CLOSE
YouTube
YouTube

15 Intense Facts About Cape Fear

YouTube
YouTube

In 1991—long before the term "gritty reboot" came into this world and lost all of its meaning—Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro teamed up to make a gritty reboot of J. Lee Thompson's 1962 thriller Cape Fear. De Niro played Max Cady, a vengeful sex offender who, once out of jail, attempts to torture his lawyer, Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), who he blames for his 14-year imprisonment. Juliette Lewis made what was for many a first impression for the ages as Sam's daughter, Danielle. The impressive supporting cast included Jessica Lange as Leigh, Sam's wife, and cameos from actors who were in the original, including Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck (in what would be his final film). Here are 15 facts about Cape Fear in honor of its 25th anniversary.

1. STEVEN SPIELBERG TRADED THE MOVIE TO MARTIN SCORSESE FOR THE RIGHTS TO SCHINDLER'S LIST.

Martin Scorsese was apprehensive about making Schindler's List after the controversy surrounding his previous two films, Goodfellas and The Last Temptation of Christ. Steven Spielberg, on the other hand, said he "wasn't in the mood" to make a movie about a "maniac." So, once Scorsese promised Spielberg that the Bowdens would survive in the end, they traded. Spielberg had Bill Murray in mind to play Max Cady. Scorsese had other ideas.

2. THE SCREENWRITER PASSED ON THE PROJECT, BUT SPIELBERG DIDN'T NOTICE.

Spielberg had originally contacted screenwriter Wesley Strick (Arachnophobia) about adapting the original 1962 screenplay by James R. Webb, which was based on John D. MacDonald's 1958 novel The Executioners, but Strick wasn't interested. "They sent me the original movie and I watched it and didn't like it very much," Strick admitted. "It seemed like sort of a failed Hitchcock, which doesn't really turn me on. And also I didn't like the vigilante implications of the story—you know, there comes a point when a man's gotta be a man with a gun and shoot this guy down. It's not a message I ever wanted to send in a movie."

Strick planned to pass on the project, but found himself unable to say no to Spielberg when they met in person. "I didn't want to insult him and tell him I didn't think it was a good movie idea, but I wanted to convince him that I wasn't the writer for it, in a sort of polite [way]," Strick explained. "So we sat there and we talked. Actually I did most of the talking; I kind of explained what aspects of the story bothered me, and he listened, and then when it was all over he stood up and said, 'Well, I'm really glad that you're coming aboard.' And he shook my hand, and as I shook his hand back my mouth moved, my lips moved and I said 'Me, too.' It was like, in person, I was unable to say no to him, and I remember driving home thinking, What have I done?"

3. SCORSESE MADE THE SCREENWRITER TAKE OUT THE PARTS THAT WERE "TOO CLEVER."

When Scorsese took over, he kept Strick, but made him take out all of the overly clever dialogue. "Anything that smacked of television, all the dialogue he perceived as being 'clever,' everything that was too well reasoned, too neat, too clean, with ideas that were somewhat predigested—he wanted it gone," Strick told The New York Times. Strick's new boss insisted on 24 drafts before filming began.

4. IT COULD HAVE STARRED HARRISON FORD AND ROBERT DE NIRO.

Scorsese asked De Niro to ask Harrison Ford to play Sam. Ford told De Niro he would only be interested in working on the film if he played Cady and De Niro played Sam. De Niro said no to that.

5. NICK NOLTE REALLY WANTED THE PART.

Nick Nolte wore a blazer and tie to the Goodfellas premiere, with the hope that Scorsese would see he could play the part of Sam Bowden. "He had played this bear-like man, very big and rough, and I didn't think he would be right for Cape Fear," Scorsese admitted. Only after "several" discussions between the two did Nolte win the role. For research, the actor spent many weeks in public defenders' offices. For the climatic scenes in Cape Fear, he channeled the primates in the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey because, according to Nolte, the cast and crew were "all trying for a very primal image."

6. REESE WITHERSPOON BLEW HER AUDITION TO PLAY DANIELLE. SO DID DREW BARRYMORE.

"It was my second audition ever," Witherspoon said in 1999. "My agent told me I'd be meeting Martin Scorsese. I said, 'Who is he?' Then he mentioned the name Robert De Niro. I said, 'Never heard of him.' When I walked in I did recognize De Niro, and I just lost it. My hand was shaking and I was a blubbering idiot.''

Drew Barrymore auditioned for the role, too, but believed she overacted for one of Scorsese's assistants. In 2000, she called the audition "the biggest disaster" of her life and said that Scorsese thinks she's "dog doo-doo" because of it.

7. JULIETTE LEWIS WAS THE FIRST ACTRESS TO BE INTERVIEWED BY DE NIRO FOR THE ROLE OF DANIELLE.

Juliette Lewis first met De Niro for an interview in a room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. "It was to my advantage because I knew that was not a normal situation for [De Niro], interviewing young girls," Lewis said. "I could tell he was a little uncomfortable. I mean, all the other girls came in with their moms." Lewis had herself declared as an adult at 14 to be free of child actor labor laws. "So I said something to put him at ease. I summed everything up very quickly, meaning I didn't tell him an elaborate story of all the pieces of [crap] work I'd done. I said, 'If you want to see if I can act, just look at this movie-of-the-week I've done.'" Moira Kelly, Fairuza Balk, and Martha Plimpton also auditioned, but Lewis won out.

8. DE NIRO BECAME A GYM RAT.

To prepare for the role, six months before shooting began De Niro and his longtime trainer began hitting the gym six days a week, for two to three hours per day. Once filming started, he worked out for five hours a night. De Niro suggested that Scorsese hold off on shooting any scenes that showed off the actor's muscles until the very end of production, so that he could be as fit as possible, and the director agreed.

De Niro also reportedly paid a dentist $5000 to grind down his teeth, then another $20,000 after filming wrapped to have them fixed.

9. DE NIRO AND LEWIS DIDN'T REHEARSE THEIR MOST FAMOUS SCENE.

Scorsese put one camera on De Niro and one on Lewis for the long scene, which was filmed three times. The first take was the one used in the final cut. Lewis did not know De Niro was going to stick his thumb into her mouth before kissing her. She only received a nonchalant warning from her director that De Niro was "going to do something."

10. ILLEANA DOUGLAS BASED HER CHARACTER ON THE PREPPY KILLER'S VICTIM.

In the early morning hours of August 26, 1986, 18-year-old Jennifer Levin was murdered in Central Park by Robert Chambers, who came to be known as the "Preppy Killer." Illeana Douglas had that infamous crime in mind when preparing to play the role of Lori Davis. "I was the one who suggested my part," Douglas said of her role in Cape Fear. "The original part was called 'The Drifter.' She didn’t even have a name. I was in school when Jennifer Levin was murdered in Central Park by Robert Chambers, and I was profoundly affected by that ... In the back of my mind, 100 percent it was based on Jennifer Levin. I tried to put myself in the position of somebody who’s new to New York, who’s young, who doesn’t see anything bad coming."

11. DOUGLAS'S TORTURE SCENE TOOK TWO VERY LONG DAYS TO SHOOT.

Filming the scene in which Cady tortures Douglas's Davis was no small task. It took two days to complete the scene, and the first day lasted 17 hours. "It really hurt," Douglas told The AV Club. "My arms really were quite banged up. At one point, De Niro hopped off the bed and started whispering to Marty, and I thought, 'Oh my God, they’re going to fire me! I’m terrible!' I’d been crying for hours on end; I’ve never cried so much in my life. Then De Niro hopped back on, and Marty came and said, 'Bob says you’re done.'” It was like Stephen Boyd in Ben-Hur—like, 'Just take him off. He’s done.' I could barely walk, and my arms were all cut up from thrashing around, and then De Niro complimented me. He said that Charles Grodin was a p*ssy, because he couldn’t take the handcuffs when they did Midnight Run. I thought that was a supreme compliment."

12. GEORGE C. SCOTT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IN IT.

George C. Scott was scheduled to appear in Cape Fear, but ended up needing an angioplasty after a heart scare while shooting another movie. He never made it to the Fort Lauderdale set.

13. THE HOUSEBOAT SCENES WERE SHOT INDOORS.

Cape Fear's houseboat scenes were shot indoors, on a soundstage made just for the production, and featuring a 90-foot water tank. Rain and wind machines helped capture the torrential storm. "It was hard making that commitment to build something so big," producer Barbara de Fina said. "In the overview, I guess the amount of money we spent to build the tank we'll save by not having to worry about things like weather and tides and alligators." In post-production, miniatures of the houseboat were shot in England.

14. ELMER BERNSTEIN RECYCLED SOME MUSIC.

Composer Elmer Bernstein adapted Bernard Herrmann's 1962 score from the original Cape Fear, even though Bernstein admitted that Herrmann probably would have hated the idea. "He would have killed me," Bernstein said. "He would have yelled and screamed with no question." Bernstein said he was in a state of depression for weeks working on the score because the movie was "so depressing." When Bernstein needed music for scenes not from the original, he "did something else which Herrmann would have hated. As part of the music for scenes for we which didn’t have ... appropriate music in the original, we used some of [Herrmann's] rejected music to Torn Curtain in the score, which was also very effective.”

15. PREVIEW AUDIENCES WERE CONFUSED.

After Scorsese noticed a lot of preview screening audience members wrote that the movie "skips around a lot" on their comment cards, he added shots to connect some of the dots, including one of Max's arm grasping a rope off of the houseboat. Originally, Cady fell off the boat and got back on with no explanation as to how.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Smart Shopping
16 Geeky Coasters to Keep Your Coffee Table Safe
iStock
iStock

Avoid unsightly ring stains on your coffee table with this delightful selection of coasters:

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. FLOPPY DISKS; $22.79

Floppy disks are not obsolete—at least in your living room area.

Buy on Amazon.

2. MARIO; $20

Mario Question Mark Block Coaster Set
Etsy

Unfortunately, no coins will be coming out of these coasters, but they will keep your table dry.

Buy on Etsy.

3. GAME OF THRONES; $12.99

Game of Thrones coasters
HBO Shop

Avoid a royal mess with house sigils of houses Targaryen, Stark, Baratheon, and Lannister.

Buy at the HBO Shop.

4. PACMAN; $20.95

Use these on a black table to recreate the retro video game.

Buy on Epic Giftables.

5. AGATE; $35

Rock on: These fancy agate coasters will look solid resting under your glass.

Buy on Amazon.

6. ELEMENTS; $56.99

These glowing coasters are perfect for chemists, Breaking Bad fans, and anyone who forgot to pay their electric bill.

Buy on Amazon.

7. BUILDING BLOCKS; $19.99

Build your own coaster with this LEGO-esque design.

Buy on Amazon.

8. STAR TREK; $16.63

Star Trek ship coasters
Amazon

This ceramic set celebrates all the best ships from Star Trek.

Buy on Amazon.

9. DR. WHO; $22.99

Just make sure you don’t accidentally send your glass into a different time period when you set it down.

Buy on Amazon.

10. RILAKKUMA; $1.95

Rilakkuma coaster
Bonanza

Cover your counter space with the cute face of Rilakkuma.

Buy on Bonanza.

11. HARRY POTTER; $50

Set of wood burned coasters featuring the crest of each Harry Potter house
Etsy

All the houses are present in this set of wood coasters.

Buy on Etsy.

12. FALLOUT; $25

fallout coasters
Etsy

Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean all manners go out the door: Never forget to use a coaster!

Buy on Etsy.

13. BRAIN; $19.99

This set comes with 10 coasters, each with a slice of brain specimen. When you’re not using them, you can stack them together to create a full brain.

Buy on Amazon.

14. THE LAST AIRBENDER; FROM $13

Aang and his entourage face off on these wooden coasters.

Buy on Etsy.

15. BUFFY AND CO; $20

Getting totally wigged by the idea of a stained table? All your favorite characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer can give you an assist.

Buy on Etsy.

16. STUDIO GHIBLI; $25

Studio Ghibli Stone Tile Coasters
Etsy

These coasters feature scenes from the classics My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle.

Buy on Etsy.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
DreamWorks
arrow
entertainment
15 Educational Facts About Old School
DreamWorks
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.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios