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13 Running Facts About The Fugitive

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Don't you hate it when you tell a U.S. Marshal that you didn't kill your wife and all he says is, "I don't care"? It's enough to make you want to jump off a dam. That amazing moment is one of many indelible images from The Fugitive, the 1993 blockbuster that earned Tommy Lee Jones his only Oscar (so far) and served as about the tenth reminder that Harrison Ford was among the world's biggest movie stars. As befits a movie with an unnecessarily complicated plot, the behind-the-scenes story of The Fugitive is just as twisty. Let's take the plunge.

1. THE STORY WENT THROUGH A LOT OF DRAFTS, INCLUDING SOME RIDICULOUS ONES.

It was a five-year process during which nine writers wrote "at least 25 different screenplays," according to producer Arnold Kopelson. (This might be one of those stories that gets bigger each time it's told. The week the film was released, Kopelson said it was eight writers and 14 drafts. But still.) No surprise—the movie was to be based on a TV series that had run for 120 episodes and had a master plot running through it, in which wrongly convicted Dr. Richard Kimble searches for the one-armed man who killed his wife. There are countless variations of how that could be condensed into a single two-hour story. In one of the drafts, the big twist was that Tommy Lee Jones' Agent Samuel Gerard had hired the one-armed man to kill Kimble's wife as revenge for a botched surgery.

2. IT WAS ALMOST ALEC BALDWIN INSTEAD OF HARRISON FORD.

Kopelson, a fan of the TV series, had been trying off and on to get the film made since the 1970s. It was finally about to happen in the early '90s, with Alec Baldwin in the lead role and Walter Hill (48 Hrs.) as director, but Warner Bros. didn't think Baldwin had enough star power. "With an expensive movie, the consideration is, what star can 'open' it," Kopelson said, "and the studio wasn't certain at that time that Alec could do it." (By the way, this was the second time Baldwin had lost a role to Harrison Ford, who also replaced him as Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October sequel Patriot Games.)

3. IT SEEMS LIKE NOBODY INVOLVED HAD EVER WATCHED THE SHOW.

Except for producer Kopelson, anyway. Harrison Ford said he'd never seen it. Andrew Davis, the director, said, "You know, it was the '60s, and I was into other things besides watching television." Tommy Lee Jones made similar comments. Maybe that's a lesson for successfully turning a TV series into a movie: don't be too attached to the source material.

4. THAT'S A REAL TRAIN HITTING A REAL BUS.

No miniatures. Twenty-seven cameras (according to Davis). One take. (Ford jumping free from it was a superimposed image, of course.) It was filmed in Sylva and Dillsboro, North Carolina, where the wreckage is now a tourist attraction.

5. SO FAR, IT'S THE ONLY ADAPTATION OF A TV SERIES TO BE NOMINATED FOR BEST PICTURE.

Dozens of TV shows have been turned into movies, but The Fugitive is the only one so far to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. (No, Marty doesn't count. That was based on a TV movie. And not Traffic, either, which was an adaptation of a miniseries. Look, we said The Fugitive was the only one. Don't question us.)

6. THE CHASE THROUGH THE ST. PATRICK'S DAY PARADE WAS REAL.

Rather than try to stage a fake one, Davis used Chicago's actual St. Patrick's Day parade as the setting for part of Kimble and Gerard's cat-and-mouse game. Without rehearsal, Ford and Jones just went out into the crowd and did their thing, with camera operators running around trying to keep up. Ford observed that since his character was keeping a low profile, it meant he himself didn't stand out much and lasted several minutes in the crowd before being recognized.

7. IT WAS FILMED IN A HOSPITAL, AND IN A SCHOOL POSING AS A HOSPITAL.

They were able to shoot some of the hospital scenes in a real hospital in Sylva, North Carolina, while others were filmed in a nearby elementary school whose hallways were dressed to look like a hospital. Apparently old schools and old hospitals look a lot alike.

8. TOMMY LEE JONES MADE UP A LOT OF HIS OWN DIALOGUE.

The film began shooting before the script was complete, with writer Jeb Stuart on the set to come up with new material as needed. That left the door open for the actors to suggest their own ideas, which Jones was happy to do. "Think me up a cup of coffee and a chocolate donut with some of those little sprinkles on top" was his contribution, as was the (above) exchange involving the word "hinky."

9. HARRISON FORD WASN'T FAKING HIS BEFUDDLEMENT IN THE INTERROGATION SCENE.

To lend more realism to the scene where Dr. Kimble is first questioned by police, Davis had Ford and the other actors do it with only half a script—the cops' half. Ford, not knowing in advance what the questions would be, had to ad lib responses in character. Naturally, this came across as being defensive and flustered, which was exactly what the situation called for. Acting!

10. IT ENDED UP BEING A RUSH JOB.

Kopelson spent all those years trying to get the project going—and then once it got going, it had to be done fast. Shooting began in February 1993, six months before the scheduled release date. (Warner Bros. really wanted the film by the end of the summer.) The shoot itself was sufficient; it was the pre- and post-production schedules that were shortened. Consequently, instead of having one or two editors and a few assistants, Kopelson had "like, seven editors and 21 assistants working almost around the clock ... It was a rather harrowing experience."

11. A LOT OF EDITORS GOT CREDITED—AND THE ACADEMY WAS OK WITH IT.

Six men ended up being officially credited as the film's editors: Dennis Virkler, David Finfer, Dean Goodhill, Don Brochu, Richard Nord, and Dov Hoenig. When it received an Oscar nomination for Best Editing, that was the most names that category had ever included. (It’s almost unheard of for any film to have more than three editors, let alone a film that isn’t a disaster.)

12. SCENES HAD TO BE RE-SHOT WHEN AN ACTOR GOT SICK.

Dr. Nichols, the colleague who helps Kimble, was originally played by Richard Jordan. Sadly, Jordan fell ill during the shoot, and had to drop out. (He died a few weeks after the film was released.) When he was replaced by Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé, a few scenes had to be redone, including one near the beginning, when Kimble still has his beard. Ford had to regrow it, which is why it looks slightly different in Krabbé's first scene from the way it looks elsewhere.

13. THE DAM SCENE COST $2 MILLION, INCLUDING ABOUT $60,000 FOR DUMMIES.

The maze of tunnels leading to the dam were fake, and built in a Chicago warehouse. The last section of the tunnel—the part that opens over the dam, where Kimble and Gerard have their dramatic confrontation—was actually transported from Chicago to the Cheoah Dam in North Carolina, where it was rigged to look like it belonged there. For the big jump, there were no stuntmen involved. Ford himself (secured by a wire) did the shot where Kimble looks over the edge and considers jumping, and dummies were used for the plunge itself. Six Harrison Ford lookalike dummies were commissioned, each costing somewhere between $7000 and $12,000. They did not survive intact, much to the dismay of their manufacturer, who'd been hoping to re-rent them.

Additional sources:
Director's DVD commentary

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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images
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5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.

1. BEZOARS

Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?

2. MITHRIDATES

This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.

3. HORNS

An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.

4. PEARLS

Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.

5. THERIAC

Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.

BONUS: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS

Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.

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