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12 Regal Facts About The Princess Diaries

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When moviegoers first met Anne Hathaway, she was a frizzy-haired teen named Mia Thermopolis who lived in a firehouse and just happened to be royalty. The Princess Diaries was Hathaway’s silver screen debut, but that wasn’t the only notable thing about director Garry Marshall’s family flick. He managed to snag semi-retired Dame Julie Andrews to play Mia’s grandmother, the queen of (fictional) Genovia. Also in the cast? A secret Coppola and an actual politician. Read the details on Marshall’s casting choices, as well as his sly Pretty Woman references, below.

1. ANNE HATHAWAY GOT THE PART BY FALLING OUT OF HER CHAIR.

How did 18-year-old Anne Hathaway land her first movie? Simple: by falling on her face. Hathaway was apparently so nervous during her audition that she slid off her chair, which immediately endeared her to Garry Marshall. He cast her as klutzy Mia based on that audition alone.

2. GARRY MARSHALL WAS A JULIE ANDREWS SUPERFAN.

Marshall was open to casting an unknown as Mia, but there was only one person he wanted for Queen Dowager Clarisse Renaldi: As far as he was concerned, it was Dame Julie Andrews or bust. “She’s so talented and I’m a great admirer of her,” Marshall told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “I went 11 times to see [her in the 1956 Broadway production of] My Fair Lady in New York and she fascinated me. I said to myself, ‘She’s very good, whoever that girl is.’ Now I am just thrilled that we are working together!”

3. IT WAS FILMED ON THE SAME STAGE AS MARY POPPINS.

Andrews returned to a sentimental place for this shoot. The Princess Diaries was filmed on Stage 2 in Walt Disney Studios—which is also where Robert Stevenson shot the movie that made Andrews a star, Mary Poppins. “Karma, I tell you,” she said in an interview. “When I went onto that soundstage, there was a little plaque on the door that says, ‘Mary Poppins was filmed here’ and suddenly I became very nostalgic.” The set got another plaque in 2001 when it was rechristened “Julie Andrews Stage 2” to honor the actress.

4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED THE PRINCESS OF TRIBECA.

The film’s first title referenced its literary roots. In Megan Cabot’s book series The Princess Diaries, Mia and her mom live in Manhattan. This was the original plan for the movie, too, so it was called The Princess of Tribeca. But the location was changed to San Francisco further into production, which meant the name had to be tweaked as well.

5. THE CAST WAS FULL OF FAMILY MEMBERS.

For Marshall, The Princess Diaries was a family affair. His daughter Kathleen played Queen Clarisse’s assistant, Charlotte Kutaway; his wife Barbara played Lady Jerome; and his granddaughters Lily and Charlotte played the two girls who ask Mia for her autograph. He wasn’t the only one roping family members into roles. Marshall’s longtime friend Hector Elizondo (who acted in every single movie Marshall made, including this one) got his granddaughter, Juliet, a small part as the Genovian prime minister’s daughter, Marissa Motaz.

6. JULIE ANDREWS AND HECTOR ELIZONDO CONSPIRED TO MAKE THEIR CHARACTERS A COUPLE.

In The Princess Diaries, widowed Queen Clarisse begins a romance with her limo driver, Joe—and it was all thanks to Andrews and Elizondo’s easy chemistry. “In the original script he was just a guy who drove a limo,” Elizondo told SFGate. “But slowly we evolved this other character. That came from the reading: Julie and I looked at each other and said, ‘Hmm, you’re cute.’ We liked each other very much.”

7. ROBERT SCHWARTZMAN’S FAKE BAND PLAYED A SONG BY HIS REAL BAND.

Mia’s love interest, Michael Moscovitz, plays keyboard for a fictional band called Flypaper. Coincidentally, the actor who played Michael has a band of his own. Robert Schwartzman is the frontman for Rooney, whose single “Blueside” appears in the movie. Schwartzman actually plays the song onscreen at a Flypaper band practice, along with another real-life Rooney bandmate, Ned Brower.

8. HE’S ALSO PART OF A HOLLYWOOD DYNASTY.

Schwartzman has only acted in a handful of films, but you might’ve seen his brother Jason in a Wes Anderson movie or two. If not, he’s got plenty of other famous family members. Robert’s mom is Talia Shire, his uncle is legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, and his cousins include Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Cage. No wonder he showed up in Sofia’s first two movies, Lick the Star and The Virgin Suicides.

