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11 Dashing Facts About Robin Hood: Men In Tights

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A charming spoof, Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights introduced the world to Dave Chappelle and extolled the virtues of form-fitting legwear. Here’s everything you need to know about the arrow-slinging 1993 comedy.

1. MEL BROOKS HAD PREVIOUSLY WORKED ON A COMEDIC ROBIN HOOD TV SERIES.

In 1974, Mel Brooks’ smash-hit genre parodies Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein became two of the highest grossing movies of the year—with Blazing Saddles beating out The Towering Inferno and The Godfather: Part II for the top spot. Having secured a lasting career for himself in Hollywood, Brooks took a break from cinema so he could pursue a new TV project. The comic joined forces with Norman Stiles and John Boni to co-create ABC’s When Things Were Rotten, a fast-paced, gag-driven sitcom that put a satirical spin on Robin Hood. Starring Get Smart alum Dick Gautier in the lead role, the show relied heavily on anachronistic pop culture references; in one episode, for example, a character named Lord McDonald of the Golden Archers dons a T-shirt reading “Over 1,000,000 Dispatched.”

When Things Were Rotten premiered on September 10, 1975. After three months of lackluster ratings and mixed reviews, the show was canceled just 13 episodes into its run. Brooks would, of course, take another stab at the legendary hero of Sherwood Forest when Robin Hood: Men in Tights was released 18 years later. Incidentally, that 1993 comedy starred a familiar face: Dick Van Patten, who plays an abbot in the film, had portrayed Friar Tuck in When Things Were Rotten.

2. A DENTIST’S KID INSPIRED THE MOVIE.

Despite its impressive showing at the box office, Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) didn’t win universal praise. Many took issue with the movie’s inconsistent tone and Costner’s half-baked attempt at an English accent. When 11-year-old Jordi Chandler saw it, he told his father, Evan, that the flick deserved to be parodied. As it happened, Evan Chandler was a Beverly Hills dentist whose clientele included Hollywood screenwriter J. David Shapiro. During an appointment, the DDS pitched the idea of a Robin Hood spoof movie to Shapiro, who loved the concept. Together, they put together a screenplay that was later sold to—and heavily revised by—Brooks.

3. MADELINE KAHN MIGHT’VE PLAYED LATRINE.

Madeline Kahn made a name for herself by starring in several of Brooks's comedies, including Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, and History of the World, Part 1. Kahn’s family has stated that she was offered the part of Latrine—Prince John’s manic soothsayer—in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but turned the role down over salary concerns. On the other hand, Brooks himself says he didn’t cast Kahn because the character wouldn’t receive much screen time. Regardless, Tracey Ullman ended up landing the part.

4. SEAN CONNERY WANTED TO PORTRAY KING RICHARD—IN WOMEN’S CLOTHING.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves had an all-star cast that boasted Costner, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Rickman. Sean Connery also made a brief appearance as King Richard, a part he reportedly wanted to reprise in Men in Tights. According to James Robert Parish's It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks, Connery told the director “that he would repeat his role of the monarch—but this time in drag. However, intriguing as this comic prospect was, he wanted a $1 million salary, which he planned to donate to Scottish charities.” Unable to afford this king’s ransom, Brooks cast Patrick Stewart instead. For better or for worse, the cross-dressing angle was scrapped entirely.

5. BROOKS WROTE THE LYRICS TO ALL OF THE ORIGINAL SONGS.

From The Producers's “Springtime for Hitler” to a Sinatra-esque lounge number in High Anxiety, Brooks’s comedies are loaded with songs that the filmmaker either wrote or co-wrote himself. Robin Hood: Men in Tights continued this musical tradition. The legendary director penned the lyrics for Maid Marian’s song, the titular “Men in Tights” number, and both versions of the "Sherwood Forest Rap." Meanwhile, their melodies were provided by composer Hummie Mann. However, neither man can take any credit for “The Night is Young and You’re So Beautiful,” which Robin (Cary Elwes) belts out during a romantic scene with Marian (Amy Yasbeck). Famously covered by Dean Martin, that amorous ballad was written way back in 1937 by Dana Suesse, Billy Rose, and Irving Kahal.

6. WHEN BROOKS FIRST REACHED OUT TO CARY ELWES ABOUT PLAYING ROBIN HOOD, THE ACTOR ASSUMED HE WAS BEING PRANKED.

Early on in the Men in Tights casting process, Brooks called Elwes at his home to discuss the project. "He actually called me at home and I thought someone was pulling my leg so I hung up on him," Elwes told Den of Geek in 2014. "He called back and he said 'don’t hang up, it’s really me!' I apologized, but I couldn’t believe he was calling me." In short order, Elwes was cast as the film’s hero. Once he came aboard, Elwes helped Brooks choose an actor to play Ahchoo, Robin’s sidekick. In the end, the part went to an unknown 19-year-old comedian named Dave Chappelle. “We actually cast [him] together,” Elwes recalled. “We saw a lot of actors and when Dave came in, he was just so amazing and we knew right then and there [that] this guy was a star.”

7. IT SHARED A FILMING LOCATION WITH TWO OTHER WELL-KNOWN ROBIN HOOD MOVIES.

A body of water in Southern California’s Santa Monica mountains that was formerly known as Lake Canterbury was renamed Lake Sherwood in 1921, when a Robin Hood movie starring Douglas Fairbanks shot a few scenes on its shores. Subsequently, this same lake was utilized as a backdrop for certain outdoor sequences in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights did some filming there as well.

8. THE ACTORS ATTENDED A SWORDPLAY BOOT CAMP.

“If you put the name Robin Hood on a marquee, then it’s incumbent upon you—nay, it behooves you—to have horses and sword fighting,” Brooks declared in the HBO making-of documentary Robin Hood: Men in Tights: The Legend Had it Coming. “The actors came in every weekend and they worked Saturdays and Sundays just on their sword fights,” Brooks said. These sessions were overseen by fencing coordinator Victor Paul, who also did stunt work on big-budget action films like Die Hard and Armageddon. The bladed weapon specialist found that Elwes was particularly easy to train because The Princess Bride star already had plenty of fencing experience under his belt. “All I had to do was teach him the routines, he knew how to fence,” Paul said in the documentary.

However, Elwes wasn’t quite as adept at archery. Right before the training montage, we see Robin hit a bull's-eye from a few yards away while his merry men look on. At the 2013 Motor City Comic Con, Elwes shed some light on the scene—which turned out to be a rather triumphant moment for him. “I was quite proud of the fact that I got a bull's-eye shooting the bow and arrow because there was a lot of pressure from Mel to get that in a few takes. He said ‘Okay, you’ve got three takes. Get a bull's-eye, let’s go!,'" Elwes shared during a Q&A session. “And I’m like ‘Really, Mel? I’ve only got three? Really?’ And I got it on the third one, thank god.”

9. LATE IN THE SHOOT, RICHARD LEWIS CAME DOWN WITH A 106-DEGREE FEVER.

Richard Lewis, who played the neurotic Prince John, opened up about his experiences on the set in a 2013 PBS documentary titled Mel Brooks: Make a Noise. Apparently, as production came to a close, Lewis’s health took a sharp turn for the worse. “I was almost done with the film, I had one scene left, [and then] I got Hepatitis A,” the actor recalled. Stricken with a 106-degree fever, Lewis was hospitalized. Amazingly though, this development didn’t stop Brooks from trying to complete his villain’s final scene on schedule.

Completely undeterred, the director called Lewis’s hospital room and announced an elaborate plan to lay Lewis in a stretcher, drive him to the set, and prop the immobilized performer up against some wood so that he could deliver a pair of lines. “You’ll do your two lines, we’ll carry you right back into the stretch, you’ll be back [at the hospital] in 20 minutes,” Brooks told him. “Mel,” a weary Lewis responded, “I’m dying. I think I’m dying. I have a 106 fever. I’m jaundiced.” He then hung up on Brooks, who proceeded to call him back “about 15 times with the same riff” in Lewis’s estimation.

10. THE MOVIE MADE GENE SISKEL’S “WORST OF '93” LIST.

When it came to the film critics, "most of them reamed it,” according to Lewis. “It was disappointing.” Leading the chorus of derision was Gene Siskel, who counted Robin Hood: Men in Tights among his worst films of 1993. “Movie comedy, I think, is threatening to pass Mel Brooks by,” the late critic opined. “When comedies don’t work and everybody in the audience knows it, that is about as low as it gets ... [Brooks] has clearly lost his way.”

Still, like many of Brooks’s later pictures, Robin Hood: Men in Tights has slowly developed a cult following over the years. It has even received some faint praise from a more contemporary Robin Hood: In 2016, Russell Crowe called Men in Tightsthe most entertaining version” of the heroic character’s timeless story.

11. JACK BLACK ONCE SERENADED BROOKS WITH A RENDITION OF THE FILM'S THEME SONG.

Along with Bruce Springsteen, Dave Brubeck, Robert De Niro, and opera singer Grace Bumby, Brooks was named one of the 2009 Kennedy Center honorees. When asked to comment on this development, Brooks told The Washington Post, “I hope you never find my award on eBay, because you never know ... You run out of cash and wherewithal.” Seated near President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Brooks was presented with a medley of his unforgettable songs. Among other acts, this star-studded revue featured Martin Short’s take on the Blazing Saddles theme while Richard Kind led a jazzy rendition of the Spanish Inquisition number from History of The World, Part 1. Jack Black also took the stage in full Robin Hood regalia to lead a chorus in singing “Men in Tights.” All the while, a gleeful Brooks could be seen mouthing the lyrics to every song from the audience.

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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MGM Home Entertainment
11 Fun Facts About A Fish Called Wanda
MGM Home Entertainment
MGM Home Entertainment

In 1988, the British heist comedy A Fish Called Wanda had audiences in the UK and across the pond rolling in the aisles. Thirty years later, the Oscar-winning ensemble movie about a clueless (but don’t call him stupid) weapons expert, a bumbling barrister, a quick-witted femme fatale, and a stuttering con artist remains a cult favorite. Starring John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, and of course, the eponymous fish, the film is packed with smart writing, silly slapstick, and some of the strongest comic performances of its starring actors’ careers. Here are 11 facts about A Fish Called Wanda for your unreserved enjoyment (just don’t ask us to repeat the part in the middle).

1. IT WAS DIRECTOR CHARLES CRICHTON’S FIRST FILM IN TWO DECADES.

Back in the 1950s, Charles Crichton was a famous director of Ealing Comedies—a series of comedy films produced by London’s Ealing Studios—who was known for his work on films like The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), Hue and Cry (1947), and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). By 1988, however, he hadn’t directed a feature film in two decades (though he had worked on TV shows and documentary shorts). He came out of semi-retirement to work on what would become his final film at the behest of John Cleese.

2. CRICHTON AND JOHN CLEESE SPENT FIVE YEARS WRITING THE FILM.

A Fish Called Wanda was years, even decades, in the making. Cleese and Crichton first met and began discussing ideas for a comedy heist film, inspired by The Lavender Hill Mob, all the way back in 1969. Though they parted ways professionally, Cleese continued to look for opportunities to collaborate on a film with Crichton. More than a decade later, he finally got his chance when he found himself working with Crichton on a series of business management training videos.

Though Crichton was already in his late seventies, Cleese managed to convince the semi-retired director to brainstorm ideas for a feature film with him. For the next few years, the two met periodically to throw around ideas and work on the script. All in all, the entire scriptwriting and pre-production process took more than five years and cost $150,000 of Cleese’s own money.

3. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE EALING COMEDIES.

Unsurprisingly, A Fish Called Wanda was heavily indebted to the Ealing Comedies, especially Crichton’s own The Lavender Hill Mob, a heist comedy which starred Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway as a pair of bumbling bank robbers. Cleese, however, claimed the parallels between the Ealing Comedies and A Fish Called Wanda were unintentional, but embraced the comparison.

“I knew that my memory of all these great Ealing films was very present, although I wasn’t consciously trying to write an Ealing comedy,” Cleese explained. “But I do remember when we interviewed Johnny Jympson when we were looking for an editor, and Johnny’d read it, and he came in and sat down, and Charlie said, ‘What’d you think?’ and Johnny was almost nervous and he hemmed and hawed a little bit and then he said very uncertainly, ‘Well, it’s an Ealing comedy, isn’t it?’ and we both said, ‘Yes!’”

4. THE ACTORS HELPED SHAPE THEIR CHARACTERS.

Cleese encouraged Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, and Jamie Lee Curtis to contribute ideas and help develop their characters. Curtis, in particular, was responsible for major changes to Wanda’s personality. "She was a sexually brazen, cold-hearted manipulator, who simply wanted money,” Curtis told The New York Times. “I didn't find that real. I decided she didn't altogether know what she wanted, but finds a wonderful power in manipulating people and feels personal satisfaction in trying to fool them. She plays a slightly different role for each man, yet she enjoys being herself, and she's not cold-hearted, not vicious.''

Curtis told The New York Times she reveled in the rare opportunity to shape her own character: ''Most films, one person is in charge, and you're afraid even to raise your hand with a suggestion,'' she explained. ''That's frustrating if you're a bright person and trust your instincts. But this was totally a collaborative effort, and I'm afraid it's spoiled me.'' She was, apparently, so enthusiastic a contributor over the course of a two-week rehearsal period that Palin gave her a shirt that read, “Wait, I have an idea.”

5. KEVIN KLINE’S CHARACTER WAS INSPIRED BY A LOS ANGELES SELF-HELP GURU.

In A Fish Called Wanda, Kline’s Otto is a pseudo-intellectual who constantly misinterprets everything from the teachings of Buddhist philosophy to the writings of Nietzsche. According to Cleese, his character was inspired by the real-life self-help guru Zen Master Rama, sometimes called the “yuppie guru.”

“I got the real key to the character out of Los Angeles Magazine,” Cleese explained in an interview. “I found a double-page spread for a guru, and I’m pretty sure his name was Zen Master Rama, and he looked about 32 and very unsure of himself, and he had a funny sort of hairstyle like a dandelion at the end of September. But the key thing was the line across the top of this two page advertisement for the seminars he ran at weekends, which was ‘Buddhism gives you the competitive edge.’ And I thought this was unbelievably funny.”

6. CLEESE’S CHARACTER WAS NAMED AFTER CARY GRANT.

Cleese named his character Archie Leach after movie star Cary Grant, who was born Archibald Leach. Though Cleese’s bumbling lawyer has little in common with the famously debonair Grant, Cleese explained that he chose the name because he and Grant shared a hometown, and because it was the closest he would ever get to “being Cary Grant.”

7. THE ORIGINAL ENDING WAS MUCH DARKER.

A Fish Called Wanda started off as a much darker comedy, but test audiences in America were apparently uncomfortable with the film’s cruelty, and lack of romantic payoff, so Crichton and his cast went in for a few re-shoots. In addition to softening Palin’s character a bit, they ended up re-shooting the film’s ending three times.

“We played the whole movie with this very sort of dark intent—it was a very black comedy—and of course, when they tested the movie in America, it tested very funny, except that people didn’t like that there was no real love story,” Curtis said, further explaining:

“The original ending of the movie was much darker. The costume designer and I had a really great time costuming this character, and in a department store in London on sale, we found a pair of shark shoes, and we bought them because we just thought, ‘Well, she’s just a shark.’ And we wore them in that last scene, and literally the last shot of the movie was going down my leg and freeze framing on the shark shoe. And right then, you knew she was going to take him for everything. The minute they got off the plane, she was going to bop him on the head, take the stuff, and leave.”

8. CLEESE CUT A BIG CHUNK OF THE CATHCART TOWERS SCENE.

In addition to changing the ending, Cleese cut several minutes from the film’s penultimate scene, in which Archie tries to get the stuttering Ken (Palin) to telling him where Wanda, Otto, and the diamonds are. Ken, whose stutter gets worse under pressure, can’t seem to utter the two words “Cathcart Towers.”

Initially, the scene was a Monty Python-esque series of increasingly absurd stunts—Ken attempting to sing the words (which remains in the final film), Archie trying to feed a tissue through a typewriter, Ken writing in toothpaste on a window—but Cleese worried the scene, which arrives at the climax of the film, was overly long and dragging the plot down, and so deleted most of it.

9. ONE AUDIENCE MEMBER LAUGHED HIMSELF TO DEATH.

Ole Bentzen, a Belgian audience member, was so tickled by the scene in which Ken has French fries stuck up his nose, that he actually laughed himself to death. The scene reminded him of a similar experience at a family dinner, in which his family had shoved cauliflower up their noses to great comic effect. He began laughing so hard, his heart rate escalated dangerously, causing a fatal heart attack.

10. IT WAS NOMINATED FOR THREE OSCARS.

Comedy movies rarely fare well at the Oscars, but A Fish Called Wanda was an exception. The film was nominated for three awards: for Best Original Screenplay (for Cleese and Crichton), Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Kline, who took home the statuette.

11. IT WAS THE TOP VIDEO RENTAL OF 1989.

A Fish Called Wanda beat a number of higher-budget blockbuster movies, including Die Hard (1988) and Coming to America (1988), as well as the Oscar-winning Rain Man (1988), to become the top video rental of 1989. Its success was due, in part, to an advertising partnership with Cadbury Schweppes, which plastered grocery stores for weeks with ads for the film.

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