13 Surprising Facts About Cast Away

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When FedEx employee Chuck Noland’s plane crashes, he ends up stranded on a deserted tropical island for four years, with an inanimate volleyball named Wilson as his only friend. Deemed an “existential blockbuster” for the 21st century, not a whole lot of action occurs during Cast Away’s 143-minute running time. But Hanks’ long beard and survival scenarios generated an iconic character and film.

It took Apollo 13 screenwriter William Broyles Jr. six years to shape the story with Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis, to a method degree: filming halted for a year so that Hanks could shed 50 pounds as real time passed in the movie. The movie was released on December 22, 2000, and became a huge hit, grossing $429,632,142 worldwide on a $90 million budget. Here are some washed-ashore facts about the film.

1. TOM HANKS DIDN’T WANT TO TELL A STANDARD STORY.

In an interview with The Guardian, Tom Hanks explained, “Because there is a standard way of telling this story, and that’s to have a rich, snotty guy who’s obviously not in touch with what’s important and blah, blah, blah, and then he learns a lesson and he’s not like that anymore. But Chuck learns no great lessons.” The basic themes of the film are of physical and spiritual survival, and as Hanks told the Los Angeles Times, “I didn’t want to show a man conquering his environment, but rather the effect the environment has on him. I wanted to deal with subject matter that was largely verboten in mainstream movies, taking the concept of a guy trapped against the elements, with no external forces, no pirates, no bad guys, and tell it in a way that challenged the normal cinematic narrative structure.”

2. THE SCREENWRITER STRANDED HIMSELF ON AN ISLAND, FOR RESEARCH PURPOSES.

William Broyles Jr. spent several days alone in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez trying to fend for himself. He speared and ate stingrays, learned how to open a coconut, befriended a washed-up Wilson-brand volleyball, and tried to make fire, which ended up in the movie. His experiences led to an epiphany regarding the Chuck character: “That's when I realized it wasn’t just a physical challenge,” Broyles told The Austin Chronicle. “It was going to be an emotional, spiritual one as well.”

3. THE ENTIRE THEME OF THE MOVIE COMES FROM TWO WORDS.

Broyles told the Los Angeles Times the last two words Noland utters—“thank you,” to a woman in a truck—sum up the movie. “The idea of acceptance [of his fate], that there is no rationale for some of the things that happen to us. But finally there is gratitude.” The film ends on an ambiguous note, with Noland at the literal crossroads in Canadian, Texas, attempting to make a decision to either follow the woman or go down a different path toward a new city.

4. FEDEX WAS COOL WITH THE FREE PRODUCT PLACEMENT AND THE PLANE CRASH.

At the time of filming, a FedEx plane hadn’t actually crashed like that in real life—though in 2009 two crew members died in a crash and in August 2015 a plane crashed into the Caribbean Sea—but the company didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that it could happen. FedEx provided filming locations at their hubs in Memphis, Los Angeles, and Moscow, and helped with logistical support.

“As we stepped back and looked at it, we thought, ‘It’s not product placement, we’re a character in this movie,’” Gail Christensen, managing director for global brand management at FedEx in 2000, told the Chicago Tribune. “It transcends product placement.” FedEx had a sense of humor when they made a Cast Away-themed commercial for the 2003 Super Bowl. Basically, a Tom Hanks-esque character finally drops off a package to a customer and asks what’s in it. “Nothing really. Just a satellite phone, GPS locator, fishing rod, water purifier, and some seeds. Just silly stuff.”

5. HANKS ALMOST DIED WHILE FILMING THE MOVIE.

Hanks recalled how before he left the production in Fiji, he received a cut and it got infected. Turns out he had a staph infection in his leg and it almost gave him blood poisoning. “The doctor said to me, ‘What’s the matter with you, you idiot? You could have died from this thing!’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ But they literally had to take out a big chunk of the stuff in my leg.” The infection was so severe that Hanks stayed in a hospital for three days. “Then we had to shut down production for three weeks because the doctors said, ‘No way is this kid getting in the water.’”

