20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

17 Surprising Facts About Misery

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Based on a 1987 Stephen King novel, Misery starred Kathy Bates in an Oscar-winning performance as Annie Wilkes, a nurse and huge fan of author Paul Sheldon, portrayed by James Caan. When Annie finds Sheldon after a car accident, she takes the author into her home and holds him hostage, torturing him and preparing to kill him once she discovers that he has killed off her favorite character, Misery Chastain. Here are some facts about the movie that will keep you from being a lying ol’ dirty birdy.

1. ANNIE WILKES WAS A METAPHOR FOR DRUGS.

The author had substance abuse issues during the time he wrote the novel. King told The Paris Review, “Annie was my drug problem, and she was my number one fan. God, she never wanted to leave.”

2. KING WOULD ONLY SELL THE MOVIE RIGHTS TO ROB REINER.

After Reiner’s work on his Stand By Me, King would only agree to let Reiner’s production company, Castle Rock, get involved with Misery if the former All in the Family actor either produced or directed it. At a Misery screening, King was enjoying himself so much that he yelled, “Watch out. She’s got a gun!” during the film’s climax.

3. BETTE MIDLER TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF ANNIE WILKES.

Midler thought it was too violent. She later called herself “stupid” for her decision. The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and All the President's Men screenwriter William Goldman wrote Misery with then unknown but respected theater actress Kathy Bates in mind.

4. JAMES CAAN WAS FAR FROM THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY PAUL SHELDON.

Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, and Robert Redford all said no to the role of Paul Sheldon. William Hurt said no twice. Warren Beatty showed a lot of interest and gave Reiner and Goldman ideas for the character before having to turn them down, too, because he had to keep working on Dick Tracy.

5. THERE WAS A BIG DEBATE AS TO WHETHER TO KEEP THE FOOT AXING SCENE IN THE MOVIE, AND IT COST THEM A DIRECTOR.

In the book, Annie chops off one of Paul’s feet with an axe. George Roy Hill—director of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and Slap Shot—agreed to direct Misery, then quickly changed his mind once he realized he couldn’t handle the lopping scene, which Goldman insisted be left in. This led Reiner to just direct it himself. It also may have influenced him to change the script for Annie to “just” break Paul’s ankles. Goldman later admitted Reiner was right.

6. BATES WASN’T HAPPY THAT THE SCENE WAS CHANGED.

Bates was initially disappointed that the axe scene was changed to the sledgehammer. 

7. BATES ENDED UP GETTING UPSET OVER THE VIOLENCE.

Caan recalled that his co-star was crying when it came time to shoot that infamous scene. Bates also cried before shooting the fight sequence at the end.

8. CAAN’S FAKE LEGS WERE MOLDED OUT OF GELATIN.

Armatures with wire were inserted into the prosthetic ankles so that after Annie hit them with the sledgehammer, they would bend at the desired, gruesome angles. There were holes so that Caan could slip his real legs up to the knee.

9. REINER STUDIED ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIES TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO SHOOT A THRILLER.

He watched every Hitchcock film. Reiner had Hitchcock on the brain so much that Caan overheard Reiner chastising himself one day on set, asking himself, “Who do you think you are, Alfred Hitchcock?”

10. IT WAS SHOT IN GENOA, NEVADA.

“Nevada’s oldest town” stood in for Silver Creek, Colorado. The crew built a cafe, a radiator shop, a sheriff’s station, and a general store. Cast and crew also utilized the Genoa Bar and Saloon.

11. CAAN HAD TO STAY IN BED FOR 15 WEEKS OF SHOOTING.

Caan said he thought that Reiner was playing a “sadistic” joke on him, knowing the actor wouldn’t enjoy not moving around for so long. Caan wasn’t used to playing a reactionary character, and found it much tougher to play.

12. FUTURE MEN IN BLACK DIRECTOR BARRY SONNENFELD WAS THE CINEMATOGRAPHER.

For a scene where Caan had to crawl out of bed, Sonnenfeld spit on the hardwood floor to indicate where Caan should crawl up to. The Godfather actor claimed to Reiner and Sonnenfeld it was the only movie he ever worked on where someone was hocking his marks.

13. BATES AND REINER AGREED ON AN UNWRITTEN, UNSPOKEN ANNIE BACKSTORY.

Used to giving her characters rich backgrounds to help her find her voice, Bates and Reiner agreed that Annie was molested by her father as a child. It helped explain for Bates why Annie had a history—as explained in the book and in the movie—of killing infants and old people in her nursing care.

14. CAAN AND BATES CLASHED OVER THEIR ACTING METHODS.

Caan believed in as little rehearsal as possible. Bates, with her theater background, was used to practicing a lot. When Bates commented to Reiner that Caan wasn’t attempting to relate or listen to her, Reiner told her to use that frustration toward her character.

15. BATES TOOK HER FRUSTRATION PRETTY FAR.

Reiner picked up on Bates getting more and more isolated as the shooting progressed, and told Bates to leave Annie Wilkes behind when the work day was done.

16. CAAN ONCE SHOWED UP TO THE SET HUNGOVER.

All of the scenes he shot that day were unuseable. Reiner told Caan he had to do the scenes again because there was “a problem at the lab.” When Caan learned it had nothing to do with labs, he offered to cover the money he lost the studio.

17. GOLDMAN ADAPTED THE SCRIPT FOR THE STAGE.

The theatrical version of Misery premiered in 2012, and just debuted on Broadway starring Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
HighSpeedInternet.com
The Most Popular Netflix Show in Every Country
HighSpeedInternet.com
HighSpeedInternet.com
most popular Netflix show in each country map
HighSpeedInternet.com
most popular Netflix show in each country map key
HighSpeedInternet.com

If you're bored with everything in your Netflix queue, why not look to the top shows around the world for a recommendation?

HighSpeedInternet.com recently used Google Trends data to create a map of the most popular show streaming on Netflix in every country in 2018. The best-loved show in the world is the dystopian thriller 3%, claiming the number one spot in eight nations. The show is the first Netflix original made in Portuguese, so it's no surprise that Portugal and Brazil are among the eight countries that helped put it at the top of the list.

Coming in second place is South Korea's My Love from the Star, which seven countries deemed their favorite show. The romantic drama revolves around an alien who lands on Earth and falls in love with a mortal. The English-language show with the most clout is 13 Reasons Why, coming in at number three around the world—which might be proof that getting addicted to soapy teen dramas is a universal experience.

Pot comedy Disjointed is Canada's favorite show, which probably isn't all that surprising given the nation's recent ruling to legalize marijuana. Perhaps coming as even less of a shock is the phenomenon of Stranger Things taking the top spot in the U.S. Favorites like Black Mirror, Sherlock, and The Walking Dead also secured the love of at least one country.

Out of the hundreds of shows on the streaming platform, only 47 are a favorite in at least one country in 2018. So no hard feelings, Gypsy.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios