10 Spirited Facts About The Others

Miramax
Miramax

When Alejandro Amenábar's The Others was released in the summer of 2001, it was quickly hailed as an instant horror classic. The slow-burning Gothic ghost story follows a WWII-era mother named Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two photosensitive children (Alakina Mann and James Bentley) living in a dimly-lit, isolated mansion on the remote isle of Jersey in the British Channel Islands. When her children begin talking about the ghosts they hear and see around the home, Grace must face a reality that her strict religious beliefs can't fathom.

Amenábar had already made a name for himself on the world cinema circuit at just 25 years old with 1997's Open Your Eyes, starring Penélope Cruz (which Cameron Crowe later remade as Vanilla Sky, also starring Penélope Cruz). But The Others turned the twenty-something director into a bona fide international player. With its spare cast and limited filming locations, the movie took in nearly $210 million worldwide on a modest $17 million budget. It won eight of the 15 Goya Awards (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars) it was nominated for, with Amenábar taking home Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. But beyond the stats, here are some fascinating facts about the movie you might not have known.

1. THE FILM WAS ORIGINALLY INTENDED TO BE SET IN CHILE.

Director Amenábar holds dual Chilean-Spanish citizenship—he was born in his father's native Chile in 1972, and his family permanently moved to his mother's native Spain when he was 18 months old. His first two films had been successful Spanish-language films, and his original script for The Others was also in Spanish and set in southern Chile. When the decision was made to make the film in English, it was important to Amenábar to find a devoutly Catholic area in which to set it, so that the original religious symbolism of his Spanish script would still translate.

"When my producers read the script, they thought it was the perfect Victorian ghost tale, so they thought it would be more organic taking place in England," Amenábar told journalist Tony Earnshaw for Fantastique: Interviews with Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Filmmakers. Britain's Channel Islands, off the French coast of Normandy, were chosen in part because of their long Catholic tradition, and also their fraught wartime occupation. "I needed the husband to go to war and come back," Amenábar said of the film's narrative. "And when we decided to set it in England, it made sense to set it during the Second World War, and especially in these Islands, which were the only British territory occupied by the Nazis."

2. IT WAS SHOT IN ENGLISH BECAUSE OF TOM CRUISE.

Amenábar co-wrote and directed the 1997 psychological thriller Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), which Tom Cruise decided to option after it screened at 1998's Sundance Film Festival. That movie was remade by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky, with Cruise starring and producing. Though Amenábar was not involved in the production of Vanilla Sky, Cruise loved his script and wanted to work with him directly.

When Cruise later saw Amenábar's script for The Others, he sought to produce that film, too—on the condition that it be for an English-speaking audience. For Amenábar, The Others was only his third movie and he'd never done an English-language production before, but it felt like a gamble worth taking. "When you shoot a film in English you have a much more open market," Amenábar told The Guardian. "And then when Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman got involved, I knew that the destiny of the film was changing."

3. ALEJANDRO AMENÁBAR DIDN'T SPEAK ENGLISH.

 Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar attends the Fotogramas Magazine cinema awards 2017 at the Joy Eslava Club on March 6, 2017 in Madrid, Spain
Carlos Alvarez, Getty Images

Securing Hollywood heavyweights to champion him was somehow the easy part for Amenábar. "My very first concern [was working in a different language] because I didn't speak English at the time," he said, but he started learning the language and delegated what he needed to. "Once you decide to do a project which is not your natural language, what you have to do is rely on and trust people. We hired a very good English translator … I was open to change things in order to make it sound very, very British."

4. IT MADE HISTORY AT THE GOYA AWARDS.

The Others earned a total of eight Goya Awards, including Best Film. It's the first film to earn Spain's highest film honor in which not one word of Spanish is spoken.

5. NICOLE KIDMAN AND TOM CRUISE'S DIVORCE WAS FINALIZED TWO DAYS BEFORE THE MOVIE'S RELEASE.

Initial shooting for The Others took place in the summer of 2000, but news of Cruise and Kidman's separation came in February 2001, while The Others was in post-production. Their contentious, high-profile divorce was finalized just two days before the movie hit American theaters. (They settled their divorce on August 8, 2001; The Others arrived in theaters on August 10, 2001.)

"As exec producer of The Others, Tom Cruise has handed Kidman the most generous divorce settlement any working-thesp wife could ask for," Variety cynically noted in its otherwise positive review. And Amenábar said repeatedly that neither Kidman nor Cruise let their private drama affect their support or dedication to the film or its release. "Of course, personal lives are always a worry," he told The Guardian, "But these people are huge, hard workers and they were very devoted to the film. The fact that they both showed up at the premiere in L.A. just proves how supportive they were."

6. KIDMAN QUIT THE FILM DURING REHEARSALS.

Nicole Kidman in The Others (2001)
Miramax

During rehearsals and pre-production, the subject matter—and particularly [SPOILER] Grace's killing of her children—was giving Kidman such intense nightmares that she quit the project. "At one point I didn't want to make the film because I couldn't even go there emotionally," she has said. "It was still very difficult to exist in that state … when you’re doing an intense film the boundaries blur." Fortunately, Amenábar and his team were able to convince her to return to the film, but "I was so glad to step out of her in the end," Kidman said.

7. MOST OF THE FILM WAS SHOT IN SPAIN.

Amenábar might have been willing to alter the location and language of the film, but he insisted on filming it in Spain. The house used for the shoot, the Palacio de los Hornillos located in Cantabria, Spain, was designed in 1904 by London-based architect Ralph Selden Wornum as the country estate of the Duke of Santo Mauro. As such, it's one of the few examples of Victorian architecture in Spain.

The scene where Grace finds her husband returning home in a thick fog was shot along the Lime Walk at Kent's Penshurst Place, a popular filming location for British period pieces (and even part of The Princess Bride), but the rest was filmed in Madrid and the Hornillos estate with any outdoor scenes being coated in gray mist. The "results are Anglophilic through and through," Variety's Dennis Harvey wrote in his review of the film.

8. LIKE THE CHARACTERS THEY PLAYED, THE CHILD ACTORS WERE KEPT AWAY FROM SUNLIGHT DURING FILMING.

Nicole Kidman, Alakina Mann, and James Bentley in The Others (2001)
Miramax

Early in the movie, Grace explains that the curtains in her home must always stay closed because her children, Anne and Nicholas, have a severe allergy to light (the photosensitivity she describes may be xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare genetic disorder where the body can't properly protect or repair itself from UV damage). But actors Alakina Mann and James Bentley—who Amenábar said behaved like real siblings—also had to stay cloistered indoors for the duration of the three-and-a-half-month shoot.

"I was feeling sad for them, because they couldn't be exposed to sunlight, to keep their skin as white as possible," Amenábar told Nitrate Online. "Of course they were in makeup, but they had to stay pale. So when they went out, it was at night, like little vampires."

9. LIKE THE CHARACTER LYDIA, AMENÁBAR WENT MUTE FOR A YEAR.

In the movie, Grace insists that something traumatic must have happened to the kitchen girl, Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), for her to stop speaking. And at the end, the mysterious, all-knowing head servant Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan) reveals that Lydia went mute when she realized she was dead.

As a toddler, Amenábar himself dealt with something like selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that renders someone (usually a child) unable to speak or communicate. When his parents decided to flee Chile for Madrid just two weeks before General Pinochet's Chilean coup d'etat, Amenábar was 18 months old. "In Chile I had started to talk a bit, and in Spain I did not say anything for one year," he told the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2007.

10. AMENÁBAR APPEARS IN ONE OF THE OLD MOURNING "BOOK OF THE DEAD" PHOTOS.

Like Alfred Hitchcock and M. Night Shyamalan before him, Amenábar found a way to make a brief cameo in his horror flick. "Half of the photographs [in the film] are real and half are fakes," Amenábar said of the postmortem photographs Grace finds in the attic storage room. "We asked for originals and we lost them." Because of that, replicas were made, and the director appears in one of them.

Mifflin Madness: Who Is the Greatest Character on The Office? It's Time to Vote

Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
NBC

Your years of watching (and re-watching) The Office, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary, have all led up to this moment. Welcome to Mifflin Madness—Mental Floss's cutthroat competition to determine The Office's greatest character. Is Michael Scott the boss you most love to hate? Or did Kevin Malone suck you in with his giant pot of chili?

You have 24 hours to cast your vote for each round on Twitter before the bracket is updated and half of the chosen characters are eliminated.

The full bracket is below, followed by the round one and round two winners. You can cast your round three vote(s) here. Be sure to check back on Monday at 4 p.m. ET to see if your favorite Dunder Mifflin employee has advanced to the next round. 

Round One


Round Two


Round Three


The Office Planned to Break Up Jim and Pam in the Final Season—Then (Smartly) Thought Better of It

Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly's relationship in The Office was truly a romance for the ages. Fans were delighted when, in Season 3—after years of flirting—John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s characters finally got together. But an alternative plan for the show’s ninth and final season saw the couple going their separate ways.

Season 9 saw one of the most stressful storylines the show had to offer when Jim took a job in Philadelphia and Pam struggled to take care of their children on her own back in Scranton, putting intense strain on their otherwise seemingly perfect relationship. In one unforgettable scene, a particularly tense phone call between the couple ends with Pam in tears. Fischer’s character then turns to someone off camera named Brian for advice.

As Collider reports, Pam and Jim's relationship could have taken a turn for worse in the final season—and the writers had planned it that way. As recounted in Andy Greene's new book, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, series creator Greg Daniels sat down with each of the show's stars before starting the final season to discuss where their characters would go. John Krasinski, who played Jim, pitched the idea of putting Jim and Pam’s relationship on thin ice. According to Krasinski:

"My whole pitch to Greg was that we’ve done so much with Jim and Pam, and now, after marriage and kids, there was a bit of a lull there, I think, for them about what they wanted to do … And I said to Greg, ‘It would be really interesting to see how that split will affect two people that you know so well.'"

Several writers weighed in with ideas about how they might handle a split between Jim and Pam from a narrative standpoint—though not everyone was on the same page.

Warren Lieberstein, a writer on the series, remembered when the idea of bringing Brian—the documentary crew's boom operator—into the mix. “[This] was something that came up in Season 5, I think," Lieberstein said. "What if that character had been secretly there the entire time and predated the relationship with Jim and had been a shoulder that she cried on for years?’ It just seemed very intriguing." Apparently, the writers thought breaking the fourth wall would jeopardize the show, so they saved it for the last season.

Writer Owen Ellickson said there was even some talk of Pam and Brian “maybe hooking up a little bit," but the negative response to the storyline led the writers to "pull the ripcord on [Pam and Jim's separation] because it was so painful to fans of the show." Ellickson said that they backtracked so quickly, they even had to re-edit certain episodes that had already been shot to nix the idea of Jim and Pam splitting up. Which is something the show's millions of fans will be forever grateful for.

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