20 Things You Might Not Know About Gremlins

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

You know not to get them wet, expose them to bright light, or feed them after midnight. But here are 20 things you might not know about Joe Dante’s creature-filled dark comedy classic.

1. ITS UNEXPECTEDLY DARK THEMES ARE PARTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CREATION OF THE PG-13 RATING.

Truth be told, it’s Steven Spielberg who is really responsible for the introduction of the PG-13 rating. Both Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which he directed, and Gremlins, which he executive produced, were rated PG upon their release, and subsequently criticized for not being kid-appropriate. To avoid being slapped with an R rating in the future, Spielberg suggested that the MPAA add a rating between PG and R. On August 10, 1984, Red Dawn became the first movie to be released with the new PG-13 rating.

2. BUT GREMLINS COULD HAVE BEEN A WHOLE LOT DARKER.


Warner Bros.

The original Gremlins script, written by Chris Columbus, was much, much darker. Case in point: Earlier scenes included the Gremlins eating Billy’s dog then decapitating his mom and throwing her head down the stairs. Spielberg, director Joe Dante, and Warner Bros. were all in agreement that they should tone down the gore in order to make the movie more family-friendly.

3. CHRIS COLUMBUS DIDN’T WRITE GREMLINS WITH THE IDEA THAT IT WOULD ACTUALLY BE MADE.

He wrote it as a spec script and writing sample. It found its way into the hands of Spielberg, who explained that, “It's one of the most original things I've come across in many years, which is why I bought it.”

4. THE GREMLINS WERE INSPIRED BY MICE THAT INHABITED COLUMBUS’S APARTMENT.

“By day, it was pleasant enough,” Columbus said of the Manhattan loft that he lived in while attending film school at NYU. “But at night, what sounded like a platoon of mice would come out and to hear them skittering around in the blackness was really creepy.” Those mice inspired the Gremlins.

5. THE SCRIPT DOESN’T INCLUDE MUCH GREMLIN DIALOGUE.

Much of the chatter spoken by Gizmo and the Gremlins is ad libbed, or in reaction to whatever is happening in the scene. Keeping the dialogue loose also allowed the filmmakers to localize the dialogue for the film’s various international markets.

6. HOWIE MANDEL IS THE VOICE OF GIZMO.

It was the suggestion of voice actor Frank Welker, who voiced Stripe in Gremlins (and Fred on Scooby-Doo before that), that Howie Mandel be hired for the role.

7. BUT MANDEL DIDN’T SING “GIZMO’S SONG.”

The song was written by Jerry Goldsmith, who hired a 13-year-old girl who was a member of his synagogue to sing it for the film.

8. MICHAEL WINSLOW HELPED TO VOICE THE GREMLINS.

Yes, this is the same Michael Winslow who is better known as “the guy who makes all those funny noises in the Police Academy film series."

9. TIM BURTON WAS IN CONTENTION TO DIRECT IT.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding Burton after the success of his short film, Frankenweenie—so much so that Spielberg considered him to direct Gremlins. But the fact that Burton had yet to direct a feature film worked against him, and the gig was given to Joe Dante. A year later, Burton released his first theatrical feature, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

10. SECURITY WAS TIGHT WITH THE GREMLINS.


Getty Images

Because there was no CGI at the time of Gremlins, the creatures were animatronic puppets, each of which took a major chunk out of the film’s budget. Zach Galligan revealed that when leaving the set each night, security personnel asked the cast and crew to open the trunks of their cars to ensure that they hadn’t stolen any of the props.

11. BALLOONS CAME IN HANDY.

Creature creator Chris Walas used balloons in an innovative fashion: They were the secret VFX ingredient when the new Mogwai popped out of Gizmo’s body, and he used a balloon again to explode the Gremlin in the microwave.

12. PHOEBE CATES WAS A CONTROVERSIAL CASTING CHOICE.

Given her sweet demeanor as Kate, it’s hard to imagine that not everyone was on board with casting Cates. But her infamous topless scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High gave the studio pause about putting her in the lead.

13. CATES’S CHEMISTRY WITH ZACH GALLIGAN WAS WHAT LANDED HIM THE ROLE.

Though there were better-known actors like Emilio Estevez and Judd Nelson in contention for the role of Billy, Spielberg cast his vote for Galligan, based on the chemistry he and Cates displayed during auditions.

14. IT’S THE FIRST FILM TO FEATURE THE NOW-ICONIC AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT LOGO.

By now, Spielberg’s E.T.-themed logo for Amblin Entertainment is familiar to all moviegoers. But Gremlins marked its first on-screen appearance.

15. KINGSTON FALLS AND HILL VALLEY ARE ONE AND THE SAME.

If the fictional town of Kingston Falls in Gremlins looks familiar, that’s because it was filmed on the same set used for the town of Hill Valley in Back to the Futurereleased a year later.

16. THE FILM WAS ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR A CHRISTMAS RELEASE.

Offbeat as it may be, Gremlins is definitely a Christmas movie, and as such had been planned for release during the Christmas season. But when Warner Bros. realized it didn’t have a "summer movie" to put up against Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or Ghostbusters, it moved up the release date. The film performed well and ended up being the fourth highest-grossing film of 1984, behind Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

17. KATE’S STORY ABOUT HER FATHER’S DEATH WAS A POLARIZING SCENE.

As a nod to the popular urban legend, Kate tells the story about how her father died while dressed up as Santa Claus and climbing down the chimney. When the rough cut was complete, both Spielberg and the Warner Bros. executives wanted it cut, as it wasn’t clear whether it was meant to be sad or funny. Dante insisted that that’s what made it a perfect metaphor for the film itself, and insisted it be kept in. In Roger Ebert’s three-star review of the film, he singled out this scene in particular, citing her story as being “in the great tradition of 1950s sick jokes.”

18. BILLY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE HERO.

At the end of the film, Gizmo saves the day by pulling up a window blind and exposing Stripe to sunlight. Originally, Gizmo lifted the first blind, followed by Billy. Spielberg suggested the scene be edited so that it was clear that it’s Gizmo, not Billy, who is the movie’s hero.

19. GIZMO AND STRIPE WERE THE SAME CREATURE AT ONE TIME.


Warner Bros.

It was also at Spielberg’s suggestion that Gizmo’s role in the film grew. Originally, it’s the cute little Mogwai pet himself who transforms into Stripe the Gremlin. But Spielberg knew that audiences would want to see as much of Gizmo as possible, so he withdrew the idea so that they would appear as totally separate characters.

20. THE GREMLINS MAY RISE AGAIN.

Though Gremlins did spawn a sequel (1990's Gremlins II: The Next Batch), there’s been much talk in recent years about a reboot of the original. In a 2012 interview with Screen Rant, Columbus didn't seem totally on board with the idea. “I think it’s impossible to re-create [Gremlins] in a CGI environment," he said. "I think it will inevitably lose some of its charm. Those are edgy Muppets in a sense and you don’t want to lose that sense of anarchy that those gremlins had, because behind the scenes are 25 puppeteers making them to come to life.”

But in August 2017, he seemed to have a different opinion on the matter, saying that he had completed a script for a third installment. “I’m really proud of the script,” Columbus told /Film. “It is as twisted and dark as anything, so we’ll see. It’s always a budgetary conversation when we’re going to shoot it. I wanted to go back to the really twisted sensibility of the first movie. I found that was a very easy place for me to fall back into and start writing again so hopefully we’ll see that movie soon.”

Billie Lourd Shares What (Very Little) She Can About Star Wars: Episode IX

Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

​Nearly nothing is known about the final film in the latest Star Wars series, except that J.J. Abrams, who helmed The Force Awakens, will be returning as director, and many of the cast members from both Abrams's earlier effort and The Last Jedi will be reprising their roles. Even the late Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away on December 27, 2016, will be included in Episode IX, through unused footage from the previous two films.

Though all the stars of the upcoming film are sworn to secrecy about it, Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, is spilling what she can. Lourd, who played the minor role of Lieutenant Connix in the last two films, teased what it was like being back on set.

"I gotta watch myself because the Star Wars PD is going to come get me, but it is incredible. I’ve read the script and I’ve been on set," Lourd told ​Entertainment Tonight. "I was on set for, like, three weeks back in September, and it is going to be magical. I can’t say much more, but I’m so excited about it and so grateful to be a part of it. Star Wars is my heart. I love it."

A lot of things are riding on Episode IX, especially considering how divided fans were over The Last Jedi. Though with Abrams back in the director's chair, it seems likely that the new film will be a return to form. The as-yet-untitled film hits theaters on December 20, 2019.

A 24-Hour Pee-wee's Playhouse Marathon is Coming to IFC on Thanksgiving Day

Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

Today's secret word is: AHHHH! If the thought of talking politics with your drunk uncle this Thanksgiving is too much for you to bear, might we suggest that you stay right there on the couch and watch 24 hours of Pee-wee's Playhouse instead?

In the spirit of holiday marathons, IFC has announced that it's bringing the not-just-for-kids cult classic Saturday morning TV series back to the small screen this Turkey Day—more than 30 years after it made its original debut.

Pee-wee, Chairry, Conky, Miss Yvonne, Jambi, Cowboy Curtis, Reba the Mail Lady, Clocky, The King of Cartoons, and the rest of the gang will all be there when the network kicks off a full 24 hours of all-Pee-wee programming.

"For over 30 years, the enormously popular Pee-wee Herman and innovative television series Pee-wee’s Playhouse—created by and starring Paul Reubens—has captured a special place in the hearts of millions of viewers, young and old," IFC wrote in a press release. "Since its initial premiere on CBS in 1986, this multiple Emmy-winning children’s program became Saturday morning appointment viewing for kids in the '80s and '90s and has been a staple in the pop culture zeitgeist ever since."

In addition to embedding itself in the hearts and minds of its viewers over its five-year run, Pee-wee's Playhouse garnered unprecedented critical acclaim, earning 15 Emmy Awards and the 1987 Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming. In 2010, Reubens brought the character back for a stage show that began in Los Angeles before migrating to Broadway (where it regularly sold out).

In addition to being a launching pad for soon-to-be-stars like Phil Hartman, Laurence Fishburne, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Natasha Lyonne, Reubens hired some serious talent behind-the-scenes, too. Five years before he wrote and directed Boyz n the Hood—for which he earned two Oscar nominations—John Singleton was a P.A. on the Playhouse set. Around the same time he formed White Zombie, Rob Zombie held the same title.

The marathon, which will include a special screening of Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse, will kick off at 6 a.m. on November 22 (Thanksgiving morning) and run for 24 hours straight. Beginning on November 24, IFC will be bringing Pee-wee's Playhouse back to "its rightful home on Saturday mornings" with weekly airings of the series.

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