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15 Fiendish Facts About Cruel Intentions

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In Cruel Intentions, high school students and step-siblings Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) and Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) wager on Sebastian's ability to seduce Annette (Reese Witherspoon), the headmaster's daughter who penned an article for Seventeen magazine titled "Why I Plan to Wait," about why she was choosing to save herself for marriage.

The 1999 film has maintained its popularity over the years. Despite a produced prequel series being re-edited into a direct-to-video sequel in 2000, NBC is currently working on a Cruel Intentions TV series, with Gellar reprising her role as Kathryn. Here are some facts about the movie to read before we toast to my triumph.

1. THE WRITER/DIRECTOR WAS INSPIRED BY WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE.

Writer/director Roger Kumble saw Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995) and felt he had never seen anything like it—"so dark," "fu**ed up high school." It quickly led him to the thought of doing an update of Dangerous Liaisons, but set in high school. The day his 1997 play d girl, starring David Schwimmer, closed, Kumble went to Mexico and wrote Cruel Intentions in 12 days.

2. IT'S THE FOURTH SCREEN ADAPTATION OF LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES.

The Pierre Choderlos de Laclos novel was first published in 1782. In 1959, Roger Vadim adapted the film for the screen using its original title. In 1988, Stephen Frears made Dangerous Liaisons with John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Uma Thurman, which won three of its seven Oscar nominations. The following year, Miloš Forman made Valmont with Colin Firth and Annette Bening.

3. THE DIRECTOR BEGGED REESE WITHERSPOON TO PLAY ANNETTE.

Columbia Pictures wanted Katie Holmes to play Annette; Kumble didn't think she had enough strength of character for the role. Phillippe was already signed on as Sebastian when Kumble asked about his girlfriend, Reese Witherspoon. "So, basically, we took Reese out to dinner to get her drunk, and we ended up getting drunk," Kumble revealed in 2014. "And I literally got down on my knees and begged her: 'Please, it'll be 15 days, you'll be great.'" Witherspoon agreed.

4. SELMA BLAIR WENT INTO HER AUDITION IN CHARACTER.

For legal reasons, Kumble had to ask all of the actors auditioning for Cecile how old they were, because of a graphic sex scene between the character and Sebastian in the movie. "So we were bringing in all these people," he recalled to Cosmopolitan, "and they were all good, but I remember Selma [Blair] came in and I said, 'How old are you?' And she goes [in Cecile's bratty voice] 'How old are you?' And she was so obnoxious and I couldn't get it out of my head." At 26 years old, Blair was the oldest high schooler in the movie.

5. THE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS CRUEL INVENTIONS.

In February, Gellar posted a photo dating back to the 1998 Cruel Intentions's "kick off dinner." In the caption, she wrote that the original title of the movie was actually Cruel Inventions.

6. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER USED MOSTLY DARK COLORS ON PURPOSE.

Jon Gary Steele had it so that all of the locations they were permitted to paint were painted in dark colors. "I see the movie as very much a tragedy," Steele said in the film's production notes. "Since we were using a young cast, I didn't want it to feel like a young, bright teen film, because it's not. It's very tragic; everyone basically loses."

7. WITHERSPOON WAS PURPOSELY CLOTHED IN LIGHT COLORS.

"I remember we wanted her in all white in contrast to Ryan’s all black, and when he gets hit by a car and sees her it’s almost as if she is an angel," said costume designer Denise Wingate.

8. WHEN WITHERSPOON SLAPPED PHILLIPPE, IT WASN'T SCRIPTED.

"At one point I was improvising off-camera for Reese," Phillippe told The Morning Call in 1999. "I guess I said some pretty mean things, so she came over and slapped me. Roger loved it so much he incorporated it into the scene. So basically I got slapped around for a couple of hours." Witherspoon and Phillippe got married three months after the release of Cruel Intentions and had two children together.

9. WITHERSPOON MADE PHILLIPPE VOMIT.

"Reese and I had a fight scene where we had to say horrible things to each other for four straight hours. After it was all over, I went outside and literally threw up," Phillippe admitted. "It was so emotionally punishing for me."

10. A PORN STAR CAUSED PROBLEMS ON SET.

Wanting to avoid an awkward situation with an actress having second thoughts about appearing nude in front of the camera, Kumble hired Alisha Klass, whom he considered "the biggest star in adult films in the late '90s," to play a naked cheerleader in the background of a scene where Sebastian is on the phone with Annette. But Klass' lack of attire created an awkward situation anyway. "The women on set have a problem," Wingate informed Kumble. "Your actor's at catering and she's wearing just a fishnet whatever, body skirt, and is basically flashing all of us." Klass' scene was eventually cut.

11. CECILE WAS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD.

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“I remember at the last minute deciding to put Selma in a red hooded sweatshirt so when she is leaving to go see Sebastian she looked like a contemporary Little Red Riding Hood going to see the Big Bad Wolf," Wingate told Dazed.

12. THE VISIBLE SALIVA IN THE KATHRYN/CECILE KISS WAS A "HAPPY ACCIDENT."

Gellar and Blair were not meant to produce the iconic spittle, but after someone on set they had to do the scene again, cinematographer Theo van de Sande proclaimed it was "beautiful."

13. THE SMASHING PUMPKINS SAID NO TO THE MOVIE.

The sex scene was eventually scored to "Colorblind" by The Counting Crows. Kumble wanted The Smashing Pumpkins song "To Sheila" for it, but singer/guitarist Billy Corgan turned them down.

14. THERE WAS A SEQUEL FEATURING AMY ADAMS.

The straight-to-video Cruel Intentions 2 was a reworking of Manchester Prep, a prequel series meant for Fox that never made it to TV despite three episodes being produced. Amy Adams portrayed a younger Kathryn. Cruel Intentions 3 (2004) took place in college with new characters, including Kathryn's cousin Cassidy.

15. A NEW TV VERSION WITH GELLAR IS CURRENTLY IN PRODUCTION.

NBC is planning to make a small-screen version of Cruel Intentions a reality. It will take place 15 years after the events of the original movie. Kumble is co-writing and directing the pilot presentation, and Gellar has agreed to return as Kathryn, who is vying for the control of "the soul" of Sebastian and Annette's son, Bash Casey.

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Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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17 Things to Know About René Descartes
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The French polymath René Descartes (1596-1650) lived after the Renaissance, but he personified that age's interest in mathematics, philosophy, art, and the nature of humanity. He made numerous discoveries and argued for ideas that people continue to grapple with. (His dualist distinction between mind and the brain, for example, continues to be debated by psychologists.) Get to know him better!

1. NOBODY CALLED HIM RENÉ.

Descartes went by a nickname and often introduced himself as “Poitevin” and signed letters as “du Perron.” Sometimes, he went so far to call himself the “Lord of Perron.” That’s because he had inherited a farm from his mother’s family in Poitou, in western France.

2. SCHOOL MADE HIM FEEL DUMBER.

From the age of 11 to 18, Descartes attended one of the best schools in Europe, the Jesuit College of Henry IV in La Flèche, France. In his later work Discourse on the Method, Descartes wrote that, upon leaving school, “I found myself involved in so many doubts and errors, that I was convinced I had advanced no farther in all my attempts at learning, than the discovery at every turn of my own ignorance."

3. HIS DAD WANTED HIM TO BE A LAWYER.

Descartes’s family was chock-full of lawyers, and the budding intellectual was expected to join them. He studied law at the University of Poitiers and even came home with a law degree in 1616. But he never entered the practice. In 1618, a 22-year-old Descartes enlisted as a mercenary in the Dutch States Army instead. There, he would study military engineering and become fascinated with math and physics.

4. HE CHANGED CAREER PATHS THANKS TO A SERIES OF DREAMS.

In 1618, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Ferdinand II, attempted to impose Catholicism on anybody living within his domain. The result of this policy would be the Thirty Years' War. It would also prompt Descartes, a Catholic, to switch allegiances to a Bavarian army fighting for the Catholic side. But on his travels, he stopped in the town of Ulm. There, on the night of November 10, he had three dreams that convinced him to change his life’s path. “Descartes took from them the message that he should set out to reform all knowledge,” philosopher Gary Hatfield writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

5. HE COULD BE EASILY DISTRACTED BY BRIGHT AND SHINY OBJECTS.

In 1628, Descartes moved to the Netherlands and spent nine months doggedly working on a theory of metaphysics. Then he got distracted. In 1629, a number of false suns—called parhelia, or “sun dogs”—were seen near Rome. Descartes put his beloved metaphysics treatise on the back burner and devoted his time to explaining the phenomenon. It was a lucky distraction: It led to his work The World, or Treatise on Light.

6. HE LAID THE GROUNDWORK FOR ANALYTIC GEOMETRY ...

In 1637, Descartes published his groundbreaking Discourse on the Method, where he took the revolutionary step of describing lines through mathematical equations. According to Hatfield, “[Descartes] considered his algebraic techniques to provide a powerful alternative to actual compass-and-ruler constructions when the latter became too intricate.” You might have encountered his system in high school algebra: They’re called Cartesian coordinates.

7. ... AND THE REST OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY.

Everybody knows Descartes for his phrase Cogito, ergo sum (which originally appeared in French as "Je pense, donc je suis"), or "I think, therefore I am." The concept appeared in many of his texts. To understand what it means, some context is helpful: At the time, many philosophers claimed that truth was acquired through sense impressions. Descartes disagreed. He argued that our senses are unreliable. An ill person can hallucinate. An amputee can feel phantom limb pain. People are regularly deceived by their own eyes, dreams, and imaginations. Descartes, however, realized that his argument opened a door for "radical doubt": That is, what was stopping people from doubting the existence of, well, everything? The cogito argument is his remedy: Even if you doubt the existence of everything, you cannot doubt the existence of your own mind—because doubting indicates thinking, and thinking indicates existing. Descartes argued that self-evident truths like this—and not the senses—must be the foundation of philosophical investigations.

8. HE'S THE REASON YOUR MATH TEACHER MAKES YOU CHECK YOUR WORK.

Descartes was obsessed with certainty. In his book Rules for the Direction of the Mind, “he sought to generalize the methods of mathematics so as to provide a route to clear knowledge of everything that human beings can know,” Hatfield writes. His advice included this classic chestnut: To solve a big problem, break it up into small, easy-to-understand parts—and check each step often.

9. HE LIKED TO HIDE.

Descartes had a motto, which he took from Ovid: “Who lives well hidden, lives well.” When he moved to the Netherlands, he regularly changed apartments and deliberately kept his address a secret. Some say it's because he simply desired privacy for his philosophical work, or that he was avoiding his disapproving family. In his book titled Descartes, philosopher A. C. Grayling makes another suggestion: "Descartes was a spy."

10. HE WASN'T AFRAID OF CRITICS. IN FACT, HE RE-PUBLISHED THEM.

When Descartes was revising his Meditations on First Philosophy [PDF], he planned to send the manuscript to “the 20 or 30 most learned theologians” for criticism—a sort of proto-peer review. He collected seven objections and published them in the work. (Descartes, of course, had the last word: He responded to each criticism.)

11. HE COULD THROW SHADE WITH THE BEST OF THEM.

In the 1640s, Descartes’s pupil and friend Henricus Regius published a broadsheet that distorted Descartes’s theory of the mind. (Which, put briefly, posits that the material body and immaterial mind are separate and distinct.) The two men had a falling out, and Descartes wrote a rebuttal with a barbed title that refused to even acknowledge Regius’s manifesto by name: It was simply called “Comments on a Certain Broadsheet.”

12. HE NEVER BELIEVED MONKEYS COULD TALK.

There’s a “fun fact” parading around that suggests Descartes believed monkeys and apes could talk. He believed no such thing. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Descartes denied that animals were even conscious, let alone capable of speech. The factoid comes from a misreading of a letter Descartes had written in 1646, in which he attributed the belief to “savages.”

13. HE TOTALLY HAD THE HOTS FOR CROSS-EYED WOMEN.

In a letter to Queen Christina of Sweden, Descartes explained that he had a cross-eyed playmate as a child. “I loved a girl of my own age ... who was slightly cross-eyed; by which means, the impression made in my brain when I looked at her wandering eyes was joined so much to that which also occurred when the passion of love moved me, that for a long time afterward, in seeing cross-eyed women, I felt more inclined to love them than others.”

14. WHEN HE MET BLAISE PASCAL, THEY GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT ... ABOUT VACUUMS.

In 1647, a 51-year-old Descartes visited the 24-year-old prodigy and physicist Blaise Pascal. Their meeting quickly devolved into a heated argument over the concept of a vacuum—that is, the idea that air pressure could ever be reduced to zero. (Descartes said it was impossible; Pascal disagreed.) Later, Descartes wrote a letter that, depending on your translation, said that Pascal had “too much vacuum in his head.”

15. HIS WORK WAS BANNED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

Back in the late 1630s, the theologian Gisbert Voetius had convinced the academic senate of the University of Utrecht to condemn the philosopher’s work. (Descartes was Catholic, but his suggestion that the universe began as a “chaotic soup of particles in motion,” in Hatfield's words, was contrary to orthodox theology.) In the 1660s, his works were placed on the church’s Index of Prohibited Books.

16. HE REGULARLY SLEPT UNTIL NOON (AND TRYING TO BREAK THE HABIT MIGHT HAVE KILLED HIM).

Descartes was not a morning person. He often snoozed 12 hours a night, from midnight until lunchtime. In fact, he worked in bed. (Sleep, he wisely wrote, was a time of “nourishment for the brain.”) But according to the Journal of Historical Neuroscience, he may have had a sleep disorder that helped end his life. A year before his death, Descartes had moved to Stockholm to take a job tutoring Queen Christina, a devoted early-riser who forced Descartes to change his sleep schedule. Some believe the resulting sleep deprivation weakened his immune system and eventually killed him.

17. HIS SKELETON HAS TRAVELED FAR AND WIDE.

Descartes died in Stockholm in 1650 and was buried outside the city. Sixteen years later, his corpse was exhumed and taken to Paris. During the French Revolution, his bones were moved to an Egyptian sarcophagus at the Museum of French Monuments. Decades later, when plans were made to rebury Descartes in an abbey, officials discovered that most of his bones—including his skull—were missing. Shortly after, a Swedish scientist discovered a newspaper advertisement attempting to sell the polymath’s noggin [PDF]. Today, his head is in a collection at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris.

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