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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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13 Great Facts About Bad Lieutenant
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Bad Lieutenant can be accused of many things, but one charge you can't level against it is false advertising. Harvey Keitel's title character, whose name is never given, is indeed a bad, bad lieutenant: corrupt, sleazy, drug-addled, irresponsible, and lascivious, all while he's on the job. (Imagine what his weekends must be like!)

Abel Ferrara's nightmarish character study was controversial when it was released 25 years ago today, and rated NC-17 for its graphic nudity (including a famous glimpse at Lil’ Harvey), unsettling sexual violence, and frank depiction of drug use. The film packs a wallop, no doubt. Here's some behind-the-scenes info to help you cope with it.

1. THE PLACID WOMAN WHO HELPS THE LIEUTENANT FREEBASE HEROIN WROTE THE MOVIE.

That's Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who starred in Abel Ferrara's revenge-exploitation thriller Ms. 45 (1981) more than a decade earlier, when she was 17 years old. She and Ferrara are credited together for writing Bad Lieutenant, though she always insisted that wasn't the case. "I wrote this alone," she said. "Abel is a wonderful director, but he's not a screenwriter. She said elsewhere that she "wrote every word of that screenplay," though everyone agrees the finished movie included a lot of improvisation. Lund was a fascinating, tragic character herself—a musical prodigy who became an enthusiastic and unapologetic user of heroin before switching to cocaine in the mid-1990s. She died of heart failure in 1999 at age 37.

2. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN WAS SUPPOSED TO STAR IN IT.

Christopher Walken had starred in Ferrara's previous film, King of New York (1990), and was set to play the lead in Bad Lieutenant before pulling out at almost the last minute. Ferrara was shocked. "[Walken] says, 'You know, I don't think I'm right for it.' Which is, you know, a fine thing to say, unless it's three weeks from when you're supposed to start shooting," Ferrara said. "It definitely caught me by surprise. It put me in terminal shock, actually." Harvey Keitel replaced him (though not without difficulty; see below), and the film's editor, Anthony Redman, thought Keitel was a better choice anyway. "Chris is too elegant for the part," he said. "Harvey is not elegant." 

3. HARVEY KEITEL'S INITIAL REACTION TO THE SCRIPT WAS NOT PROMISING.

"When we gave [Keitel] the script the first time, he read about five pages and threw it in the garbage," Ferrara said. Keitel's recollection was a little more diplomatic. As he told Roger Ebert, "I read a certain amount of pages and I put it down. I said, 'There's no way I'm gonna make this movie.' And then I asked myself, 'How often am I a lead in a movie? Read it, maybe I can salvage something from it …' When I read the part about the nun, I understood why Abel wanted to make it."

4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY.


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"It was always, in my mind, a comedy," Ferrara said. He cited the scene where the Lieutenant pulls the teenage girls over as a specific example of how Christopher Walken would have played it, and how Harvey Keitel changed it. "The lieutenant was going to end up dancing in the streets with the girls as the sun came up. They'd be wearing his gun belt and hat, and they'd have the radio on, you know what I mean? But oh my God, Harvey, he turned it into this whole other thing." Boy, did he. 

5. THAT SCENE WITH THE TEENAGE GIRLS HAD A REAL-LIFE ELEMENT THAT MADE IT EVEN CREEPIER.

One of the young women was Keitel's nanny. Ferrara: "I said, 'You sure you want to do this with your babysitter?' He says, 'Yeah, I want to try something.'"

6. MUCH OF IT WAS FILMED GUERRILLA-STYLE.

Like many indie-minded directors of low-budget films, Ferrara didn't bother with permits most of the time. "We weren't permitted on any of this stuff," editor Anthony Redman admitted. "We just walked on and started shooting." For the scene where a strung-out Lieutenant walks through a bumpin' nightclub, they sent Keitel through an actual, functioning club during peak operating hours.

7. A GREAT DEAL OF THE DIALOGUE AND ACTION WERE MADE UP ON THE FLY.

The script was only about 65 pages at first, which would have made for about a 65-minute movie. "It left a lot of room for improvisation," producer Randy Sabusawa said, "but the ideas were pretty distilled. They were there."

Script supervisor Karen Kelsall said supervising the script was a challenge. "Abel didn't stick to a script," she said. "Abel used a script as a way to get the money to make a movie, and then the script was kind of—we called it the daily news. It changed every day. It changed in the middle of scenes." Ferrara was unapologetic about the script's brevity. "The idea of wanting 90 pages ... is ridiculous."

8. AND THERE WERE EVEN MORE IDEAS THAT THEY DIDN'T USE.

Ferrara said a scene that epitomized the movie for him—even though he never got around to filming it—was one where the Lieutenant robs an electronics store, leaves, then gets a call about a robbery at the electronics store. He responds in an official capacity (they don't recognize him), takes a statement, walks out, and throws the statement in the garbage. "And that to me is the Bad Lieutenant, you know?" Ferrara said. 

9. THE BASEBALL PLAYOFF SERIES IS FICTIONAL.

The Mets have battled the Dodgers for the National League championship once, in 1988. (The Dodgers beat 'em and went on to win the World Series.) For the narrative Ferrara wanted—the Mets coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant—he had to make it up. He used footage from real Mets-Dodgers games (including Darryl Strawberry's three-run homer from a game in July 1991) and added fictional play-by-play. But the statistics were accurate: no team had ever been down by three in a best-of-seven series and then come back to win. (It's happened once since then, when the 2004 Red Sox did it.)

10. THEY HAD HELP FROM THE COP WHO SOLVED A SIMILAR CASE.

The disgusting crime at the center of the film (we won't dwell on it) was inspired by a real-life incident from 1981, which mayor Ed Koch called "the most heinous crime in the history of New York City." The street cop who solved it, Bo Dietl, advised Ferrara on the film and had an on-screen role as one of the detectives in our Lieutenant's circle of friends.

11. THEY DESECRATED THE CHURCH AS RESPECTFULLY AS THEY COULD.

Production designer Charles Lagola had his team cover the church’s altar and other surfaces with plastic wrap, then painted the graffiti and other defacements on the plastic.

12. IT WAS RATED NC-17 IN THEATERS, WITH AN R-RATED VERSION FOR HOME VIDEO.

Blockbuster and some of the other retail chains wouldn't carry NC-17 or unrated films, so sometimes studios would produce edited versions. (See also: Requiem for a Dream.) The tamer version of Bad Lieutenant was five minutes and 19 seconds shorter, with parts of the rape scene, the drug-injecting scene, and much of the car interrogation scene excised.

13. THE "SEQUEL" HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, NOR DID FERRARA APPROVE OF IT.


First Look International

Movie buffs were baffled in 2009, when Werner Herzog directed Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, starring Nicolas Cage. It sounds like a sequel (or a remake), but in fact had no connection at all to the earlier film except that both were produced by Edward R. Pressman. Herzog said he'd never seen Ferrara's movie and wanted to change the title (Pressman wouldn't let him); Ferrara, outspoken as always, initially wished fiery death on everyone involved. Ferrara and Herzog finally met at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, where Herzog initiated a conversation about the whole affair and Ferrara expressed his frustration cordially. 

Additional sources:
DVD interviews with Abel Ferrara, Anthony Redman, Randy Sabusawa, and Karen Kelsall.

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12 Pieces of 100-Year-Old Advice for Dealing With Your In-Laws
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The familial friction between in-laws has been a subject for family counselors, folklorists, comedians, and greeting card writers for generations—and getting along with in-laws isn't getting any easier. Here are some pieces of "old tyme" advice—some solid, some dubious, some just plain ridiculous—about making nice with your new family.

1. ALWAYS VOTE THE SAME WAY AS YOUR FATHER-IN-LAW (EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE).

It's never too soon to start sowing the seeds for harmony with potential in-laws. An 1896 issue of one Alabama newspaper offered some advice to men who were courting, and alongside tips like “Don’t tell her you’re wealthy. She may wonder why you are not more liberal,” it gave some advice for dealing with prospective in-laws: “Always vote the same ticket her father does,” the paper advised, and “Don’t give your prospective father-in-law any advice unless he asks for it.”

2. MAKE AN EFFORT TO BE ATTRACTIVE TO YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW.

According to an 1886 issue of Switchmen’s Journal, “A greybeard once remarked that it would save half the family squabbles of a generation if young wives would bestow a modicum of the pains they once took to please their lovers in trying to be attractive to their mothers-in-law.”

3. KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF.

In 1901, a Wisconsin newspaper published an article criticizing the 19th century trend of criticizing mothers-in-law (a "trend" which continues through to today):

“There has been a foolish fashion in vogue in the century just closed which shuts out all sympathy for mothers-in-law. The world is never weary of listening to the praises of mothers ... Can it be that a person who is capable of so much heroic unselfishness will do nothing worthy of gratitude for those who are dearest and nearest to her own children?”

Still, the piece closed with some advice for the women it was defending: “The wise mother-in-law gives advice sparingly and tries to help without seeming to help. She leaves the daughter to settle her own problems. She is the ever-blessed grandmother of the German fairy tales, ready to knit in the corner and tell folk stories to the grandchildren.”

4. IF RECEIVING ADVICE, JUST LISTEN AND SMILE. EVEN IF IT PAINS YOU.

Have an in-law who can't stop advising you on what to do? According to an 1859 issue of The American Freemason, you'll just have to grin and bear it: “If the daughter-in-law has any right feeling, she will always listen patiently, and be grateful and yielding to the utmost of her power.”

Advice columnist Dorothy Dix seemed to believe that it would be wise to heed an in-law's advice at least some of the time. Near the end of World War II, Dix received a letter from a mother-in-law asking what to do with her daughter-in-law, who had constantly shunned her advice and now wanted to move in with her. Dix wrote back, “Many a daughter-in-law who has ignored her husband’s mother is sending out an SOS call for help in these servantless days,” and advised the mother-in-law against agreeing to the arrangement.

5. STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN. AND CLOSETS. AND CUPBOARDS.

An 1881 article titled "Concerning the Interference of the Father-in-Law and Mother-in-Law in Domestic Affairs," which appeared in the Rural New Yorker, had a great deal of advice for the father-in-law:

“He will please to keep out of the kitchen just as much as he possibly can. He will not poke his nose into closets or cupboards, parley with the domestics, investigate the condition of the swill barrel, the ash barrel, the coal bin, worry himself about the kerosene or gas bills, or make purchases of provisions for the family under the pretence that he can buy more cheaply than the mistress of the house; let him do none of these things unless especially commissioned so to do by the mistress of the house.”

The article further advises that if a father-in-law "thinks that the daughter-in-law or son-in-law is wasteful, improvident or a bad manager, the best thing for him to do, decidedly, is to keep his thought to himself, for in all probability things are better managed and better taken care of by the second generation than they were by the first. And even if they are not, it is far better to pass the matter over in silence than to comment upon the same, and thereby engender bad feelings.”

6. NEVER COHABITATE.

While there is frequent discussion about how to achieve happiness with the in-laws in advice columns and magazines, rarely does this advice come from a judge. In 1914, after a young couple was married, they quickly ran into issues. “The wife said she was driven from the house by her mother-in-law,” a newspaper reported, “and the husband said he was afraid to live with his wife’s people because of the threatening attitude of her father on the day of the wedding.” It got so bad that the husband was brought up on charges of desertion. But Judge Strauss gave the couple some advice:

“[Your parents] must exercise no influence over you now except a peaceful influence. You must establish a home of your own. Even two rooms will be a start and lay up a store of happiness for you.”

According to the paper, they agreed to go off and rent a few rooms.

Dix agreed that living with in-laws was asking for trouble. In 1919, she wrote that, “In all good truth there is no other danger to a home greater than having a mother-in-law in it.”

7. COURT YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW.

The year 1914 wasn’t the first time a judge handed down advice regarding a mother-in-law from the bench. According to The New York Times, in 1899 Magistrate Olmsted suggested to a husband that “you should have courted your mother-in-law and then you would not have any trouble ... I courted my mother-in-law and my home life is very, very happy.”

8. THINK OF YOUR IN-LAWS AS YOUR "IN LOVES."

Don't think of your in-laws as in-laws; think of them as your family. In 1894, an article in The Ladies’ Home Journal proclaimed, “I will not call her your mother-in-law. I like to think that she is your mother in love. She is your husband’s mother, and therefore yours, for his people have become your people.”

Helen Marshall North, writing in The Home-Maker: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine four years earlier, agreed: “No man, young or old, who smartly and in public, jests about his mother-in-law, can lay the slightest claim to good breeding. In the first place, if he has proper affection for his wife, that affection includes, to some extent at least, the mother who gave her birth ... the man of fine thought and gentle breeding sees his own mother in the new mother, and treats her with the same deference, and, if necessary, with the same forbearance which he gladly yields his own.”

9. BE THANKFUL YOU HAVE A MOTHER-IN-LAW ... OR DON'T.

Historical advice columns had two very different views on this: A 1901 Raleigh newspaper proclaimed, “Adam’s [of Adam and Eve] troubles may have been due to the fact that he had no mother-in-law to give advice,” while an earlier Yuma paper declared, “Our own Washington had no mother-in-law, hence America is a free nation.”

10. DON'T BE PICKY WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING A WIFE; CHOOSE A MOTHER-IN-LAW INSTEAD.

By today's standards, the advice from an 1868 article in The Round Table is incredibly sexist and offensive. Claiming that "one wife is, after all, pretty much the same as another," and that "the majority of women are married at an age when their characters are still mobile and plastic, and can be shaped in the mould of their husband's will," the magazine advised, “Don’t waste any time in the selection of the particular victim who is to be shackled to you in your desolate march from the pleasant places of bachelorhood into the hopeless Siberia of matrimony ... In other words ... never mind about choosing a wife; the main thing is to choose a proper mother-in-law,” because "who ever dreamt of moulding a mother-in-law? That terrible, mysterious power behind the throne, the domestic Sphynx, the Gorgon of the household, the awful presence which every husband shudders when he names?"

11. KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE.

As an 1894 Good Housekeeping article reminded readers:

“Young man! your wife’s mother, your redoubtable mother-in-law, is as good as your wife is and as good as your mother is; and who is your precious wife's mother-in-law? And you, venerable mother-in-law, may perhaps profitably bear in mind that the husband your daughter has chosen with your sanction is not a worse man naturally than your husband who used to dislike your mother as much as your daughter’s husband dislikes you, or as much as you once disliked your husband’s mother.”

12. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MARRY AN ORPHAN.

If all else fails, The Round Table noted that “there is one rule which will be found in all cases absolutely certain and satisfactory, and that is to marry an orphan; though even then a grandmother-in-law might turn up sufficiently vigorous to make a formidable substitute.”

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