15 Facts About John Carpenter’s Christine

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Start your engines for the scariest Stephen King adaptation courtesy of the master of horror, John Carpenter. While Christine isn’t the most high-profile release in either King or Carpenter’s careers, the movie about an evil 1958 Plymouth Fury that possesses its owner remains a beloved cult classic that still spins the wheels of horror fans to this day. Here are some facts about Christine, which turns 35 this year.

1. STEPHEN KING PITCHED THE MOVIE TO GET MADE.

Producer Richard Kobritz helped adapt Stephen King’s novel Salem’s Lot as a TV miniseries in 1979, and the author asked Kobritz whether he’d be up for adapting any more of his works. King initially sent the producer the manuscript for Cujo, which Kobritz didn’t like (the book would eventually be published in 1981 with a movie adaptation also in 1983). When he passed on that, King sent over the manuscript for Christine, which Kobritz optioned because he identified with how it inverted "America's obsession with the motorcar."

2. JOHN CARPENTER SIGNED ON SIMPLY BECAUSE HE WANTED A JOB.

Kobritz approached John Carpenter after the critical and financial failure of his 1982 adaptation of The Thing, which is now widely regarded as one of the filmmaker’s best.

The pair previously worked together on Carpenter’s 1978 TV movie Someone’s Watching Me! and Carpenter agreed to take on the project because he wanted to jump immediately into another movie after his first high-profile box office flop.

3. CARPENTER AND THE SCREENWRITER WERE STEPHEN KING VETERANS.

Christine wasn’t Carpenter’s first foray into adapting the twisted mind of Stephen King. He was originally supposed to direct the adaptation of Firestarter, but was fired from the project because of the poor performance of The Thing. (Firestarter was eventually released in 1984 and directed by Mark L. Lester.)

Carpenter’s screenwriter on his version of Firestarter was Bill Phillips, who jumped ship once Carpenter was let go and joined up as the screenwriter on Christine once Kobritz hired Carpenter.

4. HORROR HITS AT THE TIME FORCED CHANGES TO THE SCRIPT.

In King’s book, Christine is seemingly haunted by her former owner, Roland D. LeBay, who appears to mild-mannered nerd Arnie in the backseat of the car as a rotting corpse taunting the car’s new owner.

Phillips, looking to distinguish his script from the book—as well as preemptively cut costs for what would inevitably be an expensive corpse effect—chose to cut Roland from the movie and instead have LeBay’s younger brother George sell Christine to Arnie.

Phillips also made the cut because a talking corpse taunting a movie’s main character was also used in John Landis’s 1981 horror-comedy classic An American Werewolf in London, when Griffin Dunne haunts his best friend, David Naughton’s protagonist character, and he didn’t want to seem redundant.

5. HIT SONGS PLAYED A PART IN SCRIPT CHANGES, TOO.

Each of the chapters in King’s book begins with a corresponding 1950s rock n' roll lyric, which inspired Phillips to include rock music cues written directly into scenes in his script. But he wanted to include a more contemporary song to set the tone for the movie. He found it when he saw the music video for “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers playing on MTV. (Christine ended up being the first movie to use the song, which has now been used in countless movies and TV shows since.)

Carpenter loved the song so much that he invited Thorogood to have a cameo in the film as one of the junkyard employees at the end of the movie, but he chose to cut the scene because Thorogood’s acting wasn’t good enough.

As was his normal approach, Carpenter also wrote the electronic score with collaborator Alan Howarth, which they completely improvised to the final cut of the movie. The score shares similar themes with the infamous 1982 Michael Myers-less sequel, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which Carpenter produced and also wrote the music for with Howarth.

6. THE STUDIO WANTED A HARD R RATING.

Alexandra Paul and Keith Gordon in 'Christine' (1983)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Columbia Pictures wanted to take advantage of the ratings system and King’s reputation to have Christine be a hard-R-rated movie. But Carpenter specifically joined the project to get away from the blood, guts, and splatter that defined his previous movie, The Thing. Plus, most of the car-related carnage in Christine doesn’t involve gore.

So to achieve the MPAA rating the studio wanted, Carpenter simply had Phillips expound upon King’s colorful curse words used in the book to have the high school-aged characters constantly swear.

7. CARPENTER DIDN’T WANT TO CAST MOVIE STARS.

Columbia execs wanted a star-studded cast to round out their King adaptation, and suggested that Brooke Shields—coming off the hit film The Blue Lagoonbe cast as Leigh, and Scott Baio be cast as Arnie. But Carpenter didn’t want recognizable faces in the movie as a way to stress that the titular car was the real star of the movie.

8. KEVIN BACON WAS ORIGINALLY CAST AS ARNIE.

Carpenter held auditions in California and New York, looking for the right fresh faces for the teen characters in the film, and he found the perfect newcomer for Arnie: Kevin Bacon.

The now-famous actor’s only other significant work at the time was bit parts in Animal House and Friday the 13th, and Kobritz and Carpenter thought Arnie’s transformation from dweeby hero to suave villain was a perfect fit for Bacon. But after being cast, Bacon dropped out when he was offered a starring role in Footloose.

Carpenter went back the the drawing board to cast Arnie, and eventually found actor Keith Gordon in a play in New York City. Carpenter initially took to Gordon as Arnie because of the actor’s previous appearance in Brian De Palma’s thriller Dressed to Kill.

9. CARPENTER HAD A DRIVING MISHAP ON HIS FIRST DAY.

John Stockwell and Keith Gordon in 'Christine' (1983)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The assembly-line opening of the movie was the first scene shot for Christine, but the director almost didn’t make it to the set. On the way to the massive warehouse in the San Fernando Valley where they were shooting the scene, which had been outfitted to look like a post-World War II Detroit factory, Carpenter was pulled over by the highway patrol because they thought he was drunk or speeding. Carpenter eventually made it, and was able to get the shots for the day.

Christine’s origin story sequence was the only part of the movie shot on Fuji film to give it a softer, more period-appropriate look. The rest of the movie was shot using Kodak film to make the scenes sharper and more contemporary.

10. THE PRODUCTION REUSED A KEY SET.

Darnell’s Auto Body Shop was shot at a massive warehouse space previously used as a wire factory during World War II, and located in Irwindale, California—and it was more than just a set. Production designers used half of the space to stand in as the actual garage and junkyard, but the other half was used as a body shop to assemble and fix the numerous versions of Christine used in the actual movie.

11. CARPENTER’S DIRECTING STYLE WAS INSPIRED BY HIS ROVING MOVIE MONSTER.

In his genre-defining classic Halloween, Carpenter was among the first filmmakers to use the Panaglide camera system, a predecessor to the ubiquitous Steadicam system used today that allows handheld shots to seamlessly glide anywhere the operator chooses.

Carpenter revisited the technique extensively in Christine, relying on the Panaglide and long dolly shots for the visual aesthetic of the movie with the movement of the camera representing the relentless and rolling nature of Christine.

12. THERE WAS A CAR FOR EVERYTHING.

Since there were no big expensive movie stars in the film, Carpenter allotted a large portion of the budget toward 17 different versions of Christine created for the movie.

Those 17 complete cars were reassembled from 24 different models of the 1958 Plymouth Fury the production tracked down and refurbished from across the country in pre-production. A different Christine was used depending on what happened in particular scenes. The special effects team, led by supervisor Roy Arbogast—known for his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kindput together reinforced Christines for stunts; Christines with souped-up engines; spotless, camera-ready Christines and more.

All but two of the 17 Christines made for the movie were destroyed.

13. CHRISTINE’S RESURRECTION HAPPENED AFTER PRODUCTION WRAPPED.

Carpenter originally had the scene where Christine resurrects herself in front of Arnie happen offscreen, but a lack of special effects in an initial cut made Carpenter think some needed to be added. He asked Arbogast to create the pre-CGI effects of Christine going from completely trashed to totally spotless after production wrapped.

The effect was achieved by hitting carefully placed hydraulic clamps positioned inside one of the Christines, filming it upside down so the gravity would trick the eye into thinking it looked more real, and playing the footage backwards in the final film.

14. KEITH GORDON WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN CHOOSING HIS WARDROBE.

Gordon was initially given contemporary wardrobe to wear as Arnie, but after reading the script he helped develop his character’s fashion changes as he becomes more and more possessed by Christine.

Gordon suggested that as his character becomes more evil, his wardrobe should become more and more over-the-top to reflect his crazed mental state. At Gordon’s suggestion, as the movie progresses, Arnie’s clothes add more deep reds to the color scheme (just like Christine), and become a mix between a 1950s greaser and a bad guy in a western.

15. THE PRODUCTION BUILT A GAS STATION JUST TO DESTROY IT.

A scene from John Carpenter's 'Christine' (1983)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Stunt coordinator Terry Leonard, perhaps best known for doubling Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies, did most of the stunt driving for Christine. Most notably, Leonard supervised and was the driver for the gas station sequence where the entire building explodes and a flame-covered Christine careens out of the destruction to chase down school bully Buddy Repperton (played by then-actor William Ostrander, who is currently a Democratic candidate for District 35 of the California State Assembly).

Throughout the sequence, Leonard wore a fireproof suit equipped with limited oxygen to keep him safe for the duration of the stunt. Given the blacked out windshield and side windows of the evil Christine, Leonard had to complete the stunt without being able to see anything.

The 11 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Wilson Webb/Netflix

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 11 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may be in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town.

2. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail.

3. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro takes on the life of pugilist Jake LaMotta in a landmark and Oscar-winning film from Martin Scorsese that frames LaMotta's violent career in stark black and white. Joe Pesci co-stars.

4. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family.

5. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

6. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in this black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks.

7. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear stars in this drama based on a true story about inventor Robert Kearns, who revolutionized automobiles with his intermittent windshield wiper. Instead of getting rich, Kearns is ripped off by the automotive industry and engages in a years-long battle for recognition.

8. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

9. Cop Car (2015)

When two kids decide to take a police cruiser for a joyride, the driver (Kevin Bacon) begins a dogged pursuit. No good cop, he's got plenty to hide.

10. Taxi Driver (1976)

Another De Niro and Scorsese collaboration hits the mark, as Taxi Driver is regularly cited as one of the greatest American films ever made. De Niro is a potently single-minded Travis Bickle, a cabbie in a seedy '70s New York who wants to be an avenging angel for victims of crime. The mercurial Bickle, however, is just as unhinged as those he targets.

11. Sweet Virginia (2017)

Jon Bernthal lumbers through this thriller as a former rodeo star whose career has left him physically broken. Now managing a hotel in small-town Alaska, he stumbles onto a plot involving a murderer-for-hire (Christopher Abbott), upending his quiet existence and forcing him to take action.

The Definitive Guide to All the Cats in Cats

James Corden, Laurie Davidson, and Francesca Hayward star in Tom Hooper's Cats (2019).
James Corden, Laurie Davidson, and Francesca Hayward star in Tom Hooper's Cats (2019).
Universal Pictures

Regardless of whether you were impressed, confused, or downright frightened by the trailer for Tom Hooper’s upcoming film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical Cats, it’s safe to say that the star-studded cast and “digital fur technology” generated strong reactions all around. And, if you didn’t grow up listening to the soundtrack or watching performers in the 1998 film version purr and prance in furry, feline bodysuits, your shock is completely understandable.

Cats is light on plot, heavy on characters, and sprinkled with words that T.S. Eliot made up for his 1939 poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the basis for the musical. To familiarize yourself with all the eccentrically named cats—and find out who’s portraying them in the film—here’s a comprehensive list of every "romantical, pedantical, critical, parasitical, allegorical, metaphorical, statistical, and mystical" cat you’ll meet.

Admetus

admetus cats film 1998
Really Useful Films

Played by: Eric Underwood

Admetus is a ginger and white chorus cat with no spoken lines, but plenty of strong dancing sequences—perfect for former Royal Ballet soloist Eric Underwood. Though some musical productions have renamed Admetus as Plato (both names are mentioned in “The Naming of Cats”), the film will feature them as two separate characters.

Alonzo

Played by: Bluey Robinson

Alonzo is another chorus cat, identifiable by the black patches of fur on his face and the black-and-white stripes on his head. Apart from his ensemble appearances, he has intermittent solo lines and also assists Munkustrap during the fight against Macavity. Since singer/songwriter Bluey Robinson will portray him in the film, it’s possible that Alonzo will dance less than he has in stage productions.

Asparagus, the Theatre Cat

Played by: Sir Ian McKellen

Nicknamed “Gus,” this elderly, trembling tabby has an impressive acting history, which he recounts at length during his song (along with a few disparaging comments about how the theater isn’t what it once was, and kittens these days aren’t properly trained). Who better to play one of the Jellicles’ most well-respected thespians than one of the humans' most well-respected thespians, Sir Ian McKellen?

