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10 Timely Facts About 48 Hrs.

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Thirty-five years ago, Eddie Murphy was a rising comedian with a promising future in the world of stand-up comedy. Quickly becoming one of the biggest stars of Saturday Night Live, the kid from Brooklyn took a chance with his career in 1982 and tried his hand at acting in a film about a gruff detective who needs the help of a wise-cracking convict to catch a killer. 48 Hrs. showed the world that Murphy had range and became the doorway to a storied career that still has legs.

1. IT WAS EDDIE MURPHY’S FIRST FILM ROLE.

At age 19, Murphy became Saturday Night Live's youngest-ever cast member (Anthony Michael Hall beat that record in 1985, when he was cast at the age of 17). As his career continued to grow outside of stand-up comedy, Murphy decided that we wanted to give serious acting a shot and got the opportunity two years later at the ripe age of 21. “I do some funny things in the movie, but for all intents and purposes it’s a serious movie,” Murphy told Entertainment Tonight. “From being associated with Saturday Night Live, the public, quite naturally, they’re expecting you to do a comedy the first movie that you do. And I will be doing comedy, the next film that I do will probably be a comedy, but I thought it would be hip to come out and do a serious picture.”

2. NOT BEING FUNNY ALMOST GOT MURPHY FIRED.

While sitting down with James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio, the comedian revealed that, unbeknownst to him, there were talks behind the scenes of 48 Hrs. about firing him for not being funny in the film. In the same interview, he also shared that his acting coach for the film was David Proval, who would go on to play Richie Aprile on The Sopranos.

3. NICK NOLTE AND EDDIE MURPHY WERE NOT THE STUDIO'S FIRST CHOICES.

According to The Telegraph, several actors turned down the roles of Detective Jack Cates and Reggie Hammond before Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy signed on. Mickey Rourke, Clint Eastwood, and Jeff Bridges were reportedly offered the detective role, while Gregory Hines, Richard Pryor, Howard E. Rollins Jr., and Denzel Washington all ultimately passed on playing the convict.

4. IT BEGAN AS A KIDNAPPING STORY.

48 Hrs., as the world knows it, is a story about an odd couple of cops trying to catch a killer, but that's not how it was originally written. In a 2009 interview, director Walter Hill shared the story of how he became involved with the project and how it changed over time. "[Producer] Larry Gordon had an idea for a crime movie set in Louisiana where the governor’s daughter is kidnapped, and has dynamite taped to her head, and the bad guys are going to kill her in 48 hours," Hill explained. "The family assigns a top cop to rescue her—one aspect of the story was the cop getting one of the kidnapper’s old cellmates out of jail to help him."

The story was rewritten a few times and tailored for Clint Eastwood, who eventually turned it down.

5. MURPHY’S PERFORMANCE WAS INSPIRED BY BRUCE LEE.

Movieclips on YouTube

Having never been in a serious role, Eddie Murphy did not know how to be angry on camera, so he mimicked actor and martial artist Bruce Lee. “There’s a scene in 48 Hrs. where I’m coming down the alley and there’s all this neon and I’m supposed to be intense, but I had no reference,” Murphy told Byron Allen in an interview for the 25th anniversary edition DVD of Eddie Murphy: Delirious. “So I was doing my Bruce Lee impression, and I still do it until this day. When I’m mad on screen if I pull my gun out, it may not look like Bruce Lee because I look nothing like him, but on the inside, my face, all the sh*t I’m doing with my eyes ... it’s all my Bruce Lee impression.”

6. THE FILM EARNED MURPHY A GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATION.

In 1983, 48 Hrs. was nominated for a single Golden Globe award—for Eddie Murphy as “New Star of the Year.” He lost to Ben Kingsley for his portrayal of the titular character in Gandhi.

7. THE FILM WAS BIG FOR RACE RELATIONS, ACCORDING TO NOLTE.

Movieclips on YouTube

In a 2010 interview with The A.V. Club, Nick Nolte claimed that the 1982 crime-comedy was a game changer as far as the issue of race relations was concerned. “In 48 Hrs., Eddie and I are racially slurring at each other and showing our anger,” Nolte said. “The only films before 48 Hrs. [to do that], if I’m correct, were Lilies Of The Field and In The Heat Of The Night. After civil rights, there was this long period of very awkward attempts at communication between the whites and the blacks. The whites didn’t know if ‘brother’ was the right thing to say or not. It was just really awkward. I think more than anything, that was the underneath appeal of 48 Hrs.

8. ONE SCENE MADE EDDIE MURPHY A STAR, SAID ROGER EBERT.

In his review of the film, Roger Ebert wrote that the now iconic bar scene, during which Murphy and Nolte swap roles to get information out of a group of rednecks, is when Murphy solidified himself as a real movie star. “You know why it worked then and the reason why it wouldn’t now?,” Murphy asked rhetorically in a 2011 interview with Rolling Stone. “My significance in film—and again I’m not going to be delusional—was that I’m the first black actor to take charge in a white world onscreen ... Black-exploitation movies, even if you dealt with the Man, it was in your neighborhood, never in their world. In 48 Hrs., that's why it worked, because I'm running it, making the story go forward.”

9. 48 HRS. LED TO ANOTHER SNL MILESTONE FOR MURPHY.

Having already been the youngest cast member years prior, Eddie Murphy was also the first Saturday Night Live cast member in history to host the show while he was still on it, but that was not the plan. On December 11, 1982, Nick Nolte was supposed to host, but he was sick and had to back out at the last second. "When Nick got here, and got off the plane, he vomited on my shirt," Murphy said in his opening monologue, "and we realized Nick was too sick to do the show. And that's too bad, because Nick was gonna be in some real great stuff tonight." He added that because the audience came to see someone from the film, he was going to be the host, and he famously kicked off the episode with the line: "Live, from New York, it's The Eddie Murphy Show!"

10. BY THE SEQUEL, BOTH MEN GOT MAJOR PAY INCREASES.

According to Epix, as the newbie, Murphy was only paid $450,000 to do the first film, while the more experienced Nolte was paid $1 million. After the success of films like Trading Places (1983), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), The Golden Child (1986), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), and Coming to America (1988), Murphy’s paycheck for Another 48 Hrs. (1990) jumped to $7 million, while Nolte got a relatively smaller bump to $3 million.

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
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Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
Troma Entertainment
Troma Entertainment

Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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