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15 Facts About Twister 

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Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, co-written by Michael Crichton, helmed by the director of Speed, and loaded with impressive (for 1996) special effects, Twister was a box office hit, sucking up nearly $500 million in worldwide ticket sales, making it the second biggest hit of 1996 (Independence Day took the top spot that year).

The film starred Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt as an estranged couple who find themselves thrown back together to chase some tornadoes and try to successfully put their DOROTHY data-gathering instrument into action before a competing research team rips their invention off, all the while putting their co-workers in grave danger. To celebrate Twister's 20th anniversary, here are some facts about the hit action film.

1. IT WAS BASED ON HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

The screenplay was credited to Michael Crichton and his wife, Anne-Marie Martin. When screenwriter Stephen Kessler sued Spielberg, Crichton, Warner Bros., and Universal Studios for plagiarism in 1998, Crichton testified that he and Martin based their Twister script on a PBS Nova episode on tornado chasers in Oklahoma, as well as the plot to His Girl Friday. A Los Angeles Times article that ran a few weeks after Twister's release noted the similarities between Twister and the Rosalind Russell/Cary Grant gender-switching remake of The Front Page (1931). Kessler eventually lost the case.

2. JOSS WHEDON WORKED ON THE SCRIPT (THOUGH HE DIDN'T GET A CREDIT).

Joss Whedon had to leave production twice, once because of bronchitis and again to get married. Of the film, Whedon said, "there are things that worked and things that weren't the way I'd intended them."

Once the filmmakers realized a lot of the movie would have to be set in moving vehicles, they brought in Jeff Nathanson (who later wrote Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal for Spielberg) to write car dialogue. "I had to write dialogue for the cars like 'Look out' and 'Here it comes' and 'Get out of the way,'" Nathanson explained.

Steven Zaillian (who won an Oscar in 1994 for writing Schindler's List) had a unique experience; he worked on the movie for three weeks without getting a single word in the script. "For three weeks I wrote scenes and faxed them to Oklahoma, where the film was being shot," he explained. "Unbeknownst to me [until] much later, every page I sent was completely ignored because the director was perfectly happy with the script he already had. The production company was not. Anyway, the point is, there isn't a word I wrote for Twister that actually made it into the film."

3. PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN TOOK THE JOB SO THAT HE COULD MOVE BACK TO NEW YORK.

Philip Seymour Hoffman played Dusty in the film. When asked about his reasons for making it, he told Esquire, "I was living in L.A. at the time ... and I knew if I took that job, I'd be able to move back to New York."

4. GARTH BROOKS TURNED DOWN THE LEAD ROLE.

According to a lawsuit by a former employee of the country music singer, Garth Brooks turned down the lead in Twister because the tornado was the real star.

5. BOTH HELEN HUNT AND JAN DE BONT WALKED AWAY FROM OTHER MOVIES TO WORK ON THIS ONE.

Helen Hunt (Dr. Jo Harding) passed up working with John Travolta in John Woo's Broken Arrow (1996). After more than six months of pre-production, de Bont left his Godzilla (1998 version) directing gig because of studio feuds over the budget and immediately agreed to direct Twister instead.

6. HELEN HUNT AND BILL PAXTON WERE BRIEFLY BLINDED.

The stars sat in the cab of a truck lit with bright electric lamps all day long. To keep the sky behind them looking dark and stormy as it got brighter outside the truck, the lamps were made even brighter—so bright that they temporarily blinded Paxton and Hunt. The two needed to use eyedrops and wear special glasses for a few days afterward.

There were other accidents, too. Hunt and Paxton both needed hepatitis shots following an afternoon in an unsanitary ditch. De Bont said Hunt could be "a little bit clumsy" after she accidentally hit the side of her head on a car door. "Clumsy?" Hunt retorted. "The guy burned my retinas, but I'm clumsy."

