6 Personal Secrets Filmmakers Hid In Famous Movies
We've talked before about how filmmakers sometimes use their work as a dumping ground for their personal secrets and neuroses. (It's cheaper for Woody Allen to make a movie every year than to pay for all the therapy he needs.) But these films don't have to be high art. Sometimes a disposable popcorn movie may be someone's life story transmogrified into Hollywood nonsense. So at the risk of again viewing celebrities as flawed human beings with their own beliefs and desires instead of performing monkeys for our fickle amusement, let's look at how ...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Is About J.J. Abrams Forgiving George Lucas For The Prequels
As we've already mentioned, the original Star Wars trilogy was a coded metaphor for George Lucas' life -- how a young idealistic man didn't want to be dragged down by his father's bad choices. So it's fitting that in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams not only revisits the plot of the original Star Wars, but also its motivation. Only this time, the father is George Lucas, and his bad choices are the steaming piles of Bantha fodder that are the prequel trilogy. Right off the bat, the opening crawl lets us know that Luke (who remember, is Lucas' fictional counterpart) is out of the picture. Like in real life, the guy who was a big deal decades ago isn't a part of this movie.
So why have the heroes of the original Star Wars been banished to strange planets / luxury Californian estates? Both Luke and Lucas tried to follow up their successes with another project and screwed up royally. Lucas made three craptacular movies, while Luke started a new Jedi Order but ended up teaching a new Space Hitler how to murder people with laser swords. Hard to say which is worse.
Lucas. It's Lucas.
So following this logic, the First Order represents the prequels, which totally makes sense, as they both really, really suck. For one thing, they're called "THE FIRST ORDER" -- you know, as in I, II, Revenge Of The Sith? They're also the only ones who reference the prequels, bringing up the clone armies you were hoping to forget about ...
And while a lot of the movie utilizes good old-fashioned practical effects, the big bad guy is a CGI blob who easily could have been from the prequels:
In this allegory, Rey is J.J. Abrams, the reluctant protagonist. It's been well-documented that Abrams at first turned down the opportunity to make the movie. He had to be convinced to do it by producer Kathleen Kennedy. Similarly, Rey doesn't want to accept her powers, but needs to be convinced by a wise older woman.
Rey's partner in the movie is Finn, a Stormtrooper who renounces the First Order. Abrams' partner? Lawrence Kasdan, who originally joined Lucas in co-writing The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. Seeing a limit to his loyalty, Kasdan ran away from the prequel scripts, stating, "I thought should take responsibility and make exactly the movie he wanted to make, and that's exactly what he did," which is a very nice way of saying "You're not taking me down with you."
And even though the prequels murdered a ton of the good will Star Wars had built up (you know, like killing Han Solo did), the protagonist ultimately forgives Luke (Lucas) for crapping all over his own legacy.
Fantastic Beasts And WhereTto Find Them Is About J.K. Rowling Hawking Harry Potter In America
At this point, J.K. Rowling has more than enough money to retire in a castle made of gold and the bones of her enemies. But recently, she returned to the Potterverse with a new Harry Potter play and a movie prequel, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, based on a fake textbook she once wrote. This time, however, Rowling wouldn't place her childhood fantasies in a magical boarding school, but rather her adult misery in one of the most frustrating places she'd ever been: the United States of America.
The movie tells the story of Newt Scamander, a floppy-haired wizard coming to America for the first time. Newt shows up with an ordinary suitcase that secretly houses a vast world full of exotic magical creatures. This is symbolic of Rowling's imaginative book full of magical creatures -- which, of course, she used to carry around in a suitcase.
Newt's journey to America is a symbolic retelling of how Rowling herself first came to the states to hawk her book series, which was bought by an American publisher for a surprisingly high amount, and this is reflected in the movie by the fact that the first thing Newt does in America is head to the bank.
Newt then meets an American wizard, who teaches him that Americans insist on different, dumbed-down expressions he needs to conform to -- for instance, they refer to "Muggles" as "No-Majs" -- as in, "no magic."
Similarly, Rowling had to have her first book translated into American English, most notably having to change the title and eponymous plot device from "Philosopher's Stone" to "Sorcerer's Stone," because U.S. publishers thought Americans need to be reminded of the type of book they're reading five words into the cover.
But his overseas counterparts aren't the real American obstacle. Soon after arriving in the U.S., Newt encounters a group of rabidly anti-magic Christian fundamentalists who want to put a stop to American witchcraft.
Which should sound familiar.
One of the Christian kids is so repressed and unhappy that he literally transforms into a rampaging murder cloud -- an event which people initially blame on Newt and his wacky animals. That's Rowling flat-out stating that any problems with the youth of evangelicals are due to their own institutional bigotry, and not her stories about wizard schools and uninsurable sports.
Kevin Smith Made A Crappy Movie About How He Hates When People Criticize His Crappy Movies
It's plain to see that Kevin Smith's early films are culled from his own life. Clerks was based on his experiences working at a convenience store, he probably hung out at a mall similar to the one in Mallrats, and as for Chasing Amy, who in Hollywood hasn't been invited to a threesome by Ben Affleck?
As he got older, though, Smith's films became increasingly bizarre, to the point where his most recent projects involved evil preachers and cosmetic walrus surgery. It's almost as if his creative juices have run out and now he writes about whatever nonsense idea he gets while recording his podcasts high as shit. However, Smith's latest movie, Yoga Hosers, actually goes back to addressing his personal life -- mainly how he was personally hurt by everyone who shit on him for making movies about evil preachers and walrus surgeries.
For those who didn't see Yoga Hosers (which here means "everyone who didn't happen to accidentally walk by when they were filming"), allow us to enlighten you. The movie follows two teenage Canadian girls, who represent the early part of Smith's career. This is easy to spot because they're convenience store clerks.
Furthering the personal connection, one of the girls is played by Smith's own daughter, and the other is played by his daughter's real-life friend, who happens to be Johnny Depp's daughter. Depp himself also makes an appearance in the movie, possibly because merely chaperoning your daughter to a film shoot doesn't get you any sweet residual checks. He did happen to pick a part that required him to be almost unrecognizable -- because Depp cares about his daughter, but he cares about his reputation more.
The girls end up stumbling upon a cryogenically frozen Canadian Nazi who built a clone army made of bratwurst. Why did he become a Nazi? Well, he used to be an "artist," but was turned to evil by critics and their "negatively hurtful" comments.
His plan is to kill all of his critics with his new creation, a giant stupid meat monster, which of course represents his awful buddy cop movie Cop Out, starring Bruce Willis.
OK, so that last one really makes it sound like we're making this shit up as we go along -- except that it was Smith himself who made that analysis. After Yoga Hosers came out, the director took to Twitter to fire back at the critics who criticized the movie, explaining how it was supposed to be his apology to them over how they hated his previous work so goddamned much. Which would be easier to swallow if not for the fact that one of the good guys in the movie says that critics are "not real people." Which either exposes Smith's hatred for critics or his plan to start a "Leonard Maltin is a robot" truther movement.
At least all of this is slightly more subtle than the ending of Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, in which Smith uses his own character to beat the shit out of snarky internet commenters.
Dr. Seuss' Grinch Was His Cranky Alter-Ego
For those who love Christmas specials but dismiss Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty The Snowman for their lack of class-2 felonies, there's always been How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss' classic story of a mean old monster who steals everybody's shit, but then gives it back after learning the true meaning of Christmas through a severe cardiac event.
While Ted Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, never went full Wet Bandits on Christmas Eve, it does seem as though The Grinch was somewhat based on his own life -- specifically, his own yuletide crankiness. He even gives us clues to this, such as the fact that the Grinch complains about putting up with Christmas for 53 years, while Geisel was 53 at the time.
Both the Grinch and Geisel had trusty canine companions. And most tellingly, the Grinch lives on a remote mountain, looming over Whoville, while Geisel worked out of a tower in his mountain home like the world's most whimsical supervillain.
