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15 Facts About 'Scent of a Woman'

A loose adaption of the Giovanni Arpino novel Il buio e il miele and the 1974 movie Profumo di Donna, Scent of a Woman (1992) stars Al Pacino as the bitter, angry, depressed, and blind Lt. Col. Frank Slade in a role that would earn him his first Oscar win. Chris O'Donnell plays prep school student Charlie Simms, who is tasked with babysitting Slade in New York City over a Thanksgiving weekend. Here are some facts about the movie—the first to ever air on the Starz Network—to read before you get tangled up and tango on.

1. JACK NICHOLSON SAID NO.

Nicholson was initially approached to play the blind lieutenant colonel, but after he read the script, he passed. He made up for it with a big 1992, appearing in Man Trouble, Hoffa, and A Few Good Men.

2. MATT DAMON, BEN AFFLECK, BRENDAN FRASER, AND O'DONNELL'S CASTMATES IN SCHOOL TIES ALL AUDITIONED FOR CHARLIE.

"The whole cast went down to audition for it,” Matt Damon remembered in a 1997 Vanity Fair profile. “So the way I found out about the part is, I’m checking in with my agent, to see if anything good has come in, and my agent says, ‘Here’s one with a young role, and . . . Oh my God, it’s got Al Pacino in it!’ So I go up to Chris and say, ‘Have you heard about this movie?’ and he says [curtly] ‘Yeah.’ So I say, ‘Do you have the script?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Can I see it?’ ‘No—I kinda need it.’ Chris wouldn’t give it to anybody." Stephen Dorff also auditioned.

3. O'DONNELL WAS VERY CONFIDENT HE GOT THE ROLE, BUT WAS VERY NERVOUS AT HIS AUDITION.

While Damon, Affleck, Fraser, Randall Batinkoff, and Anthony Rapp all felt their auditions didn't go well, O'Donnell felt good about his. "Chris used to play things close to the vest," Damon said. "We asked him how his audition went, and he just said [highpitched, Hibernian singsong], ‘Ohhh, it was all right.’ And we were like ‘Dude! Just tell us how it went!’ And he would say [singsong again], ‘Ohhh, I don’t know.’”

As O'Donnell later admitted, it wasn't easy. “I really wanted it, I really prepared hard for it," he recalled. "Al Pacino was a no-brainer. But when I got in there, Al is such an intimidating presence and the character is supposed to be intimidated by him. I was able to play on that natural nervousness that I had around him in the audition process that helped me to win the role.”

4. CHRIS ROCK AUDITIONED FOR CHARLIE, TOO.

"There was a little bit of talk about me playing the Chris O'Donnell part in Scent of a Woman, which actually would've been a better movie," the comedian told Rolling Stone in 2014. "Not 'cause of me—it just would've been a better movie with a black kid playing that part."

5. DIRECTOR MARTIN BREST WANTED PACINO AND O'DONNELL SEPARATED.

Brest wanted to split the two up so he could create tension, but Pacino and O'Donnell actually wound up bonding off-screen, putting a halt to any separation plans.

"It was just the most nerve wracking experience of my life, and being that nervous around Al Pacino for the majority of the film as well," O'Donnell later said. "I knew at the time I was doing it that this is going to be the greatest single acting experience of my life that I'll ever have." Pacino gave the then 21-year-old actor some life advice while on set. "He always told me don't ever marry an actress. He said you'll always be second in their life." O'Donnell didn't.

6. LT. COL FRANK SLADE WAS THREE DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

Screenwriter Bo Goldman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Rose) discovered that his brother was broke and living in a big expensive New York apartment that he was a year behind on rent for. One week later, Brest called him and showed him Profuma di Donna. "I looked at this movie, and this character struck me as being exactly like my brother, who became the character in Scent of a Woman," Goldman said. "The character was crossed with my first sergeant in the Army, a member of the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who was the second man I’ve ever really been afraid of, and the first man I was afraid of—my father. The sergeant was a real soldier…So this character became a hybrid of all these people.”

7. 'HOO-AH' CAME FROM PACINO'S GUN EXPERT.

"I was working with a lieutenant colonel who was teaching me the ways [of the Army]," Pacino recalled. "We worked every day, and he'd teach me how to load and unload a .45 and all this stuff. Every time I did something right, he'd go, 'Hoo-ah!' Finally, I asked, 'Where did you get that from?' And he said, 'When we were on the line, and you turned and snapped the rifle in the right way, [you'd say,] 'Hoo-ah!' So I just started doing it. It's funny where things come from."

8. PACINO WAS FITTED FOR SPECIAL LENSES THAT HE ENDED UP NOT USING.

After spending months getting fitted for special lenses that would make Pacino's blindness more convincing, the actor and Brest opted not to use them. There was concern that Pacino's eyes would get hurt if he used them for too long.

9. PACINO HURT HIS CORNEA FALLING INTO A BUSH.

"You don't focus your eyes. And what happens is, you just go into a state," Pacino told Larry King after King asked how he pretended to be blind. "As a matter of fact, I had an eye injury during the shooting of the film, because I fell into a bush. And the worst kind of eye injury is when plant life gets into your cornea. It stuck into my cornea. As I was falling, my eyes weren't focusing and the thing went into my eye. So it's also dangerous to do that."

10. THAT TANGO SCENE WAS PAINFUL FOR GABRIELLE ANWAR.

Gabrielle Anwar (later Fiona Glenanne on Burn Notice) put herself on tape and flew to New York to meet Pacino for an audition. She was then told she didn't get the role of Donna because she "wasn't quite right," before the powers-that-be changed their mind and asked her to fly back to New York. She spent a week with a tango instructor, but didn't really need to, since she used to dance at a nightclub for teenagers in her England hometown of Laleham.

Anwar claimed in 2013 that Pacino did not attend the tango rehearsals. "It was a bit dodgy. I have a few sort of half-broken toes still," she said. "It was interesting... (but) it's Al Pacino, for God's sake; I couldn't exactly complain. I was afraid... He was incredibly nice to me."

11. THEY WENT TO PLACES THE GODFATHER AND BOTH ARTHUR FILMS HAD GONE BEFORE.

The all-male Baird School was filmed at the all-female Emma Willard School in Troy, New York. (Emma Willard was the first women's higher education institution in the United States.) But the final Baird scene was shot at Hempstead House, one of the four mansions on Sands Point Preserve in Long Island, New York. One of the other mansions was where the movie producer woke up to his horse's head in that other Pacino film.

They also shot in the Oak Room at The Plaza Hotel, where the original Arthur drank with Gloria. The tango was performed in the ballroom of The Pierre Hotel. The luxury penthouse there was used again by Brest when he made it Anthony Hopkins's character's home in Meet Joe Black (1998). The penthouse was also used by the Arthur Bach played by Russell Brand in the 2011 remake.

12. O'DONNELL'S BEST TAKE WAS A CAMERA OPERATOR'S WORST.

“The one scene where Chris O’Donnell cries, the focus puller missed and it was soft," editor Michael Tronick revealed. “Normally, Marty [Brest] wouldn’t consider looking at something that’s imperfect that’s flatly out of focus. But it was the best take and we knew it. It had to be in the movie.”

13. PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN CREDITED IT AS HIS BIG BREAK.

Hoffman had to audition five times to get the part of George. When he won the role he was living in Brooklyn with just a futon while making ends meet working at a deli. Hoffman admitted to The New York Times in 2008 he sometimes caught Scent of a Woman on TV. “I’ll watch it, and I say, ‘Do less, Phil, less, less!’" he said. "Now, I’m a little mortified by parts of my performance. But back then, it was huge! It was pure joy to get to do the work." Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson claimed that after he saw Hoffman in the movie, “It was one of those ridiculous moments where you call someone and say, ‘You’re my favorite actor.'" Anderson then wrote the part of Scotty J. in Boogie Nights (1997) for him.

14. BREST THOUGHT THE LENGTH WAS JUST FINE.

Some critics notably said the movie, at two hours and 37 minutes, was too long. The first cut by Brest went 160 minutes long. Brest, Goldman, and Pacino wanted it to be even longer, and Universal wanted it shorter. Brest, Goldman, and Pacino eventually won when test audiences gave a higher score to the longer 157-minute cut. Universal, however, cut the movie down for TV and on airplanes. For those versions, Brest removed his name.

15. CHRIS O'DONNELL HAD MORE WORK TO DO.

O'Donnell was working on his marketing degree at Boston College when he starred in the movie. The day after the movie premiere, he needed to finish a term paper and had three finals to study for.

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20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers Movies
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Gramercy Pictures

Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. John Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’s 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS' WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating, “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Ethan Coen, Frances McDormand and Joel Coen at the Oscars
Ethan Coen, Frances McDormand, and Joel Coen celebrate their Oscar wins in 1997.
KIM KULISH/AFP/Getty Images

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

Billy Bob Thornton in the Coen brothers' 'The Man Who Wasn't There' (2001)
© 2001 - USA Films

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that features a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

A still from the Coen Brothers' 'The Ladykillers.'
Melinda Sue Gordon, SMPSP - © 2004 - Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination).

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

A photo of Oscar Isaac in the Coen brothers' 'Inside Llewyn Davis' (2013).
© 2013 - CBS Films

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. “The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, ‘Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that.”

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen brothers are plenty fond of The Dude; after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

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Brush Up on Your Film Trivia With This Website Dedicated to First and Last Lines From Popular Movies
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Few elements of a film are more important than its opening and closing lines. In some cases, they divulge pivotal truths or serve as bookends to establish the movie’s overall tone. In others, they provide important context or reveal key information about the lead characters.

No matter which purpose these snippets of dialogue serve, the most iconic establishing or concluding film lines are perhaps the most quotable ones. (After all, how many Citizen Kane fans can hear the phrase “Rosebud” without being reminded of Kane’s favorite childhood sleigh?) But if you can’t remember the openers and closers from your own favorite flicks, a new website is here to help you brush up on your pop culture knowledge.

Made by the team over at AT&T Internet, the fun reference site takes iconic blockbusters and presents their first and last lines of dialogue using typography and the occasional illustration. The site “is a way to recap the last 50 years of movies into a slideshow,” communications manager Alex Thomas tells Mental Floss.

You can check out AT&T Internet’s online slideshow of first and last lines—featuring bits from 1972’s The Godfather, 1999’s The Sixth Sense, 1994's The Shawshank Redemption, and more—here.

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