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14 Facts About Reality Bites

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Reality Bites showed audiences how early-twentysomethings in the mid-1990s spent most of their time basing their personal ethos around the term “selling out” and suffering (Big Gulp-aided) brain cramps from self-rationalizing the hypocrisy of keeping “superficial” jobs to pay the bills. Winona Ryder played Lelaina, an aspiring documentarian who films her roommates and then has the video aired (with exploitative gloss) by her network executive boyfriend Michael Grates, a role played by first-time feature film director Ben Stiller. Ethan Hawke played the caustic irony-pointer-outer lost boy Troy, with support from Steve Zahn and Janeane Garofalo.

1. THE WRITER OF THE MOVIE NEVER WANTED TO BE A SCREENWRITER.

In 1994, Reality Bites screenwriter Helen Childress told Entertainment Weekly that she had “no interest in screenwriting. I wanted to be a poet. But poets don't make any money.” So she wrote a script all the same about people in their 20s in the early 1990s, which is exactly what producer Michael Shamberg was looking for. Childress was 24 years old when the film was released on February 18, 1994.

2. BEN STILLER MADE SOME KEY CHANGES TO CHILDRESS’ SCRIPT.

Stiller believed the script to be “extremely funny,” but tweaked it anyway. “Originally, it was much more about all the characters in the movie,” he said in an interview around the time of the film’s release. “Janeane’s character, Vickie, and Steve’s character, Sammy, and Ethan’s character, Troy; all their stories were much more fleshed out. I felt like I couldn’t really bring all those stories together; couldn’t really tell them all fully, so I just wanted to make it more about Lelaina and her relationship with Troy.” He also changed the character he ended up playing, Michael Grates, from a 35-year-old ad man attempting to make Japanese candy bars popular in the United States to a twentysomething executive for In Your Face TV.

3. TRISTAR PICTURES CHANGED ITS MIND ABOUT MAKING THE MOVIE.

In 1993, the studio also eventually said no to Pulp Fiction. Made for $11.5 million, Reality Bites would end up being released by Universal Pictures, after Stiller claimed they were “turned down by everybody” else because twentysomething coming-of-age movies such as Singles (1992) didn’t make enough money.

4. WINONA RYDER ADVOCATED HARD FOR ETHAN HAWKE AND JANEANE GAROFALO.

Winona Ryder had seen Ethan Hawke in the World War II drama A Midnight Clear (1992), and subsequently pushed for him to play Troy. Despite working with Stiller earlier on The Ben Stiller Show (1993), Garofalo said she didn’t know if she would have been cast as Vickie without Ryder’s high opinion of her.

5. GWYNETH PALTROW, PARKER POSEY, AND ANNE HECHE AUDITIONED FOR VICKIE.

Garofalo beat them out. In another interesting could-have-been, the part of Sammy came down to Steve Zahn and Noah Wyle (later of ER fame).

6. HAWKE PUT STEVE ZAHN ON THE PRODUCERS’ RADAR.

Hawke and Zahn co-starred in the play Sophistry. Hawke encouraged executive producer Stacey Sher to see Zahn for Sammy. “Tons of people read for the part and it was just once we saw Steve, we knew,” Sher told HitFix.

7. IT WAS EMMANUEL “CHIVO” LUBEZKI’S FIRST AMERICAN FILM.

The Mexico City-born Lubezki was brought in as the director of photography. “I was very young and I was inexperienced and coming to America and uncomfortable living here,” Lubezki recalled. “I didn't have many friends. I was just coming here to work. When I got this offer, I read the script, and I have to be honest, I barely understood the humor in the script. I didn't find it that funny. I found it more dramatic than funny.”

The language barrier was irrelevant; Childress later said his hard work made everyone look “gorgeous.” Shamberg believed the look of the film was a “kind of a romantic naturalism.” Last month, Lubezki pulled off an Oscar threepeat when he won his third consecutive Oscar for Best Cinematography for The Revenant (following wins for Birdman and Gravity).

8. ONE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS THE REAL WORLD.

It was nixed when MTV’s The Real World debuted.

9. GAROFALO WAS FIRED (“SORT OF”), AND RYDER FOUGHT FOR HER AGAIN.

“That was my first experience with a studio film,” Garofalo told The A.V. Club. “I didn't understand what was going to happen, or why the hours were so long. I know Ben was not thrilled with me there. He also didn't like my attitude during rehearsal, because I hate to rehearse. He sort of fired me, but luckily I was rehired because Winona stepped in on my behalf. Let's put it this way: I don't have a good work ethic.”

10. NONE OF THE COMPANIES MENTIONED IN THE MOVIE INSISTED ON A CHANGE IN THE SCRIPT.

“There is product placement in the movie, but I don’t have any problem with it because it never happened where they said ‘OK, you can put our product in but you have to change your script,’” Stiller reasoned. Diet Coke specifically was written into the script because Childress lived off of it.

11. HAWKE TURNED STILLER ON TO LISA LOEB.

Loeb had participated in Hawke’s theater company, writing music in New York City. Hawke sent her new song, “Stay,” to Stiller, who agreed it should be in the movie. After they were refused permission by Atlantic Records to use a song by The Lemonheads (fronted by Evan Dando, who appears in the film), “Stay” was slotted as the second song to play during the closing credits. The first and last music video Hawke directed would be “Stay.” Mostly because of the movie, Loeb achieved the rare distinction of being an unsigned artist with a number one single, a feat that wouldn’t be achieved again for another 19 years.

12. PETER FRAMPTON WASN’T THE FILMMAKER’S FIRST CHOICE.

"Baby I Love Your Way” was supposed to be a Beck tune.

13. THE FIRST TEST SCREENING DIDN’T GO WELL.

When the Berkeley, California audience saw the Universal logo, most of them booed.

14. THE REAL TROY SUED.

A Troy Dyer attended USC film school with Childress, became a financial consultant in Wisconsin, and sued in 2005 for defamation. Childress claimed Dyer gave her permission to use his name, because he was straight-laced and conservative—the total opposite of the character. The case was settled to “everyone’s mutual satisfaction,” according to Dyer.

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10 Surprising Facts About The Babadook
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In 2014, The Babadook came out of nowhere and scared audiences across the globe. Written and directed by Aussie Jennifer Kent, and based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is about a widow named Amelia (played by Kent’s drama schoolmate Essie Davis) who has trouble controlling her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who thinks there’s a monster living in their house. Amelia reads Samuel a pop-up book, Mister Babadook, and Samuel manifests the creature into a real-life monster. The Babadook may be the villain, but the film explores the pitfalls of parenting and grief in an emotional way. 

“I never approached this as a straight horror film,” Kent told Complex. “I always was drawn to the idea of grief, and the suppression of that grief, and the question of, how would that affect a person? ... But at the core of it, it’s about the mother and child, and their relationship.”

Shot on a $2 million budget, the film grossed more than $10.3 million worldwide and gained an even wider audience via streaming networks. Instead of creating Babadook out of CGI, a team generated the images in-camera, inspired by the silent films of Georges Méliès and Lon Chaney. Here are 10 things you might not have known about The Babadook (dook, dook).

1. THE NAME “BABADOOK” WAS EASY FOR A CHILD TO INVENT.

Jennifer Kent told Complex that some people thought the creature’s name sounded “silly,” which she agreed with. “I wanted it to be like something a child could make up, like ‘jabberwocky’ or some other nonsensical name,” she explained. “I wanted to create a new myth that was just solely of this film and didn’t exist anywhere else.”

2. JENNIFER KENT WAS WORRIED PEOPLE WOULD JUDGE THE MOTHER.

Amelia isn’t the best mother in the world—but that’s the point. “I’m not a parent,” Kent told Rolling Stone, “but I’m surrounded by friends and family who are, and I see it from the outside … how parenting seems hard and never-ending.” She thought Amelia would receive “a lot of flak” for her flawed parenting, but the opposite happened. “I think it’s given a lot of women a sense of reassurance to see a real human being up there,” Kent said. “We don’t get to see characters like her that often.”

3. KENT AND ESSIE DAVIS TONED DOWN THE CONTENT FOR THE KID.

Noah Wiseman was six years old when he played Samuel. Kent and Davis made sure he wasn’t present for the more horrific scenes, like when Amelia tells Samuel she wishes he was the one who died, not her husband. “During the reverse shots, where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie yell at an adult stand-in on his knees,” Kent told Film Journal. “I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film—that wouldn’t be fair.”

Kent explained a “kiddie version” of the plot to Wiseman. “I said, ‘Basically, Sam is trying to save his mother and it’s a film about the power of love.’”

4. THE FILM IS ALSO ABOUT “FACING OUR SHADOW SIDE.”

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Kent told Film Journal that “The Babadook is a film about a woman waking up from a long, metaphorical sleep and finding that she has the power to protect herself and her son.” She noted that everybody has darkness to face. “Beyond genre and beyond being scary, that’s the most important thing in the film—facing our shadow side.”

5. THE FILM SCARED THE HELL OUT OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE EXORCIST.

In an interview with Uproxx, William Friedkin—director of The Exorcist—said The Babadook was one of the best and scariest horror films he’d ever seen. He especially liked the emotional aspect of the film. “It’s not only the simplicity of the filmmaking and the excellence of the acting not only by the two leads, but it’s the way the film works slowly but inevitably on your emotions,” he said.

6. AN ART DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SCORED THE ROLE AS THE BABADOOK.

Tim Purcell worked in the film’s art department but then got talked into playing the titular character after he acted as the creature for some camera tests. “They realized they could save some money, and have me just be the Babadook, and hence I became the Babadook,” Purcell told New York Magazine. “In terms of direction, it was ‘be still a lot,’” he said.

7. THE MOVIE BOMBED IN ITS NATIVE AUSTRALIA.

Even though Kent shot the film in Adelaide, Australians didn’t flock to the theaters; it grossed just $258,000 in its native country. “Australians have this [built-in] aversion to seeing Australian films,” Kent told The Cut. “They hardly ever get excited about their own stuff. We only tend to love things once everyone else confirms they’re good … Australian creatives have always had to go overseas to get recognition. I hope one day we can make a film or work of art and Australians can think it’s good regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.”

8. YOU CAN OWN A MISTER BABADOOK BOOK (BUT IT WILL COST YOU). 

IFC Films

In 2015, Insight Editions published 6200 pop-up books of Mister Babadook. Kent worked with the film’s illustrator, Alexander Juhasz, who created the book for the movie. He and paper engineer Simon Arizpe brought the pages to life for the published version. All copies sold out but you can find some Kent-signed ones on eBay, going for as much as $500.

9. THE BABADOOK IS A GAY ICON.

It started at the end of 2016, when a Tumblr user started a jokey thread about how he thought the Babadook was gay. “It started picking up steam within a few weeks,” Ian, the Tumblr user, told New York Magazine, “because individuals who I presume are heterosexual kind of freaked out over the assertion that a horror movie villain would identify as queer—which I think was the actual humor of the post, as opposed to just the outright statement that the Babadook is gay.” In June, the Babadook became a symbol for Gay Pride month. Images of the character appeared everywhere at this year's Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles.

10. DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A SEQUEL.

Kent, who owns the rights to The Babadook, told IGN that, despite the original film's popularity, she's not planning on making any sequels. “The reason for that is I will never allow any sequel to be made, because it’s not that kind of film,” she said. “I don’t care how much I’m offered, it’s just not going to happen.”

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15 Fascinating Facts About Amelia Earhart
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Amelia Earhart was a pioneer, a legend, and a mystery. To celebrate what would be her 120th birthday, we've uncovered 15 things you might not know about the groundbreaking aviator.

1. THE FIRST TIME SHE SAW AN AIRPLANE, SHE WASN'T IMPRESSED.

In Last Flight, a collection of diary entries published posthumously, Earhart recalled feeling unmoved by "a thing of rusty wire and wood" at the Iowa State Fair in 1908. It wasn't until years later that she discovered her passion for aviation, when she worked as a nurse's aide at Toronto's Spadina Military Hospital. She and some friends would spend time at hangars and flying fields, talking to pilots and watching aerial shows. Earhart didn't actually get on a plane herself until 1920, and even then she was just a passenger.

2. SHE WAS A GOOD STUDENT WITH NO PATIENCE FOR SCHOOL.

After working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in Toronto, Earhart took pre-med classes at Columbia University in 1919. She made good grades, but dropped out after just a year. Earhart re-enrolled at Columbia in 1925 and left school again. She took summer classes at Harvard, but gave up on higher education for good after she didn't get a scholarship to MIT.

3. ANOTHER PIONEERING FEMALE AVIATOR TAUGHT EARHART HOW TO FLY.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Neta Snook was the first woman to run her own aviation business and commercial airfield. She gave Earhart flying lessons at Kinner Field near Long Beach, California in 1921, reportedly charging $1 in Liberty Bonds for every minute they spent in the air.

4. EARHART BOUGHT HER FIRST PLANE WITHIN SIX MONTHS OF HER FIRST FLYING LESSON.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

She named it The Canary. The used yellow Kinner Airster biplane was the second one ever built. Earhart paid $2000 for it, despite Snook's opinion that it was underpowered, overpriced, and too difficult for a beginner to land.

5. AMY EARHART ENCOURAGED HER DAUGHTER'S PASSION. HER FATHER, ON THE OTHER HAND, WAS AFRAID OF FLYING.

Earhart's mom used some of her inheritance to pay for The Canary. She was a bit of an adventurer herself: the first woman to ever climb Pikes Peak in Colorado.

