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17 Fast-Paced Facts About Out of Sight

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It only takes a few minutes of being trapped in the trunk of a car together for U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco to fall for bank robber/prison escapee Jack Foley. But shortly after she manages to escape, she's made part of a task force that's determined to find him and his crew before they can pull off a diamond heist. Best known for its modish editing (Anne V. Coates earned an Oscar nomination for it) and the palpable chemistry between leads George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, Out of Sight also marks the first partnership between Clooney and his soon-to-be-frequent-collaborator Steven Soderbergh. Here are some facts about the Elmore Leonard adaptation to read before you get into a tussle.

1. CAMERON CROWE, BARRY SONNENFELD, AND SYDNEY POLLACK ALL PASSED ON DIRECTING THE FILM.

Barry Sonnenfeld (director of Men In Black, and the Elmore Leonard adaptation of Get Shorty) was originally attached but dropped out. Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) turned the offer down because it was too much like his last movie, Donnie Brasco (1999). Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) said no. Sydney Pollack (Tootsie) and Ted Demme (The Ref) also met with producers.

2. STEVEN SODERBERGH HAD TO BE CONVINCED TO DO IT.

Steven Soderbergh (director of Sex, Lies, and Videotape and later Traffic and Ocean’s Eleven) was approached by the head of Universal, Casey Silver. Soderbergh told him he was sure it was going to be fantastic, but he didn’t want to direct it as he had another project close to happening. Silver convinced Soderbergh by saying, “‘If you don’t do this movie, it means you don’t want to direct movies. This is so up your alley, you have to do this,” and by warning him that “these things aren’t going to line up very often, you should pay attention.”

3. SANDRA BULLOCK AUDITIONED TO PLAY KAREN SISCO.

Soderbergh admitted that Sandra Bullock and Clooney had great chemistry, but it wasn’t an “Elmore Leonard energy.” Fifteen years later, Bullock and Clooney finally worked together on Alfonso Cuarón's Oscar-winning Gravity (2013).

4. JENNIFER LOPEZ AUDITIONED ON CLOONEY'S COUCH.

According to Soderbergh, Clooney was never better with any other actor than he was when he auditioned with Jennifer Lopez on a "noisy leather couch" in Clooney’s study.

5. THE BANK ROBBERY IN THE BEGINNING WAS A NOD TO DOG DAY AFTERNOON.

Screenwriter Scott Frank (who also wrote Get Shorty) originally took the job writing Out of Sight so that he and his three children could afford a bigger house. Frank later said writing it was the most satisfying experience he had in 28 years of writing screenplays. (He earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts.)

He felt that while Elmore Leonard’s book was about Karen Sisco, she didn’t change much, whereas Jack Foley was “much sadder” and more interesting, which led to Frank moving the bank robbery that took place in the middle of Leonard’s book to the opening. He also did this to replicate the propulsive beginning of Dog Day Afternoon (1975).

6. SODERBERGH SAID HE "STOLE" FROM ANOTHER MOVIE TO BUILD THE SEXUAL TENSION.

“That sequence in Don’t Look Now where Nic Roeg cross-cuts the lovemaking scene with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland getting dressed, there was an intimacy about it that I thought was really powerful,” the director said. “So I stole it.”

7. THE TRUNK SCENE WAS SHOT MORE THAN 45 TIMES.

Soderbergh originally shot it as one uninterrupted take. After all of those attempts, test audiences didn’t like that approach.

8. CATHERINE KEENER WAS TERRIFIED.

Catherine Keener’s scene by herself as Adele was the first thing shot, and she was surrounded by important studio heads. The actress recalled of the experience, “And there's me, all alone, with people screaming instructions and s--t, so I just had to scream inside.”

9. MICHAEL KEATON AGREED TO A CAMEO IF HE COULD REPRISE HIS JACKIE BROWN CHARACTER.

Michael Keaton thought it was the “coolest idea” to have him reprise his role as FBI agent Ray Nicolette, the character he played a year earlier in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (another Leonard adaptation). Keaton wanted audiences to believe that if Nicolette could be in two different movies from two different studios, they “might see him at the Dairy Queen later, like he’s a real guy out there wandering around in life.” Soderbergh agreed once he saw Keaton’s work in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown editing room. Tarantino insisted that Miramax not ask for money from Universal for the rights to the character.

10. CLOONEY WAS HECKLED IN PRISON.

Lancaster, California’s Mira Loma Detention Center was the stand-in for Lompoc, and Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola was used as the Glades Correctional Institution in Florida. Angola inmates yelled, “What's wrong, Batman? Can't fly to the top of the hoop?" when Clooney was forced to play poorly during the basketball scene.

11. A DEER LIFTED SODERBERGH’S SPIRITS.

Frustrated over the lighting inconvenience six inches of snow brought to one day’s filming, the director sat on the side of a deserted Detroit road by himself when a deer approached him. "I reached over to the craft services table and took four apples," Soderbergh told Empire. "The deer came and stood by me and, one by one, ate these apples. There was no one around, completely quiet, just snow falling and it completely lifted the cloud that I was operating under. I went back to work saying, 'Okay, it's just a movie. We'll put it together a piece at a time.'"

12. THE DJ RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SCORE WAS HIRED AFTER WRITING A FEW SECONDS OF THE THEME MUSIC.

David Holmes worked six weeks of 12- to 17-hour days to get the soundtrack done. Soderbergh wanted and got a combination of Lalo Schifrin’s work on the Dirty Harry soundtrack and the music from the first season of The Rockford Files.

13. ALBERT BROOKS DIDN’T THINK MUCH OF HIS CHARACTER.

Albert Brooks explained to Backstage that while he had played a villain before his turn as mobster Bernie Rose in Drive (2011), his character Richard Ripley in Out of Sight was not feared at all. “I played a bad guy in Out of Sight, but he was a pu**y. He needed protection in prison, he needed people to stick up for him, he had security guards around him. He wasn't a guy who would take action himself; he paid people to do it. So I've never played a guy who you wouldn't want to cross physically, for your own safety.”

14. LEONARD HELPED WRITE THE MOVIE'S ENDING.

Scott Frank was stuck on how to conclude the film for months, not wanting to end it with Sisco shooting Foley and going back to Florida like it did in the book. Out of desperation, Frank called the author for advice, when he was told their conversation would have to be cut short because he was about to talk to a Texas man who had broken out of prison more than a dozen times. Frank inquired further, then wrote a new ending that saw Foley meeting the multi-time prison-breaking Hejira Henry (Samuel L. Jackson) on the way to jail.

15. STEVE ZAHN THINKS THE POSTER LED TO THE POOR BOX OFFICE.

Steve Zahn felt that Universal made the poster look like a “murder-mystery love triangle thing”, which is why it came in fourth during the movie’s opening weekend. The studio rushed the movie into the early summer because Meet Joe Black (1998) was not ready. The date change led to major magazines killing potential cover stories because there wasn’t enough buzz on the film.

16. ELMORE LEONARD LIKED THE MOVIE.

Leonard wasn’t sure he would like the movie, after arguing with Frank over his decision to include flashbacks (Soderbergh was upset when Frank took them out). After seeing an early, extended version of the movie which was 15 minutes longer than the theatrical release and didn’t even have any of the music, Leonard called Frank to tell the screenwriter that the movie was “terrific.”

17. LEONARD WROTE A SEQUEL.

The 2009 novel Road Dogs had Jack Foley escape prison thanks to a Cuban gangster, who then asks for favors in Venice, California. The author decided to write the sequel because he liked George Clooney and wanted him to play Foley again. The respected novelist passed away at the age of 87 in 2013.

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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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10 Tantalizing Tidbits About Star Trek: The Next Generation
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

by Kirsten Howard

When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in September 1987, no one was quite sure what to expect. After all, this was a new Enterprise with a new crew trying to revitalize a franchise that had only lasted three seasons the last time it was on television. And while the movie series was still bringing in solid box office returns, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy would play no part in this new Trek.

The Next Generation was a gamble for Paramount, and for the first few seasons, it looked like one the studio was going to lose. But once the series got over some initial behind-the-scenes chaos, it blossomed into one of the most popular sci-fi TV shows of all time. Even as bigger and shinier installments in the franchise continue to come out, this is the definitive Star Trek for countless fans. So lean back in your captain's chair and enjoy 10 facts about Star Trek: The Next Generation.

1. THE SHOW GOT OFF TO A ROCKY START.

Things were tumultuous at best behind the scenes during the first season of the show, as writers and producers clashed with creator Gene Roddenberry over themes, characters, and ideas on a weekly basis. The in-fighting and drama became such a part of the show's legacy that William Shatner himself chronicled all of it in a 2014 documentary called Chaos on the Bridge (which is currently streaming on Netflix). In it, producers, writers, and actors recounted anecdotes about the difficulties they had dealing with Roddenberry's somewhat overbearing mandates, including his infamous rule that there never be any direct conflict between the Enterprise crew members (unless one was possessed by an alien, of course) and his habit of throwing out scripts at the last minute. This led to 30 writers leaving the show within the first season, according to story editor and program consultant David Gerrold.

As Roddenberry’s health began to deteriorate after the first season, his influence over the writers waned, freeing up ideas that were departures from the creator's original vision. He would pass away in 1991, but his presence would never completely leave the series. For years, a small bust of Roddenberry sat on executive producer Rick Berman's desk with a blindfold wrapped over its eyes. "Whenever they come up with a story I don't think Gene would like," Berman said, "I blindfold him when we discuss the story."

2. GENE RODDENBERRY REALLY DIDN’T WANT A BALD CAPTAIN.

'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

For years, William Shatner had cast the mold by which all future Star Trek captains would be judged. And it was that image of the confident, swashbuckling James T. Kirk that Roddenberry wanted to preserve when bringing a new captain in for The Next Generation. So when Berman wanted to cast Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the issue was clear: he was no Shatner.

