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15 Parallel Facts About Sliding Doors

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In both of the parallel universes of Sliding Doors (1998), Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a Londoner who loses her job and finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her. In one universe, Helen makes her subway train just in time and comes home to catch her boyfriend in the act. In the other, she misses that train. Watching both versions of the story develop made it a notably more interesting effort in the rom-com genre, and more impressively made the group Aqua a two-hit wonder.

1. WRITER/DIRECTOR PETER HOWITT GOT THE IDEA FOR THE MOVIE AFTER ALMOST BEING HIT BY A CAR.

Peter Howitt (a British actor best known for playing Joey Boswell on BBC's Bread) was late in meeting a friend, and innocently walking along London's Charing Cross Road. "I couldn't decide if I should run for the train or first call my mate at a public phone," Howitt recalled. "I impulsively dashed across the street, and was nearly hit by a car, and that brush with death got me thinking. Something inside my head thought, 'That's interesting. What if he had hit me then?' What are the knock-on effects, the domino effects."

2. HOWITT HAD A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN WHILE WRITING THE MOVIE.

Seven years separated that fateful near-death experience and the finished product. In between, there were 20 script rewrites, thousands of pounds of debt, and one nervous breakdown. "All I could do was stay in my flat in Fulham and cry and write the script for Sliding Doors," Howitt revealed. "The worst lasted about three months. Then I slowly began to get better. Now I'm really glad it happened." He also stopped getting his hair cut until he was done with the movie.

3. THE FUNDING FELL THROUGH. THEN SYDNEY POLLACK SAVED IT IN A CHANCE MEETING.

John Hannah (best known then as Matthew from Four Weddings and a Funeral) committed to the film early, then the financing disappeared. Separately, Hannah was meeting with Oscar-winning director/producer Sydney Pollack and mentioned how disappointed he was that Sliding Doors wasn't going to get made. Within seven days, Pollack read the script, found it "really lovely" and "funny," and got the money to get the film made. When producer Philippa Braithwaite called Howitt to give him the good news, he was at a pub, still upset over losing the initial financing.

4. MINNIE DRIVER WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO PLAY HELEN.

According to Pollack, when Hannah first told him about Sliding Doors, it was set to be made with a $3 million budget and Minnie Driver would be playing the lead. (Pollack ended up doubling the production budget).

5. GILLIAN ANDERSON WANTED TO PLAY HELEN.

In an interview with Movieline, Gillian Anderson said there was one movie role she felt bad about missing out on: Sliding Doors, which she called "a wonderful, very metaphysically oriented concept that just sends chills down my spine."

6. IT WAS SHOT ON LOCATION IN THE LONDON UNDERGROUND.

The subway scenes were shot at Waterloo station on the Waterloo & City Line and at the Fulham Broadway station on the District Line. Filming on location there costs £500 ($719.50 in today's dollars) per hour, unless you have a crew of fewer than five.

7. JOHN HANNAH HAD A HARD TIME PLAYING A HAPPY PERSON.

In a 1998 interview, Hannah claimed that playing James Hammerton in Sliding Doors "was the hardest thing I've ever done. Like in life, it's much easier to be depressed than to be happy. Being happy and smiling naturally on take 18 is really tough. Give me bawling my eyes out any time."

8. THE "SUSPICIOUS GIRL" IS JOHN HANNAH'S WIFE.

Joanna Roth (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) was cast by Peter Howitt. "Peter Howitt held a party before we started filming, so everyone could get to know each other," Hannah said. "Pete, being Pete, said 'There's a wee part in this film for you, Joanna. Do you want it?' It was like everyone in the room was an old mate of Pete and he was making a home movie, saying: 'Do you want to be in it? And you'll get paid for it, too.'"

9. HOWITT GAVE HIMSELF A CAMEO.

He was the long-haired diner who ordered from Helen on her first night as a waitress.

10. THE ROWERS WERE ACTUALLY DRUNK.

Rowers from the Cygnet Rowing Club portrayed James' crewmates. Alan Cox, one of said rowers, recounted Cygnet's final day of filming online prior to the film's release.

And so to the post-race celebration, which was held in the bar of the Blue Anchor at Hammersmith. Here, the hero mounts a table and leads the bibulous multitude in dancing "Father Abraham." It was at this stage that the director made his first big miscalculation. He must have known the old adage about never working with children or animals, but clearly did not understand how oarsmen can share the worst characteristics of both. Having rehearsed the crews in the dance, he departed saying "have a drink to get warmed up" and deposited £30 with the landlord. It took little guile to persuade the bemused bar staff that an open-ended tab was running and, about five rounds later, when the crews were asked to behave as a drunken rabble, no acting skill was required. A precious moment occurred later as an assistant director enquiring after change from the bar bung learned that the bill had run to over £90. To their credit, the management learnt fast; during further work on the bar scene on the third day, only alcohol-free beer was offered.

11. BRIAN MAY OF QUEEN WROTE "ANOTHER WORLD" JUST FOR THE MOVIE.

Howitt asked his "old friend," the guitarist from Queen, to write a song for Sliding Doors. With the script in hand, May wrote his song "kind of overnight." Howitt loved it and said it was "perfect" for the movie. Unfortunately, a record company—not May's—ended up co-financing the production, so the song was dropped from the film's soundtrack. Instead, May used it as the title track for his next solo album.

12. POLLACK SPENT A LOT OF TIME IN THE EDITING ROOM .

"I got very involved in the editing because it was a picture that required precise editing to know where you were all the time and for the audience to be able to find the movement between the A and B stories," Pollack explained. "I felt that Peter needed some help, so I worked pretty hard on that part of it and was able to make a contribution to it just because it was complicated for a director the first time around."

13. UNLIKE MOST OF HER MOVIES, GWYNETH PALTROW LIKED THIS ONE.

"I've always hated my films," Paltrow said at the film's premiere—after appearing in, among other movies, Se7en (1995) and Emma (1996). "But I'm really proud of this one." She said she "couldn't believe how clever" the script was.

14. IT'S SIMILAR TO KRZYSZTOF KIESLOWSKI'S BLIND CHANCE.

Krzysztof Kieslowski's 1981 film was censored and withheld by Polish authorities until 1987. In Blind Chance, a med school dropout named Witek manages to catch a train and becomes a Communist, misses the train and ends up a radical agitator anti-Communist, and misses the train and becomes an apolitical medical student. 

15. HANNAH STOPPED WORRYING ABOUT CATCHING TRAINS AFTER THE MOVIE.

"I don't run for trains any more. If I'm meant to get the train, I'll get it," he claimed. "If I don't, there'll be another one along in a few minutes."

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8 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 3
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[Warning: There are lots of Stranger Things season two spoilers ahead.]

Stranger Things season two is in the books, and like we all hoped, it turned out to be a worthy follow-up to an addictive debut season. Now, though, we’re left with plenty of questions, mysteries, and theories to chew on as the wait for a third season begins. But for everything we don’t know about what the next year of Stranger Things will bring us (such as an actual release date), there are more than enough things we do know to keep those fan theories coming well into 2018. While the show hasn't been officially greenlit for a third season by Netflix yet, new details have already begun to trickle out. Here’s everything we know about Stranger Things season three so far.

1. THERE WILL BE ANOTHER TIME JUMP.

The third season of Stranger Things won’t pick up right where the second one left off. Like the show experienced between the first two seasons, there will be a time jump between seasons two and three as well. The reason is simple: the child actors are all growing up, and instead of having the kids look noticeably older without explanation for year three, the Duffer Brothers told The Hollywood Reporter:

“Our kids are aging. We can only write and produce the show so fast. They're going to be almost a year older by the time we start shooting season three. It provides certain challenges. You can't start right after season two ended. It forces you to do a time jump. But what I like is that it makes you evolve the show. It forces the show to evolve and change, because the kids are changing.”

2. THE IDEA IS TO BE SMALLER IN SCALE.

If the series’s second season was about expanding the Stranger Things mythology, the third season won't go bigger just for the sake of it, with the brothers even going so far as to say that it will be a more intimate story.

“It’s not necessarily going to be bigger in scale,” Matt Duffer said in an interview with IndieWire. “What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on.”

Ross Duffer did stress, though, that as of early November, season three is basically “… Matt and me working with some writers and figuring out where it’s going to go.”

3. THE MIND FLAYER WILL BE BACK.

The second season ended on a bit of a foreboding note when it was revealed that the Mind Flayer was still in the Upside Down and was seen looming over the Hawkins school as the winter dance was going on. Though we know there will be a time jump at the start of next season, it’s clear that the monster will still have a big presence on the show.

Executive producer Dan Cohen told TV Guide: "There were other ways we could have ended beyond that, but I think that was a very strong, lyrical ending, and it really lets us decide to focus where we ultimately are going to want to go as we dive into Season 3."

What does the Mind Flayer’s presence mean for the new crop of episodes? Well, there will be plenty of fan theories to ponder between now and the season three premiere (whenever that may be).

4. PLENTY OF LEFTOVER SEASON TWO STORYLINES WILL BE IN SEASON THREE.

The Duffer Brothers had a lot of material for the latest season of the show—probably a bit too much. Talking to Vulture, Matt Duffer detailed a few details and plot points that had to be pushed to season three:

"Billy was supposed to have a bigger role. We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for season three than anything. There was a whole teen supernatural story line that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into season three."

The good news is that he also told the site that this wealth of cut material could make the writing process for the third season much quicker.

5. THERE WILL BE MORE ERICA.

Stranger Things already had a roster of fan-favorite characters heading into season two, but newcomer Erica, Lucas’s little sister, may have overshadowed them all. Played by 11-year-old Priah Ferguson, Erica is equal parts expressive, snarky, and charismatic. And the Duffer Brothers couldn’t agree more, saying that there will be much more Erica next season.

“There will definitely be more Erica in Season 3,” Ross Duffer told Yahoo!. “That is the fun thing about the show—you discover stuff as you’re filming. We were able to integrate more of her in, but not as much you want because the story [was] already going. ‘We got to use more Erica’—that was one of the first things we said in the writers’ room.”

“I thought she’s very GIF-able, if that’s a word,” Matt Duffer added. “She was great.”

6. EXPECT KALI TO RETURN.

The season two episode “The Lost Sister” was a bit of an outlier for the series. It’s a standalone episode that focuses solely on the character Eleven, leaving the central plot and main cast of Hawkins behind. As well-received as Stranger Things season two was, this episode was a near-unanimous miss among fans and critics.

The episode did, however, introduce us to the character of Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), who has the ability to manipulate people’s minds with illusions she creates. Despite the reaction, the Duffers felt the episode was vital to Eleven’s development, and that Kali won’t be forgotten moving forward.

“It feels weird to me that we wouldn’t solve [Kali’s] storyline. I would say chances are very high she comes back,” Matt Duffer said at the Vulture Festival.

7. OTHER "NUMBERS" MIGHT SHOW UP.

We're already well acquainted with Eleven, and season two introduced us to Eight (a.k.a. Kali), and executive producer Shawn Levy heavily hinted to E! that there are probably more Hawkins Laboratory experiments on the horizon.

"I think we've clearly implied there are other numbers, and I can't imagine that the world will only ever know Eleven and Eight," Levy said.

8. THERE MIGHT NOT BE MANY SEASONS LEFT.

Don’t be in too much of a rush to find out everything about the next season of Stranger Things; there might not be many more left. The Duffer Brothers have said in the past that the plan is to do four seasons and end it. However, Levy gave fans a glimmer of hope that things may go on a little while longer—just by a bit, though.

“Hearts were heard breaking in Netflix headquarters when the Brothers made four seasons sound like an official end, and I was suddenly getting phone calls from our actors’ agents,” Levy told Entertainment Weekly. “The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth. Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”

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20 Random Facts About Shopping
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Shopping on Black Friday—or, really, any time during the holiday season—is a good news/bad news kind of endeavor. The good news? The deals are killer! The bad news? So are the lines. If you find yourself standing behind 200 other people who braved the crowds and sacrificed sleep in order to hit the stores early today, here's one way to pass the time: check out these fascinating facts about shopping through the ages.

1. The oldest customer service complaint was written on a clay cuneiform tablet in Mesopotamia 4000 years ago. (In it, a customer named Nanni complains that he was sold inferior copper ingots.)

2. Before battles, some Roman gladiators read product endorsements. The makers of the film Gladiator planned to show this, but they nixed the idea out of fear that audiences wouldn’t believe it.

3. Like casinos, shopping malls are intentionally designed to make people lose track of time, removing clocks and windows to prevent views of the outside world. This kind of “scripted disorientation” has a name: It’s called the Gruen Transfer.

4. According to a study in Social Influence, people who shopped at or stood near luxury stores were less likely to help people in need.

5. A shopper who first purchases something on his or her shopping list is more likely to buy unrelated items later as a kind of reward.

6. On the Pacific island of Vanuatu, some villages still use pigs and seashells as currency. In fact, the indigenous bank there uses a unit of currency called the Livatu. Its value is equivalent to a boar’s tusk. 

7. Sears used to sell build-your-own homes in its mail order catalogs.

8. The first shopping catalog appeared way back in the 1400s, when an Italian publisher named Aldus Manutius compiled a handprinted catalog of the books that he produced for sale and passed it out at town fairs.

9. The first product ever sold by mail order? Welsh flannel.

10. The first shopping cart was a folding chair with a basket on the seat and wheels on the legs.

11. In the late 1800s in Corinne, Utah, you could buy legal divorce papers from a vending machine for $2.50.

12. Some of the oldest known writing in the world includes a 5000-year-old receipt inscribed on a clay tablet. (It was for clothing that was sent by boat from Ancient Mesopotamia to Dilmun, or current day Bahrain.)

13. Beginning in 112 CE, Emperor Trajan began construction on the largest of Rome's imperial forums, which housed a variety of shops and services and two libraries. Today, Trajan’s Market is regarded as the oldest shopping mall in the world.

14. The Chinese invented paper money. For a time, there was a warning written right on the currency that all counterfeiters would be decapitated.

15. Halle Berry was named after Cleveland, Ohio's Halle Building, which was home to the Halle Brothers department store.

16. At Boston University, students can sign up for a class on the history of shopping. (Technically, it’s called “The Modern American Consumer”)

17. Barbra Streisand had a mini-mall installed in her basement. “Instead of just storing my things in the basement, I can make a street of shops and display them,” she told Harper's Bazaar. (There are photos of it here.)

18. Shopping online is not necessarily greener. A 2016 study at the University of Delaware concluded that “home shopping has a greater impact on the transportation sector than the public might suspect.”

19. Don’t want to waste too much money shopping? Go to the mall in high heels. A 2013 Brigham Young University study discovered that shoppers in high heels made more balanced buying decisions while balancing in pumps.

20. Cyber Monday is not the biggest day for online shopping. The title belongs to November 11, or Singles Day, a holiday in China that encourages singles to send themselves gifts. According to Fortune, this year's event smashed all previous records with more than $38 million in sales.

A heaping handful of these facts came from John Lloyd, John Mitchinson, and James Harkin's delightful book, 1,234 Quite Interesting Facts to Leave You Speechless.

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