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14 Revolutionary Facts About Les Misérables

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The world had never seen a musical quite like Les Miz before. After years of tweaks (and some terrible early press), this operatic take on Victor Hugo’s epic novel became an international sensation, beloved by millions. Let’s cross the barricade and have a closer look.

1. OLIVER! INSPIRED THE SHOW.

Both stories include a lovable, street-dwelling young rascal. In Oliver! he’s known as Jack Dawkins—or "the Artful Dodger"—and is arguably the musical’s most popular character. But when French lyricist Alain Boublil took in a London revival performance, he immediately thought of another literary troublemaker.

“As soon as the Artful Dodger came on stage,” Boublil recalled, “Gavroche came to mind. It was like a blow to the solar plexus. I started seeing all the characters of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables—Valjean, Javert, Gavroche, Cosette, Marius, and Eponine—in my mind’s eye, laughing, crying, and singing onstage.”

2. AT FIRST, LES MISÉRABLES DIDN'T MAKE MUCH OF A SPLASH.

Shortly after hatching his million-dollar idea, Boublil asked composer Claude-Michel Schönberg if he’d help him put together a new Les Miz rock opera. “Let’s do it,” replied the musician, who then started working on the show full-time.

Together, they created a concept album which broke the story down into ambitious, sweeping musical numbers. Released in 1980, it became a decently sized hit that sold 260,000 copies. This led to the first staged incarnation of Les Misérables, which debuted at Paris’ Palais de Sports arena a few months later. Though the production was well-attended, it wrapped after a three-month, 105-performance run.

Les Miz could’ve faded into obscurity right then and there—if one of the biggest names in show business hadn’t seen its true potential. British producer Cameron Mackintosh was the producer behind Cats, and as such, he had the theater world in the palm of his hand. In 1982, he obtained a copy of the Les Miz concept album and, liking what he heard, Mackintosh tapped lyricists James Fenton and Herbert Kretzmer to create an English-language version. Their Anglicized Les Miz would premiere in London in 1985 and reach Broadway in 1987.

3. THAT FAMOUS LOGO WAS TAKEN FROM AN ILLUSTRATION IN HUGO'S NOVEL.

Mackintosh’s Les Miz had an aggressive marketing campaign that demanded an instantly-recognizable emblem. London-based advertiser Russ Englin really delivered the goods. How? By turning his attention toward the source material.

Early editions of the Les Misérables novel often included artwork by Emile Bayard, Hugo’s favorite illustrator. By far the best known of these pieces was an ink drawing in which little Cosette sweeps up the Thenardiers’ floor, which appeared on the 1980 concept album. Englin simply cropped her head and shoulders from this image and placed a tattered French flag behind them.

4. “ON MY OWN” EVOLVED FROM ONE OF FANTINE'S SONGS.

In the French-language version, Fantine sings a regretful number called “L'Air de la Misère” (“The Poverty Song”), along with her other big showstopper, “I Dreamed a Dream.” However, Mackintosh felt that these tracks were a bit too similar. As he told The Guardian, “we didn’t want Fantine singing two ballads back-to-back before she expired—so we re-wrote [one] and gave it to Eponine.”

5. THE EARLY REVIEWS WERE ATROCIOUS.

When Les Miz opened in London’s Barbican Theatre, most critics panned it. The Observer’s Michael Ratcliffe dismissed the show as “a witless and synthetic entertainment.” Jack Tinker of The Daily Mail complained that “despite the grandeur of the music, the courage of the intentions, Les Misérables has, sadly, been reduced to The Glums.” And, in the mind of City Limits reporter Lyn Gardner, it was nothing but a “load of sentimental old tosh.”

Mackintosh was devastated—until he took a quick trip to the box office. There, he learned that in less than 24 hours after the maiden performance, Les Miz had sold an unprecedented 5000 tickets. “The public had just voted with its feet,” says Mackintosh, “… For me, it was a great lesson in the real power of word of mouth.”

6. TODAY, EACH PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE INCLUDES A WHOPPING 392 COSTUMES.

That translates to 5000+ individual articles of clothing—and 85 wigs!

7. DURING A PRE-BROADWAY MATINEE, ONE TECHNICAL SNAFU FORCED $120,000 IN TICKET REFUNDS.

Aude, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Broadway producers will often test out their shows in non-NYC theaters before taking them to the Big Apple. On December 26, 1986, Les Misérables began an eight-week stint at the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington D.C.

But, there was a major malfunction that first week. To get from scene to scene, the original Les Miz production famously used a rotating stage. Half an hour into the December 28 matinee performance, the turntable stopped working properly. Technicians found that, due to “glitches … in the controls,” it could only rotate at unsafe velocities. When the performance was subsequently canceled, $120,000-worth of ticket refunds had to be distributed.

8. “BRING HIM HOME” WAS SUNG AT JIM HENSON'S MEMORIAL SERVICE.

The man behind Kermit the Frog, Cookie Monster, and countless other great American characters adored this prayerful song. On May 16, 1990, 53-year-old Henson suddenly passed away. Five days later, droves of performers that he’d inspired and mentored gathered to honor their captain at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Among them was Muppet Show regular Louise Gold, who sang a beautiful rendition of “Bring Him Home” at the service.

9. THE ORIGINAL BROADWAY COSETTE WAS ALSO THE SINGING VOICE OF DISNEY'S POCAHONTAS.

Before taking on the Les Miz gig, Judy Kuhn worked with lyricist Stephen Schwartz on a musical called Rags, which flopped spectacularly and didn’t even live to see its fifth performance. But apparently she made a good impression on him. When Schwartz and fellow songwriter Alan Menken started toying with the idea of an animated film about Pocahontas, they asked Kuhn to record a conceptual song they’d put together called “Colors of the Wind.” She agreed and eventually did the heroine’s singing in the actual movie.

10. OUT OF PURE SPITE, LONDON'S FIRST FANTINE WORE MEN'S CLOTHES DURING ACT II.

Moonfall, Youtube

In the original British run, leads were required to change costumes and join the chorus when they weren’t playing their primary role. Stage icon Patti LuPone, who already had a Tony, was playing Fantine and really hated this policy. For a while, LuPone avoided chorus duty by pointing out that she was also doing another show at the time and needed to rest her voice. Once the other musical wrapped, however, this excuse fell apart. Frustrated, LuPone decided to be difficult and insisted on going out in drag for most of Act II. Today, most professional Fantines now follow her lead and wear male garments after intermission.

11. LES MISÉRABLES IS THE FIFTH LONGEST-RUNNING BROADWAY MUSICAL OF ALL TIME.

Only Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, The Lion King and Cats have enjoyed a longer Manhattan lifespan. Worldwide, over 70 million people have seen a professional production.

12. PRESIDENTS CLINTON AND OBAMA TURNED "ONE DAY MORE" INTO A CAMPAIGN SONG.

Late in Clinton’s ’92 presidential run, he had Les Miz’s stirring Act I finale played at a New Jersey rally. Our current commander-in-chief took a page from his fellow Democrat’s playbook and repeatedly used “One Day More” during the 2008 and 2012 races.

13. THE 2012 FILM VERSION HAD AN UNUSUALLY HUGE SOUND DEPARTMENT.

Director Tom Hooper made the unconventional—though not unprecedented—choice to record his actors live on-set, as opposed to taping their vocals in a studio beforehand. This approach demanded a sound crew that was three times larger than what an average film possesses.

“We all know movie sets are very noisy places,” says production sound mixer Simon Hayes. To muffle extraneous footsteps, off-screen carpets were laid down wherever the crew could find space for them. Additionally, a silent wind tunnel was used in lieu of standard wind machines.

14. QUEEN ELIZABETH II ONCE THREW A COMMAND PERFORMANCE IN HONOR OF THE LASTING ANGLO-FRENCH ALLIANCE.

In 2004, she treated French President Jacques Chirac to 40 minutes’ worth of Les Miz highlights at Windsor Castle. Also in attendance were British Prime Minster Tony Blair and one Cameron Mackintosh—who’d been knighted in 1996. Though some journalists felt that, given the occasion, presenting a British take on something as quintessentially French as Les Misérables was in poor taste, Mackintosh adamantly supported the Queen’s choice.

“This,” he said, “is the most successful and most exciting artistic collaboration between France and England ever, and it has a universal story about the triumph of the human spirit. What could be more suitable?”

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15 Fun Facts About Army of Darkness
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Universal Pictures

On February 19, 1993, Army of Darkness—the third installment in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise—made its way into U.S. theaters. You probably know all about Ash’s boomstick, but on the occasion of the hilarious horror comedy's 25th anniversary, it's worth a closer look.

1. ARMY OF DARKNESS ISN'T THE ENTIRE TITLE.

The film’s title is stylized onscreen as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness. This phrasing was Sam Raimi’s homage to the defunct Hollywood tradition of putting stars’ names in movie titles (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)—but the studio feared the long title would confuse moviegoers, so it was shortened for official purposes to just Army of Darkness.

2. EVEN THE SHORTER TITLE WASN'T RAIMI'S FIRST CHOICE.

Army of Darkness is the third installment of the Evil Dead series and the first to take place during the Middle Ages. Raimi’s original title for Army of Darkness was The Medieval Dead.

3. BRIDGET FONDA FINALLY GOT TO WORK WITH RAIMI.

Bridget Fonda makes a cameoas Ash’s girlfriend Linda during the beginning flashback sequence. She is the third actress in three films to play Linda (following actresses Betsy Baker and Denise Bixler). Fonda—a huge Evil Dead II fan—had originally auditioned to be in Raimi’s previous film, Darkman, but didn’t get the part.

4. ASH'S CAR HAD A LOT OF SCREEN EXPERIENCE.

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 allegedly appears in all of Sam Raimi’s films.

5. DARKMAN MADE ARMY OF DARKNESS POSSIBLE.

Raimi wanted to make Army of Darkness immediately following 1987’s Evil Dead II, but he struggled to find funding to finish his trilogy. The financial success of Raimi’s 1990 film, Darkman, eventually convinced Universal Studios to split the $12 million budget with executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.

6. A SUBTLE SCIENCE FICTION REFERENCE PLAYS A KEY ROLE.

The words Ash must utter to safely retrieve the Necronomicon (“Klaatu verata nikto”) are actually a variation on a phrase from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, “Klaatu barada nitko” is the phrase one must say to stop the robot Gort from destroying Earth.

7. THE SKELETON DEADITES WERE AN HOMAGE.

Their design is a tribute to visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

8. THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

Billy Bryan, the actor who portrays the second monster in the medieval pit, also portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

9. SAM RAIMI'S BROTHER WORE A LOT OF HATS.

Ted Raimi—who makes cameos in all of his brother’s films—appears as three different background characters in Army of Darkness. He is first seen as a sympathetic villager, then as a dying soldier during the final battle, and, finally, as an S-Mart employee in the last scene.

10. RAIMI HAD TO FIGHT FOR AN R-RATING.

In keeping with the gory first two films in the series, Army of Darkness received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was subsequently bumped down to an R rating after the filmmakers pointed out that the ostensible gore in the film was happening to skeletons.

11. PLAYING EVIL ASH WAS TOUGH FOR CAMPBELL.

It took makeup artists three hours to get Campbell ready for shooting.

12. RAIMI STORYBOARDED EVERY SINGLE SHOT IN THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

About 25 shots in the final battle are taken from storyboards originally used in the 1948 Victor Fleming film Joan of Arc, which were brought to Raimi’s attention by visual effects supervisor William Mesa. Mesa got them from a friend, who got them from Fleming himself.

13. THERE'S AN EASTER EGG FOR TREKKIES.

Star Trek fans will recognize the location where Ash learns the “Klaatu verata nikto” incantation. The scene was shot at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, where the famous “Arena” episode from Star Trek was also shot. The movie also shot in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park in Los Angeles that served as the Batcave for the 1960s Batman television show.

14. THE STUDIO CHANGED THE ENDING.

Bruce Campbell stars in 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
Universal Pictures

The original conclusion of the film—which Universal Studios deemed too negative—featured Ash taking too much potion to get back to the present day and waking up in a future, post-apocalyptic London. The ending can be seen on subsequent director’s cuts of home video versions of Army of Darkness.

15. EVEN AFTER YEARS OF TRYING, A SEQUEL NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Beginning in 2015, Bruce Campbell reprised his role as Ash in the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. While fans of the Evil Dead franchise love it, Raimi spent years trying to get a sequel to Army of Darkness off the ground. On the commentary track for the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Raimi even shared a few of the discarded ideas he had for the film.

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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
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getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Beery won for The Champ (writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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