6. HANKS WENT THROUGH SEVERAL DIFFERENT ENDING SCENARIOS FOR CHUCK.

In an audio interview, Hanks talked about how he “went down so many bad tributaries” in figuring out what should happen to Noland. “It was really called Chuck of the Jungle, and we did all of those scenarios of what happens to him when he comes back to the world: He was loaded with self pity; he was loaded with Rip Van Winkle, kind of like jeepers creepers, look how small the computers are, all of that kind of stuff. We thought, look, he’d probably be turned into some media celebrity and what’s he going to do? Be sitting in the secret square [Hollywood Squares] with Susan Anton right next to him?”

7. HANKS FELT THAT THE PLANE CRASH WAS THE “BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED” TO CHUCK.

In the same audio interview, Hanks discussed Noland post-ordeal and him standing at the fork of the road in Texas. “Somehow, at the end of the movie, you can stand on the crossroads and it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be alright, as long as you keep breathing and have a certain kind of perspective and proportion to your life. And that’s not a huge shift for Chuck to have gone through even if he hadn’t been lost. People do that all time. ‘I quit, I don’t want to do this job anymore, I’m gonna go figure out what I want to do and I’m going to be okay.’ That’s interesting. It’s almost as though Chuck can say the best thing that ever happened to him was, ‘I was in this plane crash in which five people got killed and I survived for four years and I came back and I lost the woman I love.’” 

8. SURVIVOR BEAT CAST AWAY TO THE PUNCH.

The reality show debuted on May 31, 2000, about seven months before Cast Away was released. In similar fashion, a group of people are stranded in an exotic location and must compete against each other, and the show became an immediate hit for CBS. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Hanks said he was “spooked by the show’s like-minded theme” but he knew “we didn’t have a trivial film. Good or bad, we always had something that was much more substantial than what is essentially a game show that is a television phenomenon.”

9. THE MOVIE LED TO THE CREATION OF LOST.

Lloyd Braun, who was the chairman of ABC Entertainment in the early aughts, wanted a writer to come up with a pitch based on his favorite film from 2000, Cast Away. According to Chicago magazine, in 2003 Chicagoan Jeffrey Lieber was picked to write the pilot for Cast Away-the Series, which centered around eight to 10 characters stranded on a Pacific island. Lieber named the pilot Nowhere, but Braun passed on Lieber’s script and gave the project to J. J. Abrams, who added the supernatural element to the plot. However, Lieber, the WGA, and the studio went to arbitration in order for Lieber to receive partial credit for creating the show, and he eventually won 60 percent of the “created by” credit. In 2005, his pilot received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, and for the entire run of the show Lieber was listed in the credits.

10. ONE OF THE ORIGINAL WILSON BALLS MADE A LOT OF MONEY AT AN AUCTION.

In January 2001, one of the three original Wilson volleyballs featured in the film was sold on an online auction. According to the Los Angeles Times, it sold for $18,400. But for a much cheaper $19.99, you can buy a replica ball on Wilson Sporting Goods’ website.

11. HANKS WAS REUNITED WITH WILSON.

While attending a hockey game in New York City in February 2015, Hanks was being featured on the big screen when someone suddenly tossed him a Wilson Cast Away ball. Hanks held onto the ball and smiled at his long lost pal.

12. SOME CRITICS THINK THE MARTIAN IS “CAST AWAY IN SPACE."

When the Matt Damon film The Martian came out, critics immediately compared it to Cast Away and wrote “The Martian is Cast Away in space,” especially because both films featured men marooned, alone, and trying to survive, and both movies were distributed by Fox. The difference is Matt Damon’s Mark Watney had the ability to communicate with people. In a USA Today profile, Damon disagreed with the comparisons. “It’s not Cast Away in the sense that it’s actually a guy who is behaving with the expectation that people are watching him. He’s on video all the time on these GoPros. Nobody’s seeing the video feed live, but he’s behaving as if someday someone might.”

