13 Riotous Facts About V For Vendetta

YouTube
YouTube

Based on the classic dystopian graphic novel series by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, V for Vendetta starred Hugo Weaving as V, a Guy Fawkes mask-wearing anarchist intent on destroying British Parliament in a totalitarian England of the future. Along the way he saves Evey, played by Natalie Portman, and successfully draws her into his revolutionary plans.

Here are some facts about the movie to remember, particularly on the fifth of November.

1. THE GRAPHIC NOVEL WAS INSPIRED BY MARGARET THATCHER.

“Our attitude toward Margaret Thatcher’s ultra-conservative government was one of the driving forces behind the fascist British police state we created in Vendetta,” illustrator David Lloyd explained of his and Moore’s original story, which was written in the early 1980s. “The destruction of this system was V’s primary reason for existence.”

2. THE WRITER OF ROAD HOUSE GOT THE FIRST CRACK AT ADAPTING THE STORY.

Hilary Henkin (Road House, Romeo is Bleeding) wrote an early adaptation of the graphic novel, which was singled out as one of Hollywood's best unproduced scripts in a 1993 Los Angeles Times article. Her script was described as a “wild, over-the-top saga” and a cross between Les Misérables and A Clockwork Orange. In 1998, Henkin was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing Wag the Dog (1997).

3. ANDY AND LANA WACHOWSKI WROTE A SCRIPT FOR V FOR VENDETTA BEFORE THEY WORKED ON THE MATRIX TRILOGY.

The Wachowskis acquired the rights to V for Vendetta in the mid-1990s, then promptly wrote their own screenplay. After directing the three Matrix films, the Wachowskis weren’t interested in returning to directing right away, but they did make alterations to their Vendetta script, including moving the story forward in time and making Evey older.

4. IT WAS JAMES MCTEIGUE'S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT.

James McTeigue was first assistant director on the Matrix movies, as well as on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and was picked by the Wachowskis to take charge. "A lot of the filmmaking process is about trust, and at the point that those guys said, 'We want you to direct it,' they were about trusting me to go off and give it the vision it needed to be directed with, so they kind of left me alone," said McTeigue. "They were there if I needed them, and sometimes I’d go, 'Hey, what do you think about this?' and they’d put their two cents worth in, and I could either take it on board or leave it at the door."

5. ALAN MOORE DECLINED TO WATCH THE FILM, OR BE CREDITED ON IT.

Moore had read the screenplay and considered it “rubbish.” Moore believed DC Comics and the film industry had knowingly stolen from him. Conversely, David Lloyd praised the movie moments after he had seen it for the first time, declaring it a “fantastic representation” of the work they did, according to McTeigue.

6. JAMES PUREFOY WAS FIRED AS V THREE WEEKS INTO FILMING.

James Purefoy (A Knight’s Tale, Resident Evil) was allegedly not a “dynamic enough presence” for the filmmakers. Purefoy denied rumors that his departure had anything to do with being uncomfortable wearing a mask all the time and swore that “it was genuine creative differences.” He was replaced by Hugo Weaving (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Matrix), who broke the ice with Natalie Portman over a “very nice Thai meal.”

7. NATALIE PORTMAN AND JAMES MCTEIGUE DID SOME HOMEWORK.

McTeigue studied Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers (1966), which dived into the Algerian revolution against the French. Portman watched the documentary The Weather Underground (2002), about the late 1960s/1970s American radicals, as well as read the autobiography of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, who was shaped by his imprisonment by Soviets, as well as Antonia Fraser’s Faith and Treason, a book on the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

8. IT WAS MOSTLY FILMED IN GERMANY.

Producer Joel Silver claimed moving most of the production there was economically advantageous for the studio. V’s “Shadow Gallery” was filmed at Babelsberg Studio in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam, the site of Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1927). John Hurt, who played High Chancellor Adam Sutler, found it “strange” to play an Adolf Hitler-type character in the middle of Berlin, sometimes in locations where Hitler gave speeches.

9. THE FILM RECEIVED UNPRECEDENTED PERMISSION TO CLOSE DOWN DOWNING STREET.

It took nine months of negotiating with 14 government departments for the filmmakers to gain permission to film on Whitehall, London's famous thoroughfare that runs from Trafalgar Square to the Parliament Buildings. The film shot three nights in a row between midnight and 5 a.m.

10. PORTMAN’S HEAD-SHAVING SCENE HAD TO BE SHOT IN ONE TAKE.

McTeigue utilized three cameras for the scene. "It was a one-shot deal, and that was the most stressful thing about the experience," said Portman. She also claimed that her shaved head made her more recognizable to onlookers.

11. THE CINEMATOGRAPHER DIED BEFORE THE FILM'S RELEASE.

Oscar-nominated cinematographer Adrian Biddle (The Princess Bride, Thelma and Louise) passed away on December 7, 2005, at the age of 53, following a heart attack. V for Vendetta, which was released in the U.S. on March 17, 2006, was his last movie.

12. IT TOOK 200 HOURS TO BUILD THE DOMINOES.

Four professional domino assemblers prepared the 22,000 dominoes in the Netherlands before the two-day shoot.

13. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO COME OUT IN TIME FOR GUY FAWKES DAY.

The plan was to release the film on November 5th—early trailers said to “remember, remember the 5th of November”—before it got delayed in post-production. Instead it came out on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and was number one at the box office, making over $25.6 million in its first few days.

15 Fascinating Facts About Schindler’s List

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

In 1993, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List brought to the screen a story that had gone untold since the tragic events of the Holocaust. Oskar Schindler, a Nazi party member, used his pull within the party to save the lives of more than 1000 Jewish individuals by recruiting them to work in his Polish factory. Here are some facts about Spielberg’s groundbreaking film on its 25th anniversary.

1. The story was relayed to author Thomas Keneally in a Beverly Hills leather goods shop.

In October 1980, Australian novelist Thomas Keneally had stopped into a leather goods shop off of Rodeo Drive after a book tour stopover from a film festival in Sorrento, Italy, where one of his books was adapted into a movie. When the owner of the shop, Leopold Page, learned that Keneally was a writer, he began telling him “the greatest story of humanity man to man.” That story was how Page, his wife, and thousands of other Jews were saved by a Nazi factory owner named Oskar Schindler during World War II.

Page gave Keneally photocopies of documents related to Schindler, including speeches, firsthand accounts, testimonies, and the actual list of names of the people he saved. It inspired Keneally to write the book Schindler’s Ark, on which the movie is based. Page (whose real name was Poldek Pfefferberg) ended up becoming a consultant on the film.

2. Keneally wasn't the first person Leopold Page told about Oskar Schindler.

The film rights to Page’s story were actually first purchased by MGM for $50,000 in the 1960s after Page had similarly ambushed the wife of film producer Marvin Gosch at his leather shop. Mrs. Gosch told the story to her husband, who agreed to produce a film version, even going so far as hiring Casablanca co-screenwriter Howard Koch to write the script. Koch and Gosch began interviewing Schindler Jews in and around the Los Angeles area, and even Schindler himself, before the project stalled, leaving the story unknown to the public at large.

3. Schindler made more than one list.

Liam Neeson, Agnieszka Krukówna, Krzysztof Luft, Friedrich von Thun, and Marta Bizon in Schindler's List (1993)
Universal Pictures

Seven lists in all were made by Oskar Schindler and his associates during the war, while four are known to still exist. Two are at the Yad Vashem in Israel, one is at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and one privately owned list was unsuccessfully auctioned off via eBay in 2013.

The movie refers to the first two lists created in 1944, otherwise known as “The Lists of Life.” The five subsequent lists were updates to the first two versions, which included the names of more than 1000 Jews who Schindler saved by recruiting them to work in his factory.

4. Steven Spielberg first learned of Schindler in the early 1980s.

Former MCA/Universal president Sid Sheinberg, a father figure to Spielberg, gave the director Keneally’s book when it was first published in 1982, to which Spielberg allegedly replied, “It’ll make a helluva story. Is it true?”

Eventually the studio bought the rights to the book, and when Page met with Spielberg to discuss the story, the director promised the Holocaust survivor that he would make the film adaptation within 10 years. The project languished for over a decade because Spielberg was reluctant to take on such serious subject matter. Spielberg’s hesitation actually stopped Hollywood veteran Billy Wilder from making Schindler’s List his final film. Wilder tried to buy the rights to Keneally’s book, but Spielberg and MCA/Universal scooped them up before he could.

