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13 Oversized Facts About Boogie Nights

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New Line Cinema

Released on October 10, 1997, Boogie Nights starred Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a group of 1970s Los Angeles Valley-based adult film actors. The 155-minute feature was writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s sophomore feature, and also his breakout film. It received three Oscar nominations, including one for Reynolds (his first), and was a modest hit at the box office. The movie was loosely based on the life of legendary porn star John Holmes, and a short film Anderson made when he was still a teenager, 1988's The Dirk Diggler Story, about a well-endowed porn star. Here are some protruding facts about the epic dramedy, to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

1. WAHLBERG INITIALLY DIDN’T WANT TO BE IN THE MOVIE, BECAUSE OF SHOWGIRLS.

At this stage in Mark Wahlberg’s career, he had a hit song under the name Marky Mark, had done The Basketball Diaries—which is how Anderson discovered him—and was basically an underwear model. In Grantland’s oral history, Wahlberg explained why he didn’t want to read the script. “Showgirls had just come out. That movie was a disaster. And you know, coming from the underwear background, the music stuff, I was like, ‘Ehh, I don’t want to do this.’ But there was just so much hype around the script. So finally I started reading it. I got 35 pages into it, I put it down, I said, ‘I’ve got to meet the director.’ I said, ‘This guy either finally wants me to take the Calvin Kleins off, or he wants to make a really serious movie.’”

2. BURT REYNOLDS DISLIKED PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON AND THE MOVIE.

It’s no secret the pair didn’t get along on set. Reynolds, who played porn filmmaker Jack Horner, recently told GQ why their personalities clashed. “I think mostly because he was young and full of himself. Every shot we did, it was like the first time [that shot had ever been done].” He also told The Guardian that he turned down acting in Anderson’s follow-up, Magnolia, because “I’d done my picture with Paul Thomas Anderson, that was enough for me.”

In addition to not being a fan of Anderson, Reynolds didn’t like the movie either. “I just didn’t like the subject matter,” he told 11th Hour. “I thought I did a good job, I certainly worked hard on that film, but I was never crazy about it.”

3. REYNOLDS AND ANDERSON NEARLY CAME TO PHYSICAL BLOWS.

Burt Reynolds stars in 'Boogie Nights'
New Line Cinema

Everybody on the set knew Reynolds had a temper, and everybody knew the director and Reynolds didn’t quite get along. But there was an incident when the two almost got into a physical fight. One day on set Reynolds felt Anderson was disrespecting him. The film’s first AD, John Wildermuth, tells this story: “Burt got so frustrated he pulled Paul outside into the backyard and started yelling at him, like a father, you know? ‘You f--kin’ little punk kid, don’t tell me what to do.’” Actor Tom Lenk added, “All of a sudden we saw fists flying. We saw some fists flying from Burt Reynolds. I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this, but it was like he was trying to punch our director in the face.”

4. ANDERSON THINKS A GOOD PORN STAR NAME SHOULD HAVE TWO “G”S AND ONE “K” IN IT.

The director told NPR he’s not sure how he came up with the name Dirk Diggler, but for some reason he wrote the name down on an index card when he was 17 years old. “I mean, I think a good porn name has to have two Gs in it. It just—it just looks good and it sounds good for a good porn name. And you know, a K is pretty important, too. So you know, I wish I really knew, but it just kind of hit me like it hit him, I guess, like ‘Dirk Diggler,’ wow.” 

5. THE STUDIO HAD A PROBLEM WITH MULTITASKING ACTORS.

The original cut Anderson turned in to New Line Cinema would’ve been rated NC-17, so in order to get an R rating, he had to reedit some of the sex scenes. Their main issue? “They had a problem with humping and talking at the same time,” he told NPR. “And essentially it boiled to when they said ‘She's humping there and she’s talking. Can you pick one?’ And I said, ‘Well, the talking is more important.’ So we just went and shot a shot of Nina Hartley, and I said, ‘Nina, hump once, stop, say your lines, and we’ll move on.’ And we did that and put it in and got the R.” 

6. THERE ARE NO CHARACTER ARCS.

Mark Wahlberg as Dirk Diggler in 'Boogie Nights'
New Line Cinema

Instead of following the template of having the characters change and be different people at the end of the film, Anderson decided against it. “That doesn’t really happen here,” he told Indiewire in 1997. “Everybody is the same. Maybe if there’s a change, it’s like one degree. Normally you see a 90-degree change in a movie. To me, they’re all pretty much the exact same people as they were at the beginning of the movie.”

7. RON JEREMY CONSULTED ON THE MOVIE.

According to Grantland’s oral history, Anderson spent a year hanging out with legendary porn star Ron Jeremy, who’s listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as starring in the most porn films—2000 of them. “Nobody knew who Paul was or anything and Ronnie just, on good faith, immersed him in our business,” recalled adult film actress Veronica Hart. “And Ronnie ended up getting screwed out of the movie.”

Jeremy’s scene entailed being in a prison cell with The Colonel. Jeremy told The Independent that during the film’s production he invited Anderson and the cast to “a lot of my sets, but Burt Reynolds never came. He said, ‘I know porn: I don’t need to see that.’”

8. ALFRED MOLINA HAD NEVER HEARD “JESSIE’S GIRL” OR “SISTER CHRISTIAN.”

The London-born actor played drug dealer Rahad Jackson (supposedly based on Eddie Nash) and during the firecracker scene he sings along to two 1980s classics—Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and Night Ranger’s "Sister Christian." "When I said yes to the part, they sent me those two songs ... I knew neither of them because neither was released in England,” Molina told Grantland. “So I had to sit down for like three days on my own, playing those songs over and over and over so that I knew them backwards because they became so emblematic for the character.”

9. ANDERSON’S DAD—PLUS ROBERT DOWNEY JR.’S FATHER—INFLUENCED THE FIRECRACKER SCENE.

Alfred Molina in 'Boogie Nights'
New Line Cinema

Anderson’s father, Ernie, created a character named Ghoulardi for a Cleveland TV show, on which he’d sometimes set off fireworks on-air. The firecracker scene was also inspired by Robert Downey Sr.'s 1969 film, Putney Swope.

“If you watch Putney Swope ... there’s a wonderful piece of background action where a character throws a firecracker off in a scene and everyone turns around and looks,” Anderson told Creative Screenwriting. “I called up Robert Downey Sr. and I said, ‘You have a great piece of background action that I want to take and make a piece of foreground action.’ He said, ‘Great, be my guest.’”

10. THE FILM’S ENDING IS BASED ON RAGING BULL.

At the conclusion of the movie, Dirk Diggler recites his character’s dialogue while staring at himself in a mirror. He finishes with the quote, “I’m a star,” whereas in Raging Bull, Robert De Niro (as Jake LaMotta), quotes On the Waterfront and repeats, “I’m the boss.” “I was halfway through the scene when I realized I was writing something that really closely resembled Raging Bull,” Anderson told IndieWire.

“There’s an Al Pacino poster in [Dirk’s room in] the beginning of the movie, so you’ve got him playing Brock Landers playing Robert De Niro playing Jake LaMotta, playing Marlon Brando playing Terry (from On the Waterfront) doing Shakespeare. So you’ve got movie reference on top of movie reference. I just sort of stumbled into that, and thought not to shy away from stumbling into something that I had somehow sort of subconsciously gotten.”

11. ANDERSON SAYS THE MOVIE IS MOSTLY ABOUT FAMILY.

In 1998, Cinemattractions asked Anderson what he thought the film was about. “It’s about finding a family, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I know that sounds kinda preposterous, ‘cause it’s about porno! That’s a really kinda weird thing, is that you want to say ‘Well, it’s about the pornography industry’ and then you want to quickly say well, not really … But I think ultimately, the thing that I really liked most and really focused on is, that it’s about a lot of people searching for their dignity, and trying to find any kind of love and affection they can get. And they find it in really f***ked up and twisted ways—but they get it, you know?” But Anderson simplified the plot for Empire Magazine : “It’s about a guy with a big d**k."

12. WAHLBERG OWNS HIS PROSTHETIC APPENDAGE.

John C. Reilly and Mark Wahlberg in 'Boogie Nights'
New Line Cinema

Last year Wahlberg appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers, where he discussed the delicate process of making Diggler’s famed organ and revealed that, “It’s actually the only prop that I’ve ever kept from a movie. I didn’t think there would be that much interest in it. But maybe at some point I can sell it at auction for charity.”

13. ANDERSON ISN’T INTERESTED IN MAKING A SEQUEL, MAINLY BECAUSE HE THINKS MOST OF THE CHARACTERS WOULD BE DEAD.

When the website Moviehole asked Anderson if he’d consider doing a sequel to Boogie Nights, Anderson said no. “[But] you know, I wonder how many of these characters would even still be alive?” he pondered. “Probably a few of them, but I fear that most of them might be dead. I doubt Dirk Diggler’s still alive. He’d be probably gone. I couldn’t see him making it. I can see Burt Reynolds’ character Jack Horner still going on, though."

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14 Deep Facts About Valley of the Dolls
The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

Based on Jacqueline Susann's best-selling 1966 novel (which sold more than 30 million copies), Valley of the Dolls was a critically maligned film that somehow managed to gross $50 million when it was released 50 years ago, on December 15, 1967. Both the film and the novel focus on three young women—Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke), Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), and Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins)—who navigate the entertainment industry in both New York City and L.A., but end up getting addicted to barbiturates, a.k.a. “dolls.”

