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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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The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

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Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
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9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
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Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
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Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
iStock

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

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