5. Spielberg refused to accept a salary for making the movie.

Though Spielberg is already an extremely wealthy man as a result of the many big-budget movies that have made him one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, he decided that a story as important as Schindler’s List shouldn’t be made with an eye toward financial reward. The director relinquished his salary for the movie and any proceeds he would stand to make in perpetuity, calling any such personal gains “blood money.” Instead, Spielberg used the film’s profits to found the USC Shoah Foundation, which was established in 1994 to honor and remember the survivors of the Holocaust by collecting personal recollections and audio visual interviews.

6. Before Spielberg agreed to make the movie, he tried to get other directors to make it.

Part of Spielberg’s reluctance to make Schindler's List was that he didn’t feel that he was prepared or mature enough to tackle a film about the Holocaust. So he tried to recruit other directors to make the film. He first approached director Roman Polanski, a Holocaust survivor whose own mother was killed in Auschwitz. Polanski declined, but would go on to make his own film about the Holocaust, The Pianist, which earned him a Best Director Oscar in 2003. Spielberg then offered the movie to director Sydney Pollack, who also passed.

The job was then offered to legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who accepted. Scorsese was set to put the film into production when Spielberg had an epiphany on the set of the revisionist Peter Pan story Hook and realized that he was finally prepared to make Schindler’s List. To make up for the change of heart, Spielberg traded Scorsese the rights to a movie he’d been developing that Scorsese would make into his next film: the remake of Cape Fear.

7. The movie was a gamble for Universal, so they made Spielberg a dino-sized deal.

When Spielberg finally decided to make Schindler’s List, it had taken him so long that Sheinberg and Universal balked. The relatively low-budget $23 million three-hour black-and-white Holocaust movie was too much of a risk, so they asked Spielberg to make another project that had been brewing at the studio: Jurassic Park. Make the lucrative summer movie first, they said, and then he could go and make his passion project. Spielberg agreed, and both movies were released in 1993; Jurassic Park in June and Schindler’s List in December.

8. Spielberg didn't want a movie star with Hollywood clout to portray Schindler.

Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson auditioned for the role of Oskar Schindler, and actor Warren Beatty was far enough along in the process that he even made it as far as a script reading. But according to Spielberg, Beatty was dropped because, “Warren would have played it like Oskar Schindler through Warren Beatty.”

For the role, Spielberg cast then relatively unknown Irish actor Liam Neeson, whom the director had seen in a Broadway play called Anna Christie. “Liam was the closest in my experience of what Schindler was like,” Spielberg told The New York Times. “His charm, the way women love him, his strength. He actually looks a little bit like Schindler, the same height, although Schindler was a rotund man,” he said. “If I had made the movie in 1964, I would have cast Gert Frobe, the late German actor. That’s what he looked like.”

Besides having Neeson listen to recordings of Schindler, the director also told him to study the gestures of former Time Warner chairman Steven J. Ross, another of Spielberg’s mentors, and the man to whom he dedicated the film.

9. Spielberg did his own research.

In order to gain a more personal perspective on the film, Spielberg traveled to Poland before principal photography began to interview Holocaust survivors and visit the real-life locations that he planned to portray in the movie. While there, he visited the former Gestapo headquarters on Pomorska Street, Schindler’s actual apartment, and Amon Goeth’s villa.

Eventually the film shot on location for 92 days in Poland by recreating the Płaszów camp in a nearby abandoned rock quarry. The production was also allowed to shoot scenes outside the gates of Auschwitz.

10. The little girl in the red coat was real.

Promotional image for 25th anniversary rerelease of Schindler's List.
Universal Pictures

A symbol of innocence in the movie, the little girl in the red coat who appears during the liquidation of the ghetto in the movie was based on a real person. In the film, the little girl is played by actress Oliwia Dabrowska, who—at the age of three—promised Spielberg that she would not watch the film until she was 18 years old. She allegedly watched the movie when she was 11, breaking her promise, and spent years rejecting the experience. Later, she told the Daily Mail, “I realized I had been part of something I could be proud of. Spielberg was right: I had to grow up to watch the film.”

