10 Surprising Facts About Cloverfield

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

On February 4, 2018, football fans (and casual watchers) got an unexpected surprise during Super Bowl LII when Netflix announced that it was dropping The Cloverfield Paradox—the third film in the Cloverfield anthology—that very same night. 

It was just over 10 years ago, on January 18, 2008, that Paramount released the original Cloverfield, a low-budget, found-footage monster film produced by J.J. Abrams, written by Drew Goddard, and directed by Matt Reeves. In the movie, "Cloverfield" was the case name the government gave to the monster that’s destroying New York.

During the summer of 2007, while the movie was still being filmed, the studio released Cloverfield’s first trailer, which was attached to screenings of Transformers. The teaser concluded with the release date—1-18-2008—but the name of the film was withheld. Because people now knew a secret Abrams project was in the works, the filmmakers had to give code names to the movie, like Slusho! and Cheese.

With a budget of $25 million, the film grossed an impressive $170.7 million worldwide, with $40 million of that accumulating during its opening weekend. (At the time it was the biggest opening for a film released in January, but today, 10 years later, it ranks fourth.) In 2016, Abrams resurrected Cloverfield—this time in what he called “a blood relative.”

Paramount released 10 Cloverfield Lane on March 11, 2016, after announcing it two months earlier. It didn’t have much to do with the original film, but was still connected to the burgeoning Cloverfield universe. “It’s like Cloverfield is the amusement park, and each of these movies is a different ride in that park,” Abrams told Vanity Fair of the film's connections. (The Cloverfield Paradox is the latest film in the anthology.) Here are 10 things you might not have known about the movie that started it all.

1. IT WAS INSPIRED BY GODZILLA.

J.J. Abrams had wanted to make a monster movie for a while. He was in Japan with his son, who dragged him to toy stores. “We saw all these Godzilla toys and I thought, we need our own monster, and not King Kong,” Abrams said during a Comic-Con panel. “King Kong’s adorable. I wanted something that was just insane and intense.”

2. GODZILLA DID NOT INFLUENCE THE CLOVER MONSTER’S DESIGN.

Neville Page had the task of designing the 250-foot-tall Cloverfield monster, known as Clover. “I am not recalling being told to not do Godzilla-like designs," Page said. "It was more implicit. Since it was not a Godzilla movie, it would have been a huge mistake to do things like it.”

Realizing the monster needed to be a water creature, Page decided to add a tail to it. The monster is covered with deadly parasites known as HSP (human scale parasites). “I knew that I wanted something thin and vertical and light. Kinda like a flea,” he said about designing the other creatures.

3. THE MONSTER WAS SLIGHTLY CLUMSY, AND THAT WAS ON PURPOSE.

In an interview with io9, Page shared that if the monster seemed a little bit clumsy, there was a reason for that: It's supposed to be a baby. "I would have preferred that it be even clumsier," Page said. "But then it can get comical. Yes, it was the intention that it is a baby and it is not only developing its strength, but also its land legs. The proportions are intended to feel a little like a newborn deer or horse. Long, thin and slightly awkward."

4. LIZZY CAPLAN HAD NO IDEA WHAT SHE SIGNED ON FOR.

When the actors auditioned for the movie, they weren’t told what the film was, and they weren’t given a full script. In fact, the cast read sides from Alias. Lizzy Caplan agreed to star in the film because she was a fan of Lost.

“I was kind of relieved that it wasn’t Star Trek, not because I think Star Trek is going to be anything less than awesome, but just because I think that would be really strange to have no idea and then be in such a recognizable franchise,” she told MovieWeb.

The producers didn’t give her much of a backstory to work with, either. “I just try to think about like how much it would suck to be in a city being attacked by a monster and how much it would really suck to do it with a group of friends you barely knew and you weren’t with your own friends, trying to figure it out,” she said.

5. IT WAS A METAPHOR FOR 9/11.

Paramount Pictures

Even though the film was released several years after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, having a real monster attack New York City became a metaphor for 21st-century anxieties. “[It works] in the same way that Godzilla was really a metaphor for its time, and was a sort of movie about the A-bomb and Hiroshima and all of that,” director Matt Reeves told IGN.

“We wanted to let people live through their wildest fears but be in a safe place where the enemy is the size of a skyscraper instead of some stateless, unseen cowardly terrorist,” Abrams told TIME.

Abrams and the rest of the team looked at handheld videos shot in Iraq as a way to base the film in reality. “In many of these Iraq videos, we felt like we were just missing the most terrifying thing,” Abrams said. However, he said the film was “entertainment” and a throwback to monster movies from his youth. “I hadn’t seen anything that felt that way for many years,” he said. “I felt like there had to be a way to do a monster movie that’s updated and fresh. So we came up with the YouTube-ification of things, the ubiquity of video cameras [and] cell phones with cameras. The age of self-documentation felt like a wonderful prism through which to look at the monster movie.”

6. MATT REEVES DIDN'T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY WANTED HIM TO DIRECT IT. 

At this point in his career, Reeves had mainly written and directed character-based projects, including co-creating Felicity with Abrams and writing and directing the film The Pallbearer.

Drew Goddard and Abrams wrote an outline of the film and asked Reeves to direct it. “I was very taken with it, but I was like, ‘This is huge, it’s visual effects. It’s a monster movie. Why are you thinking of me?’” Reeves told IGN. “They were like, ‘Look, there’s no question, we know you love movies and you can get the monster part. We’re interested in what you would do in terms of the tone, in how you would do that and what you would do with the characters.’ And then I got very excited because the idea of doing sort of an outrageous idea, but doing it sort of naturalistically with a real aesthetic, was a real exciting idea. So that got me hooked. I jumped in.”

7. THERE WAS A NOD TO ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK.

Paramount Pictures

In the film and in the trailer, the monster knocks the Statue of Liberty’s head into the street. Reeves said the idea came from the poster for John Carpenter's Escape from New York.

“The poster had an image on it of the head of the Statue of Liberty and that image was nowhere in the movie! And it’s an incredibly provocative image,” Reeves told IGN. “And that was the source that inspired J.J. to say, ‘Now this would be an interesting idea for a movie.’”

8. A LOT OF MOVIEGOERS VOMITED.

Because the film featured shaky, handheld images, many viewers experienced vertigo and got sick, similar to what happened during The Blair Witch Project’s theatrical run. Theaters had to post signs saying: “Due to the filming method used for Cloverfield, guests viewing this film may experience side effects associated with motion sickness, similar to riding a roller coaster.” AMC offered to refund those audience members who found the experience too unpleasant to watch.

Thankfully, 10 Cloverfield Lane was not filmed in the same manner. 

9. NOT ALL OF THE ACTORS WERE CONVINCED THE MOVIE WOULD BE ANY GOOD.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, T.J. Miller revealed that both he and co-star Lizzy Caplan weren't confident the concept would pan out. “Even when we were filming, I kept talking to Lizzy Caplan, and she and I would be like, ‘I don’t think this is going to work. I don’t think this is going to be good,’” he said. “We knew there was buzz around it, and J.J. was good at that, and as it got closer to the release date, we started to watch the fan boards and hear what they had to say about everything, and it was pretty amazing. I’d never seen anybody position a movie like that.”

10. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE COINCIDENTALLY ALIGNED WITH CLOVERFIELD.

Michele K. Short, Paramount Pictures

Josh Campbell and Matthew Stucken wrote a script entitled The Cellar, and Abrams’s production company bought it. “We began developing the story, and we came upon some things where it became clear to us that we were in a very interesting place, because the story was wholly original, a very different situation, different characters from anything we’ve done,” Abrams told Entertainment Weekly. "But the spirit of it, the genre of it, the heart of it, the fear factor, the comedy factor, the weirdness factor—there were so many elements that felt like the DNA of this story were of the same place that Cloverfield was born out of."

Despite the shared DNA, Abrams didn’t want it to be a sequel. “We very intentionally didn’t call this movie Cloverfield 2, but we realized that there was enough of a connection, and the movie was good enough that it warranted this association in a way that we think is justified and exciting,” he said.

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Wayfair
Wayfair

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From Ear to Eternity: When Mike Tyson Bit Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

As the 16,000 spectators began filing out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, following a night of fights on June 28, 1997, MGM employee Mitch Libonati noticed something strange on the floor of the boxing ring. He later described it as being roughly the size of a fingernail, with the texture of a piece of hot dog or sausage.

It was no concession stand remnant. It was a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Wrapping the morsel of flesh in a latex glove, Libonati hurried backstage, where Holyfield was conferring with officials and doctors after his opponent, Mike Tyson, had been disqualified for biting him on the left ear. In all the commotion, Libonati wasn't allowed inside the room. But Michael Grant, one of Holyfield’s training partners, accepted the ear fragment on Holyfield’s behalf.

Libonati’s discovery was the climax to one of boxing’s most controversial and bizarre evenings, one in which "Iron" Mike Tyson—the most famous fighter of his era—meted out a savage reprimand for what he perceived was dirty fighting on the part of Holyfield. The ear-biting far exceeded the brutal underpinnings of boxing and added to Tyson's reputation as a frenzied combatant both in and out of the ring.

 

Mike Tyson’s collision with Evander Holyfield had started when the two were just teenagers. On the amateur circuit, they had sparred together—not quite knowing the heights each would achieve, but understanding the other would be a formidable obstacle if they were to ever meet as professionals.

Evander Holyfield (L) had success against Mike Tyson (R) early on.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Tyson was a prodigy, having won the heavyweight championship of the world in 1986 at the age of 19 and dominating the division up until an upset loss to James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo, Japan, in 1990. Holyfield was the lighter fighter at cruiserweight (190 pounds), moving up to the heavyweight division in 1988 and gaining respect for his trilogy with Riddick Bowe.

Long before that fateful night in 1997, Tyson's personal life had started to overshadow his accomplishments inside the ring: An allegedly abusive marriage to actress Robin Givens darkened his image in the media and ended in a very public divorce after just one year. In 1992, a rape conviction sidelined the fighter for more than three years while he served out his prison sentence.

When Tyson returned to the ring, he rattled off a string of wins against fighters not quite at his level, including Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr., Frank Bruno, and Bruce Seldon. Holyfield had stepped away from competition in 1994, but as Tyson knocked off inferior opponents, talk of a bout with Holyfield intensified. Finally, the two met in Las Vegas on November 9, 1996, with Tyson a 17-1 favorite over the semi-retired Holyfield.

Holyfield would prove his doubters wrong. Through 11 rounds of action, he outmaneuvered and outclassed Tyson by negating his opponent's power with movement and volume. Holyfield also landed headbutts that were declared unintentional, but to Tyson seemed deliberate. Before the fight could see a 12th round, Holyfield knocked Tyson down and earned a technical knockout victory.

 

While it was an undoubtedly disappointing moment for Tyson, an upset in boxing virtually guarantees a lucrative rematch deal. Both men agreed to meet a second time, with Holyfield earning $35 million and Tyson getting $30 million. Tyson’s camp, however, insisted that the referee from the first bout, Mitch Halpern, not be booked for the second, because Tyson felt he failed to call the illegal headbutts. The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t want to be seen capitulating to Tyson’s demands, but Halpern stepped aside voluntarily. So referee Mills Lane took his place.

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) first met as amateurs.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Before a huge crowd full of A-list celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and a then-record 1.99 million households that had purchased the event on pay-per-view, Tyson and Holyfield met for a second time at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 28, 1997. While Holyfield took the first round, Tyson appeared fit and adaptive, and came out blazing in round two. Then, just as Tyson had feared, Holyfield’s headbutt struck him again.

The clash of heads opened a cut over Tyson’s right eye, which threatened to obscure his vision as the fight went on. It also opened a reservoir of frustration in the fighter that would manifest in a spectacularly violent way.

Coming out for the third round, Tyson had forgotten his mouthpiece and had to go back and retrieve it—a foreshadowing of things to come. His aggression was working against Holyfield, but with 40 seconds left in the round, the two clinched up. Tyson moved his mouth so it was near Holyfield’s right ear. With his mouthpiece still in place, he clamped down on the ear, ripped the top off, and spat it along with his mouthguard onto the canvas.

Holyfield jumped up in the air in shock and pain. Referee Mills Lane was initially confused by what had happened until Holyfield’s trainers, Don Turner and Tommy Brooks, yelled out what Tyson had done. Lane called for a doctor then told Marc Ratner, the executive director of the athletic commission, that he was going to end the fight. Ratner asked if he was sure. Seeing Holyfield was bleeding from his ear but otherwise ready to fight, Lane waved the two men back into competition.

Incredibly, Tyson bit Holyfield a second time, this time on the left ear, before the round ended. This time, Lane was aware of what was happening and had seen enough. Before the start of the fourth round, he disqualified Tyson.

 

That was far from the end of it. Realizing he had lost the fight, Tyson grew incensed, shoving Holyfield from behind and pawing at the security guards who had stormed the ring in an attempt to restore order.

After the bout, Tyson didn’t appear to be overly contrite. He explained that he was frustrated at Holyfield headbutting him without being penalized, and said he had lost control.

An emotional Mike Tyson reacts to his disqualification loss to Evander Holyfield.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

“Listen,” Tyson said. “Holyfield is not the tough warrior everyone says he is. He got a nick on his ear and he quit.”

Tyson believed his retaliation was justified. “This is my career," he said. "I’ve got children to raise and this guy keeps butting me, trying to cut me and get me stopped on cuts. I’ve got to retaliate. What else could I do? He didn’t want to fight. I’m ready to fight right now. Regardless of what I did, he’s been butting me for two fights. I got one eye. He’s not impaired. He’s got ears. I’ve got to go home and my kids will be scared of me. Look at me, look at me, look at me!”

Two days later, Tyson issued a tempered apology in an effort to minimize the consequences, but it was too late. In addition to losing his boxing license in the state of Nevada, Tyson was fined 10 percent of his purse, or $3 million, which was thought to be the largest fine in sports at the time.

 

Tyson could never entirely shake the stigma of his actions. When a lucrative bout with Lennox Lewis was being planned in 2002, the fight ultimately ended up taking place in Memphis, Tennessee; Nevada refused to restore Tyson's license following a press conference brawl between the two men.

Tyson ultimately continued competing through 2005, when he lost his last bout to Kevin McBride. Holyfield retired in 2011. Earlier this year, the 54-year-old Tyson expressed a desire to return to the ring. The fighter once known as "The Baddest Man on the Planet" is scheduled to fight Roy Jones Jr. on November 28, 2020. Yet Holyfield, now 57 years old, remains a possible future opponent.

The two have occasionally interacted in public in interviews, with Tyson expressing remorse and Holyfield admitting he briefly thought about biting Tyson on his face right back. The pair even filmed a spot for Foot Locker in which Tyson “gave” Holyfield the missing piece of his ear.

In reality, Holyfield never did get his ear back. After Mitch Libonati handed it over to Michael Grant, the piece somehow fell out of the latex glove while being transported to the hospital.

Many fighters talk about leaving a little piece of themselves in the ring. It’s usually metaphorical. For Evander Holyfield, it was simply the truth.