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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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6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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10 Badass Facts About Jason Statham
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Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

Jason Statham is one of the preeminent action heroes of a generation—some would say he’s our last action hero. On the screen, he's been a hitman, a transporter, a con man, a veteran, and a whole host of other unsavory, but oddly endearing, tough guys. Before he stepped foot on his first movie set, though, Statham had a past life that would rival any of the colorful characters he’s brought to the screen. To celebrate his 50th birthday, we’re digging into what makes this English bruiser tick with these 10 fascinating facts about Jason Statham.

1. DIVING WAS HIS FIRST CALLING.

Before becoming a big-screen tough guy, Jason Statham exuded grace and fluidity as one of the world’s top competitive divers in the early 1990s. He spent 12 years as part of the British National Diving Squad, highlighted by competing in the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand.

Though he was an elite diver, Statham never qualified for the Olympics, which he admits is still a “sore point” for him. "I started too late," he has said of his diving career. "It probably wasn't my thing. I should have done a different sport."

2. HE DABBLED IN MODELING.

With his diving career over, Statham entered the world of modeling for the fashion company French Connection. If his rugged image doesn’t seem to naturally lend itself to the world of male modeling, that was exactly what the company was going for.

“We chose Jason because we wanted our model to look like a normal guy," Lilly Anderson, a spokesperson for French Connection, said in a 1995 interview with the Independent. "His look is just right for now—very masculine and not too male-modelly."

3. HE DANCED HALF-NAKED IN A COUPLE OF MUSIC VIDEOS.

A word of warning: The internet never forgets. Back in 2015, two ‘90s music videos went viral—“Comin’ On” by The Shamen and “Run to the Sun” by Erasure—and it’s not because the songs were just that good. It’s because both videos featured a half-naked, and quite oily, Jason Statham curiously dancing away in the background.

Both make liberal use of Statham’s lack of modesty, which is a far cry from the slick suits and commando gear we’d later see him sporting in The Transporter and Expendables series. So which one is your favorite? Leopard-print Speedo Statham from “Comin’ On” or his Silver Surfer look from “Run to the Sun”? And no, “both” isn’t an option. (Though “neither” is acceptable.)

4. GUY RITCHIE CAST HIM BECAUSE HE WAS SELLING KNOCKOFF JEWELRY AND PERFUME ON THE STREET.

After years of high dives, modeling, and pelvic gyrations, Statham was still looking to make a real living in the late ‘90s. His next odd job? Selling knockoff perfume and jewelry on London street corners. Luckily, that type of real-world hoodlum was exactly what director Guy Ritchie needed for 1998's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Ritchie was introduced to Statham through his modeling gig at French Connection and saw the potential this real-world con man had for the movie. He wrote the role of Bacon specifically for Statham, which would end up being the movie that propelled him to Hollywood stardom.

5. JOHN CARPENTER WANTED HIM AS THE LEAD IN GHOSTS OF MARS.

Though Statham gained acclaim for his role in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, he wasn’t quite a leading man yet. Director John Carpenter wanted to change that by casting him as James “Desolation” Williams, the main character in Ghosts of Mars.

While Carpenter was convinced that Statham was ready for the role, the producers weren’t. They pushed the director to cast someone with more name value, eventually settling on Ice Cube. Statham stayed in the movie in a smaller role as Sgt. Jericho Butler.

6. HE REGULARLY DOES HIS OWN STUNTS.

Jason Statham in Wild Card (2015).
Lionsgate

In addition to being in impeccable shape, Statham also takes pride in doing many of his own stunts in his movies, from hand-to-hand combat to dangling from a helicopter 3000 feet above downtown Los Angeles. In fact, he’s almost dogmatic in his belief that actors should be doing their own stunts.

“I'm inspired by the people who could do their own work,” the actor said. “Bruce Lee never had stunt doubles and fight doubles, or Jackie Chan or Jet Li. I've been in action movies where there is a face replacement and I'm fighting with a double, and it's embarrassing.”

The worst offenders? Superhero movies. And Statham isn't shy about sharing his thoughts on those:

"You slip on a cape and you put on the tights and you become a superhero? They're not doing anything! They're just sitting in their trailer. It's absolutely, 100 percent created by stunt doubles and green screen. How can I get excited about that?"

7. FILMING EXPENDABLES 3 ALMOST KILLED HIM.

For all the authenticity that Statham likes to bring to the screen by doing his own stunts, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. While filming an action scene for Expendables 3, the brakes failed on a three-ton stunt truck Statham was driving, sending it off a cliff and into the Black Sea.

If you've ever wondered if the real Statham was anything like the movie version, his underwater escape from a mammoth truck should answer that.

"It's the closest I've ever been to drowning,” Statham said on Today. “I've done a lot of scuba diving; I've done a lot of free diving ... No matter how much of that you've done, it doesn't teach you to breathe underwater ... I came very close to drowning. It was a very harrowing experience."

8. HE PRACTICES A RANGE OF MARTIAL ARTS.

Statham’s fitness routine is about more than just weights and core work. The actor is also involved in a variety of different fighting disciplines like boxing, judo, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Out of everything he does to stay in shape, it’s the martial arts that have the been most helpful for Statham’s onscreen presence. “That’s what I have to give most of my time to these days: training for what I have to do in terms of providing action in an authentic manner," he told Men's Health

Statham is not alone in his passion for martial arts; director Guy Ritchie is also a black belt in jiu-jitsu and a brown belt in karate. When Men’s Health asked Statham if the two ever sparred, he responded, “I remember when we started out, we’d go on a press tour for Lock, Stock… and we’d be moving all the furniture out of the way in the hotel room, trying to choke each other out.”

After all, what are collaborators for?

9. HE’S WELL AWARE SOME OF HIS MOVIES HAVE BEEN DUDS.

When asked by Esquire if he ever watched one of his movies during the premiere and thought "Oh, no ...," his response was a very self-aware: "Yeah, I think I've said that more often than not. Yeah."

He went on to rattle off his Guy Ritchie movies, The Bank Job, Transporter 1 and 2 (not 3), and Crank as being among his favorite films. As for the others, the actor joked, “And the rest is sh*t."

He clarified that remark as a joke and said, “I mean, you do a lot of films. You're always aiming for something and trying to push yourself to do something good.”

He then compared his work to the inner workings of a watch, saying, “A movie, it's like a very complicated timepiece. There's a lot of wheels in a watch. And some of those wheels, if they don't turn right, then, you know, the watch ain't gonna tell the time."

10. HIS MOVIES HAVE MADE MORE THAN $1.5 BILLION IN THE U.S. ALONE.

Statham's films may have a tough time impressing critics, but audiences and studio executives can’t get enough. Taken as a whole, Statham’s filmography has raked in just a touch more than $1.5 billion in the United States, with the worldwide total standing at $5.1 billion.

A lot of this is due to his more recent entry into the Fast and Furious franchise, but he’s also had seven movies cross the $100 million mark worldwide outside of that series. This isn’t an accident; Statham knows exactly what type of movie keeps the lights on, as he explained in an interview with The Guardian.

“So if you've got a story about a depressed doctor whose estranged wife doesn't wanna be with him no more, and you put me in it, people aren't gonna put money on the table. Whereas if you go, 'All he does is get in the car, hit someone on the head, shoot someone in the f*cking feet,' then, yep, they'll give you $20 million. You can't fault these people for wanting to make money.”

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