Geisel's distaste for the Holiday season went as far back as the '20s, when he wrote an op-ed on the commercialization of Christmas called "Santy Claus be Hanged," which was a controversial opinion to have at the time.
If all that wasn't enough, Geisel's license plate read "GRINCH," and he even later admitted that his inspiration for the character came from his own grimacing reflection in the bathroom mirror the day after Christmas. Of course, that's how most of us look when we're sitting in the bathroom after Christmas.
Wayne's World Is About Doing Sketch Comedy In Canada
Wayne's World is maybe the most relevant film of the '90s, embodying the shift in power from the slimy '80s douchebag elites to the new wave of grungy slackers who would come to dominate popular culture. More importantly, it also predicted the type of homemade amateur entertainment that would soon rise to prominence with YouTube and podcasts. But most of all, it had some stellar jokes about erections.
Since adapting a feature film out of a Saturday Night Live sketch is a little like writing a novel using only the text from a cereal box, Mike Myers peppered the story with loads of personal details. So despite the fact that the movie itself takes place in the suburbs of Illinois, there are an array of coded references inferring that it's truly about what it's like growing up in Canada.
For instance, the donut joint Wayne and Garth hang out at is Stan Mikita's, named after the Chicago Blackhawks player. While that establishment is entirely fictional, anyone who's ever been to Canada knows that a donut chain named after the Toronto Maple Leafs' Tim Horton infests the country like rats in Hamelin.
And as for The Gasworks, the club where the bouncer is Meatloaf and the headliner is the goddamn Relic Hunter? That was a real heavy metal bar in Toronto in the '80s.
It's not just the little details, either. The plot of Wayne's World parallels Myers own origin story. In the movie, Wayne does a public access show. In reality, Myers used to do his Wayne character on local Canadian TV.
In the movie, Wayne sells out to a corporate sleazebag and ends up losing control of his show. Myers essentially sold all his characters to SNL, and then had to struggle for a long time to get Wayne back on the air. Even then, he had to settle for debuting Wayne as the very last sketch of the night -- the latest possible time slot, exactly like the one given to Wayne in the movie. Eventually, things worked out for both Wayne and Myers. Of course, had Myers possessed Wayne's "mega happy ending" superpower, he would have only made The Love Guru when monkeys had flown out of his butt.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Is The Story Of Tim Burton Being Fired From Disney
The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a holiday classic, beloved by children, adults, and gothy preteens looking for a way to enjoy all that festive cheer. And while Tim Burton had been working on the project for a long time, it sure seems as though one key personal incident may have molded the story of how a drained husk rebelled against a bunch of ghouls -- that time Burton was shitcanned by Disney.
Burton's early career seems not unlike Jack Skellington's. As a student at CalArts, Burton was lauded for his weird-ass cartoons. He described his class as a "collection of outcasts," which sounds kind of like Halloweentown, but probably with more nude expressionist art.
In the movie, Jack goes through a Don-Draper-like midlife crisis and ends up eschewing his twisted ways in the wholesome pursuit of making Christmas. This mirrors Burton, who went from majoring in skin-crawling doodles to going to work for Disney, the copyright-holders on wholesomeness.
Eventually, Burton worked his way up to directing his own Disney movie, Frankenweenie -- but his attempt to make a Disney family flick centered around a small boy reanimating his dead dog, made even creepier and less kid-friendly by the fact that it was shot in black and white.
Jack Skellington's attempt to make children happy at Christmas similarly fails because his gifts are too goddamn horrifying.
Of course, Burton was fired from Disney for making a movie that was "too scary for children," and Frankenweenie was shelved. Likewise, Jack's Christmas is put to an end when the powers that be shoot down his sleigh and the big man himself (here, Santa Claus) tells him to fuck off.
Eventually, though, Santa makes peace with Jack -- which is pretty much what happened with Disney, who crazily enough made this movie with Burton, and eventually even produced an animated remake of Frankenweenie. That's like being fired for jerking off at work, then getting hired back as Vice President in Charge of Masturbatory Studies. It just shows that eventually, people will come around to your way of thinking.
Not about the masturbating-at-work thing, though. You really need to stop that.