4 Famous People Who Accidentally Created Classic Movies
Our culture is absolutely obsessed with celebrities, despite the fact that, guys, they poop just like everyone else, guys. Once you realize that, it's hard to give a shit (... I'm not sorry) about the lives of the rich and famous, unless of course you happen to like movies. Because if you do, then you actually should pay attention to the comings and goings of celebrities, seeing as they can sometimes inspire the creation of some really awesome movies. And I'm not talking about A-list actors signing up for a project and finally getting it greenlighted by the studio. No, I'm talking about the time when ...
An Arnold Schwarzenegger Speech Gave Us the Premise of Little Miss Sunshine
The runaway success of the hit indie film Little Miss Sunshine is made even more impressive by the fact that it's a movie entirely about a family of depressing, borderline-crazy people like the drug-addicted grandpa (drugpa), the angsty son who's taken a vow of silence, and the painfully uninspiring motivational speaker father.
Who nonetheless have nothing on parents that dress their kids up like Bratz strippers.
Stick those characters in a van and have them drive hundreds of miles to a child beauty pageant, and a heart-warming comedy-drama about the importance of family is the last thing you'd expect to happen (the first one, of course, being a trip to the hospital after everyone gets their stories straight about how they've all busted their lips at the same time). And since we're already on the topic of dysfunctional families: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Did you know that Arnold Schwarzenegger hates "losers," going as far as to say that he despises them in a speech he gave to a bunch of high school kids? Even if you didn't, it's hardly surprising. Schwarzenegger's entire career has been built around competitions (elections, movie auditions, steroid-eating contests, etc.), slowly turning him into the sort of person who, I'm guessing, would never want to be friends with the success-challenged heroes of Little Miss Sunshine. Actually, scratch that. I know that Schwarzenegger wouldn't want to be friends with them, because according to the film's screenwriter, Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine and its cast of character were written specifically to spite the aging, loser-hating bodybuilder.
Apparently, when Arndt had first read about Schwarzenegger's speech, he found it so horribly misguided that he had to go and punch a keyboard out of frustration. Then, when he looked up, he noticed that he'd accidentally written down the basic outline of a story about losers the audience would root for.
And who could rock a headband 10 times better than Arnie.
Arndt then tried to figure out how Schwarzenegger ever became so rich and famous, coming to the conclusion that it was thanks to him swelling up with muscle like a giant flesh balloon, which sounds insane when you really think about it. So he looked for some other type of competition that would make you sound a bit crazy if you got really obsessed with it. In the end, he found the perfect candidate in a child beauty pageant and decided to center the entire movie on that, meaning that the Little Miss Sunshine we know and love probably wouldn't have existed without Arnold Schwarzenegger being a total ass that one time.
The Iron Giant Started Out as a Weird Pete Townshend Rock Opera
The Iron Giant tells the story of an amnesiac alien robot landing in Maine during the Cold War and befriending a little boy named Hogarth, who must then hide the giant's existence from the government. If you've never seen it, think something along the lines of "E.T. meets the epic finale of The Avengers."
Then immediately start bawling your eyes out.
If you have seen the movie, then I bet your favorite part is the ending, when the giant saves Hogarth's town from a nuclear missile, seemingly sacrificing his own life in the process. But it might interest you to know that originally the film was supposed to end a bit differently, with the robot battling a "Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon" to the music of the English rock band the Who.
Drugs may have been involved.
Before there was The Iron Giant, there first was The Iron Man, a 1968 book by Ted Hughes about an alien robot that lands on Earth, befriends a little boy named Hogarth, and then "fights" some sort of Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon. The story doesn't really provide an explanation for what the creature is. It just suddenly shows up and ends up singing a magical hippie song that brings about world peace. Yeah, it's that kind of book.
But sandwiched between the novel and the movie like a piece of delicious missing link ham lies The Iron Man: The Musical, an experimental rock opera by the Who's guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend. Townshend discovered the book in the '80s and became interested in it due to, one would assume, its relative sanity compared to everything else he'd ever recorded. He and two remaining the Who members then decided to immortalize Hughes' story about an alien-dragon-battling mechanoid in the only way that did justice to the source material: through weird songs where Hogarth is taught about love by talking forest animals.
As you might have guessed, the musical was poorly received, although that probably also had something to do with its uninspired cover art that more resembled the logo of a PC game company:
"So, do you want like a robot punching an alien dragon, or ..."
"No, I have a much better idea."
However, in 1993, The Iron Man: The Musical did get its own London stage show adaptation, after which one of the producers thought that it could actually translate well to the big screen. Calls were made, and soon Warner Bros. bought the movie rights from Townshend (without whom the studio would never have heard about The Iron Man outside of a Marvel comic book) and then hired Brad Bird as the director. Bird then immediately threw out all of Townshend's songs and a lot of the original story and decided to instead base the project on one question: "What if a gun had a soul?"
When informed of this, Townshend, ever the uncompromising artist, simply replied: "Well, whatever. I got paid." And that, kids, is the inspiring story of the beautiful 1999 animated movie that got you beat up in school by making you cry in front of the whole goddamn cinema.
Miss Congeniality Was Based on Ellen DeGeneres Getting Ready for the Emmys
In Miss Congeniality (2000), Sandra Bullock plays Gracie Hart, a tough-as-nails FBI special agent who must infiltrate a beauty pageant filled with slightly taller Bratz strippers to stop a deadly domestic terrorist. She of course does (kind of), and she falls in love along the way, because the entire movie was little more than a Hollywood retelling of the classic "fish out of water" story where you give the fish a gun and a pair of combat boots.
Admittedly, it's a very sexy fish, but ... I have no idea how to finish this sentence.
Don't get me wrong: Miss Congeniality might be a predictable action/romance comedy, but as far as those go, it's an excellently done predictable action/romance comedy filled with tons of amazing performances by incredibly talented actors. My favorite must be William Shatner doing a sort of self-parody where he plays an annoying has-been desperately clinging to his glorious past, because I like to imagine that they just put him in front of the camera without a script and told him to do whatever.
The only real problem with the film is that most of its comedy comes from how unfeminine and graceless Bullock's character was (and yet the movie won zero Oscars for Best Special Effects), which kind of dates it a little. If you tried making a movie about "women failing to be women" nowadays, the audience would probably dig up your childhood pet and force you to eat it on live television, which I hardly think is fair. Not everyone is great at things traditionally associated with their gender, you know. Just look at Ellen DeGeneres: She's a woman, but when she was being coached to look poised and, well, womanly for the Emmy Awards, the results were so hilarious that her ineptitude actually went on to inspire the story of Miss Congeniality.
Thankfully, the part where Gracie brutally murders a swan to make
an impromptu dress was cut from the final draft.
At least that's what DeGeneres herself claims. She explains that, while preparing to co-host the 46th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1994, she had to hire a coach to teach her how to walk properly in high heels and be graceful, because all those times DeGeneres played a clumsy/awkward character on TV weren't exactly a testament to her acting ability, apparently.
The whole training thing had purportedly become such a hilarious ordeal that when one of the future writers of Miss Congeniality saw it on TV, they decided that DeGeneres' story absolutely needed to be told in a blockbuster comedy film about a tomboyish FBI agent who gets turned into a beauty queen by Michael Caine. Although why the writer then decided to have the Ellen DeGeneres stand-in sweatily wrestle guys to the ground and appear in loads of fetishistic garb is anyone's guess.
Ellen DeGeneres has since gotten a restraining order against the writer of the movie.
The Batman TV Series Was Inspired by Hugh Hefner
Disclaimer: Yes, I know that the Batman TV series is not a movie. No, I don't care. Yes, you're absolutely right, sharing the link to this article with everyone you know would be the best way to express your dissatisfaction with the inaccuracy of this column's title. That will show me.
So ... I love Batman. I love him so much that if I were a raging douchebag, I'd have to follow that statement up with a "No homo." But I'm not, so I'll just say that my fascination with the character even extends to the silly 1960s Batman TV show.
I have my reasons.
Make all the gay jokes about it that you want, the fact is that the ABC series was the perfect representation of the Caped Crusader comic books at the time. It was also funny as shit. A lot of that came down to Adam West, one of the funniest, just all-around best people in entertainment, who made it possible to laugh earnestly at a character known for being darker than a bag of kittens in a trash compactor. That's why, as a Batman fan, I will never be ashamed of this version of the character, which sadly I can't say about the 1940s Batman serials.
Which I'm pretty sure started out as an amateur Batman porno.
In 1943 and 1949, Columbia Pictures released two Batman films as 15-chapter serials, marking the Dark Knight's first ever cinematic appearance. All you really need to know about them is that the villain in the first one was a racist "Japanese" mad scientist played by totes white guy J. Carrol Naish.
The Columbia movies also had nonexistent budgets and less care for the source material than Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. In fact, they were such train wrecks that in the early '60s professional lucky SOB and inventor of the jealousy Hugh Hefner (of Playboy fame) began showing the serials in the Chicago Playboy Club so he and his guests could make fun of them.
According to industry rumors, one such screening was attended by an unnamed ABC executive who was surprised by the audience's positive reactions to a silly Batman, and then decided that ABC should totally get in on that racket. And while they were at it, the executive reckoned, they should make the character actually resemble Hugh Hefner, because why mess with the winning formula of Playboy + Batman = comedy gold?
And God bless them for that.
Soon, the network was ready with their own comedic Caped Crusader, who, no matter how you look at it, did bear a lot of resemblance to the founder of Playboy. He was suave, well-spoken, charismatic, even a bit James Bond-like, which might not have happened if it had been anyone else organizing the movie screenings.
That jacket, for example, could have been a completely different color.
Whether Hefner had a real impact on the Batman TV series is up for debate, but this is what we know for sure: Originally, ABC was planning a more serious Batman series with NFL star Mike Henry in the main role, but then changed their minds and went for a more campy approach around the time of the Batman parties held in the Playboy Club. In any case, let's just be grateful that no ABC executives were attending Batman serial screenings in John Wayne's house.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist and editor. Contact him at email@example.com. Also, be sure to check out Jacopo della Quercia's awesome new book, The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy.