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13 Fast Facts About Smokey and the Bandit

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Smokey and the Bandit—a film thought up and directed by Burt Reynolds's roommate/celebrated stuntman Hal Needham—combined the appeal of watching high speed chases with the appeal of watching Reynolds, Sally Field, and the comedic stylings of Jackie Gleason. It was the second highest-grossing movie of 1977, directly behind Star Wars. Here are some fast facts about the classic action comedy, which was released 40 years ago today.

1. IT WAS BASED ON A REAL COORS BANQUET BEER PROBLEM.

While Needham was in Georgia working as Reynolds' stunt double in Gator (1976), the driver captain on the set brought some Coors beer from California and brought a couple of cases to Needham's hotel room. After he noticed that the maid kept stealing the beers from the fridge, he remembered a TIME magazine article from 1974 about how Coors was unavailable east of the Mississippi River, because the beer was not pasteurized and needed constant refrigeration, and couldn't legally be sold outside of 11 western and southwestern U.S. states. Which made him realize that, "bootlegging Coors would make a good plotline for a movie."

2. BURT REYNOLDS'S FRIENDS BEGGED HIM NOT TO DO IT.

Needham—who had been living in Reynolds' pool house for 12 years (the two barely ran into each other due to their busy schedules)—presented his landlord and close friend with the script for Smokey and the Bandit, written on yellow legal pads. Reynolds told Needham that if he could get the money to shoot it, he'd star in it. The movie star's friends, according to Reynolds in his autobiography, "got down on their knees with tears in their eyes and begged me not to do it."

3. SALLY FIELD DID IT BECAUSE SHE WAS SEEN AS UGLY.

"I did Smokey and the Bandit because Sybil (1976) was coming out, and everyone said, 'Whoa, the work is extraordinary. It's really good work …' or something like that, '... but man is Sally Field ugly! Man!' And I thought, 'Oh God, okay,'" Sally Field explained of why she took the role of Carrie, a.k.a. "Frog." "And then Burt Reynolds, who was this really big box office star at the time, called me and said would I consider doing this, which I was completely flabbergasted that he would call me and do that. And there was no script. There was virtually no script. Since I wasn't a person that had come from the New York stage, and I came from this sort of weird unorthodox background, I wasn't one who stood on principle and said 'Hmm, there seems to be no script here.' So I just took a leap of faith, and thought, well, you know, 'If I play this character that Burt is supposed to think is attractive, maybe the world will think I'm attractive, and somebody else will hire me.' So I did it. And it was a great fun romp, journey, and certainly a good experience. And then it was all improv. It was almost entirely improvised."

4. NEEDHAM COULDN'T GET ALL THE CARS HE WANTED (AT LEAST FOR THE FIRST MOVIE).

Needham saw a picture of a Pontiac Trans Am in a magazine and thought up a product placement idea. He asked for six Trans Ams, but Pontiac would only agree to send four. Needham also asked for four Bonnevilles for Jackie Gleason's cars, but he only got two. By the time they shot the final scene, they had wiped out three Trans Ams and the fourth wouldn't start after all of the stunts, so another car was used to push it into the scene. For Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), Needham asked for and received 10 Trans Ams and 55 Bonnevilles with no trouble.

5. UNIVERSAL CUT THE BUDGET JUST AS PRODUCTION WAS ABOUT TO BEGIN.

Set with his $5.3 million budget, a studio "hatchet man" was sent to Atlanta to inform Needham his budget was cut by $1 million. With Reynolds making $1 million, Needham still had $3.3 million to make his film.

6. CARRIE'S ORIGINAL NAME WAS KATE.

In the original screenplay, Bandit's last name is LaRoue, Carrie's name was Kate, Cledus' was 'Bandit II', Big Enos and Little Enos were Kyle and Dickey, there was no Junior, Bandit's car was not a Trans Am, and the reward for making the run was a new truck, not $80,000.

Adding the Junior Justice character (Mike Henry) was Jackie Gleason's idea. "I can't be in the car alone," Gleason said. "Put someone in there with me to play off of."

7. THE STUDIO WANTED RICHARD BOONE TO PLAY SHERIFF BUFORD T. JUSTICE.

Reynolds wanted someone "a little crazier, a little more dangerous, and a lot funnier" than Richard Boone, so he suggested Gleason.

8. BUFORD T. JUSTICE WAS BASED ON SOMEONE REYNOLDS'S FATHER KNEW.

Reynolds' father was a Riviera Beach, Florida police chief, and he knew a Buford T. Justice type. One of the things the real Buford T. Justice said was "sumbitch." Reynolds told Gleason about the man's bastardization of "son of a bitch" and Gleason ran with it.

9. JACKIE GLEASON AD LIBBED.

It was Gleason's idea to have the toilet paper coming out of his pant leg when Buford left the Bar B-Q. Reynolds wrote that Gleason "never said a single word in the script."

10. GLEASON ENJOYED "HAMBURGERS" ON SET.

Gleason would often ask his assistant Mal for a "hamburger," which was code for a glass of bourbon.

11. REYNOLDS AND GLEASON WERE SUPPOSED TO SHARE MORE SCREEN TIME.

Variety reported that, "after shooting the first of what was intended to be a handful of scenes with Reynolds and Jackie Gleason on screen together, Reynolds demanded that the subsequent scenes be scrapped. Why? The question isn’t directly answered, or even indirectly addressed."

12. "EAST BOUND AND DOWN" WAS WRITTEN OVERNIGHT.

Jerry Reed (Cledus) also provided the hit song "East Bound and Down" for the film. After promising he would come up with a song, he didn't have one at the end of filming. After Needham asked him about it, Reed promised he would have something for him the following morning. Despite being out all night, Reed managed to sing his new song "East Bound and Down" for Needham the next day. When Needham didn't react right away, Reed said, "If you don't like it I can change it. "If you change one damn note, I'll f*ckin' kill you!" the director replied.

13. ALFRED HITCHCOCK WAS A BIG FAN OF THE FILM.

His daughter Patricia revealed that every Wednesday her father would screen films on the lot in his office. The last one he ever screened was Smokey and the Bandit, his favorite film of his last few years.

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Jim Henson's Labyrinth Is Being Adapted Into a Stage Musical
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Henson Company

More than 30 years after its cinematic debut, Labyrinth could be hitting the stage. In an interview with Forbes, Jim Henson's son and Henson Company CEO Brian Henson shared plans to transform the cult classic into a live musical.

While the new musical would be missing David Bowie in his starring role as Jareth the Goblin King, it would hopefully feature the soundtrack Bowie helped write. Brian Henson says there isn't a set timeline for the project yet, but the stage adaptation of the original film is already in the works.

As for a location, Henson told Forbes he envisions it running, "Not necessarily [on] Broadway, it could be for London's West End, but it will be a stage show, a big theatrical version. It’s very exciting."

Labyrinth premiered in 1986 to measly box office earnings and tepid reviews, but Jim Henson's fairytale has since grown into a phenomenon beloved by nostalgic '80s kids and younger generations alike. In the same Forbes interview, Brian Henson also confirmed the 2017 news that a long-anticipated Labyrinth sequel is apparently in development. Though he couldn't give any specifics, Henson confirmed that, "we are still excited about it but the process moves very slowly and very carefully. We're still excited about the idea of a sequel, we are working on something, but nothing that's close enough to say it's about to be in pre-production or anything like that."

While fans eagerly await those projects to come out, they can get their fix when the film returns to theaters across the U.S. on April 29, May 1, and May 2. Don't forget to wear your best Labyrinth swag to the event.

[h/t Forbes]

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10 Wild Facts About Westworld
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

The hit HBO show about an android farm girl finding sentience in a fake version of the old West set in a sci-fi future is back for a second season. So grab your magnifying glass, study up on Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, and get ready for your brain to turn to scrambled eggs. 

The first season saw Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her robotic compatriots strive to escape bondage as the puppet playthings of a bored society that kills and brutalizes them every day, then repairs them each night to repeat the process for paying customers. The Maze. The Man in Black. The mysteries lurking in cold storage and cantinas. Wood described the first season as a prequel, which means the show can really get on the dusty trail now. 

Before you board the train and head back into the park, here are 10 wild facts about the cerebral, sci-fi hit. (Just beware of season one spoilers!)

1. IT’S NOT THE FIRST TV ADAPTATION OF THE MOVIE.

Though Westworld, the 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton, was a hit, its 1976 sequel Futureworld was a flop. Still, the name and concept had enough cachet for CBS to move forward with a television concept in 1980. Beyond Westworld featured Delos head of security John Moore (Jim McMullan) battling against the villainous mad scientist Simon Quaid (James Wainwright), who wants to use the park’s robots to, what else, take over the whole world. It would be a little like if the HBO show focused largely on Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs, which just might be the spinoff the world is waiting for.

2. THE ORIGINAL GUNSLINGER HAS A CAMEO.

Ed Harris and Eddie Rouse in 'Westworld'
JOHN P. JOHNSON, HBO

The HBO series pays homage to the original film in a variety of ways, including echoing elements from the score to create that dread-inducing soundscape. It also tipped its ten-gallon hat to Yul Brynner’s relentless gunslinger from the original film by including him in the storage basement with the rest of the creaky old models.

3. QUENTIN TARANTINO, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, AND MANY OTHERS COULD HAVE REBOOTED IT.

Speaking of Brynner’s steely, murderous resolve: His performance as the robo-cowboy was one of the foundations for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn as the Terminator. Nearly 20 years later, in 2002, Schwarzenegger signed on to produce and star in a reboot of the sci-fi film from which he took his early acting cues. Schwarzenegger never took over the role from Brynner because he served as Governor of California instead, and the reboot languished in development hell.

Warner Bros. tried to get Quentin Tarantino on board, but he passed. They also signed The Cell director Tarsem Singh (whose old West would have been unbelievably lush and colorful, no doubt), but it fell through. A few years later, J.J. Abrams—who had met with Crichton about a reboot back in 1996—pitched eventual co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy on doing it as a television series. HBO bought it, and the violent delights finally made it to our screens.

4. IT COSTS $40,000 A DAY TO VISIT THE PARK. (AND THAT’S THE CHEAP PACKAGE.)

Thandie Newton and Angela Sarafyan in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, Logan (Ben Barnes) revealed that he’s spending $40,000 a day to experience Westworld. That’s in line with the 1973 movie, where park visitors spent $1000 a day, which lands near $38,000 once adjusted for inflation. Then again, we’re talking about 2052 dollars, so it might still be pricey, but not exorbitant in 2018 terms. But a clever Redditor spotted that $40,000 is the minimum you’d pay; according to the show’s website, the Gold Package will set you back $200,000 a day.

5. BEN BARNES BROKE HIS FOOT AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE.

Once Upon a Time’s Eion Bailey was originally cast as Logan but had to quit due to a scheduling conflict, so Ben Barnes stepped in … then he broke his foot. The actor hid the injury for fear he’d lose the job, which is why he added a limp as a character detail. “I’m sort of hobbling along with this kind of cowboy-ish limp, which I then tried to maintain for the next year just so I could pretend it was a character choice,” Barnes said. “But really I had a very purple foot … So walking was the hardest part of shooting this for me.”

6. THE CO-CREATORS RICKROLLED FANS OBSESSED WITH UNCOVERING SPOILERS.

Eagle-eyed fans (particularly on Reddit) uncovered just about every major spoiler from the first season early on, which is why Nolan and Joy promised a spoiler video for anyone who wanted to know the entire plot of season two ahead of its premiere. They delivered, but instead of show secrets, the 25-minute video only offered a classy rendition of Rick Astley’s internet-infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up,” sung by Evan Rachel Wood with Angela Sarafyan on piano, followed by 20 minutes of a dog. It was a pitch-perfect response to a fanbase desperate for answers.

7. IT FEATURES AN ANCIENT GREEK EASTER EGG.

Amid the alternative rock tunes hammered out on the player piano and hat tips to classic western films, Westworld also referenced something from 5th century BCE Greece. Westworld, which is run by Delos Incorporated, is designed so that guests cannot die. Delos is also the name of the island where ancient Greeks made it illegal for anyone to die (or be born for that matter) on religious grounds. That’s not the only bit of wordplay with Greek either: Sweetwater’s main ruffian, Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), gets his last name from the Greek eschaton, meaning the final event in the divine design of the world. Fitting for a potentially sentient robot helping to bring about humanity’s destruction.

8. JIMMI SIMPSON FIGURED OUT HIS CHARACTER’S TWIST BECAUSE OF HIS EYEBROWS.

Evan Rachel Wood and Jimmi Simpson in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, the show’s many secrets were kept even from the main cast until the time they absolutely needed to know. Jimmi Simpson, who plays timid theme park neophyte William, had a hunch something was funny with his role because of a cosmetic change.

“I was with an amazing makeup artist, Christian, and he was looking at my face too much,” Simpson told Vanity Fair. “He had me in his chair, and he was just looking at my face, and then he said something about my eyebrows. ‘Would you be cool if we just took a couple hairs out of your eyebrows, made them not quite as arched?’” Guessing that they were making him look more like The Man in Black, Simpson said something to Joy, and she confirmed his hunch. “She looked kind of surprised I’d worked it out,” he said.

9. THE PLAYER PIANO MAY BE AN ALLUSION TO KURT VONNEGUT.

One of the show’s most iconic elements is its soundtrack of alternative rock songs from the likes of Radiohead, The Cure, and Soundgarden redone in a jaunty, old West style. In addition to adding a creepy sonic flavor to the sadistic vacation, they also may wink toward Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, which deals with a dystopia of automation where machines do everything for humans, leading to an entrenched class struggle. The show’s resonant elements are clear, but Westworld also mentions that the world outside the theme park is one where there’s no unemployment and humans have little purpose. Like The Man In Black (Ed Harris), the protagonist of Player Piano also longs for real stakes in the struggle of life.

10. THERE ARE TWO JESSE JAMES CONNECTIONS.

Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright in 'Westworld'
HBO

Anthony Hopkins’s character Dr. Robert Ford is an invention for the new series, and he shares a name with the man who assassinated infamous outlaw Jesse James (a fact you may remember from the aptly named movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). The final episode of the first season flips the allusion when Ford is shot in the back of the head, which is exactly how the real-life Ford killed James.

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