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16 Epic Facts About 'Spartacus'

While 1960's Spartacus was the subject of plenty of behind-the-scenes drama, including a script by then-blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, it should not be forgotten that the movie featured an embarrassment of riches on the screen, including legendary actors like Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis, and Kirk Douglas as the title character, an illiterate slave who leads a revolt against the Roman Empire in 73 B.C. Here are some facts about director Stanley Kubrick's historical epic.

1. YUL BRYNNER TRIED TO MAKE HIS OWN SPARTACUS MOVIE FIRST.

A Spartacus film starring Brynner and Anthony Quinn was on the slate for United Artists, with the titles Spartacus and The Gladiators already trademarked. UA even paid for a full-page ad to be published in Variety in February 1958 for The Gladiators. However, Douglas and his film company owned the movie rights to Howard Fast's novel, Spartacus, and when Universal Pictures backed Douglas—along with Ustinov, Olivier, and Laughton all preferring Trumbo's script over the script for Brynner's project—Douglas had won. Brynner's film was never made.

2. HOWARD FAST WAS THE FIRST ONE TO TRY WRITING THE SCRIPT.

Universal gave Douglas four weeks to come up with a script if he wanted their backing. Unfortunately, Douglas considered Fast's attempt at adapting his own book to be a "disaster." Douglas turned to Trumbo to save the project, with Trumbo writing it under the alias "Sam Jackson"—he had won a writing Oscar years earlier for The Brave One (1956) under the pseudonym "Robert Rich."

Fast would later, according to him, be begged by Douglas to go out to Hollywood during filming to work with Kubrick to help. "They had started shooting the movie from Dalton Trumbo's script and they had about an hour and forty minutes of disconnected and chaotic film," Fast said in an interview. "While they had all this film, they had no 'movie' and no story — just pieces of film really." By Fast's estimation, he wrote 27 scenes to connect the footage that had already been shot into a cohesive picture.

3. STANLEY KUBRICK WAS NOT THE FIRST DIRECTOR.

David Lean (1957's The Bridge on the River Kwai) turned down an offer to direct, and Laurence Olivier was asked but declined because he thought both acting and directing would be too much. Douglas believed that the original director, Anthony Mann, was scared of the large scope of the movie, and he also didn't like how close he was to the British actors, so he fired him after two weeks of filming. Douglas turned to Kubrick, his director on Paths of Glory (1957), who agreed for a salary of $150,000.

4. JEAN SIMMONS WAS NOT THE ORIGINAL VARINIA.

Douglas wanted actress Jeanne Moreau (1959's Les Liaisons dangereuses) for the part, but she didn't want to leave her boyfriend in France. German actress Sabina Bethmann was then cast as Varinia, but once things got rolling with Kubrick, it was decided she wasn't right for the role, so she was paid $3,000 to go home. Then Douglas called Jean Simmons at her ranch in Arizona. "Kirk told me to get my ass on out to Los Angeles," Simmons said. "I did. Pronto." For what it's worth, Fast believed Ingrid Bergman should have gotten the gig all along.

5. PETER USTINOV WASN'T FORMALLY INTRODUCED TO DOUGLAS.

Ustinov (Batiatus) first met Douglas shooting the scene when his slave trader character discovers Spartacus chained to a rock. Because Douglas was so ragged looking, he didn't recognize the man.

6. CHARLES LAUGHTON AND LAURENCE OLIVIER DID NOT GET ALONG.

According to Ustinov, he had to act as a buffer between the thespians Laughton (Gracchus) and Olivier (Crassus). "For some reason—like animals—they just didn’t like each other," Ustinov remembered. "When you get two dogs that growl at each other, you don’t really ask why, you just accept it. But Olivier knew that Laughton was going to appear at Stratford in England as King Lear and tried to make up for this atmosphere by giving Laughton a little diagram with crosses on it and saying [mimicking Olivier], 'Dear boy, I’ve marked here the areas on the stage from where you can’t be heard.' And Laughton was delighted. [mimicking Laughton] 'Thank you so much, Larry. I shan’t forget that. Oh, you are kind.' And as soon as Olivier was out of earshot Laughton turned to me and said, 'I’m sure those are the very areas from which you can be heard.'"

7. OLIVIER WORE A FAKE NOSE.

It was fairly similar to his actual snout. Ustinov said on the DVD commentary he thought that the fake nose helped Olivier "feel safe."

