14 Faithful Facts About Sister Act

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From The Sound of Music to Dead Man Walking, nuns have always had a place on the silver screen—but none of those movies have given personality to the women behind the habits quite like Sister Act. If Sister Mary Clarence and the sisters of St. Katherine's made your toes tap, here are 14 facts you'll give praise for.

1. DELORIS/SISTER MARY CLARENCE WAS PARTIALLY INSPIRED BY A REAL NUN.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

As part of his research, screenwriter Paul Rudnick visited the Regina Laudis Abbey in Bethlehem, Connecticut, to meet Mother Dolores Hart. Hart had been a Hollywood actress, singer, and dancer, starring in movies such as Where the Boys Are and King Creole. Though she left the industry to become a nun when she was just 24, she’s a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to this day.

2. BETTE MIDLER WAS ORIGINALLY ATTACHED TO STAR.

Though the Divine Miss M was originally onboard, she later backed out for reasons she came to regret: “I said: ‘My fans don’t want to see me in a wimple.’ I don’t know where I got that from. Why would I say such a thing? So Whoopi did it instead and, of course, she made a fortune.”

3. THE NAME OF THE MAIN CHARACTER WAS CHANGED WHEN MIDLER LEFT.

The original name of the singer-turned-sister was Terri Van Cartier. It was changed when Whoopi Goldberg was cast, because, according to Rudnick, “She’d always wanted to play someone named Deloris.”

4. CARRIE FISHER HELPED REWRITE THE SCRIPT.

When Midler backed out, script adjustments went far beyond a name change—but Disney only allowed writers two weeks to overhaul the script after the lead actress change. Additional writers were brought in to help doctor the script; in addition to Carrie Fisher, other contributors included Nancy Meyers and Robert Harling. Fisher, by the way, has a long history of fixing scripts—she also worked on last-minute rewrites to Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer.

5. THE WRITER “JOSEPH HOWARD” IS NOT A REAL PERSON.

By the time the movie was released, it had been rewritten so much that Rudnick didn’t consider it his work anymore. He suggested the work be credited under the name R. Chasuble after the priest in The Importance of Being Earnest. That was rejected, so Rudnick tried for “Screenplay by Goofy.” Another no-go. Finally, “Joseph Howard” was accepted. “It sounds like the name of someone who helped found the Mormon Church,” Rudnick later wrote.

6. KATHY NAJIMY BASED HER CHARACTER ON MARY HART.

Kathy Najimy wasn’t totally sure how she was going to portray such a bubbly, cheerful nun—until she happened to catch anchor Mary Hart on Entertainment Tonight. “I turn on the TV. It's something with me and Sally Field running around, and they come back to Mary Hart, and she went, 'That Sally Field, ya gotta love her!’ And I said, 'Oh my God, that's my nun!'"

Najimy later sent Hart a bouquet of roses. “[But] I didn’t say why.”

7. SOME OF THE ACTRESSES GOT UP TO SOME MISCHIEF BETWEEN SCENES.

The production spent some time filming in a Reno casino, which the actresses loved. "That was great, because I love gambling,” Najimy said. “Wendy [Makkena, who plays Sister Mary Robert] smokes, and we'd sit at the 21 table in our nun outfits with drinks in front of us. That was hilarious."

8. NO, THAT’S NOT THE REAL ACTRESS SINGING SISTER MARY ROBERT’S PARTS.

One of the subplots of the movie is Deloris’ efforts to bring the timid Sister Mary Robert out of her shell. We eventually realize that the soft-spoken sister can really belt one out—but it’s not really actress Wendy Makkena singing. She was dubbed by singer Andrea Robinson. Whoopi, however, did her own singing.

9. ONE OF THE SCENES WAS CHANGED AT NAJIMY’S BEHEST.

There was originally a scene that called for Najimy’s character, Sister Mary Patrick, to protest against a pornographic bookstore. Najimy felt it encroached on her First Amendment rights and asked the director to come up with something different. Instead, Sister Mary Patrick ended up selling raffle tickets.

10. THE PRODUCTION WAS SUED FOR PLAGIARISM.

In 1993, Donna Douglas (better known as Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies) filed a $200 million suit against Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, their production companies, Creative Artists Agency, Walt Disney Pictures, and more. Douglas had optioned a book called A Nun in the Closet, which they turned into a screenplay and submitted to the studio. They were turned down—and then Sister Act came out. The plaintiffs declined $1 million from Disney to settle, which was a mistake; eventually, the judge found in favor of Disney.

11. THEY WERE SUED AGAIN IN 2011.

This time, a nun by the name of Delois Blakely claimed that Disney and Sony Pictures sourced from her autobiography without permission. The filing stated that Blakely was a "young, Black, singing nun serving the street people and youths of Harlem," which was the focus of her 1987 book The Harlem Street Nun.

12. DESPITE APPEARANCES, THE CHURCH SCENES WERE SHOT IN AN UPPER-MIDDLE-CLASS NEIGHBORHOOD.

The church scenes were shot at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in San Francisco, which is in an affluent area of town. To make it look rundown, which was important to the plot, the street was dressed with trash and cars that appeared to be abandoned.

13. THE MOVIE WAS MADE INTO A MUSICAL.

Getty Images

Sister Act opened on Broadway in 2011 and received several Tony Award nominations that year. Unfortunately, it was often up against The Book of Mormon, which took the Tonys by storm. When the show went to London's West End, Whoopi Goldberg made a limited appeareance—but this time, she played Mother Superior.

14. A REMAKE IS IN THE WORKS.

Could there be more sister shenanigans on the way? Maybe. Variety reported that writers and producers had signed on for the remake. Whoopi might be up for it:

“I generally say no to that, because so many of the nuns have passed and it just wouldn’t feel right for me," she said on Watch What Happens Live. “I’m kind of old for it now. That’s not to say I wouldn’t do it, but it feels like there’s a new generation for Sister Act and so maybe I can be a nun now.”

8 Provocative Facts About the X Film Rating

iStock/tolgart
iStock/tolgart

When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) introduced the modern movie ratings system in 1968, they couldn’t have known that one of their classifications would become the calling card of pornography. The X rating, intended to denote films not suitable for anyone under the age of 17, went from being attached to Academy Award contenders to filling video store spaces located behind saloon doors. Fifty years after its debut, we’re taking a look at the most infamous letter in moviegoing history.

1. ACCEPTING THE RATING WAS VOLUNTARY (KIND OF).

In 1968, the MPAA and its president, Jack Valenti, introduced a four-tier system to classify films. G was suitable for all audiences; M was the equivalent of PG (which replaced M in 1970), indicating that juveniles should consult with a parent before attending; R was intended for adults, or children only with a guardian present; X marked films that shouldn’t be seen by adolescent eyes. But the MPAA never forced a film studio to submit to its decision. It could release a film with no rating at all. The problem? The MPAA’s arrangement with the National Association of Theater Owners meant that an unrated film would almost certainly have difficulty finding a theater to screen it.

2. A ROBERT DE NIRO MOVIE WAS THE FIRST TO GET SLAPPED WITH AN X.

Immediately after the introduction of the new MPAA system, the advisory board got its first bona fide sample of an X-rated submission: Director Brian De Palma’s Greetings, a 1968 film starring Robert De Niro as a New Yorker confronting the possibility of being drafted, garnered the rating due to its sexually explicit content, including nudity that would likely earn an R rating today. (De Palma would later run afoul of the MPAA multiple times; 1980's Dressed to Kill, 1981's Blow Out, and 1983's Scarface were all threatened with an X before being edited.)

3. FILMMAKERS COULD GIVE THEMSELVES THE RATING.

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Though it was quickly going to become taboo, there was a time when an X rating for a mainstream film was a badge of honor and an effective marketing tool that signaled a film was being made for discerning moviegoers—not just viewers looking for titillation. Arthur Krim, the head of United Artists, willingly gave 1969’s Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight film Midnight Cowboy an X of his own volition even after he realized the MPAA would give the film an R designation. (The MPAA later applied an R to the movie in 1971.)

4. IT WAS WELCOME AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS.

The X rating was not an impediment to critical or commercial acclaim. In 1970, Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture at the Academy Awards; Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971, earned four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture; Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972), starring Marlon Brando as a sex-obsessed American in France, got two nominations, including Brando for Best Actor.

5. THE XXX MARK MAY HAVE STEMMED FROM AN ALCOHOL DESIGNATION.

A neon XXX sign
iStock/07_av

In the hyperbole of film marketing, studios and advertisers didn’t believe one X was enough. Some films, like 1968’s Starlet!, were advertised as having an unofficial XXX designation to signify it was even more intense than other adult-oriented films. The label may have come from an old practice of denoting the strength of beer with a X, XX, or XXX label.

6. PORN TOOK OVER THE RATING DUE TO AN MPAA OVERSIGHT.

A rating of X in 1969 was no big deal. By the mid-1970s, it signaled to audiences that they were about to watch an anatomy lesson. That’s because the burgeoning adult film industry of the 1970s was screening films in theaters—VHS was not yet a household acronym—and blared advertisements with promises of “XXX” salaciousness. The MPAA never reviewed these films, and titles like 1972’s Deep Throat and 1978’s Debbie Does Dallas used the mark freely. The reason? The MPAA never bothered to copyright X as it applies to film ratings, allowing anyone to use it. In short order, the X rating became synonymous with pornography and grew into a scarlet letter for films. No reputable theaters would book such movies, and few newspapers would take ads for them.

7. PEOPLE COLLECT X-RATED FILMS.

The seedy, lurid films that applied their own X (or XXX) ratings in the 1970s and 1980s have developed a small but devout following of collectors who have a “strong desire to own, preserve, and reclaim erotic history,” according to one aficionado who spoke with The New York Times in 2014. These specialists focus mostly on the 16mm and 35mm films that were produced prior to the advent of VHS.

8. ONE STUDIO SUED OVER IT.

Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in 'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' (1989)
Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
The Criterion Collection

When the MPAA gave an X rating to the 1989 Pedro Almodóvar drama Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Miramax decided to sue, claiming such a label would harm the film financially. The studio lost the suit, but it signaled the end of the war.

In 1990, a year that saw 10 movies get slapped with an X, the MPAA overhauled the ratings system. It dropped the X in favor of NC-17, which it hoped would distance films with artistic merit from pornographic material. And this time, the pornography industry couldn't co-opt it: Learning from its past mistake, the MPAA trademarked the designation.

Stranger Things's David Harbour Shared Some Season 3 Spoilers—With Absolutely No Context

Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images

While Netflix likes to keep the details of Stranger Things a mystery, David Harbour, who plays Detective Hopper, likes to have fun with his fans.

Harbour posted a cryptic image to his Instagram which, while it clearly contains Stranger Things Season 3 spoilers in both the photo and the caption, does not give away any “context,” hence leaving us with very little real information.

Harbour did share that he has wrapped filming on season 3 of Stranger Things—and that we can kiss his mustache goodbye.

The mysterious post raises a number of questions. In the photo, Harbour rocks a hat that supports a local Hawkins business. The hat reads, "Gary's Plumbing & Heating, Warming Hawkins, IN since 1972."

We’re not sure if the hat is referencing the Gary already in the show, as he is the coroner, but we can’t wait to find out.

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