9. THERE’S A PRETTY WOMAN CONNECTION.

Marshall’s movie Pretty Woman has a lot in common with The Princess Diaries. Both films have a Pygmalion-esque transformation story and actors like Elizondo and Patrick Richwood. But they also contain an identical joke: In The Princess Diaries, Mia accidentally breaks a glass at her first fancy dinner. A sympathetic waiter immediately runs over and assures her that “it happens all the time.” Similarly, in Pretty Woman, Vivian embarrasses herself at a posh dinner when she accidentally flings an escargot across the room. A waiter catches it mid-air and tells her “it happens all the time.” The craziest part? Both waiters are played by the same actor, Allan Kent.

10. THE MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO PLAYED HIMSELF.

Willie Brown, who served as San Francisco’s mayor from 1996 through 2004, appears as himself at the movie’s climatic Genovian Independence Day ball. He even gets a line. When a reporter asks him if he thinks it’s going to rain, Brown quips, “It never comes down on Willie Brown.”

11. WHITNEY HOUSTON WAS A PRODUCER.

Whitney Houston was one of four credited producers on the film. She also returned to produce the sequel, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. See if you can spy her at the end of this B-roll footage.

12. THE MOVIE NEARLY COST HATHAWAY LATER ROLES.

While promoting 2015's The Intern, Hathaway admitted that she struggled to be taken seriously after The Princess Diaries. “It was a great first job. It was a hit,” she told The Huffington Post. “But at the same time, it was a hard thing to be like, 'You know, Robert Rodriguez, I swear: I can do one of your movies.' It was hard to get into rooms to be taken seriously for roles that weren't princesses.” In one case, this bias nearly cost her a job. Hathaway’s director on Becoming Jane, Julian Jarrold, initially didn’t want to meet with her at all. Her first audition didn’t impress him either, but she won him over in the second one. Weirdly, she did this by showing up sleep-deprived.

“I was tired and I wasn’t in a very good mood,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I guess Julian realized that I wasn’t the happy, smiley, untroubled girl from The Princess Diaries. He offered me the role after that.”

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John P. Johnson, HBO
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Charles Dickens Wrote His Own Version of Westworld in the 1830s
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

Charles Dickens never fully devoted himself to science fiction, but if he had, his work might have looked something like the present-day HBO series Westworld. As The Conversation reports, the author explored a very similar premise to the show in The Mudfrog Papers, a collection of sketches that originally appeared in the magazine Bentley's Miscellany between 1837 and 1838.

In the story "Full Report of the Second Meeting of the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of Everything," a scientist describes his plan for a park where rich young men can take out their aggression on "automaton figures." In Dickens's story, the opportunity to pursue those cruel urges is the park's main appeal. The theme park in Westworld may have been founded with a slightly less cynical vision, but it has a similar outcome. Guests can live out their heroic fantasies, but if they have darker impulses, they can act on those as well.

Instead of sending guests back in time, Dickens's attraction presents visitors with a place very similar to their own home. According to the scientist's pitch, the idyllic, Victorian scene contains roads, bridges, and small villages in a walled-off space at least 10 miles wide. Each feature is designed for destruction, including cheap gas lamps made of real glass. It's populated with robot cops, cab drivers, and elderly women who, when beaten, produce “groans, mingled with entreaties for mercy, thus rendering the illusion complete, and the enjoyment perfect.”

There are no consequences for harming the hosts in Westworld, but the guests at Dickens's park are at least sent to a mock trial for their crimes. However, rather than paying for their misbehavior, the hooligans always earn the mercy of an automated judge—Dickens's allegory for how the law favors the rich and privileged in the real world.

As for the Victorian-era automatons gaining sentience and overthrowing their tormenters? Dickens never got that far. But who knows where he would have taken it given a two-season HBO deal.

[h/t The Conversation]

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Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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10 Fascinating Facts About Ella Fitzgerald
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Today marks what would have been the 101st birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, the pioneering jazz singer who helped revolutionize the genre. But the iconic songstress’s foray into the music industry was almost accidental, as she had planned to show off her dancing skills when she made her stage debut. Celebrate the birthday of the artist known as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, or just plain ol’ Lady Ella with these fascinating facts.

1. SHE WAS A JAZZ FAN FROM A YOUNG AGE.

Though she attempted to launch her career as a dancer (more on that in a moment), Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz enthusiast from a very young age. She was a fan of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, and truly idolized Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. “She was tops at the time,” Fitzgerald said in 1988. “I was attracted to her immediately. My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it. I tried so hard to sound just like her.”

2. SHE DABBLED IN CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES AS A TEENAGER.

A photo of Ella Fitzgerald
Carl Van Vechten - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Fitzgerald’s childhood wasn’t an easy one. Her stepfather was reportedly abusive to her, and that abuse continued following the death of Fitzgerald’s mother in 1932. Eventually, to escape the violence, she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. While she had been a great student when she was younger, it was following that move that her dedication to education faltered. Her grades dropped and she often skipped school. But she found other ways to fill her days, not all of them legal: According to The New York Times, she worked for a mafia numbers runner and served as a police lookout at a local brothel. Her illicit activities eventually landed her in an orphanage, followed by a state reformatory.

3. SHE MADE HER STAGE DEBUT AT THE APOLLO THEATER.

In the early 1930s, Fitzgerald was able to make a little pocket change from the tips she made from passersby while singing on the streets of Harlem. In 1934, she finally got the chance to step onto a real (and very famous) stage when she took part in an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater on November 21, 1934. It was her stage debut.

The then-17-year-old managed to wow the crowd by channeling her inner Connee Boswell and belting out her renditions of “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” She won, and took home a $25 prize. Here’s the interesting part: She entered the competition as a dancer. But when she saw that she had some stiff competition in that department, she opted to sing instead. It was the first big step toward a career in music.

4. A NURSERY RHYME HELPED HER GET THE PUBLIC’S ATTENTION.

Not long after her successful debut at the Apollo, Fitzgerald met bandleader Chick Webb. Though he was initially reluctant to hire her because of what The New York Times described as her “gawky and unkempt” appearance, her powerful voice won him over. "I thought my singing was pretty much hollering," she later said, "but Webb didn't."

Her first hit was a unique adaptation of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which she helped to write based on what she described as "that old drop-the-handkerchief game I played from 6 to 7 years old on up."

5. SHE WAS PAINFULLY SHY.

Though it certainly takes a lot of courage to get up and perform in front of the world, those who knew and worked with Fitzgerald said that she was extremely shy. In Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz, trumpeter Mario Bauzá—who played with Fitzgerald in Chick Webb’s orchestra—explained that “she didn't hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music … She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig."

6. SHE MADE HER FILM DEBUT IN AN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MOVIE.

As her IMDb profile attests, Fitzgerald contributed to a number of films and television series over the years, and not just to the soundtracks. She also worked as an actress on a handful of occasions (often an actress who sings), beginning with 1942’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy, a comedy-western starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

7. SHE GOT SOME HELP FROM MARILYN MONROE.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Fitzgerald said in a 1972 interview in Ms. Magazine. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard … After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Though it has often been reported that the club’s owner did not want to book Fitzgerald because she was black, it was later explained that his reluctance wasn’t due to Fitzgerald’s race; he apparently didn’t believe that she was “glamorous” enough for the patrons to whom he catered.

8. SHE WAS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN TO WIN A GRAMMY.

Ella Fitzgerald
William P. Gottlieb - LOC, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Among her many other accomplishments, in 1958 Fitzgerald became the first African American woman to win a Grammy Award. Actually, she won two awards that night: one for Best Jazz Performance, Soloist for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook.

9. HER FINAL PERFORMANCE WAS AT CARNEGIE HALL.

On June 27, 1991, Fitzgerald—who had, at that point, recorded more than 200 albums—performed at Carnegie Hall. It was the 26th time she had performed at the venue, and it ended up being her final performance.

10. SHE LOST BOTH OF HER LEGS TO DIABETES.

In her later years, Fitzgerald suffered from a number of health problems. She was hospitalized a handful of times during the 1980s for everything from respiratory problems to exhaustion. She also suffered from diabetes, which took much of her eyesight and led to her having to have both of her legs amputated below the knee in 1993. She never fully recovered from the surgery and never performed again. She passed away at her home in Beverly Hills on June 15, 1996.

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