Years after its original release, the film became a so-bad-it’s-good classic about the perils of fame. John Williams received his first of 50 Oscar nominations for composing the score. Mark Robson directed it, and he notoriously fired the booze- and drug-addled Judy Garland, who was cast to play aging actress Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward took over), who was supposedly based on Garland. (Garland died on June 22, 1969 from a barbituate overdose.) Two months after Garland’s sudden demise, the Manson Family murdered the very pregnant Tate in August 1969.

Despite all of the glamour depicted in the movie and novel, Susann said, “Valley of the Dolls showed that a woman in a ranch house with three kids had a better life than what happened up there at the top.” A loose sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls—which was written by Roger Ebert—was released in 1970, but it had little to do with the original. In 1981, a TV movie updated the Dolls. Here are 14 deep facts about the iconic guilty pleasure.

1. JACQUELINE SUSANN DIDN'T LIKE THE MOVIE.

To promote the film, the studio hosted a month-long premiere party on a luxury liner. At a screening in Venice, Susann said the film “appalled” her, according to Parkins. She also thought Hollywood “had ruined her book,” and Susann asked to be taken off the boat. At one point she reportedly told Robson directly that she thought the film was “a piece of sh*t.”

2. BARBARA PARKINS WAS “NERVOUS” TO WORK WITH JUDY GARLAND.

Barbara Parkins had only been working with Judy Garland for two days when the legendary actress was fired for not coming out of her dressing room (and possibly being drunk). “I called up Jackie Susann, who I had become close to—I didn’t call up the director strangely enough—and I said, ‘What do I do? I’m nervous about going on the set with Judy Garland and I might get lost in this scene because she knows how to chew up the screen,’” Parkins told Windy City Times. “She said, ‘Honey, just go in there and enjoy her.’ So I went onto the set and Judy came up to me and wrapped her arms around me and said, ‘Oh, baby, let’s just do this scene,’ and she was wonderful.”

3. WILLIAM TRAVILLA BASED THE FILM'S COSTUMES ON THE WOMEN’S LIKES.

Costume designer William Travilla had to assemble 134 outfits for the four leading actresses. “I didn't have a script so I read the book and then the script once I got one,” he explained of his approach to the film. “I met with the director and producer and asked how they felt about each character and then I met with the girls and asked them what they liked and didn’t like and how they were feeling. Then I sat down with my feelings and captured their feelings, too.”

4. SUSANN THOUGHT GARLAND “GOT RATTLED.”

In an interview with Roger Ebert, Susann offered her thoughts on why Garland was let go. “Everybody keeps asking me why she was fired from the movie, as if it was my fault or something,” she said. “You know what I think went wrong? Here she was, raised in the great tradition of the studio stars, where they make 30 takes of every scene to get it right, and the other girls in the picture were all raised as television actresses. So they’re used to doing it right the first time. Judy just got rattled, that’s all.”

5. PATTY DUKE PARTIALLY BLAMES THE DIRECTOR’S BEHAVIOR FOR GARLAND’S EXIT.

During an event at the Castro Theatre, Duke discussed working with Garland. “The director, who was the meanest son of a bitch I ever met in my life ... the director, he kept this icon, this sparrow, waiting and waiting,” Duke said. “She had to come in at 6:30 in the morning and he wouldn’t even plan to get to her until four in the afternoon. She was very down to earth, so she didn’t mind waiting. The director decided that some guy from some delicatessen on 33rd Street should talk to her, and she crumbled. And she was fired. She shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, in my opinion.”

6. DUKE DIDN’T SING NEELY’S SONGS.

All of Neely’s songs in the movie were dubbed, which disappointed Duke. “I knew I couldn’t sing like a trained singer,” she said. “But I thought it was important for Neely maybe to be pretty good in the beginning but the deterioration should be that raw, nerve-ending kind of the thing. And I couldn’t convince the director. They wanted to do a blanket dubbing. It just doesn’t have the passion I wanted it to have.”

7. GARLAND STOLE ONE OF THE MOVIE'S COSTUMES.

Garland got revenge in “taking” the beaded pantsuit she was supposed to wear in the movie, and she was unabashed about it. “Well, about six months later, Judy’s going to open at the Palace,” Duke said. “I went to opening night at the Palace and out she came in her suit from Valley of the Dolls.”

