Despite countless industry awards shows and underrated Cracked articles, not all of the artists and craftsmen behind Hollywood's greatest works get the attention they deserve. For example, there are those who work under the radar -- surprising individuals you'd never expect to be associated with certain properties, let alone responsible for saving them outright. Like the time ...
CBS rejected Gene Roddenberry's outlandish idea for a sci-fi pilot in 1965, calling it "too expensive" and "disappointingly free of simmering, unmentioned sexual tension between a genie and her astronaut master." Enter Lucille Ball, whose Desilu Productions was then one of the largest independent production companies in Hollywood. Even though Ball initially thought Star Trek was a show about traveling USO performers (she ... may have been joking?), she ended up personally involved with the project, overruling her board of directors to make sure the pilot got produced.
The first pilot, titled "The Cage," was a total bust. But when the production company's board was ready to shut it all down again, Ball personally agitated for Star Trek to be given another chance. This led to NBC uncharacteristically ordering a second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," which kept Leonard Nimoy as Spock but also added William Shatner as Captain Kirk. Ball agreed to finance the whole reshoot -- again, over the preferences of her board of directors.
This version of the pilot made it to the fall 1966 schedule and introduced audiences to the Star Trek universe. So if you're a Trek fan, you might want to offer up your thanks by shouting that classic expression: "I harbor affection for Ball!"
In 1998, freelance journalist Ken Li was researching a car theft ring, and stumbled upon a thriving bi-coastal subculture of young people street racing with illegally modified super-cars. The trend started with Asian-American men in California, but eventually migrated to the East Coast, where Dominican, Puerto Rican, Italian, and Jamaican racers felt the NEED for SPEED and the CURIOSITY for FURIOSITY.
Li wrote an article for Vibe about Rafael Estevez, a 30-year-old Dominican street racing star who grew up loving The Dukes Of Hazzard. The article, "Racer X," caught the attention of Hollywood director Rob Cohen, who went and watched a street race himself, then lobbied Universal Pictures to make a film set in this world. They bought the rights to Li's story and developed an early version of The Fast And The Furious, but it ended up getting shelved after the Columbine shooting. They rewrote the film afterwards to make it less overtly gang-related and more of a "fun cool heist" vibe, and the resulting film kicked off a still-running series that's made roughly "a golden Colossus of Rhodes" at the box office.
Let's say you're working as a cab driver and a passenger gets out of the back of your car, leaving behind a notebook filled with drawings of horrifying goat men, children-eating blood monsters, and big frogs. What do you do?
A) Call the police
B) Read its dark incantations
C) Toss it in the trash
D) Track down the owner over the course of a few days because there is no purer soul than you
The correct answer is to burn the book and hope the spirits released by the flame cannot chase you. But at least one man chose D.
When director Guillermo del Toro lost his book containing the accumulated sketches, storylines, and ideas for what eventually became the Oscar-winning Pan's Labyrinth, he was unable to track it down through the cab company or calling the police. But after a couple days, the cab driver himself found del Toro and simply handed him the book, averting disaster and ensuring that we'd all get to see the janky eye-monster rip faeries apart during the Spanish Civil War (thank GOD). Del Toro gave the man an " approximately $900 tip," which sounds extraordinarily generous, but the film did go on to make $80 million. The true lesson here is this: If you ever return an award-winning filmmaker's sketchbook, be sure to ask for points on the back end.
For a certain type of kid who grew up in the '80s -- the kind who rolled their eyes at John Hughes movies and laughed at the thought of Tom Cruise being "a rebellious punk" -- Repo Man was a revelation. It was the closest movies at the time came to representing the punk rock ethos, and gave Gen X-ers a hero they could truly relate to, even if it was Emilio Estevez. But it never would've gotten made if it weren't for a famous musician who felt strongly about the project and stepped in to personally ensure the filmmaker's vision could be shown to the world.
Who was this maverick benefactor who said "Screw you" to the studios? Why, none other than total punk icon and counterculture anarchist ... Michael Nesmith of The Monkees.
Few people would associate Nesmith -- the lanky, beanie-sporting son of the lady who invented Wite-Out -- with being "cool" in any way, shape or form. Yet if it wasn't for him, arguably the rawest flick of 1984 wouldn't exist. After his fake-ish music and TV career wound down, Nesmith used his tween-gotten fortune to produce a number of feature films. In addition to Repo Man, he was also responsible for the John Cusack / Tim Robbins film Tapeheads, and of course that classic Fred Ward vehicle Timerider: The Adventure Of Lyle Swann.
In that dark time before GoPros, it was a 1983 issue of California magazine featuring dramatic photos taken by Lieutenant Commander Charles "Heater" Heatley that sparked Hollywood's interest in the world of fighter pilots. The producers of what would eventually become the movie Top Gun descended on Heatley's base in Miramar, San Diego -- nicknamed "Fightertown USA" -- to consult with the military, maximize the film's authenticity, and blast "Danger Zone" on a loop for a year and a half.
The production paid the Navy a total of $1.8 million to use a real Naval Air station, real aircraft carriers, and real planes flown by actual Navy pilots. To research the script, co-screenwriter Jack Epps Jr. attended Top Gun classes and got flown around in an F-14. Tom Cruise even shadowed elite pilots at the school to pick up tips on, evidently, how to play an insanely reckless dick.
This guy here is Steven Mnuchin:
He's currently secretary of the Treasury, a terrifyingly important executive branch position that involves setting the nation's economic policy and (we assume) autographing every single dollar bill by hand. Last year, you probably saw him in the news, talking up the White House's tax bill. This year, you've more likely heard of him heroically refusing to release the president's tax returns, even though he is required to by law.
If you had to guess what he did before he joined the Cabinet, you might say, "Oh, he was probably at Goldman Sachs or something," and you would be 100% right. But along with his other moneymaking ventures, the guy founded Dune Capital, a hedge fund that put up $500 million to fund a bunch of major films. Stuff like The Devil Wears Prada, the first X-Men films, and a little movie called Avatar, which went on to some success.
Having gotten a taste for Hollywood action, he went on to co-found the production company RatPac-Dune, elevating him to the level of executive producer. He produced films like The Lego Movie, Sully, The Disaster Artist, Edge Of Tomorrow, and Wonder Woman. Some of these movies had enough push that they were bound to get financing from somewhere if not from him, but others, like Mad Max: Fury Road, might not have been made without "that douchebag from the news." Sometimes it's tough to say "Thanks."
For more, check out 7 Real Deleted Endings That Would Have Changed Movie History:
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