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15 Hot-Off-the-Press Facts About Newsies

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Long before he was Christopher Nolan's Batman, Christian Bale made one of his earliest big-screen performances in Newsies, a musical based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899. Despite being unpopular with critics, and one of the biggest box office failures in Disney's history, the film has developed a huge cult fan base over the years—so much so that Disney decided to adapt the film—which was released 25 years ago today—into a very successful Broadway show almost 20 years after its initial release.

1. CHRISTIAN BALE DIDN'T REALIZE IT WAS A MUSICAL AT FIRST (BECAUSE IT WASN'T).

In 1997, Christian Bale told Movieline that he never had any interest in doing a musical. "I still don't. In fact, when I first read the script, I thought it wasn't a musical. Later, after I realized it was, I asked [director] Kenny [Ortega] if maybe I could duck over here into the pub while the numbers were going on, and then come out when it was over. I hoped I could be the lead in a musical without doing any singing and dancing! Eventually I said, 'F**k it, let's just do it.' But I had a lot of doubts about it—I never liked musicals, and even then I knew I'd never do anything like that again."

Newsies was originally written as a drama. Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg asked that it be turned into a musical after the success of The Little Mermaid (1989).

2. MILLA JOVOVICH AUDITIONED TO PLAY SARAH.

Milla Jovovich didn't get the part, even though she could sing. Her readings with Bale were considered "abrasive." Ele Keats was cast in the role, despite her lack of singing talent (which is why a planned Sarah song was cut).

3. MAX CASELLA DID HIS HOMEWORK.

Max Casella, who played Racetrack Higgins, was so excited about starring in his first major motion picture that he "lived" at the Los Angeles Public Library researching the role. Casella, Bale, and the rest of the principal cast of kids spent 10 weeks training in singing, dancing, gymnastics, and martial arts for the musical numbers.

4. BALE'S SISTER PLAYED MEDDA'S ASSISTANT.

Louise Bale originally had a song of her own, but she only ended up appearing briefly, grabbing Medda (Ann-Margret) after Racetrack was punched at the riot.

5. ALAN MENKEN COLLABORATED WITH THE CO-WRITER OF TONY BENNETT'S "COPACABANA."

To write the music for the film, composer Alan Menken partnered with his old friend, lyricist Jack Feldman. Feldman claimed the two had to write the songs quickly because they had to be pre-recorded.

6. BALE GOT HIS OWN COLORS.

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Jack purposely stood out in dark colors, contrasting with the other newsies in brown. Bale's character was also the one person with the "touch of red."

7. THE BOYS KEPT PRANKING THEIR DIRECTOR.

First-time director Kenny Ortega (who would go on to direct the High School Musical movies) was the victim of multiple water gun attacks. In one incident, some of the cast failed to dump water over Ortega's head as he was leaving the set to go home. To make sure they got their man, Bale and David Moscow (David Jacobs) unleashed a ground assault on their target. Aaron Lohr (Mush) also claimed that Ortega's trailer would be filled up to the ceiling in newspapers, ready to topple whenever Ortega opened it.

8. A 25-MINUTE HORROR MOVIE SPOOF WAS MADE ON SET.

Michael Goorjian (Skittery) directed Blood Drips Heavily on Newsies Square. In the film, "Don Knotts" (Mark David, a.k.a. Specs) methodically kills off the newsboys after he doesn't get a part in Newsies.

9. SARAH'S DRESS WAS AN AUTHENTIC OLD DRESS THAT WAS CONSTANTLY ON THE VERGE OF FALLING APART.

In the Irving Hall scene, Ele Keats wore an antique dress sent from a New York clothing collector. After each take, the delicate attire's small holes had to be sewn back up.

10. BOOTS GOT LOST IN THE CROWD.

Arvie Lowe Jr., then 12 years old, went MIA briefly, thanks to the large number of extras used in the production. “Kenny [Ortega] was looking for me on the bullhorn,” Lowe said. For the big finale, “that’s not CGI—that’s a sh*tload of people.”

11. FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA WANTED THE SETS WHEN THEY WERE FINISHED.

Newsies was the first film to shoot at the reconstructed New York City backlot at Universal Studios, which had been destroyed by a fire that caused $25 million worth of damage in November 1990. Coppola wanted the Newsies set for his upcoming production of Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). Unfortunately for him, the sets built were Disney's property. Universal Studios ended up charging Disney for anything they took away from the lot, leading Disney to leave most of the work behind, including the World Press building.

12. JOSS WHEDON WAS ONE OF THE FEW PEOPLE TO SEE THE MOVIE IN THE THEATER.

"We saw it in the theater, okay?," the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer said. "We were among the 10. At that point I was working for Disney. I think the greatest musicals—with the exception of South Park—that have come out of American cinema in the last 10 or 20 years have all been Disney musicals. Menken and [Howard] Ashman were like gods to me, so I went to see Newsies ...There are some songs in there that aren't bad, actually. If you listen to the score, you forget why you hated the film, and then you watch it again and go, 'Oh yeah, right.'"

13. THE FILM EARNED MENKEN HIS ONLY RAZZIE.

“I won three Academy Awards within the course of three years and one Razzie. The Razzie was for Newsies," Menken remembered. The eight-time Oscar winner, 11-time Grammy recipient, and Tony award winner claimed recently that he knew Newsies was good. “I really liked it, but I have a trunk up to here with things I love that just didn’t work, and I chalked up Newsies to be one of those. It became more.”

14. DISNEY LAUNCHED THE MUSICAL TO COLLECT ON THE ROYALTY FEES OF THE SONGS.

At least that's what lyricist Jack Feldman has said. Nearly 20 years after the film's release, Newsies launched as a stage show in New Jersey in 2011, then began a 12-week trial run on Broadway. It ended up running there for two years. Ortega was quoted as saying Disney first realized there was a potential audience when they learned that high schools had been putting together unofficial musical productions of Newsies, without Disney's permission, for years.

15. BALE WON'T SEE THE MUSICAL.

"I'm not really into musicals," Bale said in 2012. "But I wish them the best. And I'm sure the person playing the character I played exceeded whatever I did, and congratulations to them."

Despite its disappointing performance at the box office, Bale—for one—recognized the passion of Newsies' fans back in 1997, long before Disney did. "You say something bad about Newsies and you have an awful lot of people to answer to," Bale said.

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16 Geeky Coasters to Keep Your Coffee Table Safe
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Avoid unsightly ring stains on your coffee table with this delightful selection of coasters:

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
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Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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