along and make a fool of myself, and I said, ‘Why not?’”

11. GRANT DIDN’T HEAR ZELLWEGER SPEAK IN HER AMERICAN ACCENT UNTIL THE FILM’S WRAP PARTY.

Zellweger was so engrossed with Bridget Jones that one of her leading love interests didn’t meet the real actress until the end of the shoot. “Not once did she stop speaking with that accent, until the wrap party,” Grant told Cinema.com, “when suddenly this weird ... Texan appeared. I wanted to call security, I didn't know who the f*ck she was!”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Universal Home Video
arrow
entertainment
15 Surprising Facts About Scarface
Universal Home Video
Universal Home Video

Say hello to our little list. Here are a few facts to break out at your next screening of Scarface, Brian De Palma’s gangsters-and-cocaine classic, which arrived in theaters on this day in 1983.

1. IT WASN'T THE FIRST SCARFACE.

Brian De Palma's Scarface is a loose remake of the 1932 movie of the same name, which is also about the rise and fall of an American immigrant gangster. The producer of the 1983 version, Martin Bregman, saw the original on late night TV and thought the idea could be modernized—though it still pays respect to the original film. De Palma's flick is dedicated to the original film’s director, Howard Hawks, and screenwriter, Ben Hecht.

2. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A SIDNEY LUMET FILM.

At one point in the film's production, Sidney Lumet—the socially conscious director of such classics as Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men—was brought on as its director. "Sidney Lumet came up with the idea of what's happening today in Miami, and it inspired Bregman," Pacino told Empire Magazine. "He and Oliver Stone got together and produced a script that had a lot of energy and was very well written. Oliver Stone was writing about stuff that was touching on things that were going on in the world, he was in touch with that energy and that rage and that underbelly."

3. OLIVER STONE WASN'T INTERESTED IN WRITING THE SCRIPT, UNTIL LUMET GOT INVOLVED.


Universal Home Video

Producer Bregman offered relative newcomer Oliver Stone a chance to overhaul the screenplay, but Stone—who was still reeling from the box office disappointment of his film, The Hand—wasn't interested. "I didn’t like the original movie that much," Stone told Creative Screenwriting. "It didn’t really hit me at all and I had no desire to make another Italian gangster picture because so many had been done so well, there would be no point to it. The origin of it, according to Marty Bregman, [was that] Al had seen the '30s version on television, he loved it and expressed to Marty as his long time mentor/partner that he’d like to do a role like that. So Marty presented it to me and I had no interest in doing a period piece."

But when Bregman contacted Stone again about the project later, his opinion changed. "Sidney Lumet had stepped into the deal," Stone said. "Sidney had a great idea to take the 1930s American prohibition gangster movie and make it into a modern immigrant gangster movie dealing with the same problems that we had then, that we’re prohibiting drugs instead of alcohol. There’s a prohibition against drugs that’s created the same criminal class as (prohibition of alcohol) created the Mafia. It was a remarkable idea."

4. UNFORTUNATELY, ACCORDING TO STONE, LUMET HATED HIS SCRIPT.

While the chance to work with Lumet was part of what lured Stone to the project, it was his script that ultimately led to the director's departure from the film. According to Stone: "Sidney Lumet hated my script. I don’t know if he’d say that in public himself, I sound like a petulant screenwriter saying that, I’d rather not say that word. Let me say that Sidney did not understand my script, whereas Bregman wanted to continue in that direction with Al."

5. STONE HAD FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE WITH THE SUBJECT MATTER.

In order to create the most accurate picture possible, Stone spent time in Florida and the Caribbean interviewing people on both sides of the law for research. "It got hairy," Stone admitted of the research process. "It gave me all this color. I wanted to do a sun-drenched, tropical Third World gangster, cigar, sexy Miami movie."

Unfortunately, while penning the screenplay, Stone was also dealing with his own cocaine habit, which gave him an insight into what the drug can do to users. Stone actually tried to kick his habit by leaving the country to complete the script so he could be far away from his access to the drug.

