17 Connected Facts About Magnolia

Tom Cruise stars as Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia (1999).
Tom Cruise stars as Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia (1999).
New Line Cinema

Fortified with complete creative control fresh off his critically praised instant classic Boogie Nights (1997), Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed Magnolia (1999). It is a sprawling yet intimate story that features an all-star cast, including Jason Robards, Tom Cruise, John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, and William H. Macy. The unconventional film helped Anderson score his second Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, along with Cruise, who was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

1. PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON ORIGINALLY WANTED TO MAKE A SMALL, CHEAP MOVIE.

"The truth of the matter is when I sat down to write Magnolia, I truly sat down to write something very small, very quick, very intimate, and something I could make very cheaply," Anderson recalled of his initial intention. "Boogie Nights was this massive, two-and-a-half-hour epic. And I thought, 'You know what? I wanna bury my head in the sand and just make a little small movie.'"

But of course, that wasn't the final result. "I started to write and well, it kept blossoming. And I got to the point where still it's a very intimate movie, but I realized I had so many actors I wanted to write for that the form started to come more from them. Then I thought it would be really interesting to put this epic spin on topics that don't necessarily get the epic treatment, which is usually reserved for war movies or political topics. But the things that I know as big and emotional are these real intimate everyday moments, like losing your car keys, for example. You could start with something like that and go anywhere."

Anderson wrote a draft of the script in William H. Macy's cabin in Vermont. Anderson was scared to venture outside the cabin because he spotted a snake, and that bit of fear helped him concentrate on writing.

2. ANDERSON WROTE THE SCRIPT TO AIMEE MANN'S MUSIC.

Anderson and Aimee Mann were friends, so he not only listened to her music while writing, but had some unreleased demos to use as creative inspiration as well. "In a way, I sat down to adapt one of her songs," he said. "There’s a song called 'Deathly' that she wrote and the very first line of the song is 'Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing me again?' Melora Walters says that in the movie. That sort of notion of being unlovable or being so fu*ked up you can’t understand how anyone could love you back was really important and really beautiful to me. It kind of made sense to me at that time in my life. I probably owe Aimee a ton of money for the inspiration she was to this movie."

Most memorably, Mann's "Wise Up" plays toward the end of the film, with each character singing along. Anderson worried it might come off as ridiculous, "but I tricked everyone by getting Julianne Moore to do it first. She can always set the pace, because actors are so competitive. Then everyone was up for it."

3. GEORGE C. SCOTT WAS NOT A FAN.

The role of Earl Partridge was initially written for, and ultimately played by, Jason Robards, but at first Robards was not able to accept because of a serious staph infection. So Anderson went to George C. Scott, who, according to Anderson, threw the script across the room and said, "This is the worst f***ing thing I've ever read. The language is terrible."

4. TOM CRUISE SIGNED UP AFTER SEEING BOOGIE NIGHTS.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman watched Boogie Nights one night while shooting Eyes Wide Shut (1999) in England. Cruise enjoyed the film so much that he actually called Anderson to congratulate him and invited him to Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut set in England. After they met, Cruise asked Anderson to write a role for him. Frank "T.J." Mackey was offered to Cruise six months later.

5. CRUISE AND ANDERSON SHAPED CRUISE'S CHARACTER.

Anderson had written Mackey in golf pants and polo shirts, like the character's former paralegal inspiration, but Cruise convinced his director he would wear an armband, “those leather-wrist, masculine hero kind of things," and the whole wardrobe changed. "Several" video reenactments of Mackey bedding women were cut from the film. It wasn't until they started shooting the scene of Mackey stripping naked in front of Gwenovier (April Grace) that Anderson told Cruise to take off his pants in addition to his shirt. Cruise asked, "What?" Anderson replied, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’ll be funny."

The script as written had Mackey break down when he got to his dying father's door. Cruise didn't "feel" that and changed the scene, including adding the part when he threatens Phil Parma by saying he will drop-kick the dogs. Cruise thought it would be funny if Mackey was afraid of canines. As part of his contract, Cruise was purposely barely visible on the movie poster, because he would have overshadowed the ensemble cast, and his character was, as The New York Times put it, "inconsistent" with the Cruise brand at the time.