8. KUBRICK TOLD THE HIRED CINEMATOGRAPHER TO TAKE A SEAT.

Because Kubrick was a cinematographer himself and very exacting in what he wanted, he eventually told Russell Metty, the man hired by Anthony Mann, to do nothing and let Kubrick do all the work for him. Metty would win his first and only Oscar for Best Cinematography for "his" work on Spartacus.

9. MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL ATTENDEES PROVIDED THE SHOUTING.

The 76,000 football fans at the October 17, 1959 showdown between Notre Dame and Michigan State were asked to scream "Hail, Crassus," "On to Rome," "Spartacus, Spartacus," and of course "I am Spartacus!" They were also tasked to make "shouts and noises of an army in combat," and told by actor John Gavin (Julius Caesar) to make sure not to scream any modern sayings like "yippee" or "yay" or "Charge!" Douglas later wrote in his autobiography, “It’s only natural for Spartacus to go to the Spartans for help.” Michigan State won that day 19-0.

10. THERE WERE INJURIES ON SET, AND EVEN A DEATH.

Douglas stopped production for 10 days when he came down with the flu. Tony Curtis (Antoninus) had to be "worked around" for five weeks after he split his Achilles tendon playing tennis with Douglas at Douglas's home. Art director Eric Orbom had a fatal heart attack during production; he would later win a posthumous Oscar for Best Art Direction in the movie.

11. KIRK DOUGLAS WAS LEFT HANGING ONE DAY.

"I remember a long, long day of filming and it took forever to get Kirk Douglas up on his cross," Jean Simmons once recalled. "When he was safely installed, the assistant director called lunch and left him up there. You have to have a sense of humour in this industry."

12. THERE WAS SOME CENSORSHIP.

The "snails and oysters" scene, where Olivier's character attempted to seduce Tony Curtis's character in a Roman bathhouse, only made it to two test screenings before the New York Legion of Decency demanded it be excised from the movie because it was considered obscene. Censors suggested changing snails and oysters to "artichokes and truffles," but Douglas and Kubrick opted to take the whole four-minute scene out instead. Curtis remembered that the studio wasn't a fan of the scene to begin with, to the objections of himself and Olivier. When it was only shot once, Curtis said, "We knew there was trouble right there." He added, "Stanley [Kubrick] and I were perhaps a little more progressive in our thinking than Kirk [Douglas] and all those other guys who were making the movie. Sure, let’s talk about everything but let’s not talk about homosexuality. That’s a no-no. Especially at Universal Pictures."

13. ANTHONY HOPKINS WAS BROUGHT IN TO VOICE THE DECEASED OLIVIER IN A CONTROVERSIAL SCENE.

A 1991 restoration pieced together long-lost footage discovered in studio vaults and saved by collectors to restore its original cut of 197 minutes, including the parts censored out. The sound of the "oysters and snails" scene had to be re-dubbed, so Curtis re-recorded his part, and from the suggestion of Olivier's widow, Anthony Hopkins voiced Crassus, in his best Olivier impersonation. Kubrick faxed instructions on how to play the scene.

14. IT TOOK 167 DAYS TO FILM AND ABOUT 10,500 PEOPLE TO MAKE.

Twelve million dollars was spent on Spartacus, a record for the most expensive movie made (primarily) in Hollywood at the time. Its budget ended up exceeding the total worth of Universal, which was sold to MCA for $11,250,000 during filming. Universal employees spent an estimated 250,000 man-hours working on everything. Italian museums and costume houses supplied 5000 uniforms and seven tons of armor, and 8800 Spanish army troops were captured on film for the battle scenes (the final battle was shot in Madrid). Overall about 50,000 extras were involved. All 187 stuntmen were "trained in the gladiatorial rituals of combat to the death."

15. DOUGLAS AND JFK HELPED END THE BLACKLIST.

Kubrick suggested using his own name as the writer of the film, even though Dalton Trumbo wrote the majority of the screenplay. This offended Douglas, who opted to just use Trumbo's real name as the credited screenwriter, despite the predictable opposition from the American Legion because of Trumbo's refusal to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The American Legion protested, but after President John F. Kennedy saw it and said he enjoyed the feature, blacklisting was all but over. Douglas said in 2010 that as far as he was concerned, "the most important by-product of Spartacus is that we broke the blacklist."

16. STANLEY KUBRICK LATER DISOWNED IT.

He demanded that three of his movies, including Spartacus, not be included in the home video Stanley Kubrick Collection in 1999. It wasn't a surprise. In 1968 he said, "Then I did Spartacus, which was the only film that I did not have control over, and which I feel was not enhanced by that fact. It all really just came down to the fact that there are thousands of decisions that have to be made, and that if you don't make them yourself, and if you're not on the same wavelength as the people who are making them, it becomes a very painful experience, which it was." He added that the movie "had everything but a good story."

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
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DreamWorks

Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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15 Fun Facts About Army of Darkness
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

On February 19, 1993, Army of Darkness—the third installment in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise—made its way into U.S. theaters. You probably know all about Ash’s boomstick, but on the occasion of the hilarious horror comedy's 25th anniversary, it's worth a closer look.

1. ARMY OF DARKNESS ISN'T THE ENTIRE TITLE.

The film’s title is stylized onscreen as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness. This phrasing was Sam Raimi’s homage to the defunct Hollywood tradition of putting stars’ names in movie titles (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)—but the studio feared the long title would confuse moviegoers, so it was shortened for official purposes to just Army of Darkness.

2. EVEN THE SHORTER TITLE WASN'T RAIMI'S FIRST CHOICE.

Army of Darkness is the third installment of the Evil Dead series and the first to take place during the Middle Ages. Raimi’s original title for Army of Darkness was The Medieval Dead.

3. BRIDGET FONDA FINALLY GOT TO WORK WITH RAIMI.

Bridget Fonda makes a cameoas Ash’s girlfriend Linda during the beginning flashback sequence. She is the third actress in three films to play Linda (following actresses Betsy Baker and Denise Bixler). Fonda—a huge Evil Dead II fan—had originally auditioned to be in Raimi’s previous film, Darkman, but didn’t get the part.

4. ASH'S CAR HAD A LOT OF SCREEN EXPERIENCE.

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 allegedly appears in all of Sam Raimi’s films.

5. DARKMAN MADE ARMY OF DARKNESS POSSIBLE.

Raimi wanted to make Army of Darkness immediately following 1987’s Evil Dead II, but he struggled to find funding to finish his trilogy. The financial success of Raimi’s 1990 film, Darkman, eventually convinced Universal Studios to split the $12 million budget with executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.

6. A SUBTLE SCIENCE FICTION REFERENCE PLAYS A KEY ROLE.

The words Ash must utter to safely retrieve the Necronomicon (“Klaatu verata nikto”) are actually a variation on a phrase from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, “Klaatu barada nitko” is the phrase one must say to stop the robot Gort from destroying Earth.

7. THE SKELETON DEADITES WERE AN HOMAGE.

Their design is a tribute to visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

8. THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

Billy Bryan, the actor who portrays the second monster in the medieval pit, also portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

9. SAM RAIMI'S BROTHER WORE A LOT OF HATS.

Ted Raimi—who makes cameos in all of his brother’s films—appears as three different background characters in Army of Darkness. He is first seen as a sympathetic villager, then as a dying soldier during the final battle, and, finally, as an S-Mart employee in the last scene.

10. RAIMI HAD TO FIGHT FOR AN R-RATING.

In keeping with the gory first two films in the series, Army of Darkness received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was subsequently bumped down to an R rating after the filmmakers pointed out that the ostensible gore in the film was happening to skeletons.

11. PLAYING EVIL ASH WAS TOUGH FOR CAMPBELL.

It took makeup artists three hours to get Campbell ready for shooting.

12. RAIMI STORYBOARDED EVERY SINGLE SHOT IN THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

About 25 shots in the final battle are taken from storyboards originally used in the 1948 Victor Fleming film Joan of Arc, which were brought to Raimi’s attention by visual effects supervisor William Mesa. Mesa got them from a friend, who got them from Fleming himself.

13. THERE'S AN EASTER EGG FOR TREKKIES.

Star Trek fans will recognize the location where Ash learns the “Klaatu verata nikto” incantation. The scene was shot at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, where the famous “Arena” episode from Star Trek was also shot. The movie also shot in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park in Los Angeles that served as the Batcave for the 1960s Batman television show.

14. THE STUDIO CHANGED THE ENDING.

Bruce Campbell stars in 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
Universal Pictures

The original conclusion of the film—which Universal Studios deemed too negative—featured Ash taking too much potion to get back to the present day and waking up in a future, post-apocalyptic London. The ending can be seen on subsequent director’s cuts of home video versions of Army of Darkness.

15. EVEN AFTER YEARS OF TRYING, A SEQUEL NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Beginning in 2015, Bruce Campbell reprised his role as Ash in the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. While fans of the Evil Dead franchise love it, Raimi spent years trying to get a sequel to Army of Darkness off the ground. On the commentary track for the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Raimi even shared a few of the discarded ideas he had for the film.

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