"I moved to Paris and got out of the cocaine world too because that was another problem for me," he said. "I was doing coke at the time, and I really regretted it. I got into a habit of it and I was an addictive personality. I did it, not to an extreme or to a place where I was as destructive as some people, but certainly to where I was going stale mentally. I moved out of L.A. with my wife at the time and moved back to France to try and get into another world and see the world differently. And I wrote the script totally f***ing cold sober."

6. BRIAN DE PALMA DIDN'T WANT TO AUDITION MICHELLE PFEIFFER.


Universal Home Video

De Palma was hesitant to audition the relatively untested Pfeiffer because at the time she was best known for the box office bomb Grease 2. Glenn Close, Geena Davis, Carrie Fisher, Kelly McGillis, Sharon Stone and Sigourney Weaver were all considered for the role of Elvira, but Bregman pushed for Pfeiffer to audition and she got the part.

7. YES, THERE IS A LOT OF SWEARING.

According to the Family Media Guide, which monitors profanity, sexual content, and violence in movies, Scarface features 207 uses of the “F” word, which works out to about 1.21 F-bombs per minute. In 2014, Martin Scorsese more than doubled that with a record-setting 506 F-bombs thrown in The Wolf of Wall Street.

8. TONY MONTANA WAS NAMED FOR A FOOTBALL STAR.

Stone, who was a San Francisco 49ers fan, named the character of Tony Montana after Joe Montana, his favorite football player.

9. TONY IS ONLY REFERRED TO AS "SCARFACE" ONCE, AND IT'S IN SPANISH.

Hector, the Colombian gangster who threatens Tony with the chainsaw, refers to Tony as “cara cicatriz,” meaning “scar face” in Spanish.

That chainsaw scene, by the way, was based on a real incident. To research the movie, Stone embedded himself with Miami law enforcement and based the infamous chainsaw sequence on a gangland story he heard from the Miami-Dade County police.

10. VERY LITTLE OF THE FILM WAS ACTUALLY SHOT IN MIAMI.

The film was originally going to be shot entirely on location in Miami, but protests by the local Cuban-American community forced the movie to leave Miami two weeks into production. Besides footage from those two weeks, the rest of the movie was shot in Los Angeles, New York, and Santa Barbara.

11. ALL THAT "COCAINE" LED TO PROBLEMS WITH PACINO'S NASAL PASSAGES.

Though there has long been a myth that Pacino snorted real cocaine on camera for Scarface, the "cocaine" used in the movie was supposedly powdered milk (even if De Palma has never officially stated what the crew used as a drug stand-in). But just because it wasn't real doesn't mean that it didn't create problems for Pacino's nasal passages. "For years after, I have had things up in there," Pacino said in 2015. "I don't know what happened to my nose, but it's changed."

12. PACINO'S NOSE WASN'T HIS ONLY BODY PART TO SUFFER DAMAGE.

Still of Al Pacino as Tony Montana in 'Scarface' (1983)
Universal Home Video

In the film's very bloody conclusion, Montana famously asks the assailants who've invaded his home to "say hello to my little friend," which happens to be a very large gun. That gun took a beating from all the blanks it had to fire, so much so that Pacino ended up burning his hand on its barrel. "My hand stuck to that sucker," he said. Ultimately, the actor—and his bandaged hands—had to sit out some of the action in the last few weeks of production.

13. STEVEN SPIELBERG DIRECTED A SINGLE SHOT.

De Palma and Spielberg had been friends since the two began making studio movies in the mid-1970s, and they made a habit of visiting each other’s sets. Spielberg was on hand for one of the days of shooting the Colombians’ initial attack on Tony Montana’s house at the end of the movie, so De Palma let Spielberg direct the low-angle shot where the attackers first enter the house.

14. SOME COOL TECHNOLOGY WENT INTO THE GUN MUZZLE FLASHES.

In order to heighten the severity of the gunfire, De Palma and the special effects coordinators created a mechanism to synchronize the gunfire with the open shutter on the movie camera to show the huge muzzle flash coming from the guns in the final shootout.

15. SADDAM HUSSEIN WAS A FAN OF THE FILM.

The trust fund the former Iraqi dictator set up to launder money was called “Montana Management,” a nod to the company Tony uses to launder money in the movie.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios