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15 Facts About An American Werewolf in London

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In 1981, John Landis took advantage of his newfound clout after directing the hit comedies Animal House (1978) and The Blues Brothers (1980) by directing a weird comedic horror script he had been trying to make for over a decade. An American Werewolf in London starred David Naughton as David Kessler, a young American human who becomes a werewolf while backpacking in England.

Despite continued protests from his walking dead bestie, Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne), that he should kill himself before he kills again, David hesitates—both because of the strange situation and because of his newfound romance with the nurse who treated his wounds, Alex Price (Jenny Agutter). Here are some facts about the predecessor to all horror films with a sense of humor, in honor of its 35th anniversary.

1. JOHN LANDIS WROTE THE SCRIPT WHEN HE WAS A TEENAGER.

In 1969, John Landis was 18 years old and working as a production assistant on Kelly's Heroes (1970) in what was then Yugoslavia. He first got the idea for An American Werewolf in London when he saw a man get buried feet first and wrapped in garlic, because it was feared he would come back to life. Throughout the 1970s, Landis had no success making his script a reality.

“No one would make this fu*king movie," Landis said in 2012, before noting that by 1981, the tide had not just changed with his career, but with movies featuring lycanthropes. "There hadn’t been a werewolf movie in years. When I finally got the opportunity to make it, there was The Howling (1981), Wolfen (1981), Teen Wolf (1985), Full Moon High (1981), there was like five werewolf movies, so it was a zeitgeist.”

2. A FAMED JAMES BOND PRODUCER REFUSED TO GET INVOLVED.

Landis tried to land producer Albert R. Broccoli for his project, after Landis made some uncredited rewriters on The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). It turned out to be a non-starter; when Broccoli read the script, he told Landis, "Hell no, it's weird!"

As a small consolation, the bus driver for the Piccadilly Circus scene in Werewolf was Vic Armstrong, who would later be employed as the stunt coordinator in James Bond movies, including Never Say Never Again (1983), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), and Die Another Day (2002).

3. DAVID NAUGHTON WAS DOING PROMOTIONAL WORK FOR DR. PEPPER WHEN HE HEARD ABOUT THE AUDITIONS.

Landis had been familiar with Naughton's commercial work for Dr. Pepper. He told Naughton they were both Peppers. The day after their talk, Landis called Naughton and asked him if he wanted to be a werewolf. At the end of their meeting, Landis asked Naughton "to call him in the morning and I thought, this is odd but OK, I'll call you tomorrow. And next day he said, 'D'you want to be a werewolf?' And that was it."

Dunne got the part after a 10-minute conversation and a quick read of the script with Landis.

4. THEY PURPOSELY SHOT IT IN FEBRUARY AND MARCH.

Landis wanted bad weather for his movie. According to the production notes, the Welsh town of Crickadarn had snow, sleet, rain, and extensive sunshine all in one day.

This caused problems for Naughton, because he was told to run as if it was warm. "That's rather difficult to do because it's cold and you've got no shoes on and I don't jog in bare feet in any weather even back in California," he said. "That's the hardest part, you're running in wooded areas, on slick paths, trying not to look like going, 'Ooh, ow, oh, ouch!' And they were saying, 'C'mon, it's warm, this is a dream, you're leaping, you're like a deer.' So I just had to go for it."

5. IT WAS A VERY LONG MAKEUP PROCESS.

The first thing special makeup effects designer and creator Rick Baker said to Naughton when they met was, "I feel sorry for you." On the days when David transformed, Naughton was picked up at 4:30 a.m., taken to the studio, and sat in a chair for 10 hours with nothing to do. Naughton said it was like "a long flight that never gets there."

6. GRIFFIN DUNNE HAD HIS OWN TECHNICAL ISSUES.

During filming, Dunne tried to use the bathroom in the one trailer that had one. While doing his business, a driver hooked the trailer to his pickup and towed it away.

7. DUNNE WAS TOLD TO STAY HAPPY AFTER DYING.

Landis told Dunne that once he was back from the dead he should never sound like anything but in a "really good mood.”

8. THEY SHOT THE MOVIE PRETTY MUCH IN ORDER.

"It's a little unusual to shoot a movie in sequence," Naughton noted. "We shot the opening first. It was scheduled to give Rick Baker as much time as possible to finish up on the things which would require special makeup, prosthetics, etc. So all his stuff was going to be shot at the back end of the 10-week shoot."

9. NAUGHTON REALLY WAS NAKED AND IN A CAGE WITH WOLVES.

Naughton was not only fearful of the wolves, but he admitted later that he would have preferred it if the trainers weren't women. "Do we have to have women trainers here, fellas? I'm naked you know!" he protested to Landis and his crew, to no avail. One of the wolves approached him during the take, which was not expected. "Dogs will at least give you warnings that they're not comfortable with you but wolves just look at you with these very distant yellow eyes."

10. LANDIS BRIBED THE LOCAL POLICE TO GET PERMISSION TO FILM AT PICCADILLY CIRCUS.

Landis set up a free screening of The Blues Brothers and invited 300 members of London's Metropolitan police force. "They loved it—and, whaddaya know, suddenly I had permission to shoot in Piccadilly Circus," Landis said. They were allowed to film between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. on two February nights. They were able to stop traffic three times for two minutes maximum. Before Werewolf, filming there had been banned for 15 years. Landis made a cameo in the scene as a pedestrian who gets hit by a car and goes through a plate glass window.

11. LANDIS TRIED TO GET AS MANY SONGS WITH "MOON" IN THE TITLE AS POSSIBLE.

He managed to get the rights to songs like Van Morrison's "Moondance" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising," but failed at obtaining Cat Stevens' "Moonshadow" and Bob Dylan's "Blue Moon" cover. Stevens, according to Landis, refused because he believed werewolves were real. Dylan declined because of his religious beliefs.

12. LANDIS SHOT THE PORN FILM WITHIN THE FILM.

"When I was working [in London] in the 1970s, I went to those little cartoon theaters they had, such as the Eros on Piccadilly," Landis explained. "So in the original script, I had him going into the Eros and there was a Road Runner cartoon playing. But when I got back to London in 1980, all these theaters had become pornos. So I had to change the script to show a porno called, in the best smutty British tradition, See You Next Wednesday. We made the porno ourselves and it was the first scene we shot. It starred Linzi Drew, who was a Page 3 girl at the time; she went on to have an impressive porn career."

13. LANDIS REGRETS TONING DOWN SOME OF THE VIOLENCE.

In order to get the movie down to an R rating, Landis had to tone down the sex scenes, and cut out a part where a piece of toast fell out of Jack's undead throat. He also edited out a scene where the werewolf attacked a group of homeless men after preview audiences freaked out. He later had regrets about the edits.

14. RICK BAKER WON THE FIRST OSCAR FOR MAKEUP ARTISTRY.

The only two other makeup artists to win Oscars—John Chambers and William Tuttle—did so in an honorary capacity. Landis admitted to The Los Angeles Times that he had "no idea" how Baker and his crew were going to pull off the werewolf transitions. "In the screenplay it was the worst possible thing for an effects artist, it specifies that it happens in bright light and it's extremely painful. And I wanted to show it," Landis said, adding, "When I saw the movie last, I thought I showed the wolf way too much. I think I was just so enamored of what Rick had accomplished."

15. MICHAEL JACKSON WAS A BIG FAN OF BAKER AND LANDIS' WORK.

Jackson called Landis and told him he was a big fan of An American Werewolf in London and of Baker's work particularly. In 1983, Landis directed Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video, with Baker again in charge of the make-up effects. Landis said his only "marching orders" from Jackson were, "I want to turn into a monster."

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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