Roddenberry was completely unconvinced that Stewart was right for the role, with Berman saying the Trek creator didn’t like the idea of “a bald English guy taking over.” But after countless auditions with other actors, Berman continued to bring Stewart up to Roddenberry, who eventually caved and agreed to bring him in for a final audition under one condition: he wear a wig. So Stewart had a wig Fed-Exed from London and auditioned for Roddenberry and Paramount Television head John Pike one final time. 

That audition was enough to win Roddenberry over, and Stewart was finally brought aboard as Picard with the wig cast aside. Roddenberry would eventually go on to fully embrace Picard’s follicular shortcomings, and according to Stewart, when a reporter at a press conference once asked him why there wouldn’t be a cure for baldness in the 24th century, Roddenberry responded by saying, “No, by the 24th century, no one will care."

3. ONLY ONE PERSON HAS EVER PLAYED HIMSELF IN STAR TREK HISTORY.

Stephen Hawking was visiting the Paramount lot during the video release of the film A Brief History of Time when he requested a tour of the Next Generation set. After making his way onto the iconic Enterprise bridge, he stopped and began typing into his computer. Suddenly, his voice synthesizer spoke: “Would you lift me out of my chair and put me into the captain's seat?"

Hawking asking to be removed from his chair was basically unheard of, so his wishes were granted immediately. Later, with writers having become aware that he was such a huge Trekkie, Hawking himself was written into the sixth season finale episode “Descent – Part I” by Ronald D. Moore, who would later go on to reimagine the Battlestar Galactica universe.

4. A WHOLE EPISODE WAS WRITTEN FOR ROBIN WILLIAMS.

Late actor and comedian Robin Williams was also a huge fan of the show and was desperate to appear in it, so an episode of the fifth season—"A Matter of Time"—was drawn up by Berman to allow Williams to shine at the center of a mystery about Professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time-traveling historian from the future visiting the past to observe the Enterprise crew completing an historic mission.

Unfortunately, when it came time to shoot the episode, Williams found himself unavailable to appear in the episode. So Max Headroom star Matt Frewer was cast as Professor Rasmussen instead.

5. PATRICK STEWART APPROACHED BEING TORTURED ON SCREEN VERY SERIOUSLY.

In the episode “Chain of Command, Part II,” Picard has been captured by Cardassians and is subjected to a variety of torture methods by his interrogators. As a member of the human rights organization Amnesty International, Stewart did not want to shy away from the realities of torture, so he watched tapes sent to him that included statements from people who had been tortured and a long interview with a torturer explaining what it was like to be the one inflicting pain on others. Stewart also insisted on being completely nude during the first torture scene, so as not to betray the experiences of those who had undergone similar horrors.

6. THEY USED SOME PRACTICAL EFFECTS.

The transporter effect on the show may look completely computer generated, but in fact it’s all done quite organically. First, a canister is filled with water and glitter and then a light is shone through it. After stirring the liquid briskly, the resulting few seconds of swirling glitter are filmed and then superimposed over footage of the actor standing in the transporter area, with an added “streak down” effect to blur the glitter further.

7. LORE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WOMAN.

Android Lieutenant Commander Data had many adventures during the series, on and off the Enterprise, but his evil twin brother, Lore, stands out for many fans as one of the show’s greatest antagonists. Surprisingly, Lore was originally created as a female android character for the show, but the actor who plays Data, Brent Spiner, came up with a different idea: an evil twin nemesis in the shape of a long-lost brother.

8. THERE WAS AN OPEN SUBMISSION POLICY ON SCRIPTS.

When Michael Piller took over as head writer on the show in 1989, an open submission policy was launched where absolutely anyone could submit up to two unsolicited scripts for consideration. Opening up the possibility of writing for TV to people outside of the Writers Guild of America and talent agency pool was unheard of at the time, and over 5000 spec scripts were received a year at one point. "Yesterday’s Enterprise," one of the show’s most popular episodes, was based off a spec script from the open submission policy.

9. SOME SCRIPTS WERE RECYCLED FROM THE SCRAPPED PHASE II.

A still from 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'
Paramount Pictures

A decade before The Next Generation debuted, there was a failed attempt at a revival called Star Trek: Phase II. Though a first season was mapped out, it never saw the light of day, and the movie series was produced in its place. However, the scrapped scripts and concepts lived on in various Trek projects over the years. For the second season premiere of The Next Generation, producers reclaimed the script for "The Child" as a way to get a story quickly into production during the 1988 writer's strike. The season four episode "Devil's Due" was also taken from the backlog of Phase II scripts. 

More elements from Phase II would influence Trek for years, such as the pilot being reworked into Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the now-familiar elements of the Japanese-inspired Klingon culture being introduced in the shelved episode “Kitumba.”

10. THE TRANSPORTER IS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.

In what was either a cost-cutting move or a sly Easter egg (or both), the ceiling of the Enterprise's transporter room in The Next Generation is actually the floor of the transporter room from the original series. That's far from the only recycling that went on between the Trek series. The orbital office complex from Star Trek: The Motion Picture was reused as the Regula I station in The Wrath of Khan, which was then itself reused as a number of different space stations on The Next Generation (plus Deep Space Nine and Voyager).

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