5 Incredible Movie Facts (That Are Actually Total BS)
Hollywood has its fair share of myths and legends, from a stuntman being killed in Ben-Hur to audiences ceaselessly demanding four more Avatar movies. The stories we tell about movies are as important as the movies themselves. So what does it say about us that so many of those stories are total crap?
No, Jenny Doesn't Die From AIDS In Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump is the inspirational story of an idiot man-child becoming a rich celebrity by doing everything he's told to while a more capable woman is shuffled offscreen to suffer a terrible fate for trying to go her own way. Near the end, when Forrest finally stops rambling to random strangers and reunites with Jenny, she reveals that she's given birth to his son, and is now dying of an unknown virus. Forrest takes the first piece of news surprisingly well, presumably because his adventures didn't touch on the impending spike in college tuition.
Jenny dies without us learning anything more about her disease, but it has to be AIDS, right? She had been a drug addict and a prostitute, and she dies in 1982, the same year the media first reported on it. Surely this is an extremely dark twist on Gump's 20th-century retrospective? The movie's fans widely assume it's AIDS, discussing it as a given, and the University of Pennsylvania has an essay discussing how Jenny's poor life choices ended with her contracting AIDS. Even Family Guy did a bit on how Forrest is too dumb to grasp the implications of sex with an HIV-positive woman.
But the movie never actually says "AIDS." Jenny drops dead of Plot Convenience Syndrome, and viewers rushed to assumptions based on the fact that she slept around. The sequel to the original novel, Gump And Co., clarifies that it was in fact meant to be hepatitis C. That fits the timeline perfectly. Hep C wasn't identified until 1989, but "non-A, non-B hepatitis" was acknowledged as a mysterious new disease in 1981, the same year Jenny reveals her condition to Forrest. Granted, it did have a name, but it's not unreasonable to assume that Jenny left as many multi-syllabic words as possible out of her explanation to Forrest. At least you don't have to worry about Forrest and his son suffering slow, painful deaths after the movie anymore.
If you don't want to take the word of a novel that also sees Forrest go to jail for his role in Iran-Contra while Jenny watches over him as a ghost, director Robert Zemeckis clarified that they explicitly didn't pick a specific disease because they didn't want it to be the issue viewers focused on. We hope you learned your lesson, Robert.
No, A Munchkin Didn't Hang Himself In The Wizard Of Oz
The Wizard Of Oz is one of the most beloved family films of all time, which is probably why it was so dark behind the scenes. Nothing good comes without a cost. Judy Garland was abused, the Tin Man's makeup almost killed him, and holy crap, one of the Munchkin actors hanged himself during production and you can see his swinging corpse in the movie!
This urban legend predates the internet (in some versions, it's a stagehand who suffered a terrible accident). As an example of its ubiquity, here's a 2012 YouTube video which amassed over 3 million views depicting the scene in question. As Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow are about to head off to do fantasy stuff, you can clearly see something swaying in the background.
It's normal for film sets to overlook certain details. Game Of Thrones was roasted for having a visible coffee cup in one episode, and even more egregiously, multiple movies have left Johnny Depp in all sorts of scenes. But it beggars belief to think that an entire film crew would not only fail to notice a suicide on set, but also fail to react to it in post-production after the body was discovered. The urban legend worked because we think of the Hollywood of the past as relentlessly callous and cruel. And it was, but not that callous and cruel.
But then, what is going on in the background? It turns out that what you're seeing is nothing but a big dumb bird. The production brought in birds to wander around and liven up certain scenes, and a big one (probably a crane) was caught on camera spreading its wings. To further debunk the rumor, the scene in question was filmed before any of the Munchkin scenes, so none of the actors would have even been on set. So this is example 5,427,134 of why you shouldn't believe everything you see on YouTube.
No, You Can't See An Extra's Penis In Teen Wolf
In erudite YouTube videos like "Teen wolf penis bomb," "Penis in teenwolf the movie???" and "Teen Wolf Extra Goes Balls Out," we're shown blurry footage of the end of Teen Wolf and told that, in one of the greatest Hollywood troll jobs of all time, an extra in the stands whipped his dick out during the big ending celebration scene. The story is also a staple of disreputable newspapers that frantically need to fill a spot on their front page, like when The Sun ran the informative article "BASKET-BALLS: Did you ever spot the guy with his penis out in 1985 flick Teen Wolf?" Family Guy referenced this one too, which by now should be a warning sign.
Once again, there's clearly something going on there, and the legend gained credence in 2013 when a man claiming to be the infamous Fan #2, Kris Haggerty, called into a Minnesota radio station and explained that he had exposed his own teen wolf for the camera after an attempt to adjust uncomfortable underwear went horribly awry. But this caught the attention of the real Kris Haggerty, who had two major differences: She was a woman, and she really appeared in the movie.
Haggerty did her own interview with the blog Movie Vigilante and explained that, while she wasn't the flasher in question, she's pretty sure she knew what happened. Tight pants were in fashion back in 1985, but they got very uncomfortable when you spent hour after hour sitting around on bleachers. So Haggerty and a few other extras got in the habit of unzipping in-between takes, and by the time that take was shot at around 3 in the morning, one exhausted woman probably got caught with her literal pants down. That's a woman's underwear, not some guy's dick.
That makes as much sense as we're ever going to get. Now the real question is why some dude decided to pretend that the Teen Wolf penis was his claim to fame. This is one of those legends that spreads best among people who haven't actually seen the movie, because even if your anatomical knowledge is terrible, it's clear that there's nothing wangy in sight. And if you watch the scene in full instead of picking apart individual frames like it's the Zapruder film, it does look like the woman is surprised, realizes her mistake, and covers her crotch while she zips back up. So if you want to see a flaccid penis in a movie, you'll once again have to resort to Johnny Depp films.
No, Heath Ledger Didn't Improvise The Hospital Explosion Scene In The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight earned him a posthumous Oscar and the even greater honor of a bottomless pile of memes and reaction GIFs. And amidst this praise emerged an incredible piece of movie trivia. According to the ultimate source of authority, some guy on Reddit, Ledger improvised the scene in which the Joker blows up a hospital.
Supposedly, the building was meant to blow up the moment Ledger hit the button, but some of the explosives malfunctioned. The part where Ledger looks back and starts punching the detonator like a frustrated kid wasn't scripted, and Christopher Nolan simply kept filming the whole thing to capture Ledger's magnificent improv skills. And somehow the story caught on, with many sites reiterating this supposed trivia as fact. Hell, even Googling the keywords "confirms" it. And when you look at the comments of that YouTube video up there, you'll see a bunch of people praising Ledger's incredible talent.
That is, of course, not at all what happened. It is true that the crew only had one take to get it right (they were blowing up a real building, after all), but the explosion was meant to "malfunction." It wasn't an error, and Ledger knew exactly what was going to happen and what he was going to do. Because when you blow up a damn building, you rehearse obsessively, and you're strongly discouraged from "just trying something" like it's your college improv troupe.
This is all explained in the documentary Gotham Uncovered: Creation Of A Scene, which shows how Nolan and his team planned the entire thing, right down to the part where the Joker looks back when the building doesn't explode. Movies are more than a couple of geniuses working around everyone else's screw-ups, and it would be insane to not carefully map out a scene that involves real people interacting with real explosives. Ledger wasn't improvising; he was acting. Feel free to Google the semantics yourselves.
No, The Beer Can That Hit John Malkovich In Being John Malkovich Wasn't Unscripted
Websites full of foolish knaves like Screen Rant, The Independent, and, uh, Cracked fell prey to the rumor that when making Being John Malkovich, some drunken extra spontaneously threw a beer can while yelling the now-famous line "Hey Malkovich, think fast!"
We're not perfect, but we're also inclined to blame whoever did the fake Spike Jonze commentary track that started all this.
A voice attributed to Jonze says that the beer can toss wasn't in the script, but he decided to keep it in the movie because it was so funny. He even claims that the extra in question got a raise and a SAG card after the fact. Which should've been a red flag, because in what world would Malkovich not get someone fired for randomly throwing a beer can at his head?
You can search high and low for any proof of this commentary's authenticity, but you won't find any. And we're reasonably sure that the creator of this clip, who goes by The Dung Heap, isn't affiliated with Spike Jonze.
There's also the fact that Malkovich himself has debunked this. In 2007, he did an interview with Time Out Chicago in which he confirmed that the scene was indeed scripted, and that Jonze even thought of cutting it because they were running out of shooting time. A writer who volunteered managed to hit Malkovich perfectly on the first take, so the real kudos should go to that dude for having killer aim. And since that interview didn't seem to kill the story, when Malkovich did a 2013 Reddit AMA, he again refuted the myth. At this point, he'll probably chuck a beer can at you if you bring it up.
Zanandi also writes for Macaulay Culkin's comedy site, and can be found on Twitter. Abraham loves eating tacos de suadero in his hometown Mexico city. You can say hi to him on Twitter here, or laugh at his bad drawings on DeviantArt here. RG Jordan is not big on social media, but he is big on working and eating food, so you can contact him at RGJordan4@gmail.com if you think his words are funny or insightful. You can follow Mike Bedard on Twitter if you'd like to stay in the Bedard loop.
For more, check out 4 Bulls#!% Facts That Movies Love To Quote - Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder:
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