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13 Fast Facts About Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

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Two years before they reunited for Step Brothers, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly discovered they made a great comedic duo in 2006's Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, directed by Adam McKay and co-written by Ferrell and McKay.

Ferrell played popular NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby, with Reilly as Cal Naughton Jr., the "bake" to Bobby's "shake," who didn't mind coming in second to give Bobby the win. Ten years after the film's release, here are 13 fast facts about Talladega Nights.

1. IT WAS MOLLY SHANNON WHO INTRODUCED WILL FERRELL TO JOHN C. REILLY.

In an interview with About Entertainment, John C. Reilly said that he was introduced to Will Ferrell "through my friend Molly Shannon and we just hit it off right away. That friendship bled into the relationship in [Talladega Nights], I guess." Originally, the friends has planned to work together on Anchorman, but Reilly was shooting another film. "That was a real heartbreak for me because I thought that was the chance to work with Will and Adam," he said. "Lo and behold, they put this together and called me."

2. FERRELL AND ADAM MCKAY HAD WANTED TO MAKE A NASCAR MOVIE FOR YEARS.

The two had talked about NASCAR while Ferrell was making Elf (2003). Then they went to a race. "We weren’t even huge NASCAR fans at the time, but after we started going to the track, we got swept up in the phenomenon," McKay said.

3. THEY PITCHED IT WITH SIX WORDS.

McKay and Ferrell used just six words to pitch the movie to studios: "Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver." Sony said yes.

4. NASCAR ADDED JOKES.

NASCAR helped with accuracy and getting production access to real racing events. Producer Judd Apatow remembered that "some guy at NASCAR would pitch us a better joke than we had, and then we were embarrassed that they could ride cars at 150 miles per hour and be funnier than us."

5. REILLY BASED HIS LOOK ON DRIVERS FROM THE 1960s and 1970s.

While Reilly was trying to figure out the look of Cal Naughton Jr., he looked at pictures of contemporary drivers. They looked "clean cut," but when he looked through a book about the history of the sport, he saw something he liked—facial hair. "Big muttonchops, sideburns and crazy facial hair. They look like they’re doing a bit of partying off the track, and a little paunchy," Reilly explained. "And I thought, those are the guys I want to base my thing on, the ones that were running away from the feds when they were trying to hide their stills up in the mountains."

6. THEY PRACTICED RACING FOR REAL.

Instructors at the Richard Petty Driving Experience helped Ferrell, Reilly, and Sacha Baron Cohen learn the fundamentals of racing. “The first thing they do is have you ride shotgun with a real NASCAR driver at about 180 miles an hour around the track, Baron Cohen said. " It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life."

When McKay, Ferrell, and Reilly went to school, they all insisted on getting off the track after riding in a van for just one lap. "The scene where Ricky comes back and thinks he's going fast, but he's really only going 25 miles per hour, totally terrified. That was pretty much based on real-life experience," Ferrell later admitted.

7. REILLY WANTED TO RECREATE A SCENE FROM DAYS OF THUNDER.

"The one scene from Days of Thunder that I wanted to recreate in Talladega Nights was when Robert Duvall ([as] Harry Hogge) is alone with the car and talking to it at night like it's a person," Reilly said. "It gets almost inappropriate. 'I'm gonna buff you out and pump you full of high octane, baby' ... We were going to shoot a scene where I was talking and rubbing and then getting way too intimate with the car, but it didn't make it. That was probably for the best."

8. 200,000 RACING FANS INSTINCTIVELY BOOED SACHA BARON COHEN'S CHARACTER.

Ferrell, Reilly, and Baron Cohen were introduced in character at the 2005 UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. When Baron Cohen's character, Jean Girard, was introduced, 200,000 fans booed. McKay was worried Baron Cohen would get depressed after that, but it didn't surprise the comedic actor. "It reminded me of the last time I went to Alabama, when I was playing a gay Austrian character for [Da Ali G Show] and was booed by 90,000 drunken men at the Alabama-Mississippi football game," he explained. "The only way I got out alive was by switching clothes with the sound man.”

9. THE KNIVES IN THE LEG SCENE KEPT GETTING LONGER AND LONGER.

"The knife in the leg is a bit that in no way serves the story, but we thought it was funny," McKay said. "So we tried a small version of it and we got a big laugh. 'Oh wait a minute, let’s add more of that.' It got more laughs. 'Let’s add way more of that.' We used the sequence with the second knife—it’s out of focus, you can tell it looks awful, but we said, ‘Screw it, we’re putting it in anyway!’ Suddenly it’s the funniest set piece in the movie."

It was Michael Clarke Duncan's idea to put in the second knife. "I used to work at the gas company and when you get your drill bits stuck in the concrete you just take it out and go get another drill bit and dig around that one and take it out, so that is where I got that line from."

10. MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN NEVER THOUGHT HIS SINGING WOULD MAKE THE FINAL CUT.

McKay told Duncan to sing something by Donna Summer. "Last Dance" was the only song he could think of. "I thought it was going to be on the DVD," Duncan said. "I thought nobody will see it for at least a couple of months." It made the final theatrical cut, during the closing credits.

11. MCKAY WAS WORRIED THE MOVIE WASN'T CRAZY ENOUGH.

McKay asked his wife if they made the movie "crazy enough." "Are you frickin’ kidding me?" was the start of her response. "'Look what you have in this movie,’ and she named like eight things: Sacha Baron Cohen breaks [Will’s] arm because he won’t say ‘I love crepes’? They have a song on the bar jukebox for profiling purposes? So yeah, I think we did a pretty good job of taking a step forward without losing too much of what we do."

12. FERRELL'S FATHER WROTE AND PERFORMED A SONG IN THE FILM.

Roy Lee Ferrell played saxophone, piano, and keyboards for the Righteous Brothers for almost 20 years. He wrote "Goodbye Cowboy" for Talladega Nights. "Having my dad's song in the movie is neat because it's not like I said, 'Hey, put my dad's song in the movie,'" Ferrell said. "It was the director (Adam McKay) and the other creative decision-makers that wanted to include it, so that is so satisfying for both me and my dad."

13. THE ACTORS RECORDED AN INTERESTING DVD TRACK.

One DVD commentary is set in the year 2031 to celebrate the movie's 25th anniversary. In their version of events, the film changed history. Now a militia leader, Reilly called in from the "island state" of Michigan.

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
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Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
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Troma Entertainment

Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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