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15 Fun Facts About Time Bandits

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Starring Sean Connery, and co-written and directed by the one and only Terry Gilliam, Time Bandits told the story of a young boy named Kevin, who goes on an adventure through space and time with six little people determined to rob from history’s greats, while on the run from The Supreme Being, whose map of “time holes” they have stolen, and Evil himself. Here are some facts about the movie that aren’t evil, so you can touch them.

1. TERRY GILLIAM FIRST CAME UP WITH THE IDEA IN 1979.

Gilliam wanted to do an entire film from a kid’s point of view. The only problem was he felt he needed to give the protagonist child a group of people of similar height to surround him, because a kid couldn’t carry an entire movie. He combined those thoughts with the concept of committing crimes while time traveling, making it possible to get away with the thievery because it had not happened yet.

2. GILLIAM WANTED TO MAKE BRAZIL FIRST, BUT WASN’T ALLOWED TO.

Gilliam and the other members of Monty Python, along with former Beatle George Harrison, created a production company called HandMade Films, and installed their manager Denis O’Brien as the head of the company. O’Brien never understood Brazil, so "out of frustration" Gilliam came up with a family-friendly idea O’Brien couldn’t pass up. During his successful pitch of Time Bandits to O’Brien, Gilliam acted out the entire outline.

3. GEORGE HARRISON MORTGAGED HIS OFFICE BUILDING TO FINANCE THE FILM.

No studio wanted to make Time Bandits, so Harrison and O’Brien funded the filming for the necessary $5 million. Even though the film ended up being a financial and commercial success, Harrison was frustrated with Gilliam’s stubbornness, as evident by the lyrics to Harrison’s song “Dream Away,” which the musician wrote for Time Bandits and plays at the end of the movie. Harrison even once told Gilliam he reminded him of John Lennon—because he was so difficult and “bolshie.”

4. GILLIAM AND MICHAEL PALIN WROTE FOR AGAMEMNON TO BE "SEAN CONNERY OR AN ACTOR OF EQUAL BUT CHEAPER STATURE" IN THEIR SCRIPT, NEVER BELIEVING THEY WOULD ACTUALLY GET SEAN CONNERY.

In the early 1980s, Connery’s career was, as Gilliam described it, “at its nadir,” and Denis O’Brien was a golf partner of the former James Bond. Even more fortunately, Connery was a fan of the Pythons and signed up.

5. CRAIG WARNOCK WAS CAST AFTER GOING WITH HIS BROTHER TO HIS AUDITION.

Craig Warnock's brother Grant auditioned to play Kevin, but Gilliam was more interested in the quiet Craig. Gilliam has said he finds kid actors “too cute.”

6. MICHAEL PALIN WANTED TO PLAY ROBIN HOOD.

O’Brien wanted a bigger star for the most potential financial success, so John Cleese was called in instead. Palin wrote himself in as Vincent as a consolation.

7. CONNERY TOOK CONTROL ON THE FIRST DAY OF SHOOTING.

Gilliam hadn’t directed in years, and his first day back behind the camera took place on top of a mountain .. in Morocco ... in 130-degree heat. After struggling to get things right, Connery helped by strongly suggesting to his director that he shoot his parts first and let him leave before working with Warnock, who was living through his first day ever on a movie set. Connery also informed Gilliam they would deal with the star actually getting on the horse during post-production.

8. RALPH RICHARDSON TOOK PLAYING "SUPREME BEING" VERY SERIOUSLY.

He changed a bunch of his lines. When crossing out what Gilliam and Palin had written for him in red ink, he would sometimes say “God wouldn’t say that” while doing so.

9. THE LITTLE PEOPLE WERE WRITTEN BASED ON THE PERSONALITIES OF THE ACTORS.

For example, the character of Randall saw himself as the leader, as did David Rappaport, the actor who played him. Unfortunately for Rappaport, he also was gradually disliked by some of the other actors—among them Kenny Baker (Fidgit), better known as the man inside R2-D2 in the Star Wars movies—for not associating with them off-camera. Gilliam and Palin noticed this, and when they needed a new scene, it inspired them to write the part where the others turn on Randall

10. GILLIAM ACCIDENTALLY JUMPED AND LANDED ON SHELLEY DUVALL.

The director was demonstrating how safe it was to jump off a scaffold by jumping off of it himself. Gilliam meant to land around Palin and Duvall (she played Pansy in her first role after shooting The Shining), but instead landed on Duvall’s head.  She recalled the experience to Roger Ebert in December of 1980, telling the famed film critic, "I could have been paralyzed. As it is, there's just a pain that comes through my ears to my eye, and then goes away." The pain recurred about twice a week, for two minutes.

11. FIDGIT DIED SO CONNERY COULD LIVE.

Agamemnon was supposed to lead the group of archers and be crushed by the falling column. Connery could only film for 14 days though, so it was rewritten for Fidgit to take the fall.

12. CONNERY ENDED UP FIGURING OUT A WAY TO RETURN AGAIN.

Back at their first meeting, Connery told Gilliam he thought it would be great if he played the firefighter at the end. When the initial ending for Time Bandits wasn’t satisfactory enough for Gilliam, he remembered what his star said. And managed to convince Connery, who happened to be back in London to see his accountant that day, to go into the studio for two quick shots in a firefighter’s outfit. The scene wasn’t even written until a month later.

13. GILLIAM HAD TO FIGHT TO BLOW UP THE PARENTS.

O’Brien was only convinced that the violent ending could stay after an advance screening of the movie was held for an audience full of children. The first child who was asked what his favorite moment of the film was excitedly proclaimed, “The parents being blown up!”

14. A SCENE WHERE THE BANDITS TRY TO ROB A BANK IN 22ND-CENTURY LONDON WAS CUT.

In a scene that didn’t make it into the final film, Og (Mike Edmonds) got entangled by a tendril that dragged him into a cave. The tendril turned out to be yarn from two eight-footed old women who are knitting spider webs to capture knights. The scene was supposed to take place before the Bandits enter the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness. The footage has supposedly since been destroyed.

15. THERE HAS BEEN TALK OF A SEQUEL SINCE 1996.

Two drafts of a script for Time Bandits II were written. Then, in 2001, the Hallmark Channel announced it was bringing the movie back as a four-hour miniseries, but nothing ever came of it. In 2006, there was talk of the story continuing in comic book form, on the same day that the proposed comic book publisher’s dissolution was announced. Most recently, in April, Gilliam again mentioned that he was involved in a TV series based on the movie.

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The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
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Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
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The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

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The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

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15 Facts About the Summer Solstice
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It's the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, so soak up some of those direct sunrays (safely, of course) and celebrate the start of summer with these solstice facts.

1. THIS YEAR IT'S JUNE 21.

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The summer solstice always occurs between June 20 and June 22, but because the calendar doesn't exactly reflect the Earth's rotation, the precise time shifts slightly each year. For 2018, the sun will reach its greatest height in the sky for the Northern Hemisphere on June 21 at 6:07 a.m. Eastern Time.

2. THE SUN WILL BE DIRECTLY OVERHEAD AT THE TROPIC OF CANCER.

A vintage mapped globe showing the Tropic of Cancer
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While the entire Northern Hemisphere will see its longest day of the year on the summer solstice, the sun is only directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees 27 minutes north latitude).

3. THE NAME COMES FROM THE FACT THAT THE SUN APPEARS TO STAND STILL.

Stonehenge at sunrise.
CARL DE SOUZA, AFP/Getty Images

The term "solstice" is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because the sun's relative position in the sky at noon does not appear to change much during the solstice and its surrounding days. The rest of the year, the Earth's tilt on its axis—roughly 23.5 degrees—causes the sun's path in the sky to rise and fall from one day to the next.

4. THE WORLD'S BIGGEST BONFIRE WAS PART OF A SOLSTICE CELEBRATION.

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Celebrations have been held in conjunction with the solstice in cultures around the world for hundreds of years. Among these is Sankthans, or "Midsummer," which is celebrated on June 24 in Scandinavian countries. In 2016, the people of Ålesund, Norway, set a world record for the tallest bonfire with their 155.5-foot celebratory bonfire.

5. THE HOT WEATHER FOLLOWS THE SUN BY A FEW WEEKS.

Colorful picture of the sun hitting ocean waves.
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You may wonder why, if the solstice is the longest day of the year—and thus gets the most sunlight—the temperature usually doesn't reach its annual peak until a month or two later. It's because water, which makes up most of the Earth's surface, has a high specific heat, meaning it takes a while to both heat up and cool down. Because of this, the Earth's temperature takes about six weeks to catch up to the sun.

6. THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE GATHER AT STONEHENGE TO CELEBRATE.

Rollo Maughfling, the Archdruid of Glastonbury and Stonehenge, conducts a Solstice celebration service for revelers as they wait for the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge on June 21, 2012, near Salisbury, England.
Rollo Maughfling, the Archdruid of Glastonbury and Stonehenge, conducts a Solstice celebration service for revelers as they wait for the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge on June 21, 2012, near Salisbury, England.
Matt Cardy, Getty Images

People have long believed that Stonehenge was the site of ancient druid solstice celebrations because of the way the sun lines up with the stones on the winter and summer solstices. While there's no proven connection between Celtic solstice celebrations and Stonehenge, these days, thousands of modern pagans gather at the landmark to watch the sunrise on the solstice.

7. PAGANS CELEBRATE THE SOLSTICE WITH SYMBOLS OF FIRE AND WATER.

Arty image of fire and water colliding.
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In Paganism and Wicca, Midsummer is celebrated with a festival known as Litha. In ancient Europe, the festival involved rolling giant wheels lit on fire into bodies of water to symbolize the balance between fire and water.

8. IN ANCIENT EGYPT, THE SOLSTICE HERALDED THE NEW YEAR.

Stars in the night sky.
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In Ancient Egypt, the summer solstice preceded the appearance of the Sirius star, which the Egyptians believed was responsible for the annual flooding of the Nile that they relied upon for agriculture. Because of this, the Egyptian calendar was set so that the start of the year coincided with the appearance of Sirius, just after the solstice.

9. THE ANCIENT CHINESE HONORED THE YIN ON THE SOLSTICE.

Yin and yang symbol on textured sand.
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In ancient China, the summer solstice was the yin to the winter solstice's yang—literally. Throughout the year, the Chinese believed, the powers of yin and yang waxed and waned in reverse proportion to each other. At the summer solstice, the influence of yang was at its height, but the celebration centered on the impending switch to yin. At the winter solstice, the opposite switch was honored.

10. IN ALASKA, THE SOLSTICE IS CELEBRATED WITH A MIDNIGHT BASEBALL GAME.

Silhouette of a baseball player.
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Each year on the summer solstice, the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks celebrate their status as the most northerly baseball team on the planet with a game that starts at 10:00 p.m. and stretches well into the following morning—without the need for artificial light—known as the Midnight Sun Game. The tradition originated in 1906 and was taken over by the Goldpanners in their first year of existence, 1960.

11. THE EARTH IS ACTUALLY AT ITS FARTHEST FROM THE SUN DURING THE SOLSTICE.

The Earth tilted on its axis.
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You might think that because the solstice occurs in summer that it means the Earth is closest to the sun in its elliptical revolution. However, the Earth is actually closest to the sun when the Northern Hemisphere experiences winter and is farthest away during the summer solstice. The warmth of summer comes exclusively from the tilt of the Earth's axis, and not from how close it is to the sun at any given time. 

12. IRONICALLY, THE SOLSTICE MARKS A DARK TIME IN SCIENCE HISTORY.

Galileo working on a book.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Legend has it that it was on the summer solstice in 1633 that Galileo was forced to recant his declaration that the Earth revolves around the Sun; even with doing so, he still spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

13. AN ALTERNATIVE CALENDAR HAD AN EXTRA MONTH NAMED AFTER THE SOLSTICE.

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In 1902, a British railway system employee named Moses B. Cotsworth attempted to institute a new calendar system that would standardize the months into even four-week segments. To do so, he needed to add an extra month to the year. The additional month was inserted between June and July and named Sol because the summer solstice would always fall during this time. Despite Cotsworth's traveling campaign to promote his new calendar, it failed to catch on.

14. IN ANCIENT GREECE, THE SOLSTICE FESTIVAL MARKED A TIME OF SOCIAL EQUALITY.

Ancient Greek sculpture in stone.
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The Greek festival of Kronia, which honored Cronus, the god of agriculture, coincided with the solstice. The festival was distinguished from other annual feasts and celebrations in that slaves and freemen participated in the festivities as equals.

15. ANCIENT ROME HONORED THE GODDESS VESTA ON THE SOLSTICE.

Roman statue of a vestal virgin
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In Rome, midsummer coincided with the festival of Vestalia, which honored Vesta, the Roman goddess who guarded virginity and was considered the patron of the domestic sphere. On the first day of this festival, married women were allowed to enter the temple of the Vestal virgins, from which they were barred the rest of the year.

A version of this list originally ran in 2015.

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