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14 Big Facts About Little Miss Sunshine

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Riding around in an old VW bus with a motivational speaker, an angsty teen, a depressed Proust scholar, and a surly grandpa sounds like a terrible time. But Little Miss Sunshine managed to turn the Hoover family road trip into a delightful experience. In honor of the indie darling’s 10-year anniversary, check out these facts about the movie’s Arnold Schwarzenegger-inspired screenplay and numerous Breaking Bad references.

1. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER SPARKED THE IDEA.

The Terminator himself accidentally inspired the Little Miss Sunshine screenplay. Screenwriter Michael Arndt was struck by a speech that Arnold Schwarzenegger gave to a bunch of high school students which included the lines, “If there’s one thing in this world that I hate, it’s losers, I despise them.” As Arndt explained at a 2007 bookstore appearance, “I thought, there’s something just so wrong with that attitude. There’s something so demeaning and insulting about referring to any other person as a loser, and I wanted to … attack that idea that in life you’re either going up or you’re going down.”

2. THE SCREENWRITER WAS MATTHEW BRODERICK’S ASSISTANT.

Before Arndt wrote Little Miss Sunshine, he held down a job as Matthew Broderick’s personal assistant. He eventually quit to focus on his writing, and it paid off big time. After winning an Academy Award for his very first script, he went on to pen the screenplays for Toy Story 3, Inside Out, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

3. A MARRIED COUPLE DIRECTED IT.

Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are partners both professionally and personally. The couple met as college students at UCLA in 1980; he was a film major, she was into dance. They married eight years later and decided to collaborate on some short films. Throughout the 1990s, the pair directed music videos for the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Smashing Pumpkins (like this one). But it wasn’t until they read the Little Miss Sunshine script in 2001 that they made the leap into features.

4. IT TOOK FIVE YEARS TO MAKE THE MOVIE.

Little Miss Sunshine languished in development hell for half a decade. After several rounds of failed pitches, the producers managed to sell Focus Features on the project. But two years of arguing with the directors over the shooting location and cast took its toll on the studio and they eventually dropped the movie. Luckily, producer Marc Turtletaub intervened. He bought the rights back from Focus and financed the project himself. By 2006, it was finally completed and ready to screen.

5. BILL MURRAY AND ROBIN WILLIAMS WERE CONSIDERED FOR ROLES.

Since the movie was in production for so long, many Hollywood names were discussed before the final cast was confirmed. Robin Williams, Alec Baldwin, and David Duchovny were all considered for the part of Richard Hoover, which eventually went to Greg Kinnear. Donald Sutherland almost played grouchy grandpa Edwin at one point (Alan Arkin won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the part), and Bill Murray was the leading choice for Frank (Steve Carell’s character).

6. THE DIRECTORS DREW ON A 1973 PBS REALITY SHOW.

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Dayton and Faris cited the PBS series An American Family as one of their inspirations. Considered the first reality show, this 1973 documentary series followed the Loud family over seven months. Its frank portrayal of family life often cast the Louds in a harsh light, but that’s what attracted Dayton and Faris. “That’s another story of horrible characters that you end up rooting for,” Dayton said. “We may not be able to identify with a gay Proust scholar, but what you can always relate to is someone who has passion in their life.”

7. DWAYNE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A MOHAWKED BEEFCAKE.

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Cheryl’s sullen, silent son Dwayne was a little different in the original casting notes. The Los Angeles Times described this Dwayne as a “Mohawk-sporting bodybuilder.” But Dayton and Faris cast skinny, floppy-haired Paul Dano in the role instead because the then-22-year-old actor was too good to pass up. “His Mohawk was a feeling, not an external statement,” Dayton joked.

8. REAL CHILD BEAUTY PAGEANT CONTESTANTS APPEARED IN THE MOVIE.

The directors spent several months attending child beauty pageants as research for the film. So when they were finally ready to shoot, they asked actual contestants they had met to play Olive’s rivals in the fictional “Little Miss Sunshine” competition. Those contestants included eight-year-old girls like Maliah Hudson, who had been a fixture of the pageant circuit since she was an infant.

9. ABIGAIL BRESLIN REALLY WAS LISTENING TO MUSIC IN THE BUS SCENES.

Foul-mouthed Edwin Hoover has no qualms about dropping F-bombs in front of his young granddaughter, because Olive always has music blasting from her headphones. It turns out Abigail Breslin did, too. Because Alan Arkin was concerned about saying some of his cruder lines in front of the young actress, the crew made sure Breslin’s Discman was loaded with Kelly Clarkson tunes at all times. She really didn’t hear a word Arkin said until she watched the completed film.

10. THERE ARE SEVERAL CONNECTIONS TO BREAKING BAD.

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Little Miss Sunshine dropped in 2006, a full two years before AMC premiered its meth empire masterpiece Breaking Bad. Oddly, the movie seemed to anticipate the critically-acclaimed series with a slew of unintentional references. Little Miss Sunshine and Breaking Bad share the desert backdrop of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Show stars Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris both appear in the movie, with Cranston as Stan Grossman and Norris as a pervy state trooper. Oh, and that current Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul? The actor who played Marco in season one also acted in the Little Miss Sunshine ensemble as Officer Martinez.

11. THE FILM IS DEDICATED TO THE PRODUCER’S NIECE.

Producer Peter Saraf’s niece Rebecca Annitto played an extra in the movie, but she sadly never got to see the final print. The teenager died in a car accident before Little Miss Sunshine was completed. But the editors included a sweet shout-out to her in the end credits that reads, “In loving memory of Rebecca Annitto, a true beauty inside and out.”

12. IT SOLD FOR A RECORD AMOUNT AT SUNDANCE.

When Little Miss Sunshine screened for audiences at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, it sparked wild standing ovations and a four-studio bidding war. In the end, Fox Searchlight Pictures emerged victorious—and it paid a pretty penny for the distribution rights. Little Miss Sunshine sold for $10.5 million, a record Sundance sum that was only surpassed this year when Fox Searchlight bought Nate Parker’s upcoming Nat Turner historical drama, The Birth of a Nation. Its price tag? $17.5 million.

13. GREG KINNEAR PLAYED GLOCKENSPIEL WITH THE MOVIE’S MUSICIANS.

Dayton and Faris asked the Denver-based band DeVotchKa to contribute 10 of the 14 tracks on the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack. Each cast member received an iPod loaded with DeVotchKa albums during production, and Greg Kinnear apparently really dug their sound. The actor became such a fan that he visited the band in subsequent recording sessions. “He came by the studio a couple times while we were recording,” DeVotchKa frontman Nick Urata told Rolling Stone. “He even played some glockenspiel on a couple tracks.”

14. FOX SEARCHLIGHT HOSTED A SPECIAL SCREENING FOR VW BUS OWNERS.

In deference to the Hoovers’ canary-yellow Volkswagen bus, Fox Searchlight put together a screening at the Vineland Drive-In movie theater in City of Industry, California, especially for VW bus owners. By the looks of it, the cars were in slightly better shape than Richard and Cheryl’s.

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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