10 Fast Facts About The Shape of Water

Kerry Hayes, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Kerry Hayes, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Over the past seven years, Guillermo del Toro has worked to bring the love story between a mute janitor and a fishman from the Amazon to life, and now that he’s finally succeeded, The Shape of Water is a contender both for Best Picture and for Strangest Best Picture Nominee of All Time.

It’s also a delight, drawing on Capra-esque elements of the Golden Age of Hollywood to create a magical haze of optimism and innocence and pure love. Sally Hawkins plays Elisa, the mute janitor who lives above a movie theater and who works at a secret facility where the Cold War-era government stashes Amphibian Man (Doug Jones, with three hours of make-up). It’s Amélie meets The Creature From the Black Lagoon with just a hint of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Here are 10 fast facts about The Shape of Water.

1. IT PREMIERED IN THE THEATER IN WHICH IT WAS SHOT.

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)
Fox Searchlight Pictures

The stunning, turn-of-the-century movie theater that Elisa lives above (and drips water into) is the historic Elgin Theatre in Toronto, Canada. As a nice note of serendipity, it’s also where the film played at its Toronto Film Festival premiere. The Elgin (and its sister theater, the Winter Garden) were built in 1913 and originally designed to host vaudeville acts.

2. ELISA’S LAST NAME HINTS AT HER ORPHAN STATUS.

The main character doesn’t appear to have any family connections throughout the film, relying solely on the friendship of her closeted gay neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) and her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), and her last name suggests that she was abandoned as a child. “Esposito” means “exposed” in Italian and was used as a last name for babies left on the stoops of orphanages or otherwise given up for adoption.

3. HER NAME ALSO OFFERS A CONNECTION TO MY FAIR LADY.

Both Elisa from The Shape of Water and Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) from My Fair Lady are working-class characters who undergo a transformation that allows them to find their own voice. Elisa does that literally in the dreamy musical act where she professes her love, but discovering her voice is largely metaphorical, an act of refusing to remain silent in the face of oppression. The connection is purposeful, too. Hawkins studied Hepburn, among other classic actors, for the role, and Giles has a drawing of Hepburn in his apartment studio.

4. GUILLERMO DEL TORO WAS DRUNK WHEN HE PITCHED THE MOVIE TO HAWKINS.

Actor Sally Hawkins (L) and director Guillermo del Toro attend The 23rd Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 11, 2018 in Santa Monica, California.
Christopher Polk, Getty Images for The Critics' Choice Awards

As the story goes, del Toro was watching Antiques Roadshow when he got a call from Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu, asking him to go to a 2014 Golden Globes party with them, promising they would all get drunk and sing together. Del Toro doesn’t drink often, but he needs a lot of booze to get him buzzed, and after downing a bunch of shots, Cuarón and Iñárritu confessed they weren’t going to drink. On his way to the exit, he ran into Hawkins (who wasn’t supposed to be there). He embraced her, lifted her up, and said, “I’m writing a movie for you! You fall in love with a fish man!”

5. DEL TORO GAVE HIMSELF A BIRTHDAY PRESENT IN THE MOVIE.

October 10th is the fated day that the rains will come to Baltimore and allow Elisa to release Amphibian Man at the docks, so there’s a lingering shot on the rip-off daily calendar page for October 9th, which is del Toro’s birthday.

6. THERE ARE SUBTLE NODS TO OTHER OCTAVIA SPENCER ROLES.

Octavia Spencer and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)
Kerry Hayes, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Spencer plays Elisa’s smart yet weary friend/co-worker Zelda, a role del Toro wrote for her. The Oscar-winning actress noted that the role was a blend of her roles in The Help and Hidden Figures, adding that she “would have played the desk had Guillermo asked” her to. In one scene, Strickland (Michael Shannon) jokes, “What am I doing? Interviewing the help?” while interrogating Zelda and Elisa—a reference to Spencer’s Oscar-earning performance. Later, he claims that God would look like him, or maybe her, but definitely not Amphibian Man; Spencer actually played God in The Shack.

7. DOUG JONES GOT INSPIRATION FROM DOGS AND MATADORS.

It took three hours for Jones to get into the suit and special make-up to become Amphibian Man, which was actually less than normal for the actor who appeared as the Pale Man in del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies. Jones told NPR that, in playing a character that cannot speak, he studied the way dogs respond with their heads and bodies to our vocal tones. He also utilized the pelvis-first movements of matadors to create Amphibian Man’s alluring, fluid body language.

8. A CAR ALMOST CRASHED INTO DEL TORO DURING A SHOT (THAT THEY KEPT IN THE MOVIE).

There’s a scene late in the film when Strickland furiously drives to confront Elisa about harboring Amphibian Man. Michael Shannon was supposed to park outside the movie theater, but he rushed from the car without shifting it out of gear, so the car kept going, crashing through a decorative post. “Shower of sparks,” del Toro told The Hollywood Reporter’s directors’ roundtable. “Goes for the second post, and it’s coming straight for the video system. Everybody says, ‘Run!’ Now, I never run for anything in my life! And I go, ‘I am going to die.’ And the car stops at the second and final post, which is anchored to the ground. Everybody was horrified. And I say, ‘Now I can make my shot.’”

9. THE ONLY CHARACTERS WHO DON’T HAVE TROUBLE COMMUNICATING ARE THE MUTE ONES.

One sly touch that reinforces the film’s subtext of connecting with someone different from you is the ease of communication between Elisa and Amphibian Man, despite not speaking a common language. Their relationship comes effortlessly while, as del Toro explained, “every single character that has the power of speech has problems communicating.”

Strickland sees anything beyond giving or obeying orders as weakness; Giles has to muster the courage to convey his feelings for another man (and when he does, it’s disastrous); Zelda talks near-constantly but can’t find common ground with her husband; and Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) speaks multiple languages, but struggles to find the words to simultaneously placate the KGB and his American colleagues.

10. JONES AND HAWKINS SAID “I LOVE YOU” BEFORE TAKES.

The combination of their innocence and effortless, fiery sensuality was a product of the actors trusting one another, which takes a lot of work. That included taking dance lessons together to get a sense of their mutual physicality, as well as sharing personal insecurities with each other so they could be completely vulnerable. “I was scared,” Jones told the Los Angeles Times. “I think we were both scared. Before almost every take, we’d hold each other, caress each other’s faces, say, ‘I love you. I’m so glad you’re here.’”

7 Weird Super Bowl Halftime Acts

Al Bello, Getty Images
Al Bello, Getty Images

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez seem like natural choices to perform the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl, but the event didn’t always feature musical acts from major pop stars. Michael Jackson kicked off the trend at Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, but prior to that, halftime shows weren’t a platform for the hottest celebrities of the time. They centered around themes instead, and may have featured appearances from Peanuts characters, Jazzercisers, or a magician dressed like Elvis. In honor of Super Bowl LIV on February 2, we’ve rounded up some of the weirdest acts in halftime show history.

1. Return of the Mickey Mouse Club

The era of Super Bowl halftimes before wardrobe malfunctions, illuminati conspiracy theories, and Left Shark was a more innocent time. For 1977’s event, the Walt Disney Company produced a show that doubled as a squeaky-clean promotion of its brand. Themed “Peace, Joy, and Love,” the Super Bowl XI halftime show opened with a 250-piece band rendition of “It’s a Small World (After All).” Disney also used the platform to showcase its recently revamped Mickey Mouse Club.

2. 88 Grand Pianos and 300 Jazzercisers

The theme of the halftime show at Super Bowl XXII in 1988 was “Something Grand.” Naturally, it featured 88 tuxedoed pianists playing 88 grand pianos. Rounding out the program were 400 swing band performers, 300 Jazzercisers, 44 Rockettes, two marching bands, and Chubby Checker telling everyone to “Twist Again."

3. Elvis Impersonator Performs the World’s Largest Card Trick

Many of the music industry's most successful pop stars—like Prince, Madonna, and, uh, Milli Vanilli—were at the height of their fame in 1989, but none of them appeared at Super Bowl XXIII. Instead, the NFL hired an Elvis Presley-impersonating magician to perform. The show, titled “BeBop Bamboozled,” was a tribute to the 1950s, and it featured Elvis Presto performing “the world’s largest card trick.” It also may have included the world's largest eye exam: The show boasted 3D effects, and viewers were urged to pick up special glasses before the game. If the visuals didn't pop like they were supposed to, people were told to see an eye doctor.

4. The Peanuts Salute New Orleans

Super Bowl XXIV featured one of the last halftime acts that was completely devoid of any musical megastars. The biggest celebrity at the 1990 halftime show was Snoopy. Part of the show’s theme was the “40th Anniversary of 'Peanuts,'” and to celebrate the milestone, performers dressed as Peanuts characters and danced on stage. The other half of the theme was “Salute to New Orleans”—not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the comic strip.

5. A Tribute to the Winter Olympics

Super Bowl XXVI preceded the 1992 Winter Olympics—a fact that was made very clear by the event’s halftime. The show was titled “Winter Magic” and it paid tribute to the winter games with ice skaters, snowmobiles, and a cameo from the 1980 U.S. hockey team. Other acts, like a group of parachute-pants-wearing children performing the “Frosty the Snowman Rap,” were more generally winter-themed than specific to the Olympics. About 22 million viewers changed the channel during halftime to watch In Living Color’s Super Bowl special, which may have convinced the NFL to hire Michael Jackson the following year.

6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

“Peace, Joy, and Love” wasn’t the only Disney-helmed Super Bowl halftime. In 1995, Disney produced a halftime show called “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” to tease the new Disneyland ride of the same name. It centered around a skit in which actors playing Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood stole the Vince Lombardi Trophy from an exotic temple, and it included choreographed stunts, fiery special effects, and a snake. Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett were also there.

7. The Blues Brothers, Minus John Belushi

The 1990s marked an odd period for halftime shows as they moved from schlocky themed variety shows to major music events. Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 perfectly encapsulates this transition period. James Brown and ZZ Top performed, but the headliners were the Blues Brothers. John Belushi had been dead for more than a decade by that point, so Jim Belushi took his place beside Dan Aykroyd. John Goodman was also there to promote the upcoming movie Blues Brother 2000. The flashy advertisement didn’t have the impact they had hoped for and the film was a massive flop when it premiered.

15 Fun Facts About Betty White

Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 98th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. Her name is Betty, not Elizabeth.

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. She's a Guinness World Record holder.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. Her first television appearance is lost to history.

A photo of Betty White
Getty Images

Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. White's initial rise to stardom was derailed by World War II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. Her first sitcom hit was in the early 1950s.

A photo of actress Betty White
Getty Images

Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she has won five times.

6. White loves a parade.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. She has been married three times.


Getty Images

White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. Her meet-cute with husband number three happened on Password.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. White originally auditioned for the role of Blanche on The Golden Girls.

A photo of actress Betty White
Getty Images

Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. If she hadn't been an actor, she'd have been a zookeeper.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. She passed on a role in As Good as It Gets because of an animal cruelty scene.

A photo of actress Betty White
Getty Images

White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A Facebook campaign made White the oldest person to ever host Saturday Night Live.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. She is the oldest person to earn an Emmy nomination.


Getty Images

In 2014, White earned an Emmy nod for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. She loves junk food.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. She wants Robert Redford.

A photo of actor Robert Redford
Getty Images

White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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