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12 Eye-Opening Facts About Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders is a series based on the eponymous gang that may or may not have terrorized Birmingham, England after World War I. Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby, the leader of the Peaky Blinders, and the series was created by Steven Knight, who co-created Who Wants to be a Millionaire? almost two decades ago. The British production has gained more and more American fans thanks to an exclusive distribution deal with Netflix (not to mention the addition of Tom Hardy to its cast in season two). Just in time for the third season premiere, we've gathered up some eye-opening facts about Peaky Blinders.

1. STEVEN KNIGHT BASED THE SERIES ON A STORY HIS FATHER TOLD HIM.

"One of the stories that really made me want to write Peaky Blinders is one my dad told me," show creator Steven Knight explained. "He said that when he was eight or nine his dad gave him a message on a piece of paper and said 'go and deliver this to your uncles.' His uncles were the Sheldons, who eventually became the Shelbys. Even though the history books say the Peaky Blinders were only around until the 1890s, they weren’t—people in Small Heath knew these people as Peaky Blinders."

2. THE TERM "PEAKY BLINDERS" MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE ITS ORIGINS IN A VIOLENT TRADITION.

Some believe the gang's name came from the fact that they reportedly sewed razor blades into the peaks of their caps, for the purposes of rendering their victims temporarily or permanently blind when head-butting them. Not everyone agrees with this theory; some historians believe the name simply came from the gang's flat caps with stiff peaks (and that they mainly committed violence by way of their metal-tipped boots, belt buckles, and knives).

3. SAM NEILL GOT SOME HELP WITH HIS ACCENT FROM LIAM NEESON.

Sam Neill, who plays Belfast detective Chester Campbell, was born in Northern Ireland, but moved to New Zealand when he was seven years old. "They (the producers) said not to have too strong an accent because we need to be understood, but the Northern Ireland accent is very challenging," Neill told the BBC. "I probably had one, but it was well beaten out of me in the playground in New Zealand, there's not a trace of it now. But I enlisted the help of my friends James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson."

4. HELEN MCCRORY GOT SOME HELP FROM OZZY OSBOURNE.

Helen McCrory said she learned how to speak with a Birmingham accent by watching "endless" clips of Ozzy Osbourne; the Black Sabbath vocalist is one of the English city's most famous natives. Cillian Murphy, meanwhile, learned the accent on "quite a drunken Saturday" with Knight at the real Garrison pub.

5. KNIGHT WOULDN'T KNOW IF PEAKY BLINDERS IS LIKE BOARDWALK EMPIRE, THE WIRE, OR ANY OTHER PRESTIGE DRAMA IT HAS BEEN COMPARED TO.

Knight, who has written every episode of the series, makes a point not to watch a lot of television shows or movies, for fear that they might influence his work. "I've never seen The Wire, I’ve never seen Boardwalk Empire," he told Den of Geek. "I don’t really want to be looking at other people’s work because it does affect what you do inevitably ... And film as well. I try not to watch [movies]. I know, it’s very weird. Previously, I’ve always pretended, especially in Hollywood when you go in and they say ‘It’s a film a bit like so and so’ and you go ‘Oh yeah, yeah, yeah’ and I’m thinking, ‘I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about."

6. CILLIAN MURPHY HAS HAD TO SMOKE A LOT OF CIGARETTES.

Though Murphy is rarely seen without a cigarette in his mouth in Peaky Blinders, the actor himself is a non-smoker. "I don’t smoke but people did smoke all day and night then," Murphy said. "I use herbal rose things, they’re like my five a day! I asked the prop guys to count how many we use during a series and it’s 3000."

7. THE TIMELINE CAN BE CONFUSING TO THE ACTORS.

Since the series is not filmed in chronological order, it sometimes feels to Murphy that Tommy gets unstuck in time. “We could be doing episode four in the morning and the finale in the afternoon," Murphy explained of shooting the third season. “It was an incredibly mindf***ing shoot, so I got our director Tim Mielants to draw up four A4 sheets which I put up in my trailer about where Tommy was going, where he was at with the Russians at any point. I needed it to figure out what the hell was going on.”

8. ALL OF THE VISUAL REFERENCES TO HELL ARE INTENTIONAL.

"The use of flames in the first episode is very deliberate," Colm McCarthy, who directed all of the the second season, told Den of Geek. "The first time that we see The Garrison, we have this huge fireball. The next time we go there, Tommy is there and he’s got a flame whooshing behind him. We open that shot on fire, and then we end the episode with Tommy in that deep angle with that flame going in the background and he’s in a pit. Absolutely, there’s definitely a sense of hell. That’s very deliberate."

9. IT COULD HAVE STARRED JASON STATHAM

Knight directed Jason Statham in the 2013 film Redemption, and the writer-director was anxious to re-team with the actor on Peaky Blinders. Though Knight wouldn't say which character he wanted Statham for, he told Den of Geek that he approached Statham about starring in the series. "But it was difficult because obviously he’s so committed elsewhere," Knight said. "He’s such a great, great guy. He’s such a good bloke and such a nice bloke, as well as all the stuff that goes with it, he’s a really nice bloke."

10. MICHAEL GRAY AND JOHN SHELBY ARE BROTHERS IN REAL LIFE.

Finn Cole, who plays Michael Gray, has his brother Joe (who plays John Shelby) to thank for his role in Peaky Blinders. "[Joe] got the script ... and we were chatting about it," Finn explained. "I never really had the intention of auditioning for it, I was still at college at the time doing my A levels and I had to concentrate on them and then the following week after I had read it ... I was really bored and I just thought ‘you know what? I’m going to give Joe a call and see what he says.'" Joe told his brother that they were doing open auditions in Birmingham, but Finn couldn't afford the train ticket. So Joe suggested he tape an audition and he would set it along to his own agent. "We sent it to his agent and he sent it on to the casting director and it went from there," according to Finn. "I had a couple of meetings and before I knew it I was on set, which was a crazy couple of months, but it was really exciting and really good fun as well. For his part, Joe said that Finn "kept nagging" him about getting an audition.

11. THE SERIES HAS SOME CELEBRITY FANS.

David Bowie was a major fan of the show; he sent a photo of himself with razor blades in his cap to Cillian Murphy one year before his passing. He also sent a representative from his music label to Knight to play his album, Blackstar, a week before the public even knew it existed. His music will be featured in the show's third season.

Snoop Dogg is also a dedicated viewer. He even arranged for a three-hour meeting at a hotel with Knight when he was in London. "We spent like three hours in St Martin's Lane Hotel just building joints and he's talking about how the show reminds him of how he got into gang culture," Knight told the Independent. "It's incredible, I mean I don't know where the connection is but it's really taking off. It was surreal. We've kept in touch."

12. KNIGHT HAS REVEALED WHEN THE SERIES WILL END.

The show will conclude with the sounding of the World War II air raid sirens. "That ending is definitely the ambition, whether we get there or not I don't know," Knight said. "I do want it to be the story of a family between two wars."

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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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