CLOSE

14 Black-and-White Facts About Pretty in Pink

By February 1986, John Hughes had established himself as the king of teen movies with hits like Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and The Breakfast Club. Pretty In Pink, Hughes’ final collaboration with teen queen Molly Ringwald, was released on February 28, 1986, and with a $7 million budget, it grossed over $40.4 million at the box office. The film became controversial because of a new ending, but it also became synonymous with the across-the-tracks girl winning over the cute, popular guy. Hughes wrote the script and co-executive-produced the film, and Howard Deutch directed (the two would re-team the following year for Some Kind of Wonderful). Thirty years after its initial release, here are 14 rosy facts about the venerable teen flick.

1. JOHN HUGHES NAMED THE FILM PRETTY IN PINK BECAUSE MOLLY RINGWALD LIKED THE TITULAR SONG.

The movie is named after The Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty In Pink," a song Molly Ringwald told Hughes about. (For the movie, the band recorded a poppier version.) “The title stuck in my head,” Hughes told Ringwald in a 1986 interview with Seventeen. “I thought about your predisposition toward pink. I wrote Pretty In Pink the week after we finished Sixteen Candles. I so desperately hate to end these movies that the first thing I do when I’m done is write another one, then I don’t feel sad about having to leave and everybody going away.” 

The song was not a hit when it was initially released in 1981, but when the movie came out, it launched the Furs’ career in the U.S. Despite its hit factor, Furs lead singer Richard Butler thinks Hughes misinterpreted the meaning of the dark song. “[The movie] was nothing like the spirit of the song at all,” Butler said. “It’s really hard to say whether it was damaging for us. I suppose we got tied in with the story of the film, and if that’s what people thought the story was about and didn’t look much further than that, they were getting a very false impression.”

2. THE STUDIO WANTED JENNIFER BEALS TO PLAY ANDIE.

Although Hughes wrote the role of Andie with Ringwald in mind, Paramount wanted a bigger name like Jennifer Beals, who had found great success at the time with Flashdance. “I remember actually hearing that Jennifer Beals was in the running, and it was sort of upsetting to me to imagine her in that,” Ringwald said in the book You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried. “I felt like she was already an adult by then. It just didn’t seem possible, so I was really glad when I was approached about it.” Deutch and Hughes met with Beals, but she turned it down. Instead, the guys stuck with their first instinct and hired Ringwald, who was grateful. “I couldn’t imagine not doing the movie,” she said.

3. HOWARD DEUTCH WANTED ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL TO PLAY DUCKIE, BUT RINGWALD WANTED ROBERT DOWNEY JR.

Deutch approached Anthony Michael Hall to play Duckie, but Hall felt that Pretty In Pink was just rehashing Sixteen Candles. “How are you going to compete with Michael Hall?” Deutch said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried. “Hall, after Breakfast Club was, like, the greatest kid in the universe. And Duckie was Michael Hall. But he wouldn’t do it.”

4. JON CRYER’S CASTING LED TO A CHANGE IN THE ENDING.

Originally, Pretty In Pink ended with Andie and Duckie ending up together. But that changed when Jon Cryer was cast. “Molly dropped the bomb that she would’ve been fine with the original ending if Robert Downey Jr. had played Duckie, but since it was me, she just couldn’t see it,” Cryer said on the film’s 2006 Everything’s Duckie DVD edition. “It was like, ‘Wow, so I’m that unattractive?’ Thanks, Mol!”

Though Deutch wanted Cryer to play Duckie, the director seemed to later regret it. “What I learned was that there are no rules, in the sense that life isn’t fair,” Deutch said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. “Duckie should have the girl and it was all built for that and it was designed for that. And I could have ended that way, had I not f*cked with one thing: I cast Jon Cryer.”

