22 Fun Facts About Scrooged

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Since the publication of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in 1843, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge has become familiar fodder for adaptations of all sorts—from ballets to operas to a mime performance by Marcel Marceau. But Richard Donner’s film adaptation, Scrooged, has one thing that sets it apart: Comedy.

Since its release in 1988, the holiday comedy starring Bill Murray as a ruthless television executive tasked with pulling off a live Christmas Eve broadcast of A Christmas Carol (starring Buddy Hackett, Jamie Farr, the Solid Gold Dancers and Mary-Lou Retton as Tiny Tim!) has become a contemporary classic. Here are 22 things you might not know about the movie.

1. THE FILM MARKED BILL MURRAY’S RETURN TO THE BIG SCREEN.

Though it’s easy to remember the 1980s as a decade packed with Bill Murray comedies, Scrooged marked a reemergence of sorts of the in-demand comedian. Though he had a brief cameo in Frank Oz’s 1986 remake of Little Shop of Horrors (playing a pain-seeking patient of Orin Scrivello, Steve Martin’s demented dentist character), Scrooged was Murray’s first major role following a self-imposed, four-year exile from Hollywood.

2. MURRAY REFERENCES LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS IN THE MOVIE’S CLOSING SONG.

Scrooged concludes with the cast and crew singing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” For his part, Murray went a bit off-script, adding in lines like “Feed me Seymour,” a direct reference to Little Shop of Horrors.

3. MANY MORE OF MURRAY’S LINES WERE AD-LIBBED.

In a 1988 interview with Philadelphia Daily News, Richard Donner discussed Murray’s penchant for improvisation and described the experience of directing Murray as follows: “It's like standing on 42nd Street and Broadway, and the lights are out, and you're the traffic cop.”

4. MURRAY HAD ORIGINALLY BEEN APPROACHED ABOUT THE MOVIE TWO YEARS EARLIER.

At that point, he wasn’t ready to jump back into the moviemaking fold just yet. “But when I wanted to work, the scripts were just not good,” Murray told Starlog Magazine in a 1989 interview.

5. BEFORE HE SIGNED ON FOR SCROOGED, MURRAY REQUIRED THAT THE SCRIPT BE REWORKED.


Paramount Pictures

“We tore up the script so badly that we had parts all over the lawn,” Murray told Starlog. “There was a lot I didn't like. To remake the story, we took the romantic element [Frank's relationship with his former girlfriend, Claire, played by Karen Allen] and built that up a little more. It existed in the script’s original version, but we had to make more out of it. The family scenes were kind of off, so we worked on that.”

6. THE MOVIE WAS AN SNL REUNION OF SORTS.

The script for Scrooged was written by Mitch Glazer and Michael O'Donoghue, whom Murray had worked with in the early days of Saturday Night Live.

7. EVEN PAUL SHAFFER WAS THERE.

Before he rose to fame as David Letterman’s musical director, Paul Shaffer was a member of the SNL house band from 1975 to 1980 and appeared in a number of sketches, most notably as the piano player to Murray’s Nick the Lounge Singer character. He makes a cameo in Scrooged as a street musician, where he plays alongside fellow musical legends Miles Davis, David Sanborn, and Larry Carlton.

8. A LOT OF FOOTAGE ENDED UP ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR.

“We shot a big, long sloppy movie, so there's a great deal of material that didn't even end up in the film,” Murray told Starlog. “It just didn't work. You tend to forget what was wrong. It's hard. I just figured that anyone who's good could step into this part and have a lot of fun with it. It's sort of a wicked character. The idea of making a funny Scrooge was an inspired touch. That's what was appealing to me about it.”

9. RICHARD DONNER HAD HIS RESERVATIONS ABOUT TURNING A CHRISTMAS CAROL INTO A COMEDY.

“It’s a thin line,” director Richard Donner told the Texas Archive of the Moving Image about getting the right tone for the film. “But you have two of the most irreverent writers in the world. You have the most irreverent humorist since W.C. Fields. And you say, ‘Let’s go!’ There’s a thin line you walk, but the line is broken—hopefully—in the end of the picture when you see a man evolve out of a situation.”

10. DONNER CALLS IT THE MOVIE WHERE MURRAY BECAME “AN ACTOR.”

Though Scrooged is mainly a comedy, it concludes with Murray’s character being a changed man, who has to deliver a rather dramatic speech in order to make his character’s transformation clear. But Donner told Philadelphia Daily News that what they witnessed in that pivotal scene was something much greater: “On the last take I saw something happen to Billy. I saw Billy Murray become an actor.”

11. DONNER SAVED THAT DRAMATIC SCENE FOR THE VERY END OF THE SHOOT.

“I always had my car parked facing the gate,” Donner joked to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image about how the film’s ultimate success hinged on that final scene. Which is why he saved it for the end. “When Bill Murray played off that last scene in the way that he did, I felt confident—and slightly insecure—but I felt confident that we had accomplished what we wanted,” said Donner.

12. FOR MURRAY, THE BIGGER CHALLENGE WAS CARRYING A MOVIE ON HIS OWN.


Paramount Pictures

Murray was a bona fide movie star by the time Scrooged hit theaters, but up until that point—in movies like Caddyshack, Stripes, and Ghostbusters—he had always been part of an ensemble cast. “Scrooged was harder [than Ghostbusters] because I was by myself, really,” Murray told Starlog. “Even though there are a number of people in the movie, they only had cameos. They would stroll in for a day or two and split. I was there every day, and it was like flunking grade school again and again.”

13. ROBERT MITCHUM’S CAMEO WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT MURRAY.

In one of the film’s many aforementioned cameos, Robert Mitchum plays Murray’s boss, Preston Rhinelander. But such a small role for such a major star wasn’t an easy sell, so Donner invited Mitchum to meet with Murray. “Mitchum was not going to play that small a part, but we said, ‘Well come in and meet Bill. Let’s rap, let’s talk,’” Donner recalled to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. “He came in and we never got a word in edgewise. He’s so wonderful with stories and we didn’t want to talk … The minute you get around Bill, you’re swooning. Everybody is.”

14. SCROOGED IS A MURRAY FAMILY AFFAIR.

Though seeing one of Bill Murray’s brothers in one of his films is nothing new, Scrooged features all three of them—John, Joel, and Brian Doyle-Murray.

15. IT TOOK 23 YEARS FOR THE FILM’S SOUNDTRACK TO BE RELEASED.


Paramount Pictures

It wasn’t until 2011 that Danny Elfman’s score for Scrooged was released. The album, which was limited to just 3000 copies, contained a total of 34 tracks, not all of which were included in the film. The final track is a bonus track that was actually created for Trading Places.

16. KEITH HARING'S WORK MAKES A COUPLE OF CAMEOS.

Look at the background throughout the film and you’ll likely spot Keith Haring’s “Free South Africa” poster on a few occasions. The same poster is seen in Lethal Weapon 2, also directed by Richard Donner, which was released the following year.

17. SAM KINISON WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST.

The part eventually went to David Johansen, and rumor has it that that happened because of Murray’s close friendship with the actor-musician. If Johansen’s face looks familiar to you, but not his name, that’s because he often went by a different name at the time: Buster Poindexter. Yes, the very same guy who sang “Hot Hot Hot.”

18. CAROL KANE DIDN’T HAVE MUCH FUN AS THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT.


Paramount Pictures

Though it’s a running gag throughout the film that Carol Kane, as The Ghost of Christmas Present, be rather abusive toward Murray whenever they meet, the task began to take a toll on the actress. Both Donner and Murray told Starlog that Kane would often break down on the set, and spend 20 minutes or so simply crying.

19. KANE’S SCENES WEREN’T MUCH FUN FOR MURRAY EITHER.

In one scene, Kane is supposed to grab Murray’s lip. Which she did—a little too well. “There's a piece of skin that connects your lip with your gums and it was really pulled away,” Murray explained of the scene to Starlog. “She really hurt me, but it was my idea to be physical and it was her idea just to hit me as opposed to pulling the punches.” Filming had to cease temporarily while Murray healed from the incident.

20. JOHN HOUSEMAN PASSED AWAY LESS THAN A MONTH BEFORE SCROOGED PREMIERED.

John Houseman is yet another one of the preeminent actors who made a brief appearance in Scrooged. Unfortunately, he passed away on October 31, 1988, less than a month before the film made its debut on November 23, 1988.

21. IT WAS THE LAST PERFORMANCE BY THE SOLID GOLD DANCERS.

In the telecast within the movie, one of A Christmas Carol’s selling points is that it will feature the Solid Gold Dancers as The Scroogettes. The movie would mark the small-screen dance group’s final aired performance, as Solid Gold the television series had been cancelled back in July.

22. THE STUDIO PLAYED UP GHOSTBUSTERS’ SUCCESS TO PROMOTE SCROOGED.

In an attempt to recapture the attention of Ghostbusters fans, the studio referenced the movie in Scrooged’s marketing materials, most notably with its tagline: “Bill Murray is back among the ghosts, only this time, it’s three against one.” The tactic probably didn’t get the studio the exact results it was looking for; while Ghostbusters was the second highest-grossing film of 1984 with $229,242,989 in box office totals, Scrooged made about a quarter of that ($60,328,558 to be exact) and was only the 13th highest grossing film of 1988.

Orson Welles's Former Hollywood Hills Estate Is Taking Vacation Reservations

Fred Mott, Getty Images
Fred Mott, Getty Images

Orson Welles's former Hollywood Hills estate is a perfect place to get away from society, grow a bushy beard, and brood over a bottle of whiskey.

Interested? The late Hollywood icon's 3000-square-foot home is available to rent for about $755 a night through HomeAway. The house, which sits on its own private 15,000-square-foot knoll, was home to Welles at the very beginning of his career and is where he wrote the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane. Bring along your typewriter and try to channel some of his greatness.

Quite a few other celebrities have inhabited the house as well, including Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. Features of the grand four-bedroom mansion—built in 1928—include a lagoon pool, Jacuzzi, deck, and both canyon and city views.

There's never been a better time to rent Welles's abode: his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is set to premiere at this month's Venice Film Festival before arriving on Netflix. The unfinished flick, which was shot intermittently between 1970 and 1976, has been completed and restored for its much-anticipated release. (Of course the mansion has plenty of TVs for your viewing pleasure.)

The property has a three- to five-night stay minimum, depending on the season. For more pictures, see below or head to HomeAway. And since you're already in vacation-planning mode, another creative celebrity abode to consider is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Montgomery, Alabama home, which is available to rent via Airbnb.

Orson Welles' house
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles mansion
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

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