6. PHILIP BAKER HALL CONVINCED ANDERSON TO KEEP THE FROGS IN THE MOVIE.

After Anderson told Philip Baker Hall his next movie was going to feature a sequence where it rains frogs, Hall, who had already acted in Anderson's two previous films (Hard Eight, Boogie Nights), had a story for him. "Philip had been driving on a mountain pass in Switzerland and he said for about 15 minutes it rained frogs," Anderson said. "It was really foggy and the mountain road was covered in ice. The frogs falling was not the thing that freaked him out. What freaked him out was that his car could not get any traction and he was afraid he was gonna fall off the mountain! I just thought right then and there I gotta go through with this sequence."

7. THERE ARE A LOT OF EXODUS 8:2 REFERENCES IN IT.

"I’d be a liar if I said to you it was written initially as a Biblical reference," Anderson admitted of the frog scene. "I truthfully didn’t even know it was in the Bible when I first wrote the sequence." He had in fact read about a rain of frogs from the writings of author Charles Fort (The Book of the Damned). Once he realized it was in the Bible, specifically Exodus 8:2, he had the set decorator "surprise" him with how many 8s and 2s he can hide in the background. The numbers appeared in everything from weather forecasts to apartment numbers and decks of cards.

8. JOHN C. REILLY AND ANDERSON DEVELOPED THE ACTOR'S MUSTACHIOED CHARACTER WHILE TRYING TO PARODY THE SHOW COPS.

Before Boogie Nights came out, Anderson and John C. Reilly were unemployed and obsessed with Cops. When Reilly grew a mustache for fun (looking like many of the officers on the series), Anderson insisted they do their own parody of the Fox show, which Jennifer Jason Leigh and Philip Seymour Hoffman later appeared in. Some of Reilly's lines in those shorts made it into the movie, but his character became smarter and more sympathetic because Anderson wanted to make the actor a romantic lead.

9. ANDERSON PURPOSELY WROTE MACY'S CHARACTER TO HAVE A BIG EMOTIONAL MOMENT.

Anderson told The Guardian that he wrote an emotional scene for Macy almost as a way to challenge him. "I think he's scared of big emotional parts—he thinks actors shouldn't cry—so I wrote a big tearful, emotional part just for him," Anderson said.

10. STANLEY WAS AN ACTUAL SMART KID, AND HIS STORY WAS INFLUENCED BY FIONA APPLE.

Jeremy Blackman made his feature film debut in Magnolia as kid genius Stanley Spector. Before that, he was a recipient of the President of the United States Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement.

His character not being allowed to use the restroom was based on a story Anderson's then-girlfriend, singer Fiona Apple, once told him. "She had to go to the bathroom in some kind of taping situation, " Anderson remembered, "and they just said, 'Well, can you just hold it and do this thing for us first?’ And she did. And when she told me this story, I wanted to strangle every person involved." (Apple also created some of the paintings in the background of the film.)

11. PATTON OSWALT WASN'T PRIVY TO THE PLOT OF THE FILM.

Patton Oswalt portrayed blackjack dealer/scuba diver Delmer Darion, and had his own unique and telling experience of working on the movie, which he shared with The A.V. Club:

"Delmer Darion. God. I was doing a show one night, and I went back in the kitchen and was hanging out, and Paul Thomas Anderson was there. We were just talking, and he was like, 'I’m doing this movie if you want a part in it.' I said, 'Yeah, sure.' So they called me the next day and said I needed to come in to be fitted for a wetsuit. I said, 'Can I see the screenplay first?' And they were like, 'Nope.' So I went in and got this custom wetsuit made, and they gave me two pages of the script and flew me to Reno. We shot this scene and then hung out all night drinking. And a week later, we were shooting and I was in the wetsuit. It was so hot to the point where I wasn’t even sweating anymore. And Paul was dumping bottles of water on my head to keep me from passing out and I was like, 'Paul, what are we doing?' He said, 'I can’t say right now, but I’ll just say that you are the first frog that falls out of the sky.' And I went, 'Okay.' So that’s what working with PTA is like."

12. THOMAS JANE WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE TWO ROLES IN THE FILM.

Thomas Jane was originally supposed to have two roles in the film, but only portrayed the younger version of Jimmy Gator because he took another gig (Under Suspicion with Gene Hackman). "Paul (Thomas Anderson) never forgave me," Jane revealed. "And the movie with Gene Hackman, of course, has been totally forgotten."

13. THEY USED AN AUTHENTIC TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY CAMERA.

For the 1911 hanging, Anderson shot through a hand-cranked Pathe camera. "It's fun to see what it was like in 1911 hand-cranking the camera, finding out the limitations, the difficulties. You feel like you are there for a minute or two. And that's what I believe: you just can't fake it," Anderson said.

For the look of the other scenes, Anderson and director of photography Robert Elswit watched Being There (1979), Ordinary People (1980), Network (1976), and The Verdict (1982) before filming. "In terms of lighting styles, my brain took me to Eastern, wintertime movies, and I think that that seeped in [to this picture's palette]," Anderson said. "Sometimes we strayed from our plan, but my big goal was to make everything look like one story, so it didn't have the feeling of a vignette movie."

14. THE PHONE NUMBERS USED TO WORK.

Phil Parma dialed 818-775-3993 in the movie. When people dialed that number while the film was in theaters, they got the voicemail of a flustered woman saying, "Please leave a message at the tone." If you dialed Frank "T.J." Mackey's 1-877-TAMEHER, you would have heard Mackey's "Seduce and Destroy" program speech. If you dialed that number in 2011, The Chicago Tribune reported, it connected to a health club's corporate office.

15. ANDERSON INSISTED ON THE LONG RUNNING TIME, THEN LATER REGRETTED IT.

After New Line Cinema head of production Michael De Luca read Anderson's Magnolia script for the first time (on a Sunday, while Anderson watched movies in De Luca's screening room), De Luca was "ecstatic," then asked if there was any chance of cutting it down to two hours and 45 minutes. Anderson said "no." Since De Luca agreed to give Anderson creative control before seeing the script, there was nothing he could do. The running time was 188 minutes.

In 2015, Anderson admitted to Marc Maron that he regretted pushing for the three-plus hours of film. “I wasn’t really editing myself,” he said. “It’s way too fu*king long.”

16. THE REAL T.J. MACKEY CONSIDERED SUING.

Anderson got the initial idea of a pickup artist character from his friend, who taught an audio-recording engineering class. Two of his friends' students talked one day in the recording studio and their teacher recorded it. When the teacher played the unlabeled DAT years later, he was shocked to hear two guys quoting "seduction expert" Ross Jeffries. Anderson had John C. Reilly and Chris Penn read the transcription of the tape and incorporate it into the Mackey character. “He lifted some stuff almost word for word,” Jeffries later said. He ended up not suing because, according to Jeffries, he liked the movie.

17. IT WAS JASON ROBARDS'S FINAL FILM.

Sadly, Robards—like his character Earl Partridge—passed away from lung cancer, in December 2000. He was 78 years old.

The Very Real Events That Inspired Game of Thrones's Red Wedding

Peter Graham's After the Massacre of Glencoe
Peter Graham's After the Massacre of Glencoe
Peter Graham, Google Cultural Institute, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Ask any Game of Thrones fan to cite a few of the show's most shocking moments, and the so-called "Red Wedding" from season 3's "The Rains of Castamere" episode will likely be at the top of their list. The events that unfolded during the episode shocked fans because of their brutality, but what might be even more surprising to know is that the episode was based on very real events.

Author George R.R. Martin has said that the inspiration for the matrimonial bloodbath is based on two dark events in Scottish history: the Black Dinner of 1440 and 1692's Massacre of Glencoe. “No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse,” Martin told Entertainment Weekly in 2013. And he’s absolutely right. See for yourself.

The Massacre of Glencoe

The West Highland Way in 2005, view from the summit of the Devil's Staircase looking south over the east end of Glen Coe, towards Buachaille Etive Mòr with Creise and Meall a' Bhuiridh beyond
Colin Souza, Edited by Dave Souza, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

In 1691, all Scottish clans were called upon to renounce the deposed King of Scotland, James VII, and swear allegiance to King William of Orange (of William and Mary fame). The chief of each clan had until January 1, 1692, to provide a signed document swearing an oath to William. The Highland Clan MacDonald had two things working against them here. First of all, the Secretary of State, John Dalrymple, was a Lowlander who loathed Clan MacDonald. Secondly, Clan MacDonald had already sworn an oath to James VII and had to wait on him to send word that they were free to break that oath.

Unfortunately, it was December 28 before a messenger arrived with this all-important letter from the former king. That gave Maclain, the chief of the MacDonald clan, just three days to get the newly-signed oath to the Secretary of State.

Maclain was detained for days when he went through Inveraray, the town of the rival Clan Campbell, but still managed to deliver the oath, albeit several days late. The Secretary of State’s legal team wasn't interested in late documents. They rejected the MacDonalds's sworn allegiance to William, and set plans in place to cut the clan down, “root and branch.”

In late January or early February, 120 men under the command of Captain Robert Campbell arrived at the MacDonalds's in Glencoe, claiming to need shelter because a nearby fort was full. The MacDonalds offered their hospitality, as was custom, and the soldiers stayed there for nearly two weeks before Captain Drummond arrived with instructions to “put all to the sword under seventy.”

After playing cards with their victims and wishing them goodnight, the soldiers waited until the MacDonalds were asleep ... then murdered as many men as they could manage. In all, 38 people—some still in their beds—were killed. At least 40 women and children escaped, but fleeing into a blizzard blowing outside as their houses burned down meant that they all died of exposure.

The massacre was considered especially awful because it was “Slaughter Under Trust.” To this day, the door at Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe has a sign on the door that says "No hawkers or Campbells."

The Black Dinner

In November of 1440, the newly-appointed 6th Earl of Douglas, who was just 16, and his little brother David, were invited to join the 10-year-old King of Scotland, James II, for dinner at Edinburgh Castle. But it wasn’t the young King who had invited the Douglas brothers. The invitation had been issued by Sir William Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland, who feared that the Black Douglas (there was another clan called the Red Douglas) were growing too powerful.

As legend has it, the children were all getting along marvelously, enjoying food, entertainment and talking until the end of the dinner, when the head of a black bull was dropped on the table, symbolizing the death of the Black Douglas. The two young Douglases were dragged outside, given a mock trial, found guilty of high treason, and beheaded. It’s said that the Earl pleaded for his brother to be killed first so that the younger boy wouldn’t have to witness his older brother’s beheading.

Sir Walter Scott wrote this of the horrific event:

"Edinburgh Castle, toune and towre,
God grant thou sink for sin!
And that e'en for the black dinner
Earl Douglas gat therein."

This article has been updated for 2019.

15 Game of Thrones Products Every Fan Needs

Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

Though Game of Thrones might be coming to its official end, that doesn’t mean that your fandom can’t—or won’t—carry on. Whether you’re a years-long defender of House Stark or have been rooting for House Targaryen since the beginning, there’s a candle, collectible pin, coffee mug, card game, and pretty much anything else you can imagine with your name (and preferred sigil) on it.

1. A Song of Ice and Fire Book Series; $46

Bantam's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' book series

Bantam, Amazon

If you’ve never read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the series is based, plenty more Westerosi drama awaits. And just because you’ve seen every episode of the series 10 times doesn’t mean you know which way the books will turn. (The TV show diverged from their narrative a long time ago—and dozens of the characters who have been killed off on your television screen are still alive and well in the books.) Plus, as Martin has yet to complete the series, you may just catch up in time for the newest book.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Map Marker Wine Stopper Set; $50

Nobody solves a problem like Tyrion Lannister … and his thought process usually includes copious amounts of wine (Dornish if you’ve got it). Something tells us you’re going need some vino yourself to get through the giant, hour-long hole left in your Sunday nights once Game of Thrones officially ends. Make sure you don’t let a drop of it go to waste by keeping one of these six wine stoppers—each one carved to represent the sigil of the most noble houses in the Seven Kingdoms—handy.

Buy it: HBO Shop or BoxLunch

3. Winterfell Coffee Mug; $25

If coffee is more your speed—we get it: the night is dark and full of terrors—this simple-yet-elegant Winterfell mug is an easy way to communicate to your co-workers why you’re typically a little bleary-eyed on Monday mornings.

Buy it: HBO Shop

4. Hodor Door Stop; $12

A 3D-printed Hodor door stop, inspired by 'Game of Thrones'

3D Cauldron, Amazon

An important part of being a Game of Thrones fan is accepting that showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have no problem killing off your favorite characters, often in brutal ways. One of the series’ most memorable deaths was that of Hodor, Bran Stark’s personal mode of transport, who we loved despite the fact that the only word he ever uttered for six seasons was “Hodor”—and who we loved even more when, in the final moments of his life, we learned why that was the case. Pay tribute to the gentle giant, and his backstory, with this 3D-printed door stop.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Tarot Card Deck; $25

A 'Game of Thrones' tarot card deck, from Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books, Amazon

Channel your inner Maggy the Frog and see what the future holds for you and your loved ones (your enemies, too, if the mood strikes you) with Chronicle Books’s gorgeously packaged tarot card deck. The tarot tradition and Game of Thrones mythology blend seamlessly together in this box of goodies, which includes an instruction book and illustrated cards featuring your favorite characters and most beloved scenes from the show.

Buy it: Amazon or Chronicle Books

6. Fire and Blood Candle; $12

Mad Queen or not, show that you still stand behind the Mother of Dragons by filling your home with this House Targaryen-inspired votive candle. Best of all: Just wait to see the look on the faces of your guests when they ask “Mmmm … what’s that smell?” If you’d prefer not to answer with “fire and blood—doesn’t it smell delicious?,” there are other scents available: one called "Moon of My Life My Sun and Stars," another called "Be a Dragon," and one inspired by the Iron Throne itself (which must smell like victory).

Buy it: HBO Shop

7. Clue: Game of Thrones; $50

Margaery Tyrell with the battle axe in Cersei’s bedchambers. Rewrite the rules—and brutal deaths—of Game of Thrones with this special edition of the classic board game, which tasks you with figuring out who murdered whom, using what weapon, and where the incident took place. A double-sided playing board lets you choose whether you want to set the game in The Red Keep or Meereen.

Buy it: HBO Shop or BoxLunch

8. Game of Thrones Monopoly; $24

'Game of Thrones Monopoly' game board

Hasbro, Amazon

Who wants to be the Lord or Lady of Winterfell when you can become the preeminent real estate mogul of all the Seven Kingdoms? This special-edition Monopoly board puts a distinctly Westerosian twist on the classic game, with silver tokens to represent the sigils of each of the main houses and a card holder that plays the series’ haunting score whenever you press it.

Buy it: Amazon or Best Buy

9. House Stark Hoodie; $60

If you really wanted to dress like a Stark, you’d have a master blacksmith on hand to help customize your armor—or at least turn your IKEA rug into a luxurious cape. If you’re far less crafty, there’s always this full-zip hoodie featuring an embroidered direwolf on the front and an outlined illustration of the same on the back. The minimalist design is a way to show your fandom in a way that, to the untrained eye, might just look like you’re a fan of wolves. But the rest of us will know better. And approve.

Buy it: ThinkGeek

10. Deluxe Iron Throne Funko Pop! Set; $130

Funko's Iron Throne Pop! set of five

Funko, HBO Shop

Though it seems unlikely that a few of these characters will ever sit on the Iron Throne (either because they’re dead or have gone mad), a fan can always hope. And buying them as part of this five-piece set is an easy way to collect them all. If you don’t see your favorite character here, Amazon has got plenty more squat-headed figures to choose from, including Arya, Brienne of Tarth, Rhaegal (poor Rhaegal), and Ghost (poor Ghost). If you ever happen upon a headless Ned Stark Pop!, grab it; this hard-to-find figure can sell for more than $2000 on eBay.

Buy it: HBO Shop

11. Iron Throne Bookend; $60

After devoting more than eight years of your life to seeing Game of Thrones all the way through, maybe it’s you who deserves the Iron Throne. You can’t sit on this 7.5-inch replica, the base of which features sigils from all the noble houses, but you can show off your fancy George R.R. Martin book collection … or all that dragon fan fiction you’ve been working on.

Buy it: Best Buy or the HBO Shop

12. Game of Thrones Music Box; $13

'Game of Thrones' music box

Shenzhen Youtang Trade Co., Amazon

Channel your inner Arya by psyching yourself up with the iconic Game of Thrones theme song whenever you feel the need to hear it with this hand-cranked music box.

Buy it: Amazon

13. Iron Throne Tankard; $70

Show your guests who's boss at your next dinner party—or raucous feast—as you take your place at the head of the table and guzzle your mead (or giant's milk—we don't judge) from this Iron Throne-themed tankard, completed with sword handle.

Buy it: HBO Shop

14. Game of Thrones Socks; $8

It gets cold in the North. Keep your tootsies warm with this six-pack of stylish ankle-cut socks.

Buy it: Target

15. Living Language Dothraki; $16

A copy of the Living Language Dothraki language course

Living Language, Amazon

By now, you've surely learned at least a handful of common Dothraki words and phrases. But if you wan to become fluent in the (fictional) language, this language course is one way to do it. Now: Finne zhavvorsa anni?

Buy it: Amazon

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