6. EARHART HAD A LOT OF ODD JOBS.

In addition to volunteering as a nurse's aide, Earhart also worked early jobs as a telephone operator and tutor. Earhart was a social worker at Denison House in Boston when she was invited to fly across the Atlantic for the first time (as a passenger) in 1928. At the height of her career, Earhart spent time making speeches, writing articles, and providing career counseling at Purdue University's Department of Aeronautics. Oh, and flying around the world.

7. SHE WASN'T SURE ABOUT MARRIAGE, BUT SHE DEFINITELY BELIEVED IN PRE-NUPS.

When promoter George Putnam contacted Earhart about flying across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, it was her first big break ... and the beginning of their love story. The two began a working relationship, which soon turned into attraction. When Putnam's marriage to Dorothy Binney fell apart, he eventually proposed to Earhart. She said yes, albeit reluctantly.

Earhart wasn't worried about safeguarding financial assets so much as she wanted the two of them to maintain separate identities. Earhart asked Putnam to agree to a trial marriage. If they weren't happy after a year, they'd be free to go their separate ways, no hard feelings. He agreed. They lived happily until her disappearance.

8. SHE WROTE ABOUT FLYING FOR COSMOPOLITAN.

In 1928, Earhart was appointed Cosmopolitan's Aviation Editor. Her 16 published articles—among them "Shall You Let Your Daughter Fly?" and "Why Are Women Afraid to Fly?"—recounted her adventures and encouraged other women to fly, even if they just did so commercially. (Commercial flights date back to 1914, but they wouldn't really take off until after World War II.)

9. FIRST LADY ELEANOR ROOSEVELT WAS SO INSPIRED BY EARHART THAT SHE SIGNED UP FOR FLYING LESSONS.

The two became friends in 1932. Roosevelt got a student permit and a physical examination, but never followed through with her plan.

10. EARHART WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO GET A PILOT'S LICENSE FROM THE NATIONAL AERONAUTIC ASSOCIATION (NAA).

That was in 1923, when pilots and aircrafts weren't legally required to be licensed. Earhart was the sixteenth woman to get licensed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which was required to set flight records. Still, the FAI didn't maintain women's records until 1928.

11. SHE ACCOMPLISHED A LOT OF "FIRSTS."

Earhart eventually became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger (1928) and then solo (1932) and nonstop from coast to coast (1932) as a pilot. She also set records, period: Earhart was the first person to ever fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland, Los Angeles to Mexico City, and Mexico City to Newark, all in 1935.

What do John Glenn, George H.W. Bush, and Amelia Earhart have in common? They all earned an Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross. But only Earhart was the first woman—and one of few civilians—to do so.

12. SHE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CELEBRITIES TO LAUNCH A CLOTHING LINE.

Amelia Earhart Fashions were affordable separates sold exclusively at Macy's and Marshall Field's. The line's dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and hats were made of cotton and parachute silk and featured aviation-inspired details, like propeller-shaped buttons. Earhart studied sewing as a girl and actually made her own samples.

13. THE U.S. GOVERNMENT SPENT $4 MILLION SEARCH FOR EARHART.

At the time, it was the most expensive air and sea search in history. Earhart's plane disappeared July 2, 1937. The official search ended a little over two weeks later on July 19. Putnam then financed a private search, chartering boats to the Phoenix Islands, Christmas Island, Fanning Island, the Gilbert Islands, and the Marshall Islands.

14. THE SEARCH ISN'T OVER.

There are several theories about what happened to Earhart's plane during her last flight. Most people believe she ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Others believe she landed on an island and died of thirst, starvation, injury, or at the hands of Japanese soldiers in Saipan. In 1970, one man even claimed that Earhart was alive and well and living a secret life in New Jersey.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has explored the theory that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan lived as castaways before dying on Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro, in the western Pacific. Over the years, they've found a few potential artifacts, including evidence of campfire sites, pieces of Plexiglas, and an empty jar of the brand of freckle cream that Earhart used.

In early July 2017, a photo surfaced that seemed to confirm the theory that Earhart and Noonan crashed and were captured by Japanese soldiers, but that photo was quickly debunked.

15. TODAY, ANOTHER AMELIA EARHART IS MAKING HISTORY.

In 2014, another pilot named Amelia Earhart took to the skies to set a world record. The then-31-year-old California native became the youngest woman to fly 24,300 miles around the world in a single-engine plane. Her namesake never completed the journey, but the younger Earhart landed safely in Oakland on July 11, 2014. We think "Lady Lindy" would be proud.

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