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12 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets From the Cast and Crew of Fantastic Beasts

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©2016 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved.
Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts Publishing Rights © JKR

 
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first installment in a five-part series featuring the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander. We sat down with the cast, directors, and producers to find out a few of the production’s secrets. Revelio!

WARNING: Mild spoilers below. Consider saving this article for after you’ve seen the film!

1. FANTASTIC BEASTS STARTED AS A STORY.

Newt Scamander shows up in Harry Potter as the author of the guide Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—a book J.K. Rowling then wrote as Scamander in 2001 for charity. “The character of Newt appealed to me, and as often happened with the Potterverse, I had some thoughts about what happened to Newt and who he was,” Rowling said at a press conference for the Fantastic Beasts film. Warner Bros. then optioned Fantastic Beasts, and when they approached her about finally making it, “I thought ‘Wait a moment, wait a moment—I’d better tell them what I’ve got, because I wouldn’t want them to get Newt wrong,’” she said. “I sat down to write some notes, and [before I knew it], I’d written a story, and then that story became a screenplay. So it was never really a calculated, ‘I think I want to revisit the world.’ It came as these things always do—through a story.”

2. ROWLING BOUGHT A BOOK ABOUT HOW TO WRITE SCRIPTS—AND NEVER OPENED IT UP.

Fantastic Beasts marks Rowling’s screenwriting debut, and though she was very involved with that process during the filming of the Potter franchise—she had final approval on all screenplays—she still bought a book about how to write a script. But she never opened it. “It just sat on my desk, and I think I felt that that was my homework,” she said at a press conference for the film. “I haven’t actually done my homework, maybe I just thought I’d absorb it somehow.” Thankfully, she had Steve Kloves—who penned the Harry Potter scripts—to help her. “I would say that Steve was my tutor on this, and it’s a reason I was so keen to have him attached to this project, because I knew he would be the guy I could phone at 4 a.m. if I needed to. I never phoned him at 4 a.m., but I suppose I could have.”

3. THE INITIAL DRAFTS WERE MUCH DARKER—AND SPENT MORE TIME IN THE SEWERS.

“One of them was really dark,” Rowling said at the press conference. “There was a lot of stuff in the sewers. I don’t know what was going on in my life at that moment, I just remember David [Yates] saying ‘This is very dark draft ...’ Dot Dot Dot. ‘You need to lighten this up a little.’ We went through a lot of drafts, but that’s always my process—this isn’t a screenwriting thing. I tend to generate a lot of material, and some of the ideas from some of those drafts I’m sure will be in the following movies.”

4. SOME BEASTS GOT SWITCHED OUT.

Newt’s got some incredible creatures in his suitcase, including a Niffler, a Demiguise, a Thunderbird, an Erumpent, an Occamy, and many more—an array as huge as what can be found in the human animal kingdom. Some of them can be found in Rowling’s book, and some are brand-new. “A couple of the beasts that were in the movie were always in the movie,” Rowling said. “And then we swapped a couple as we went, just because … there were some escapades we wanted to put in. So we swapped a couple of beasts—[it] just felt better. But I think everyone is going to want a Niffler after this. I want a Niffler! We all want Nifflers.”

5. THE CREATURE DESIGNERS TOOK INSPIRATION FROM REAL ANIMALS.

According to the film’s press notes, to create the beasts, the film’s visual effects team started with Rowling’s book. They also found inspiration for both the look and personalities of the creatures in real life animals. For example, animators took the behavior of the Niffler (above)—a duck-billed beast that stuffs every shiny thing it can find into its marsupial pouch—from the honey badger. They also, of course, turned to the ultimate source, Rowling, who said that she “saw everything—we have the most extraordinary creative team. They’ve done such beautiful work on this movie. It’s been amazing.”

