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14 Slithery Facts About Snakes on a Plane

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While the plot is hardly the point of Snakes on a Plane, we may as well mention that the 2006 movie starred Samuel L. Jackson as Neville Flynn, an FBI agent tasked with escorting the key witness in a murder trial against mob boss Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) from Hawaii to California. It's Kim who is responsible for smuggling a bunch of poisonous snakes onto the aircraft on which Flynn and his charge are traveling, in an attempt to kill the witness (played by Nathan Phillips). The movie achieved a ton of internet buzz and was more transparently fan-sourced than any other film in history.

1. THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT WAS TURNED DOWN BY EVERY HOLLYWOOD STUDIO.

David Dalessandro, the associate vice chancellor of university development at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote a screenplay called Venom after reading a 1992 magazine article about Indonesian brown tree snakes climbing onto planes during World War II. His first two drafts were about one poisonous snake getting loose on a plane. After seeing Aliens, he realized he needed to have a lot more snakes and that they needed to be a deadly breeds like the Australian taipan. In 1995, the script was offered up to all 30 Hollywood studios—and all of them said no. Four years later, Craig Berenson—an executive at DreamWorks—remembered the script and pitched the idea to his colleagues over margaritas. Explaining the concept and then the title, Snakes on a Plane, the room reportedly "exploded with groans." He took that as a good sign. ''A visceral reaction is half the battle," Berenson explained. "That was gold as far as I was concerned.''

2. SAMUEL L. JACKSON AGREED TO STAR IN THE MOVIE BEFORE HE EVEN READ THE SCRIPT.

Jackson read in the trades that Ronny Yu was directing a movie called Snakes on a Plane. Intrigued, Jackson emailed Yu and asked him what the movie was about. "And he said, 'Poisonous snakes get loose on an airplane.' And I'm like, 'Wow, think I can be in that?' And he was like, 'You really want to be in it?' And I said 'Yes, I really want to be in it.'"

Though Yu eventually left the project (he was replaced by David R. Ellis), Jackson stayed on. Julianna Margulies (flight attendant Claire Miller) admitted that seeing Jackson's name attached to the ridiculous title "elevated" the project in her eyes. David Koechner (co-pilot Rick) also agreed to do the movie after hearing the title and that Jackson would be starring. When asked about the most outrageous lie he's ever read about himself, Koechner told MTV, "That I did Snakes on a Plane for free ... That was something on Wikipedia."

3. JACKSON ALMOST QUIT WHEN THE TITLE WAS CHANGED.

New Line Cinema changed the movie's title to Pacific Air 121, with the official explanation that the studio "didn't want to give too much away" about the movie. Jackson disagreed with that logic. ''I was like, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR F***ING MINDS?! That's EXACTLY what you want to do!'' he told Entertainment Weekly. ''How else are you going to get people into the movie? Nobody wants to see Pacific Air 121. That's like saying Boat to Heaven. People either want to see this movie or they don't. So let 'em know: If you're coming to see this movie, you're going to see a plane full of deadly-ass snakes. That's what it should be called. Deadly-Ass Snakes on a Plane." Jackson forced New Line's hand by telling reporters that he was working on a movie called Snakes on a Plane. Jackson told TIME the title change to Pacific Flight 121 was "the stupidest damn thing I ever heard."

4. JACKSON ALSO GOT UPSET OVER THE INTENDED PG-13 RATING.

After insisting some R-rated versions of scenes should be shot in case New Line changed their minds about making Snakes on a Plane a PG-13 movie, the popularity of the 2005 R-rated comedy Wedding Crashers helped convince the studio president that Snakes "needed more intensity." They went back for re-shoots four months after filming wrapped to add to the viciousness, and, among other things, upgrade the bathroom make-out session to a full-on sex scene.

5. BOBBY CANNAVALE DIDN'T WANT TO BE IN THE MOVIE.

Earlier this year, Bobby Cannavale admitted that he ultimately trusts his gut when deciding on movie and television roles. The one time he listened to his managers was when they insisted he work on Snakes on a Plane, playing Special Agent Hank Harris. "I was like, ‘Guys, it’s called Snakes on a Plane!!!’ I remember this conversation," Cannavale recalled. "They were like, ‘It’s going to be huge! You should do it. Gotta do it. It’s gonna allow you to get cast in other things.’"

6. VEGAS GOT IN ON THE BUILD-UP.

One Las Vegas booking agency took bets on how many times Jackson would "utter his crude catchphrase during the 105-minute film."

7. THE DIRECTOR ORIGINALLY WANTED MORE DANGEROUS SNAKES.

David R. Ellis requested taipans and vipers and other lethal snake species. Snake wrangler Jules Sylvester insisted it would be too dangerous to use actual poisonous snakes on an airplane full of people and a camera crew. Instead, Sylvester provided a bunch of look-alikes: the harmless tiger rat snake rattles its tail like a rattlesnake to defend itself from potential enemies. The same went for a milk snake that doubled convincingly for the deadly Brazilian coral snake.

8. ALL THE STRIKE SEQUENCES WERE COMPUTER-GENERATED.

Only one third of the snakes were real. No more than 60 real snakes were on set at any one time. The snakes were regularly swapped out during filming because, according to Sylvester, "They get tired after 15 or 20 minutes, so we have to change snakes continuously."

9. THE SNAKES GAVE JACKSON HIS SPACE.

"I never even touched a snake while we were shooting," Jackson admitted. "My agents put into the contract: 'No snakes within 25 feet of Mr. Jackson.' They were more scared of the snakes than I was.''

10. THE "MOTHERF*CKER" LINE WAS WRITTEN BY A FAN.

Chris Rohan created an R-rated audio trailer for Snakes on a Plane, just off of the title. A Jackson sound-alike shouted, "I want these motherf*cking snakes off the motherf*cking plane!" Fans then vociferously claimed they wanted Jackson to say that in the real movie. During the R-rated re-shoots, Jackson and the studio obliged.

11. IT WAS DAVID R. ELLIS' IDEA TO NOT SCREEN THE MOVIE FOR CRITICS.

"The decision to not screen it for critics was mine," Ellis told The A.V. Club, "the reason being ... and it's the same reason that we didn't test the movie. The buzz on the internet because of all the fans has been so insane that to screen it—we did not want to kill the buzz." The movie is 68 percent fresh according to the 171 reviews tabulated by Rotten Tomatoes.

12. AUDIENCE MEMBERS TOOK THE TITLE TOO FAR AT ONE SCREENING.

"Pranksters" released two diamondback rattlesnakes during a Phoenix showing of the movie. Nobody was hurt. The snakes were later released into the desert.

13. IT ONLY DID OKAY AT THE BOX OFFICE, DESPITE THE HUGE BUZZ.

"With all the expectations, you have to say we would be disappointed," New Line's president of distribution said about the film's $13.8 million opening weekend. "But Snakes on a Plane did what tracking said it would, and it basically performed like a regular horror movie." Shot on a budget of $33 million, the movie made more than $62 million worldwide.

14. JACKSON HAS NO REGRETS.

“I still choose movies because they are movies I would go see when I was a kid,” Jackson explained. “So when people criticize Snakes on a Plane, I go, well, you know, ‘F— you,’ you know? That’s one of the movies I would have gone to see as a kid, and I am definitely glad to see me in it.”

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8 of the Weirdest Gallup Polls
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Born in Jefferson, Iowa on November 18, 1901, George Gallup studied journalism and psychology, focusing on how to measure readers’ interest in newspaper and magazine content. In 1935, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion to scientifically measure public opinions on topics such as government spending, criminal justice, and presidential candidates. Although he died in 1984, The Gallup Poll continues his legacy of trying to determine and report the will of the people in an unbiased, independent way. To celebrate his day of birth, we compiled a list of some of the weirdest, funniest Gallup polls over the years.

1. THREE IN FOUR AMERICANS BELIEVE IN THE PARANORMAL (2005)

According to this Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief. Specifically, 41 percent believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 37 percent believe in haunted houses, and 21 percent believe in witches. What about channeling spirits, you might ask? Only 9 percent of Americans believe that it’s possible to channel a spirit so that it takes temporary control of one's body. Interestingly, believing in paranormal phenomena was relatively similar across people of different genders, races, ages, and education levels.

2. ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS THINK THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH (1999)

In this poll, Gallup tried to determine the popularity of heliocentric versus geocentric views. While 79 percent of Americans correctly stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Three percent chose to remain indifferent, saying they had no opinion either way.

3. 22 PERCENT OF AMERICANS ARE HESITANT TO SUPPORT A MORMON (2011)

Gallup first measured anti-Mormon sentiment back in 1967, and it was still an issue in 2011, a year before Mormon Mitt Romney ran for president. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even if that candidate belonged to their preferred political party. Strangely, Americans’ bias against Mormons has remained stable since the 1960s, despite decreasing bias against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women.

4. MISSISSIPPIANS GO TO CHURCH THE MOST; VERMONTERS THE LEAST (2010)

This 2010 poll amusingly confirms the stereotype that southerners are more religious than the rest of the country. Although 42 percent of all Americans attend church regularly (which Gallup defines as weekly or almost weekly), there are large variations based on geography. For example, 63 percent of people in Mississippi attend church regularly, followed by 58 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. Rounding out the lowest levels of church attendance, on the other hand, were Vermont, where 23 percent of residents attend church regularly, New Hampshire, at 26 percent, and Maine at 27 percent.

5. ONE IN FOUR AMERICANS DON’T KNOW WHICH COUNTRY AMERICA GAINED INDEPENDENCE FROM (1999)

Although 76 percent of Americans knew that the United States gained independence from Great Britain as a result of the Revolutionary War, 24 percent weren’t so sure. Two percent thought the correct answer was France, 3 percent said a different country (such as Mexico, China, or Russia), and 19 percent had no opinion. Certain groups of people who consider themselves patriotic, including men, older people, and white people (according to Gallup polls), were more likely to know that America gained its independence from Great Britain.

6. ONE THIRD OF AMERICANS BELIEVE IN GHOSTS (2000)

This Halloween-themed Gallup poll asked Americans about their habits and behavior on the last day of October. Predictably, two-thirds of Americans reported that someone in their house planned to give candy to trick-or-treaters and more than three-quarters of parents with kids reported that their kids would wear a costume. More surprisingly, 31 percent of American adults claimed to believe in ghosts, an increase from 1978, when only 11 percent of American adults admitted to a belief in ghosts.

7. 5 PERCENT OF WORKING MILLENNIALS THRIVE IN ALL FIVE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING (2016)

This recent Gallup poll is funny in a sad way, as it sheds light on the tragicomic life of a millennial. In this poll, well-being is defined as having purpose, social support, manageable finances, a strong community, and good physical health. Sadly, only 5 percent of working millennials—defined as people born between 1980 and 1996—were thriving in these five indicators of well-being. To counter this lack of well-being, Gallup’s report recommends that managers promote work-life balance and improve their communication with millennial employees.

8. THE WORLD IS BECOMING SLIGHTLY MORE NEGATIVE (2014)

If you seem to feel more stress, sadness, anxiety, and pain than ever before, Gallup has the proof that it’s not all in your head. According to the company’s worldwide negative experience index, negative feelings such as stress, sadness, and anger have increased since 2007. Unsurprisingly, people living in war-torn, dangerous parts of the word—Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Sierra Leone—reported the highest levels of negative emotions.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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