The actual girl in the red coat was named Roma Ligocka; a survivor of the Krakow ghetto, she was known amongst the Jews living there by her red winter coat. Ligocka, now a painter who lives in Germany, later wrote a biography about surviving the Holocaust called The Girl in the Red Coat.

11. The movie wasn't supposed to be in English.

For a better sense of reality, Spielberg originally wanted to shoot the movie completely in Polish and German using subtitles, but he eventually decided against it because he felt that it would take away from the urgency and importance of the images onscreen. According to Spielberg, “I wanted people to watch the images, not read the subtitles. There’s too much safety in reading. It would have been an excuse to take their eyes off the screen and watch something else.”

12. The studio didn't want the movie to be in black and white.

The only person at MCA/Universal who agreed with Spielberg and director of cinematography Janusz Kaminski’s decision to shoot the movie in black and white was Sheinberg. Everyone else lobbied against the idea, saying that it would stylize the Holocaust. Spielberg and Kaminski chose to shoot the film in a grimy, unstylish fashion and format inspired by German Expressionist and Italian Neorealist films. Also, according to Spielberg, “It’s entirely appropriate because I’ve only experienced the Holocaust through other people’s testimonies and through archival footage which is, of course, all in black and white.”

13. Spielberg's passion project paid off in Oscars.

Schindler’s List was the big winner at the 66th Academy Awards. The film won a total of seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director awards for Spielberg. Neeson and Ralph Fiennes were both nominated for their performances, and the film also received nods for Costume Design, Makeup, and Sound.

14. Schindler's List is technically a student film.

Steven Spielberg gives a speech
Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images

Thirty-three years after dropping out of college, Spielberg finally received a BA in Film and Video Production from his newly minted alma mater, Cal State Long Beach, in 2002. The director re-enrolled in secret, and gained his remaining credits by writing essays and submitting projects under a pseudonym. In order to pass a film course, he submitted Schindler’s List as his student project. Spielberg describes the time gap between leaving school and earning his degree as his “longest post-production schedule.”

15. Spielberg thinks the film may be even more important to watch today.

In honor of the film's 25th anniversary, it's currently back in theaters. But Spielberg believes that the film may be even more important for today's audiences to see. "I think this is maybe the most important time to re-release this film," the director said in a recent interview with Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News. Citing the spike in hate crimes targeting religious minorities since
2016, he said, "Hate's less parenthetical today, it's more a headline."

Additional Sources:
The Making of Schindler’s List: Behind the Scenes of an Epic Film, by Franciszek Palowski

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2015.

The Most-Searched Holiday Movie in Every State, Mapped

iStock.com/chrispecoraro
iStock.com/chrispecoraro

Do you live in a Gremlins state or a Home Alone state? StreamingObserver is here to tell you. The streaming-industry site recently used Rotten Tomatoes and other public data sources to figure out the most popular Christmas movies in each state. Spoiler: It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t quite the Christmas classic you thought it was.

The list takes some liberties with what might be considered a “Christmas” movie. Die Hard (a favorite in Missouri and Wisconsin) made the list, as did Batman Returns (California’s most-searched movie) and Edward Scissorhands (popular in Nevada and Arizona). They aren’t quite the traditional Hallmark holiday fare, but they each include at least some nod to the Christmas season.

Then there’s the more standard Yuletide entertainment, like A Christmas Carol (Tennessee’s favorite) and Frosty the Snowman (South Dakota's pick). Christmas in Connecticut, oddly enough, is Montana’s favorite (unclear whether that’s the 1945 film or the 1992 TV movie), while Connecticut’s favorite is the 1983 Eddie Murphy film Trading Places. The Apartment, The Snowman, Miracle on 34th Street, and The Best Man Holiday also make an appearance. Seven states list Gremlins as their favorite, while six chose Home Alone and three chose Scrooged.

The data is based on Google searches, rather than surveys, so it's possible that the movie at the top of each state's list isn't so much beloved as it is curiosity-inspiring. It's possible that all these people are Googling Gremlins, then deciding not to watch it. But we feel fairly confident saying a lot of people will be watching Die Hard this Christmas season. (Tip: You can't stream it on Netflix right now, but you can rent it on Amazon.)

The 2018 results are fairly different from StreamingObserver's 2016 data, which you can compare here. Do you agree with your state's preferences?

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