8. A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE FILM HID THE TITLE.

Fox held a preview screening of the film at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre, but the marquee only read “The Biggest Book of the Year.” “And the film was so campy, everyone roared with laughter,” producer David Brown told Vanity Fair. “One patron was so irate he poured his Coke all over Fox president Dick Zanuck in the lobby. And we knew we had a hit. Why? Because of the size of the audience—the book would bring them in.”

9. IT MARKED RICHARD DREYFUSS'S FILM DEBUT.


Twentieth Century Fox

Richard Dreyfuss made his big-screen debut near the end of Valley of the Dolls, playing an assistant stage manager who knocks on Neely’s door to find her intoxicated. After appearing on several TV shows, this was his first role in a movie, but it was uncredited. That same year, he also had a small role in The Graduate. Dreyfuss told The A.V. Club he was in the best film of 1967 (The Graduate) and the worst (Valley of the Dolls). “But then one day I realized that I had never actually seen Valley of the Dolls all the way through, so I finally did it,” he said. “And I realized that I was in the last 45 seconds of the worst film ever made. And I watched from the beginning with a growing sense of horror. And then I finally heard my line. And I thought, ‘I’ll never work again.’ But I used to make money by betting people about being in the best and worst films of 1967: No one would ever come up with the answer, so I’d make 20 bucks!”

10. THE DIRECTOR DIDN’T DIG TOO DEEP.

In the 2006 documentary Gotta Get Off This Merry Go Round: Sex, Dolls & Showtunes, Barbara Parkins scolded the director for keeping the film’s pill addiction on the surface. “The director never took us aside and said, look this is the effect,” she said. “We didn’t go into depth about it. Now, if you would’ve had a Martin Scorsese come in and direct this film, he would’ve sat you down, he would’ve put you through the whole emotional, physical, mental feeling of what that drug was doing to you. This would’ve been a whole different film. He took us to one, maybe two levels of what it’s like to take pills. The whole thing was to show the bottle and to show the jelly beans kinda going back. That was the important thing for him, not the emotional part.”

11. A STAGE ADAPTATION MADE IT TO OFF-BROADWAY.

In 1995, Los Angeles theater troupe Theatre-A-Go-Go! adapted the movie into a stage play. Kate Flannery, who’d go on to play Meredith Palmer on The Office, portrayed Neely. “Best thing about Valley of the Dolls to make fun of it is to actually just do it,” Flannery said in the Dolls doc. “You don’t need to change anything.” Parkins came to a production and approved of it. Eventually, the play headed to New York in an Off-Broadway version, with Illeana Douglas playing the Jackie Susann reporter role.

12. JACKIE SUSANN BARELY ESCAPED THE MANSON FAMILY.


By 20th Century-Fox - eBayfrontback, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The night the Manson Family murdered Tate, the actress had invited Susann to her home for a dinner party. According to Vanity Fair, Rex Reed came by The Beverly Hills Hotel, where Susann was staying, and they decided to stay in instead of going to Tate’s. The next day Susann heard about the murder, and cried by the pool. A few years later, when Susann was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, she joked her death would’ve been quicker if she had gone to Tate’s that night.

13. PATTY DUKE LEARNED TO EMBRACE THE FILM.

Of all of the characters in the movie, Duke’s Neely is the most over-the-top. “I used to be embarrassed by it," Duke said in a 2003 interview. "I used to say very unkind things about it, and through the years there are so many people who have come to me, or written me, or emailed who love it so, that I figured they all can’t be wrong." She eventually appreciated the camp factor. “I can have fun with that,” she said. “And sometimes when I’m on location, there will be a few people who bring it up, and then we order pizza and rent a VCR and have a Valley night, and it is fabulous.”

14. LEE GRANT DOESN’T THINK IT’S THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE.

In 2000, Grant, Duke, and Parkins reunited on The View. “It’s the best, funniest, worst movie ever made,” Grant stated. She then mentioned how she and Duke made a movie about killer bees called The Swarm. “Valley of the Dolls was like genius compared to it,” Grant said.

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How to Perform the Star Wars Theme—On Calculators
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The iconic Star Wars theme has been recreated with glass harps, theremins, and even cat meows. Now, Laughing Squid reports that the team over at YouTube channel It’s a small world have created a version that can be played on calculators.

The channel’s math-related music videos feature covers of popular songs like Luis Fonsi’s "Despacito," Ed Sheeran’s "Shape of You," and the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, all of which are performed on two or more calculators. The Star Wars theme, though, is played across five devices, positioned together into a makeshift keyboard of sorts.

The video begins with a math-musician who transcribes number combinations into notes. Then, they break into an elaborate practice chord sequence on two, and then four, calculators. Once they’re all warmed up, they begin playing the epic opening song we all know and love, which you can hear for yourself in all its electronic glory below.

[h/t Laughing Squid]

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