Bombalurina

Played by: Taylor Swift

Though Bombalurina is only mentioned by name once (in “The Naming of Cats”), she’s pretty hard to miss: the slinky, red-coated cat helps introduce Jennyanydots, the Rum Tum Tugger, Grizabella, Bustopher Jones, and Macavity. She most often sings with Demeter, her duet partner for “Macavity the Mystery Cat.”

Bustopher Jones

Played by: James Corden

Known as “the Brummell of cats,” this black-and-white, epicurean dandy frequents gentlemen’s clubs, wears white spats, and weighs a whopping 25 pounds. Jones’s genial manner endears him to just about everyone—not unlike James Corden.

Cassandra

cassandra in 1998's cats film
Really Useful Films

Played by: Mette Towley

With her sleek brown coat and her regal, mysterious manner, Cassandra seems like she might’ve been worshipped by ancient Egyptians in a past life. You might recognize Mette Towley, a member of Pharrell’s dance group, The Baes, from her appearances in 2019’s Hustlers and Rihanna’s “Lemon” music video—and you can be sure that she’ll uphold Cassandra’s legacy as one of the most eye-catching chorus cats.

Coricopat and Tantomile

Played by: Jaih Betote and Zizi Strallen

These striped twin tabby cats always move in unison and boast psychic abilities. Though the roles are sometimes cut from theatrical productions, we’ll get to see them in the film, played by hip hop dancer Jaih Betote and Zizi Strallen, best known for her work as Mary Poppins in the recent West End revival.

Demeter

demeter in 1998's cats film
Really Useful Films

Played by: Daniela Norman

This multicolored, slightly skittish cat usually duets with Bombalurina, and together they perform “Macavity the Mystery Cat” in full. It’s often implied that Demeter has a complicated romantic past with Macavity, who tries to abduct her during his attack. British ballet dancer Daniela Norman will star opposite Taylor Swift’s Bombalurina in the film, and you can also see her in Netflix’s upcoming ballet drama series Tiny Pretty Things.

Grizabella, the Glamour Cat

Played by: Jennifer Hudson

This aging starlet is now decrepit, depressed, and shamefully rejected by the rest of the Jellicles—think Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond with more self-awareness and very raggedy fur. Even if the Cats original cast recording wasn’t the soundtrack for your childhood road trips, you might have heard Grizabella’s song “Memory;” it’s been covered by Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, Glee’s Chris Colfer, and more. American Idol alum (and general ballad-belting powerhouse) Jennifer Hudson will bring her Academy Award-winning talents to the role of Grizabella in the film.

Growltiger and Griddlebone

Played by: Ray Winstone and Melissa Madden Gray

Growltiger, a rough-riding sea captain cat, and Griddlebone, his fluffy white lover, appear during “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” during which Gus reminisces about having played the part of Growltiger in a stage production long ago. The characters have been left out of some productions, including the 1998 film, but Hooper’s version will feature them, where they'll be played by British actor Ray Winstone and Australian performer Melissa Madden Gray (whose stage name, fittingly, is Meow Meow).

Jellylorum

Played by: Freya Rowley

Named after T.S. Eliot’s own cat, Jellylorum is a maternal calico who cares for Gus and also helps introduce Jennyanydots and Bustopher Jones. Though sometimes portrayed as older and more mature than some of the other cats, Freya Rowley (who performed as Tantomile on the UK tour of Cats) will likely bring a younger energy to the character.

Jennyanydots, the Old Gumbie Cat

Played by: Rebel Wilson

Jennyanydots is a goofy old tabby cat who lazes around all day and spends her nights teaching the basement vermin various household skills, etiquette, and performing arts. Under her tutelage, the mice learn to crochet, the cockroaches become helpful boy scouts, and the beetles form a tap-dancing troupe. Rebel Wilson is a perfect match for such a multifaceted, eccentric, and amusing gumbie cat (whatever gumbie is).

Macavity, the Mystery Cat

Played by: Idris Elba

The show’s main antagonist is a tall, thin criminal cat with sunken eyes and dusty ginger fur. While the Jellicles are plainly terrified of this “monster of depravity,” they also seem eerily impressed by his ability to elude capture and conviction. Historically, Macavity hasn’t done any speaking, singing, or dancing—he only shows up briefly to kidnap Old Deuteronomy during a rousing cat fight—but here’s hoping that Hooper has broadened the role for the film so we get to hear at least a good growl or two from Idris Elba.

Mr. Mistoffelees

Played by: Laurie Davidson

Laurie Davidson, who played Shakespeare in TNT’s Will, will take on the role of Mr. Mistoffelees, an affable tuxedo cat who peppers his magic tricks with plenty of high leaps and pizzazz. He’s generally beloved by the rest of the cats, and he also saves the day by conjuring Old Deuteronomy from wherever Macavity had hidden him.

Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer

Played by: Danny Collins and Naoimh Morgan

These two roguish calicos describe themselves as “knockabout clowns, quick-change comedians, tightrope walkers, and acrobats.” They’re also partners in petty crime, notorious for smashing vases, stealing pearls, and generally wreaking havoc upon their posh family in Victoria Grove. British dancer Danny Collins will join Naoimh Morgan—who actually played Rumpleteazer in the Cats international tour—to bring the spirited rascals to life in the film.

Munkustrap

Played by: Robert Fairchild

Without Munkustrap, viewers would have little hope of understanding what’s actually happening in this vaguely plotted musical. Though there’s no song to introduce him, the striking, silver cat is still arguably the most important character: He describes the function of the Jellicle Ball, narrates the action as it unfolds, and leads the charge against Macavity’s attack. It takes a certified musical theater machine to play such an integral part, and Hooper has surely found that in Robert Fairchild, former New York City Ballet principal dancer and Tony Award nominee for An American in Paris.

Old Deuteronomy

Played by: Dame Judi Dench

In the gender-swapped role of our dreams, Dame Judi Dench will play Old Deuteronomy, the revered (usually male) town elder who chooses one lucky kitty at the annual Jellicle Ball to ascend to cat heaven, the Heaviside Layer, and be born again. It isn’t Dench’s first time in the junkyard: She was preparing to appear as both Jennyanydots and Grizabella in the original 1981 West End production of Cats when she snapped her Achilles tendon and had to pull out.

Plato and Socrates

Played by: Larry and Laurent Bourgeois (Les Twins)

Though Plato is a chorus cat mentioned in “The Naming of Cats” and included in some stage productions, Socrates was created specifically for Hooper’s film to make room for both halves of Les Twins, also known as Larry and Laurent Bourgeois. The French hip hop duo gained mainstream recognition after Beyoncé featured them in her 2018 Coachella set and subsequent Netflix concert film Homecoming.

Rum Tum Tugger

Played by: Jason Derulo

The Rum Tum Tugger is a perpetually fickle feline with a lot of rock-n’-roll flair and a pair of hips that he seems to have stolen from Mick Jagger himself. In addition to his own song, Tugger also sings “Mr. Mistoffelees” and features in a few other numbers. With Jason Derulo taking on the role for the film, there’s a good chance we’ll see a modernized, moonwalking version of this swoon-worthy cat.

Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat

Played by: Steven McRae

Skimbleshanks is a charming Scottish cat who looks like a friendly tiger and ensures that all is in order on the night trains, which includes everything from patrolling for mice to reminding the guard to ask passengers how they like their tea. With his flaming red hair and graceful precision, Royal Ballet principal dancer Steven McRae definitely has a couple things in common with his character.

Syllabub/Sillabub/Jemima

Played by: Jonadette Carpio

This kitten’s name varies from production to production, but she’s usually characterized by her playful, innocent manner and her willingness to accept Grizabella when the other Jellicles try to shun her. Jonadette Carpio, Philippines native and member of the all-female Krump crew Buckness Personified, will bring her street dance background to the role in the film.

Victoria

Played by: Francesca Hayward

Though lithe, light-footed Victoria doesn’t sing any lines of her own in the original musical, her gleaming white coat and balletic dance solos still make her a standout—so it’s only fitting that Royal Ballet principal dancer Francesca Hayward will bring her to life in the film, where the role has been expanded into a main character. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Taylor Swift even collaborated on a new song called “Beautiful Ghosts” that Hayward will sing in the movie.

Miscellaneous Chorus Cats

Because theater companies vary in size and scope, certain chorus cats are sometimes omitted from productions—or members of the ensemble just aren’t assigned specific characters. At this point, Bill Bailey, Carbucketty, Electra, Etcetera, Peter, Pouncival, Quaxo, Rumpus Cat, Tumblebrutus, and Victor are all chorus cat names that haven’t been given to anybody in the film, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see extra cats in the shadows. According to Dance Spirit, Corey John Snide and Kolton Krause, who played Coricopat and Tumblebrutus on Broadway, respectively, have both been cast as ensemble members in Hooper’s film.

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