13. CAST AWAY WAS DEPICTED IN AN UNAUTHORIZED PARODY FILM.

In 2004, a filmmaker parodied Miss Congeniality, Cast Away, and Jurassic Park in the film Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls, starring none other than Michael Jackson in his last scripted performance. The film centered around beauty pageant contestants whose plane crashed on an island. Fox wasn’t happy about the Cast Away usage and sent filmmaker Bryan Michael Stoller a cease and desist letter. “I can't afford a lawyer right now,” Stoller said in an interview with The New York Times. “I can’t get errors and omissions insurance. No distributor will pick it up. They’ve pretty much killed the movie unless I change the title.” A year later the film was released on DVD, and in 2011 it was released on TV.

Game of Thrones Counseling Available for Upset Fans Following Series Finale

Iain Glen and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Iain Glen and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

It’s no surprise that some fans are having a hard time dealing with the fact that Game of Thrones is over. The show ran for eight seasons, and became a huge part of fans's lives and Sunday night routines. Moreover, since the season 8 premiere first aired, fans haven’t been too thrilled with the trajectory of the show, and it has only gotten worse. (The final episode in the series scored the lowest rating in the show’s history on IMDb).

But if you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around the end of Game of Thrones, or just want to vent, there's a counseling service here just for you. CNN reports that if you go to Bark.com, a UK-based online marketplace, you can find a Game of Thrones counselor who will listen to your every qualm about the show. "The professionals will help them digest their feelings and interpretation of the show, which could range from anger and confusion to sadness and grief," the service description reads.

"We watch them to escape our daily lives and immerse ourselves into the 'unknown,'" Lynette, a counselor from Bark.com, said in a statement regarding people's TV show obsessions. "This is the very reason why we sometimes become addicted to watching them, the stories they tell become part of our identity."

There’s options of booking a 30-minute or 60-minute session, which range from $25 to $51. Fans can choose from a face-to-face session, group session, or online, and can specify which specific problems they’re having regarding the show. 

What do we say to Game of Thrones-related anxiety? Not today!

New Coke is Making a Comeback Thanks to Stranger Things

Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Caleb McLaughlin, Millie Bobby Brown, and Sadie Sink in Stranger Things.
Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Caleb McLaughlin, Millie Bobby Brown, and Sadie Sink in Stranger Things.
Netflix

In what was considered one of the biggest consumer product marketing blunders of all time, the Coca-Cola Company upset devotees of their signature beverage by introducing New Coke in 1985. Sweeter and smoother than the original, people practically revolted over the change, and the drink eventually disappeared from shelves.

In 2019, New Coke is not only resurfacing—it might turn out to be one of the company's savviest marketing moves to date.

CNN reports that Coca-Cola will be producing 500,000 cans of New Coke in collaboration with Netflix to promote season 3 of Stranger Things, the 1980s-set paranormal drama. Cans will be featured on the show in a kind of retro product placement.

Fans can look for the cans online, which will be offered as a free gift with the purchase of two special Coca-Cola Classic or Coke Zero Sugar glass bottles with Stranger Things artwork beginning Thursday. Special vending machines will also be set up in major cities, and visitors to Atlanta's World of Coca-Cola can purchase the product there, too.

The company is using the exact same recipe for New Coke that got them in hot water back in 1985. For many, it will be their first chance to sample the drink that anti-New Coke activist and retiree Gay Mullins described as being "unbelievably wimpy" and tasting like Pepsi (a comment meant to be derogatory). Originally intended to replace Coca-Cola Classic, the drink was eventually rebranded Coke II and sold through 2002.

Coca-Cola anticipates demand will exceed their 500,000 can allotment, which means you're likely to see them pop up on eBay before long.

The new season of Stranger Things premieres July 4.

[h/t CNN]

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