6. THE SCRIPT WAS ALMOST AS DETAILED AS A BOOK.

According to lead actress Katherine Waterston, who plays Porpentina Goldstein, it didn’t bother her to not have a book to go to as a resource going into Fantastic Beasts. “I was thrilled to just have the script, which was quite like a book itself,” she said in a roundtable interview before the movie’s release. “It was so detailed and rich, but ours and a secret from the world.” The actors couldn’t take the scripts home with them, though—they had to lock them up in a safe at the end of the day. “It was like a library on set,” Waterston said. “You’d check [the script] out, put it back in.”

7. THE SETS WERE INCREDIBLE.

In roundtable interviews, director David Yates recounted what happened when Rowling visited the New York set, which was built in Watford, England: “She stood there ... and she did an expletive and said ‘This is more impressive than the opening ceremony [of the London Olympics].” At the press conference for the film, Eddie Redmayne, who plays Newt Scamander, agreed. “What was most wonderful was that so much of this would be built,” he said. “I thought there was going to be so much green screen, and the reality was that a lot of New York was built in Watford, just outside of London. There were cars brought over from the period, there was smoke rising from the streets. It was a sensory overload.” You can get a glimpse of the sets in the featurette above.

8. EDDIE REDMAYNE WORKED WITH ANIMAL HANDLERS TO PLAY NEWT.

In order to play Newt, a magizoologist with a case full of magical creatures, Redmayne met with animal handlers—and he ended up incorporating some of what he learned into his character. “There was a woman who was looking after an anteater that had just been born, and she was feeding her with a bottle, and yet she would scrunch up, and it was impossible for the handler to get the bottle in her mouth,” he remembered. “So the way that she made [the anteater] release herself was to tickle her. There was a moment in the script in which the Niffler was trying to claw onto his pouch, so we brought that idea in.”

Redmayne also met a tracker who told him that, when searching for animals, he would walk with his feet in a wide v-shape, setting one foot down carefully and examining the ground before placing the other foot “to make sure there’s not a leaf or anything that the other foot is going to crush.” The tracker stood with his feet in that position in his daily life, and Redmayne co-opted the stance and walk for Newt.

“J.K. Rowling had written that the character walks his own walk, and has a Buster Keaton-esque quality, and I thought What the hell does that mean?” Redmayne said. “So I stole the walk from this guy. But he also did this thing where he said that nature often works in opposites. So if you find nettles, nearby you’ll often find duck leaves, and if you spit on duck leaves and rub them together, then they soothe nettle stings. So we were down in the case and I was meant to give Dan [Fogler] a pill to stop [a rash from a Murtlap bite], and I was like, ‘Can I have plants that I can spit on?’” The little things Redmayne picked up in these sessions helped make Newt a fuller character.

9. SOME OF THE BEASTS WERE ON SET.

Alison Sudol, who plays Queenie Goldstein, said in roundtable interviews that the cast not only got to see images of the creatures as they would ultimately appear in the film, but even had puppets on set. “We had these extraordinary puppeteers who basically had the creature’s head and the beginnings of their body, especially for the larger beasts, and they were amazing,” she said. “The way that they operated these creatures—the way that they moved, the sounds they made, were so visual, so vivid.”

Among the puppets was the Erumpent, built by the same puppeteers behind the stage play War Horse, which was more than 16 feet tall and required three people to operate. There were also, Redmayne said in the press conference, “not quite animatronic, but really grisly, slightly disgusting gelatin things for the Murtlaps,” marine creatures that look like rats with anemones on their backs (you can see a Murtlap in the clip above).

Sudol said Yates was also invaluable in bringing the creatures to life on set. “David would gather us together at the beginning of every scene and he would talk about the creatures and their essence and what they were like—[for example], the chuntering of the Demiguise,” she said. “First of all, anything that David says is just the most wonderful sounding thing, because he’s just a magical man, but the word chunter—how can you not see them? You’d have to just be sort of a stump if you couldn’t imagine that.”

10. EZRA MILLER’S COSTUME CONCEALED SOMETHING SPECIAL.

Potter fan extraordinaire Ezra Miller plays Credence, a role that the actor described in roundtable interviews as potentially “challenging to the psyche.” He spoke with costume designer Colleen Atwood about “wanting to hold onto myself through that process”; to help, he said, Atwood “sewed into the inside of the jacket that Credence wears this symbol of an eagle and a horse to remind me of myself even as I went into the role of Credence.”

11. FOR ONE SCENE, DAN FOGLER CHANNELED INDIANA JONES.

©2016 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved.
Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts Publishing Rights © JKR

 
Dan Fogler, who plays No-Maj (a.k.a. Muggle) Jacob Kowalski, said the toughest scene was a chase featuring the Erumpent (above). “It was freezing out, but I was just like ‘Yay!’” he said in roundtable interviews. “My favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark, so in my mind, the Erumpent was the boulder and I was Indiana Jones. I am screaming like a lunatic, but in my mind, I’m Indiana Jones.”

12. A SCENE FEATURING A SONG DIDN’T MAKE IT INTO THE FINAL FILM.

At one point, an edit of the film featured a scene late in the movie where Waterston and Sudol sang Ilvermorny’s school song. In roundtables, Redmayne described the song as “beautiful and haunting and kind of amazing … but then at the end of this really Gaelic song, suddenly it turned into like—and it was amazingly fun to watch—a cheerleader [routine].” The wands turned into pop-poms, the actresses did a jump, and fireworks went off. “I adored it,” Redmayne said. “But I think in the edit what they found, at that point in the movie, s**t is going down,” and it seemed strange to have a musical interlude.

Though Redmayne was sad to see the sequence go, Waterston was not: She was “quite relieved” it didn’t make the final cut. Fingers crossed the scene makes it to the DVD extras!

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15 Things You Might Not Know About One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
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Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which premiered on this day in 1975, won critical acclaim, box office success, and a shelf full of Oscars. But even if you love the complex exploration of life inside a 1960s psychiatric hospital, there are a few things you may not know about its behind-the-scenes story. 

1. CUSTOMS NEARLY DOOMED THE PROJECT. 

Despite the middling success of the 1963 stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel starring Kirk Douglas, Hollywood legend Douglas was dead set on adapting the story for the screen. Douglas contacted Czech director Miloš Forman about the project, promising to send Forman a copy of the book for his perusal. 

Douglas mailed Forman the novel, but the package was confiscated by Czechoslovakian customs and never reached the director. Unaware of the parcel’s fate, the filmmaker resented Douglas’ broken promise, and Douglas thought Forman rude for never bothering to confirm receipt of the novel. It took a decade to sort the mess out, and things only cleared up when Kirk’s son Michael Douglas took another crack at production and contacted Forman once more. 

2. ONE STUDIO WANTED TO CHANGE THE ENDING.

When producers were shopping the picture to studios, 20th Century Fox was interested, but with a catch. Fox would distribute the film, but only if the filmmakers would agree to rewrite the ending; the studio wanted McMurphy to live. Producers Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas wisely considered this a deal breaker, and United Artists eventually distributed the film.

3. JACK NICHOLSON AND LOUISE FLETCHER WERE NOT THE FIRST CHOICES FOR THEIR CHARACTERS. 


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When Kirk Douglas spearheaded the first attempt to bring One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to life on the big screen in the 1960s, he had intended to play the Randle Patrick McMurphy role himself, just as he had on stage. When production began in earnest 10 years later, Douglas was too old for the part, leaving director Forman to consider and contact the likes of Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, and (his personal favorite) Burt Reynolds before finally settling on Jack Nicholson.

A number of different actresses were considered for the role of Nurse Ratched, the film’s central antagonist, as well: Anne Bancroft, Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Page, and Angela Lansbury were all in the running, before Louise Fletcher ultimately got the part. 