5. RINGWALD THOUGHT ANDREW MCCARTHY WAS “CUTE” AND PUSHED FOR HIS CASTING.

The filmmakers wanted Andie’s love interest, Blane, to be “a hunky, square-jawed jock,” but Ringwald herself wasn’t attracted to that sort of guy. Ringwald had some say in the casting, and after Andrew McCarthy auditioned she told Hughes and Deutch her thoughts on him. “That’s the kind of guy I would fall in love with,” she said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. They thought he was a “twerpy guy” and weren’t interested.

“I did push for him to get hired,” Ringwald said. “I thought he was cute and I thought, if I thought he was cute, then Andie would think he was cute! I liked how he wasn’t typical, and he seemed so right for that part. Andrew McCarthy has always seemed so tortured with indecision, at least at that time, and so was Blane, who really is a tortured soul. And Andrew and his eyes—there’s just nobody who has those tortured eyes.”

6. THE ORIGINAL “DUCKIE DANCE” WAS SET TO MICK JAGGER, NOT OTIS REDDING.

What’s now known as “The Duckie Dance” was part of Cryer’s audition process, for a scene where Duckie entertains Andie and Iona (Annie Potts) at the record store, Trax. The script reads “Duckie comes in lip-synching a song with great energy,” so Cryer chose the 1984 Mick Jagger/Michael Jackson tune “State of Shock” and did his best impressions. “It was meant to be comedic, trust me,” Cryer told Entertainment Weekly in 2006. “I performed a chunk of it for [Deutch], and he thought it was very funny. And he was like, 'Just do 'Start Me Up,' because I think the Michael Jackson portion was just too ridiculous for him. Then we couldn’t get the rights to ‘Start Me Up’ anyway. It was Howie who found the Otis Redding song ['Try a Little Tenderness']. Nobody really anticipated that I was gonna go to town on it the way that I did. Although, I completely blame Howie, because he got me together with Kenny Ortega the night before [we shot the scene]. And getting together with a seriously world-class choreographer, you’re gonna come up with something.” Last year, Cryer recreated the dance with James Corden.

Earlier this month, Deutch told Entertainment Weekly why he picked Redding’s song for the scene. “It needed to be a heartbreaking song that would express just how Duckie felt—how hurt he is and how much he’s in love with this woman. And we fall in love with him because we all related to that.” They filmed so many takes that Cryer said he tore through his “Duckie shoes.”

7. CRYER DEVISED A COUPLE OF NOW-ICONIC LINES.

In one scene, bullies push Duckie into the girls’ bathroom. “So this is what it looks like,” he says to a group of women in there. “We don’t have a candy machine in the boys’ room,” referring to a tampon machine. “The one time I was in the girls’ room in my junior high school I saw this machine on the wall, and I was like, ‘What is this? They have a candy machine? This is fantastic!’” Cryer admitted in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. Cryer’s also responsible for the Blane appliance line. “His name is Blane? That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name,” Duckie balks to Andie when she tells him her date’s name.

8. MCCARTHY HAD TO WEAR A WIG TO FILM THE NEW ENDING.

After it was decided the filmmakers needed to reshoot the ending, McCarthy was called away from The Boys of Winter, a play he was doing in New York that required him to shave his head for his role as a soldier. “It looks like a rodent on my head,” McCarthy said of the hairpiece. “I’m sure if they had known we would still be talking about the movie 20 years later, they would’ve paid for a better wig.” Deutch concurred: “It’s a horrible wig. He looked like an axe murderer.”

9. THE CAST AND CREW HAD MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT THE NEW ENDING.

The original ending saw Andie choosing Duckie over Blane at the prom, and Andie and Duckie happily twirling to David Bowie’s “Heroes.” (In real life, Ringwald had the stomach flu and almost passed out during the scene.) When a test audience saw the ending, they literally booed at it, saying they wanted Andie to end up with Blane. “That shocked everyone because the architecture of the story was that love endures and overcomes everything,” Deutch told The Huffington Post. “The girls in the test screening didn’t go for that. They didn’t care about the politics; they wanted her to get the cute boy. And that was it.”

Hughes came up with the idea that Blane would attend the prom alone. “That gave him the breadcrumbs to follow the rest of the ending so that [Blane and Andie] ended up together,” Deutch said. “But that wasn’t an easy thing to unravel.” It took three weeks to film the new ending, in which Andie friend-zones Duckie and chases after Blane. Deutch felt it was “heartbreaking.” “I thought it was unfair and wrong, and that’s not what the movie was intended to be,” he said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. “It felt immoral.”

Cryer also felt the ending wasn’t exactly right. “I was disappointed,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “You sorta go, ‘Oh, guess I’m not the leading man.’ But I think it was kind of appropriate. Duckie always thought he was the leading man, and that was his fatal flaw.” In You Couldn’t Ignore Me, Cryer said that “I was a little hurt because you feel it reflects on you as an actor, because you didn’t get an audience to invest enough in an Andie and Duckie relationship in such a way that it would be satisfying that they would end up together.” However, Cryer recognizes the point of the new ending was to prove you could bridge the gap between classes. “You can’t give people the impression that it can’t be bridged. You can’t send a message that interclass romance just can’t possibly work.” Pretty in Pink producer Lauren Shuler Donner thinks, “it’s a good message. It’s Cinderella, and I think it will always resonate that way,” she said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. And McCarthy considers the ending “tapping into the fantasy of what young women want.” (Which is apparently a guy wearing a terrible wig.)

10. CRYER DIDN’T THINK RINGWALD OR MCCARTHY LIKED HIM.

 “Molly and Andrew were very reserved people and I’m a very outgoing person,” Cryer told CBS News Sunday Morning. “That could have worked out great, that dynamic, but it didn’t. I think they were irritated by me from day one.” Cryer elaborated to MSN: “I think I made them uncomfortable. They would later label me as ‘needy.’ Not untrue, actually. What I later found out from the director, Howie Deutch, was we were kind of cast to take advantage of that, that it was supposed to be an uncomfortable three-way relationship. And that happened. [Molly’s] so reserved that I always took that as that means she hates me.”

In You Couldn’t Ignore Me, McCarthy confirmed the neediness. “Jon was very Duckie-like when we were making that movie,” he said. “He was very sweet, and very needy, and I had no patience for it.”

11. JAMES SPADER PLAYED STEFF SO WELL IN HIS AUDITION THAT HE ALMOST REPELLED THE PRODUCERS.

According to You Couldn’t Ignore Me, when Spader auditioned for Deutch and Hughes, he completely immersed himself in the jerky character of Steff. He smoked a cigarette in the room, and crushed the cig on his way out. Hughes and Deutch almost didn’t cast him until they realized just how much he embodied the role. After Spader got the part, Cryer complimented Spader’s prior works. “I figure I got a lock on this teenage a**hole thing,” Spader told Cryer.

Last year Spader and McCarthy reunited when McCarthy directed Spader in an episode of The Blacklist.

12. ANDIE’S PROM DRESS WAS CREATED FROM TWO DRESSES.

Costume designer Marilyn Vance bought the dresses from two locations in L.A., cut them apart, then reassembled them the two into one pink dress. Unfortunately, Ringwald “hated the pink dress,” Vance told Yahoo!. “She hated it with such a passion.” Thankfully, Hughes disagreed. “I said, ‘I think John should be involved in this. I really do,’” Vance said. “It’s just important enough for him to make that decision. And he said, ‘No way. This is it.’ That was the character. It wasn’t that he loved it or didn’t love it. It was just right for her character.”

Vance also curated Duckie’s over-the-top wardrobe. “Marilyn put me in these insane outfits, and at first I thought why does it have to be so goofy? And then I realized, of course, that’s Duckie’s f**k you to the world,” Cryer said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me.

13. OMD HAD TWO DAYS TO WRITE “IF YOU LEAVE.”

The British band had originally penned a finale song called “Goddess of Love” for the movie, which appears on their record, The Pacific Age. But when the ending was re-shot, they scrambled to write a new song. “We worked until 4 a.m. writing a rough version and sent a motorbike to Paramount,” band co-founder Andy McCluskey told Songfacts. “John heard it, liked it, and our manager phoned us at 8 a.m. and told us to go back in and mix it.”

But there was a problem: “The song had to be 120 BPM ‘cuz that’s the tempo of ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me),’ which is the track they actually shot the prom scene to,” McCluskey said. “Unfortunately, the editor obviously had no sense of rhythm because they are all dancing out of time in the final film.” The song peaked at number four on the U.S. charts and, to this day, is their best known song even though they have many songs in their discography. “It’s a blessing to have such a big hit, but a shame that it overshadows so many other good songs for the U.S. audience,” he said. “We have many European fans who hate the song.”

14. RINGWALD THINKS DUCKIE IS GAY. CRYER DISAGREES.

During a 2010 Entertainment Weekly reunion, Ringwald said Duckie would’ve probably come out by now, and Cryer joked Duckie would’ve shown up to Gay Pride wearing his suspenders and no shirt. Then he said, “I never quite saw him that way, but perhaps that’s because I’m married now.”

“Duckie doesn’t know he’s gay,” Ringwald told Out. “I think he loves Andie in the way that [my gay best friend] always loved me.” Cryer contradicted Ringwald in an interview with Zap2It: “I want to stand up for all the slightly effeminate dorks that are actually heterosexual. Just ‘cause the gaydar is going off, doesn’t mean your instruments aren’t faulty. I’ve had to live with that, and that’s okay.”

Though Duckie didn’t get the girl, Ringwald told Entertainment Weekly she thinks “Andie and Blane probably did not end up together, but Duckie and Andie ended up friends for life.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-A-LIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


Getty Images

Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


Getty Images

Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
Getty Images

In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Janus Films
arrow
entertainment
15 Fascinating Facts About Blood Simple
Janus Films
Janus Films

Ethan and Joel Coen hadn’t made a feature film of their own until they set out to write, direct, produce, and edit Blood Simple, a bloody Texas-set noir about a cuckold husband named Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) who hires a private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to murder his cheating wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz). The filmmakers wanted a small budget like a horror film, but preferred making an entertaining B-film. Before production started, the Coens created a two-minute trailer and showed it to investors, which allowed them to raise an impressive $750,000 (which was half of the final budget).

In January of 1985, the movie was released in theaters and grossed $2,150,000. In its 2000 theatrical re-release, the movie added another $1.7 million to its box office haul. The low-budget film set the standard for the wave of American indie films to come, and it established the Coens as two of the most important voices in cinema. It also launched the careers of Frances McDormand and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld (who would later turn to directing).

Here are 15 facts about the noir thriller, which arrived in theaters on this day in 1985.

1. ITS TITLE WAS INSPIRED BY DASHIELL HAMMETT’S RED HARVEST.

“It’s an expression he used to describe what happens to somebody psychologically once they’ve committed murder,” Joel Coen told Time Out. “They go ‘blood simple’ in the slang sense of ‘simple,’ meaning crazy. But it’s left up to the audience to ponder the implications; they’re never spelled out in the film itself.”

2. THE COENS SPECIFICALLY WROTE THE PART OF LOREN VISSER FOR M. EMMET WALSH.

Blood Simple started something else that we’ve done pretty much on every subsequent movie, which was that we’ve always written parts for specific actors,” Joel Coen said in the book My First Movie. The brothers knew Walsh from the film Straight Time, in which he played a sleazy character. “Actually, it was a more interesting character than what we came up with in Blood Simple inasmuch as it was more ambiguous,” Joel said. They offered him the part without having him audition, but ran into a dilemma. “All I remember is we didn’t know what the hell to call him,” Ethan said. “I mean, what the hell do you call him when you meet him? M?”

3. THE COENS—AND MANY OF THE CAST AND CREW—HAD NEVER BEEN ON A FILM SET BEFORE.

Joel Coen admitted in My First Movie, “The first day of shooting on Blood Simple was the first time I’d ever been on a feature movie set in any capacity, even as a visitor.” Coen had previously worked as an assistant editor on horror films, including 1981’s The Evil Dead. Coen mentioned how Sonnenfeld would throw up after looking at the dailies, because he was so nervous working on the film. “Everyone was in the same boat,” Joel said. “The gaffer had never gaffered a feature. The sound guy, the mixer on the set, had never mixed a feature.”

4. THE COENS CHOSE TO MAKE A FILM NOIR BECAUSE OF THE GENRE’S PRACTICALITY.

Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh in 'Blood Simple' (1984)
Janus Films

The Coens liked hard-boiled fiction authors James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, and used them to their advantage in writing the script. “It’s certainly a genre that is entertaining, and we also picked it for very practical reasons,” Ethan said. “We knew we weren’t going to have a big budget. The financing would not allow it. We could build something on the genre and the appeal it has.”

“It’s also a genre that allows you to get by rather modestly in some ways,” Joel added. “You can limit the number of characters, put them into a confined set. There’s no need to go for large-scale effects or scatter them through the film, and those cost a lot of money. So it was a pragmatic decision that determined what film we would make.”

5. BUT THEY DIDN’T WANT TO PARODY FILM NOIR.

In a 1985 interview, featured in the book The Coen Brothers: Interviews, Ethan said, “When people call Blood Simple a film noir, they’re correct to the extent that we like the same kind of stories that the people who made those movies like. We tried to emulate the source that those movies came from rather than the movies themselves.” They didn’t want to make “a venetian blind movie,” but movies like The Conformist and The Third Man inspired the look of Blood Simple.

Because of the comedic elements in the film, some people might think the movie is trying to parody the thriller genre. “On one hand, it is a thriller, and, on the other, it is funny,” Ethan said. “But certainly the film is supposed to work as a thriller and I don’t think it would work as both at once.”

6. THEY BORROWED AN INVESTMENT TACTIC FROM SAM RAIMI.

Their friend Sam Raimi had shot a trailer for his film The Evil Dead and raised $60,000 toward the budget after showing it to investors. “He financed the movie using a common thing that people making exploitation movies had used, which was a limited partnership,” Joel said in My First Movie. “What we also borrowed from Sam and the other models was that I presented more of an action exploitation type movie than it ended up being, and in fact than we knew it would be.”

The Coens didn’t know many people, so they decided to take a projector and the trailer to entrepreneurs’ homes in New York, Texas, and Minnesota. “If you call people up and say, ‘Can you give me 10 minutes so I can present an opportunity to invest in a movie?’ They’re going to say, ‘No, I don’t need this,’ and hang up the phone,” Joel said in My First Movie. “But it’s slightly different if you call and say, ‘Can I come over and take 10 minutes and show you a piece of film?’ All of a sudden that intrigues them and gets your foot in the door.” Eventually, all 65 investors made a profit from their investment.

The investor trailer finally surfaced online and features Bruce Campbell in the Dan Hedaya role.

7. NONE OF THE MAJOR STUDIOS WANTED TO DISTRIBUTE IT.

The Coens took time editing the film, and started shopping the movie around in 1984. Warner Bros. rejected it, but an indie company agreed to distribute it with a slight change. “We took it to Crown International Pictures and the guy would say, ‘If you have some nudity you can put in there maybe we can distribute it,’” Joel said in My First Movie. “We saw everybody from the studios to the lowliest sleaze-bucket distributors in L.A. And they all said no.” Circle Films picked up the movie after seeing a screening of it at the Toronto Film Festival. When the movie came out with good reviews, Warner tried to buy it from Circle to no avail.

8. M. EMMET WALSH COULDN’T BLOW SMOKE RINGS.

At first the actor was skeptical of starring in a movie where he probably wouldn’t make any money, but he gave the Coens a chance. Joel asked Walsh if he could blow a smoke ring from cigarette smoke and he said he would try. “I just couldn’t do it,” Walsh said. “I worked and worked on it, but I started to make myself sick.” The Coens brought in a smoke machine to make the smoke rings but the machine broke during filming. “The script gal says, ‘Give me a damn cigar. I grew up with five brothers smoking behind a barn,’” Walsh said. “So they give her a cigar and she starts making these incredible smoke rings. I said to myself, ‘My God, this is how you make a movie!’ Later on, I went outside and saw her puking her brains out. That was Blood Simple.”

9. THE COENS HAD AN INCIDENT WITH ONE OF THEIR POTENTIAL INVESTORS.

“There was one investor we went to and we hit his car, parking,” Ethan said in My First Movie. “And we had this big debate out on the driveway [about] whether we should tell him we hit his car before the sales pitch or after the sales pitch. We decided that we wouldn’t tell him until we showed him the movie and made the sales pitch.” The investor decided against investing in the film.

10. FRANCES MCDORMAND REFUSED TO BE “THEATRICAL” IN THE MOVIE.

John Getz and Frances McDorman in 'Blood Simple' (1984)
Janus Films

Up until she starred in Blood Simple, the future Oscar-winner had mainly done theater and some TV. In an interview with William Dafoe for Bomb Magazine, she told him her approach to playing Abby Marty. “The only choice I made was not to be theatrical,” she said. “I never moved my face and my mouth’s always open like I’m terrified—I was a lot of the time. I just did whatever they told me to do, which was perfect for the character, but it’s not like I made that decision as a character choice. It was from not knowing what to do.”

11. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND WITH LITERATURE.

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

12. THE COENS RELEASED A SHORTER VERSION OF THE FILM.

Blood Simple got the Director’s Cut treatment in 2001, but instead of adding material to the re-release of the movie, the Coens removed a few minutes from it. “We always thought it was rather kind of clumsy, the editing,” Joel told Hollywood.com. “It was interesting to go in and try to tighten the movie up.” “Before, the original version was like an old lady with a walker, and now it just has a cane,” Ethan said. The newer version also brought back the Four Tops’ “It’s the Same Old Song,” which had been in the original theatrical release but had been replaced with Neil Diamond’s “I’m a Believer” in the VHS release.

13. THE COENS THINK THE MOVIE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

A scene from 'Blood Simple' (1984)
Janus Films

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature, in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

14. ZHANG YIMOU REMADE THE FILM.

Director Zhang Yimou—who directed House of Flying Daggers and Heroremade Blood Simple in 2009 as A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop. The move is set in a Chinese noodle shop in a desert, and in similar fashion, the plot centers on a man trying to kill his wife and her lover.

15. BLOOD SIMPLE BEGAT RAISING ARIZONA AND FARGO.

Two years after Blood Simple was released, the Coens wrote-directed their follow-up, Raising Arizona, which wasn’t anything like Blood Simple. “In essence, after having completed Blood Simple, we wanted to make something completely different,” Ethan said. “We didn’t know what, but we wanted it to be something funny that had a very quick rhythm. We also wanted to use Holly Hunter, who has been a friend of ours for a long time. So it really wasn’t the story that was the origin of the project, but Holly Hunter, her personality and, by extension, the character we had conceived for her to play. In contrast, Blood Simple took shape from an idea for a screenplay.” It should be noted Hunter provided her voice on an answering machine in Blood Simple.

More than a decade after Blood Simple came out, the Coens released Fargo. The Coens’ dealings with investors for Blood Simple inspired the film’s businessmen. “It was raising money for Blood Simple that we met all of these business guys who could wear the suits, get bundled up in the park and slog out in the snow and meet us in these, like, coffee shops,” Joel said in My First Movie. “We came back to that whole thing in Fargo: the car salesman, the guy who owns the bowling alley, you know, whatever.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios