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11 Rapid-Fire Facts About The Untouchables

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Paramount

Loosely based on the 1960s cops-and-robbers television series starring Robert Stack, Brian De Palma's The Untouchables pitted Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness against Robert De Niro’s unhinged crime boss Al Capone in a highly fictionalized (and stylized) account of their real-life Prohibition feud. We’ve drawn a chalk outline around some of the film’s more fascinating facts, in honor of its 30th anniversary.

1. ROBERT DE NIRO INSISTED ON GETTING FAT. AGAIN.

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After impressing audiences and critics with his bulging gut and saggy jowls for 1980’s Raging Bull, De Niro informed The Untouchables director Brian De Palma he wanted time to put on 30 pounds of fat to play chubby Al Capone. “He’s very concerned about the shape of his face for the part,” De Palma told the Chicago Tribune. To cultivate mass and achieve a rounded jawline, De Niro stuck to his “Raging Bull diet” of pancakes every morning and went to Italy on an eating tour. In spite of his gorging, the production still had to use padding to fill out his midsection.

2. BOB HOSKINS WAS BRIAN DE PALMA’S SECOND CHOICE FOR AL CAPONE.

Bob Hoskins recalled meeting De Palma and being told that the production was expecting De Niro would agree to play Capone—but if not, they were really hoping the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? star would step in. Hoskins agreed; De Niro ended up committing to the part. A short while later, Paramount sent Hoskins a check for $300,000. It was a pay or play deal, and he was due to be compensated either way. Hoskins reportedly called it "the best job I ever had!"

3. PARAMOUNT HATED THE SCRIPT.

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Acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, and director David Mamet is responsible for the combustible dialogue in The Untouchables, but not everyone was a fan. According to Mamet, Paramount executive Ned Tanen thought the script “was a piece of dreck.” Producer Art Linson insisted they stick with Mamet, who based the film in some part on Ness’s autobiography. Mamet would later state the movie stayed generally true to his work, but tossed out closing text that explained the end of Prohibition.  

4. THEY THOUGHT ABOUT DOING IT IN BLACK AND WHITE.

To help evoke the 1930s for modern audiences, director of photography Stephen Burum tried to convince De Palma to allow him to shoot the picture in black and white. De Palma’s response was to shake his head, telling Burum, “Don’t break your heart, Steve. They won’t let us do it.”

5. THE BASEBALL BAT DINNER SCENE ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

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While some of the film’s facts were bent into some narrative shape—though Costner’s Ness has a family, the real lawman was single at the time—one memorable scene was inspired by a true event. In May 1928, after getting word several of his associates were plotting to murder him, Capone invited them all to a dinner, got them drunk, and then proceeded to beat each man to death with a baseball bat.

6. ELIOT NESS AND JIMMY MALONE NEVER REALLY MET.

In the film, the earnest Ness is tutored by gruff Chicago cop Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery). In real life, Malone and Ness never crossed paths: as part of the Treasury department, Malone was getting his hands dirty trying to infiltrate Capone’s organization to uncover evidence of suspected tax evasion.

7. THE BABY CARRIAGE SHOOTOUT ALMOST DIDN'T GET SHOT.

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De Palma, who has often made visual references to Alfred Hitchcock throughout his career, honored another director for the famous shootout at the Chicago train station featuring a runaway baby carriage. The scene’s premise originated with Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 film Battleship Potemkin. (Mamet, who didn’t write the scene in the script, called it “cockamamie.”) When De Palma wanted to film it, Paramount was already insisting he wrap up production—but he had covertly been stashing away raw film stock so that he’d have enough for the scene.

8. FILMMAKERS GOT HELP FROM A REAL UNTOUCHABLE.

To help capture the camraderie and characterizations of Ness’s U.S. Justice lawmen, producers turned to Al “Wallpaper” Wolff—at 85, the lone surviving member of his team. As a form of reciprocation, Paramount gave Wolff 160 free tickets to the premiere. (In 1987, Wolff—who got his nickname for combing over everything during a room toss but the wallpaper—said that sometimes raids would result in empty rooms. He imagined one of the “Untouchables” had leaked the information.)

9. THE STUDIO WAS SQUEAMISH ABOUT THE VIOLENCE.

During a screening for Paramount executives, producer Linson and De Palma heard concerns over some of the graphic shootout scenes depicted in the film. The studio was especially concerned over a scene that featured a man being killed while standing in front of a white marble wall: The background revealed bits of brain matter behind him. De Palma’s contract, however, granted him final cut. So the shot stayed in.

10. THE MOVIE EARNED SEAN CONNERY HIS ONLY OSCAR.

Despite starring in dozens of features over a 30-year (at the time) career, Connery was nominated for an Academy Award only once. Fortunately, it was also a win. Connery took home a Best Supporting Oscar in the spring of 1988 for his portrayal of Ness’s mentor, Jimmy Malone. His appearance during the ceremony was so popular that he got a standing ovation—not for the award, but for presenting the Best Visual Effects Oscar earlier in the show.

11. DE PALMA CONSIDERED A PREQUEL WITH NICOLAS CAGE.

Following the success of The Untouchables, De Palma and Paramount attempted to continue the franchise with a prequel script titled Capone Rising, which would chart the mobster’s climb to power prior to clashing with Ness. In 2007, De Palma was interested in Nicolas Cage as Capone, with Gerard Butler playing a younger version of Connery’s character. In 2012, the director told Collider that the script was “great” but that they’ve “never been able to get it all together.”

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The Princess Ride: Here's What a Princess Bride Theme Park Attraction Might Look Like
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MGM

Do you fight the urge to say “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” when introducing yourself? Have you spent the past 30 years mispronouncing the word “marriage”? If so, you may be a diehard fan of The Princess Bride. The cult film (and the book on which it’s based) has inspired board games, merchandise, and countless pop culture references. Now, two theme park designers from Universal have conceived the inconceivable. As Nerdist reports, Jon Plsek and Olivia West have designed the plans for a hypothetical attraction called “The Princess Ride.

Their idea follows the classic river boat ride structure and adds highlights from the movie around each corner. After watching Buttercup and Wesley’s love story unfold, riders are taken past the Cliffs of Insanity, through the Fire Swamp, and into the Pit of Despair. The climax unfolds at Prince Humperdinck’s castle and leads up to the two protagonists riding off into the sunset. The last thing the passengers see is Miracle Max and Valerie waving goodbye saying, “Hope ya had fun stormin’ the castle!”

The ride’s designers make a living turning stories into thrilling attractions. Plsek works as a concept artist for Universal Creative, the group behind Universal’s theme parks, and West works there as a concept writer. While The Princess Ride was just a fun side project for the pair, it isn’t hard to imagine their ride bringing Princess Bride fans to the parks in real life.

For more of Jon Plesk’s concept rides inspired by classics like Dr. Strangelove (1964) and National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), check out his website.

[h/t Nerdist]

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10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
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Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for more than 40 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guardaldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother, Linus, however, is still a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGG.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of whatever holiday they’re celebrating. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

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