7. SOME OF THE CREW QUIT ON DE BONT.

De Bont allegedly pushed a camera assistant into the mud after he got in the way of a complicated shot, and told director of photography Don Burgess (Forrest Gump) and his team that they were "incompetent." In response, Burgess and more than 20 camera people walked off the set.

The director denied calling the team "incompetent" and explained to Entertainment Weekly that he pushed the assistant in a bout of frustration. "With the wind machines it was very loud,” de Bont said, ”so the crew had to watch my hand signals. I cued action, and he [walked] right in the middle of the scene. We kept losing good performances because of stupid things like that. I don’t think I’m a hothead, but I do believe you have to be passionate. These crews get paid well, and when they screw up, I’m going to call them on it.”

8. WAKITA, OKLAHOMA WAS ONE OF THE MOVIE'S BIGGEST STARS.

Wakita (pop. 344) was chosen as one of the film's main locations when scouts noticed there was debris still left over from a big June 1993 hailstorm. Most of the residents signed up to be extras and were paid $100 per day.

Wakita is now home to the Twister (The Movie) Museum, which opened up a few months before the film's release. There's also a five-block walking tour, plus a Dorothy I prop and a Twister pinball machine (a gift from Paxton).

9. THE TORNADO SOUNDS ARE MADE UP OF VARIOUS ANIMAL NOISES.

According to Variety, an altered recording of a camel's moan helped create the storm sounds. It was reported elsewhere that a lion's growl and a tiger's snarl were remixed as tornado audio.

10. A BOEING 707 JET WAS USED TO GENERATE THE WIND.

In addition to the aircraft, the production utilized a small "battalion" of wind machines. Even though 200 mph winds were blowing around them, stunt doubles were used only some of the time. The actors used earplugs, but—apparently not learning their lesson earlier—did not use eye protection. "After every shot, someone would come around with the Visine,'' Hunt explained.

11. PRODUCTION ON MAD ABOUT YOU HAD TO BE DELAYED SO THAT HUNT COULD FINISH THE MOVIE.

Production for season four of the NBC sitcom starring Paul Reiser and Hunt was delayed two weeks. NBC executives told The New York Times they believed production was delayed because Reiser and the rest of the Mad About You team were busy "sulking" over being moved to Sunday nights.

12. "IT SUCKS" WAS CONSIDERED AS A TAGLINE.

Producers changed their minds when they realized that such a tagline would be grist for any critic or moviegoer who didn't like the movie.

13. OPRAH HUMILIATED THE CAST (PROBABLY NOT INTENTIONALLY).

"The biggest thing that I remember from when we were doing press for the film was that we went on Oprah," Jami Gertz (Dr. Melissa Reeves) recalled to The A.V. Club. "We came out individually, and we were talking about how tough it was to shoot. We would get debris in our eyes from the wind machines and we’d have to use the eye wash. And sometimes when we were in the makeup trailer, we’d have to turn off the electricity, because we were close to an electrical storm and we didn’t want to get electrocuted, and blah blah blah. And then she breaks for commercials, and then she comes back and says, 'And now for survivors of real twisters!' [Laughs] So here are all these actors, these dopey actors on stage, and now we have these people who are like, 'I was burned, lightning hit me ...' And we’re like, 'Uh, no, that didn’t happen to us. Oooh.' It was just so humiliating. Here are these real survivors of twisters, and we’re just the pretend movie version."

14. BILL PAXTON THINKS THEY MADE THE "PEPSI LITE" VERSION OF THE MOVIE.

"I’d love to direct a sequel to that movie," Paxton said. "I’ve always felt like there was a Jaws version of that movie. I always felt like we did the Pepsi Lite version of that movie."

15. SPIELBERG OFFICIALLY ATTRIBUTES THE FILM'S SUCCESS TO ITS SPECIAL EFFECTS, NOT ITS STORY.

Variety reported that Spielberg, in his testimony during the plagiarism trial, said that the special effects—and not the writing—were the reason for Twister's success.

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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