4. LOUISE FLETCHER CHANGED FORMAN’S VIEW ON THE CHARACTER. 

Forman’s original view of Nurse Ratched was as “the personification of evil,” a characterization that made Louise Fletcher a bad fit for the part in the filmmaker’s mind. As Fletcher pressed for the role, Forman’s perspective of Ratched evolved: “I slowly started to realize that it would be much more powerful if it’s not this visible evil,” he said. “That she’s only an instrument of evil. She doesn’t know that she’s evil. She, as a matter of fact, believes that she’s helping people.” This new take on the character paved the way for the official casting of Fletcher. 

5. SEVERAL OF THE FILM’S STARS WERE NOT ACTORS. 

Following the production team’s decision to use Oregon State Hospital as its shooting location, the producers hit on the idea of casting facility superintendent Dr. Dean Brooks as Dr. John Spivey, the doctor charged with assessing R. P. McMurphy’s psychological health. Brooks agreed to play what turned out to be a sizable role, though it would be the only acting job he would ever take. He also helped secure employment for many of his hospital’s patients as extras and crew members during production. 

Mel Lambert, another non-actor, was wrangled to play the harbormaster who protested McMurphy’s ad hoc fishing trip. What’s more, Lambert—a respected area businessman who had a strong relationship with the local Native American community—introduced the production team to Will Sampson, the 6-foot-5-inch-tall Muscogee painter who would make his acting debut as the major character Chief Bromden. 

6. THE STARS LIVED ON THE WARD DURING PRODUCTION. 


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All of the actors who played patients actually lived on the Oregon State Hospital psychiatric ward throughout production. The men personalized their sleeping quarters, spent their days on campus “get[ting] a sense of what it was to be hospitalized” (as actor Vincent Schiavelli put it), and interacting with real psychiatric patients. 

7. MANY SCENES WERE SHOT WITHOUT THE ACTORS’ KNOWLEDGE. 

To complete this realistic immersion, Forman led his performers in unscripted group therapy sessions in which he directed the actors to develop their characters’ psychological maladies organically. He would often capture footage of the actors, both in and out of character, without explicitly mentioning that the cameras were rolling. The film’s final cut includes a shot of a visibly irritated Fletcher reacting to a piece of direction fed to her by Forman. 

8. FORMAN AND NICHOLSON HAD A TREMENDOUS SPAT OVER THE FILM’S PLOT. 

While the intensity of the turmoil varies from rumor to rumor, reports from the set were consistent on one fact: The star refused to speak with Forman for a large chunk of the production process. Nicholson took issue with Forman’s suggestion that the hospital inmates would be an unruly bunch upon the initial arrival of McMurphy. Instead, the actor insisted that such disavowal of the medical staff’s authority should only begin after the introduction of McMurphy into their lives and routines. 

Although the version of the story that we see in the film today is more closely associated with Nicholson’s alleged reading, suggesting that Forman ultimately took his advice, Nicholson refused to interact with his director from that point forward. When the star and Forman needed to communicate with one another, they used cinematographer Bill Butler as a middleman. 

9. DANNY DEVITO CREATED AN IMAGINARY FRIEND DURING PRODUCTION. 


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Emotionally strained by a demanding shooting schedule that kept him 3000 miles from his future wife, Rhea Perlman, DeVito developed the coping mechanism of an imaginary friend with whom he would have nightly chats. Concerned that his own sanity might be slipping away, DeVito sought the advice of Dr. Brooks, who assured him that there was no reason to worry as long as DeVito could still identify the character as fictional. 

10. THE CREW WAS WORRIED ABOUT THE SANITY OF ONE CAST MEMBER.

While Dr. Brooks had no concerns about DeVito, he echoed the rest of the cast and crew’s apprehensions about the psychological state of Sydney Lassick, who played Charlie Cheswick. Lassick exhibited increasingly unpredictable and emotionally erratic behavior during his time in character, a pattern that culminated in a tearful outburst during his observation of the final scene between Nicholson and Sampson. Lassick became so overwhelmed during the scene that he had to be removed from set. 

11. FLETCHER TOOK OFF HER CLOTHES IN ORDER TO GET FRIENDLIER WITH HER CO-STARS.

Envious of the camaraderie her male costars had forged, and hoping to dispel any associations with her tyrannical character, Fletcher surprised the cast one evening by ripping off her dress on the crowded ward. Years later, the actress laughed about the display, saying, “‘I’ll show them I’m a real woman under here, you know.’ I think that must have been what I was thinking.” 

12. THE FISHING TRIP SCENE BARELY MADE IT INTO THE FILM. 

Initially, Forman was vocally opposed to including a scene that took place beyond the grounds of the hospital out of concerns that a temporary liberation would undercut the dramatic force of the film’s ending. In the end, Zaentz convinced Forman to shoot the fishing trip sequence. It was the final scene filmed and the only piece shot out of chronological order. 

One thing to look for in the fishing scene: A very subtle Anjelica Huston cameo. Huston, who was dating Nicholson during production, has a nonspeaking role as one of the spectators on the dock as McMurphy and his fellow patients steer the stolen boat back to shore. 


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13. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST WAS THE FIRST FILM TO WIN ALL “BIG FIVE” ACADEMY AWARDS IN 41 YEARS.

Not since 1934's It Happened One Night swept the Oscars had a film walked away with awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest took home the lot, with Nicholson and Fletcher winning the top acting awards. The feat would not be matched again for another 16 years, with Silence of the Lambs becoming the next (and last to date) movie to earn the distinction. 

14. THE FILM ENJOYED ONE OF THE LONGEST THEATRICAL RUNS IN MOVIE HISTORY. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was revered worldwide, but Swedish viewers developed an especially soft spot for the film. Cuckoo’s Nest remained a regular option for Swedish moviegoers through 1987—11 years after its initial release. 

15. KESEY REFUSED TO SEE THE FILM (BUT MAY HAVE BY ACCIDENT). 

The poster child for the “the book was better” movement, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Kesey disapproved of a big screen adaptation of his novel as soon as he found out that the filmmakers had abandoned the use of Chief Bromden as the story’s narrator. Kesey never intended to see the movie, but one story says he inadvertently caught a few moments during a bout of channel surfing one evening. Once Kesey realized what he was watching, he promptly changed stations.

According to fellow novelist Chuck Palahniuk (who has famously praised director David Fincher’s adaptation of his novel Fight Club, plot changes and all), Kesey once stated privately that he did not care for the material.

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The Origins of 10 Thanksgiving Traditions
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There's a lot more to Thanksgiving than just the turkey and the Pilgrims. And though most celebrations will break out the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, there are a number of other customs that you might be less aware of (and some that are becoming too ubiquitous to miss).

1. THE TURKEY TROT FOOTRACE

Many towns host brisk morning runs to lessen the guilt about the impending feast (distances and times vary from race to race, but the feel-good endorphins are universal). The oldest known Turkey Trot footrace took place in Buffalo, New York, and has been happening every year since 1896. Nearly 13,000 runners participated in the 4.97 mile race last year.

2. THE GREAT GOBBLER GALLOP IN CUERO, TEXAS

During their annual TurkeyFest in November, they gather a bunch of turkeys and have the "Great Gobbler Gallop," a turkey race. It started in 1908 when a turkey dressing house opened in town. Early in November, farmers would herd their turkeys down the road toward the dressing house so the birds could be prepared for Thanksgiving. As you can imagine, this was quite a spectacle—as many as 20,000 turkeys have been part of this "march". People gathered to watch, and eventually the first official festival was formed around the event in 1912. The final event of the celebration is the Great Gobbler Gallop, a race between the Cuero turkey champ and the champ from Worthington, Minnesota (they have a TurkeyFest as well). Each town holds a heat and the best time between the towns wins. The prize is a four-foot trophy called "The Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph."

3. FRANKSGIVING

From 1939 to 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up by a week. In '39, Thanksgiving, traditionally held on the last Thursday of November, fell on the 30th. Since enough people would wait until after Thanksgiving to start their Christmas shopping, Roosevelt was concerned that having the holiday so late in the month would mess up retail sales at a time when he was trying hard to pull Americans out of the Great Depression. It didn't entirely go over well though—some states observed FDR's change, and others celebrated what was being called the "Republican" Thanksgiving on the traditional, last-Thursday date. Colorado, Mississippi, and Texas all considered both Thanksgivings to be holidays. Today, we've basically split the difference—Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday of November, regardless of whether that's the last Thursday of the month or not.

4. THE PRESIDENTIAL TURKEY PARDON

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The story goes that since at least Harry Truman, it has been tradition for the President of the U.S. to save a couple of birds from becoming someone's feast. Records only go back to George H.W. Bush doing it, though some say the tradition goes all the way back to Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son's pet turkey. (Lincoln is also the President who originally declared that the holiday be held on the last Thursday of November.) In recent years, the public has gotten to name the turkeys in online polls; the paired turkeys (the one you see in pictures and a backup) have gotten creative names such as Stars and Stripes, Biscuit and Gravy, Marshmallow and Yam, Flyer and Fryer, Apple and Cider, and Honest and Abe last year.

5. THANKSGIVING PARADES

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Everyone knows about the Macy's Parade, but for a more historically accurate parade, check out America's Hometown Thanksgiving Parade in Plymouth. The parade starts with a military flyover and continues with floats and costumed people taking the parade-goers from the 17th century to the present time. There are nationally recognized Drum and Bugle Corps, re-enactment units from every period of American history, and military marching units. And military bands play music honoring the men and women who serve in each branch: the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard.

6. BLACK FRIDAY

Black Friday, of course, is the day-after sales extravaganza that major (and minor) retailers participate in. Most people think that the term comes from the day of the year when retail stores make their profits go from red to black, but other sources have it originating from police officers in Philadelphia. They referred to the day as Black Friday because of the heavy traffic and higher propensity for accidents. Also, just because you hear that it's "the busiest shopping day of the season" on the news, don't believe it. It's one of the busiest days, but typically, it's hardly ever the busiest, though it typically ranks somewhere in the top 10. The busiest shopping day of the year is usually the Saturday before Christmas.

7. CYBER MONDAY

Black Friday is quickly being rivaled in popularity by Cyber Monday. It's a fairly recent phenomenon—it didn't even have a name until 2005. But there's truth to it—77 percent of online retailers at the time reported an increase in sales on that particular day, and as online shopping has continued to grow and become more convenient, retailers have scheduled their promotions to follow suit.

8. BUY NOTHING DAY

And in retaliation for Black Friday, there's Buy Nothing Day. To protest consumerism, many people informally celebrate BND. It was first "celebrated" in 1992, but didn't settle on its day-after-Thanksgiving date until 1997, where it has been ever since. It's also observed internationally, but outside of North America the day of observance is the Saturday after our Thanksgiving.

9. FOOTBALL

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It's a common sight across the U.S.: parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles passed out on the couch watching football after dinner. Well, we have the first Detroit Lions owner, G.A. Richards, to thank for the tradition of Thanksgiving football. He saw it as a way to get people to his games. CBS was the first on the bandwagon when they televised their first Thanksgiving game in 1956. The first color broadcast was in 1965—the Lions vs. the Baltimore Colts. Since the 1960s, the Dallas Cowboys have joined the Lions in hosting Thanksgiving Day games, and the NFL Network now airs a third game on that night.

10. NATIONAL DOG SHOW

Of course, if football isn't your thing, there's always the National Dog Show. It's aired after the Macy's Parade on NBC every year. Good luck telling your dad that he'll be enjoying Springer Spaniels instead of the Lions or Cowboys, though.

A version of this story originally published in 2008.

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