10 Facts About The Walking Dead

Alan Clarke/AMC
Alan Clarke/AMC

The Walking Dead won’t die. The AMC series about survivors of a zombie apocalypse—many of whom eventually stop surviving—has marched on even with its splintered tibia sticking out of its shin. Its ninth season is back in session, boldly pressing forward without intrepid leader Rick Grimes. The series based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book saga is attempting to prove that it can thrive and evolve beyond its biggest star (even as they prep three spin-off films with Andrew Lincoln back in the saddle as Grimes).

The series is a genuine phenomenon. It carved out a space on television by redefining prestige to include fat zombies ripping in half when they get pulled out of a well, bat-wielding nihilists, and eye-popping action sequences. The Walking Dead has beguiled and irritated fans, but it’s been willing to outlast the competition by killing off favorite characters and ensuring that no one is safe.

1. The cast gets together for a last supper when a character dies.

Cooper Andrews as Jerry, Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa
Gene Page/AMC

As the rare show that kills its main characters with fierce regularity, The Walking Dead started its own tradition of holding Death Dinners for those about to bite the dust. “It gives everyone a chance to get properly sauced and say, ‘We’re going to miss the hell out of you,’” Sarah Wayne Callies (who played Rick's wife, Lori Grimes) told The Huffington Post in 2012. As the show grew in popularity, they began pretending that these get-togethers are cast birthday parties (so waitstaff won’t get wise and spoil who’s getting bit next).

2. Rick Grimes has been wearing the same underwear the entire time.

Supply runs are mostly limited to medicine, food, and survival necessities, which means characters have to make do with what they have. The show takes that limitation seriously, which is why the good Sheriff is still rocking the same black Levi's, regardless of wear and tear. But it turns out that Rick is also holding on to what’s underneath. The blue boxer shorts he had on in the hospital in the first episode? He’s still got ‘em. Don’t get too grossed out, though. It’s been nearly a decade for us, but only about two years in-show time since the zombies erupted.

3. Zombie actors have to attend zombie school.

Before trying to eat Michonne or Daryl, aspiring "walkers" have to attend a seminar where they get tips on the specific style of the show’s undead, followed by auditions where executive producer and horror effects legend Greg Nicotero chooses the best stumblers. Some keys to success include staying loose and avoiding sticking your arms straight out like Frankenstein’s monster.

4. Even the opening credits are deteriorating.

Everything falls apart. That includes the lettering and logo for the show’s opening credits, which have been yellowing and crumbling for the past eight seasons. The ninth season logo features greenery—signaling a change in the story’s direction, a sense of rebuilding, and the return of nature.

5. They use CGI to erase zombie breath.

Walkers in a scene from 'The Walking Dead'
Gene Page/AMC

The actors playing the zombies are amazing, but they can’t hide their breath when it’s cold outside. To add to the otherworldly nature of the monsters (and to be biologically accurate), the producers have to remove breath steam from the undead figures who wouldn’t be breathing. The show uses a ton of CGI. A lot of it is what you might expect, but there are also little details like that making the show even better.

6. A fan bit Norman Reedus.

Five years into playing a character who could potentially outlast all 7 billion zombies, Reedus was unable to thwart an attack in real life when an overzealous fan bit him on the chest at New Jersey’s Walker Stalker Con. The actor took it in stride and didn’t press charges, but the fan was banned from the convention for life. No matter how much you love a show, please don’t bite people.

7. It takes place in the same universe as Breaking Bad.

Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon in 'The Walking Dead' season 3
Gene Page/AMC

Fact: Merle (Michael Rooker) has blue meth in season one. Another fact: His brother confirms that his dealer was a scrawny white boy who said, “I’m going to kill you, bitch.” These two elements point to Breaking Bad's Jesse Pinkman being Merle’s dealer, which ties the two AMC universes together. (The network even weighed in on it.) Glenn (Steven Yeun) also drives the same Dodge Challenger with racing stripes that Walter White bought his son (and later had to return to “Glenn’s Car Lot”). Those are solid homages to a pioneering show, but the theory that Walter White’s blue meth caused the zombie outbreak is still way, way out there.

8. The show doesn’t use the word “zombie.”

The Walking Dead’s low-key slogan is, “Don’t say the Zed word.” That’s a reference that no one in The Walking Dead universe would get because Shaun of the Dead (as well as other zombie-based entertainment) doesn’t exist there. Robert Kirkman breaks his own rule in the comic book occasionally, but the show has stuck to calling them walkers, skin-eaters, deadheads, wasteds, deadies, rotters, and dozens of other names to avoid saying what we all know they are.

9. The zombies are eating ham.

Zombies on 'The Walking Dead' season 5
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Instead of chowing down on long pig, the actors playing walkers wrap their lips around juicy bits of ham. They used to get barbecue sauce to help it go down, but the vinegar messed up their make-up, so now it’s just ham with fake blood all over it. Actor Vincent Martella said it was a challenge to eat a person on the show, not because of the ham, but because of the mindlessness. “When you eat someone you have to look like an animal devouring prey,” he told Today. “You can’t look like you have any specific motive or where you’re going to take a bite."

10. The little girl zombie from the pilot episode came back in season 8.

The first episode established the show’s tone by having Rick Grimes shoot a teddy-bear-holding little girl named Summer. She was going to eat his face off, but the action still stole away a portion of Grimes’s humanity and pointed to the bleachers on The Walking Dead being nasty, brutish, and not short. For its 100th episode, the series brought back Addy Miller to play a zombie very similar to the iconic one she played when she was 10 years old.

The 21 Best Movies of the 1970s

Robert De Niro stars in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976).
Robert De Niro stars in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

By the end of the 1960s, the battle between "Old Hollywood" (Technicolor musicals, historical epics, and old-fashioned acting) and "New Hollywood" (youth-oriented stories full of sex and violence, political volatility, and realistic performances) was over, and New Hollywood had won. Game-changing films like Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate, and Easy Rider—all released between 1967 and 1969—had shifted the Hollywood tide while the French New Wave had inspired the kids in film school (itself a new concept in the '60s), and the 1970s proved a remarkably fertile time for the new batch of filmmakers that followed. Miraculously, studios gave these young directors a lot of creative freedom. The result? One of the best decades in all of movie history.

1. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A scene from 'A Clockwork Orange' (1971)
Warner Home Video

Stanley Kubrick was technically part of the older generation of moviemakers, but his groundbreaking films in the '60s (including Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey) had established him as part of the avant-garde. And yet A Clockwork Orange, his adaptation of Anthony Burgess's dystopian novel, still surprised and shocked people with its violence, sex, and social commentary. The image of a juvenile delinquent having his eyes propped open to force him to watch films meant to recondition him remains indelible.

2. The Last Picture Show (1971)

A still from 'The Last Picture Show' (1971)
The Criterion Collection

It was fitting that as Old Hollywood faded away, an up-and-coming filmmaker like Peter Bogdanovich would make something set in the past, shot in nostalgic black-and-white, that depicted a town where the old ways were dying. Roger Ebert observed that The Last Picture Show "is above all an evocation of mood," full of lovely melancholy as its young, restless characters in a moribund Texas town struggle with where to go and what to do next.

3. The French Connection (1971)

Gene Hackman, Eddie Egan, Sonny Grosso, and Bill Hickman in The French Connection (1971)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Gene Hackman, one of the most admired actors in Hollywood, was at the peak of his career in the 1970s: In addition to this cop thriller (for which he won an Oscar) and its sequel, he had I Never Sang for My Father, The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation (which could also be on this list), Night Moves, Superman (he remains the quintessential Lex Luthor), and a hilarious turn as a blind man in Young Frankenstein. The French Connection cast him as a New York police detective chasing down drug smugglers, and director William Friedkin guided the film to a win for Best Picture of 1971.

4. and 5. The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Marlon Brando and Salvatore Corsitto in 'The Godfather' (1972)
Paramount Pictures

You knew these would be on the list. It has become cliché to cite Francis Ford Coppola's monumentally popular and lavishly praised mafia epics as the best the '70s had to offer, but only the most stubborn of contrarians would deny the truth of it. With blockbuster performances by an impressive array of stars present and future—including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and James Caan—and an epic story spanning several decades, Coppola created a saga that has inspired countless filmmakers (and gangsters).

6. Serpico (1973)

Al Pacino in Serpico (1973)
Warner Home Video

Al Pacino is another actor whose heyday was the '70s; besides the Godfathers, we could mention The Panic in Needle Park, Scarecrow, and Dog Day Afternoon. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Frank Serpico, a real-life New York cop who exposed corruption within the police force, while director Sidney Lumet—who was always interested in social issues, as seen in movies like 12 Angry Men, Network, and The Verdict—brought the full force of his righteous indignation to the edge-of-your-seat story.

7. The Exorcist (1973)


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

After he scored with The French Connection, William Friedkin cemented his place in movie history with this colossally popular and monumentally frightening horror film about a girl with a demon inside her. It inspired fainting and vomiting; it made people think they were possessed; it became the first horror film nominated for Best Picture; it made Ellen Burstyn a star. And it's still one of the most terrifying possession stories ever told.

8. Chinatown (1974)

Jack Nicholson stars in 'Chinatown' (1974)
Paramount Home Entertainment

If you can separate the art from the artist (in this case, director Roman Polanski), Chinatown is just about the closest thing we have to a flawless movie, with a screenplay by Robert Towne that's taught in screenwriting classes. Reviving the dormant detective noir genre, Polanski gave Jack Nicholson a chance to shine as a nosy Los Angeles P.I. snooping around a land deal with sinister implications. Faye Dunaway is unforgettable in her shocking role, and the last line—"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown"—is an all-time classic.

9. Blazing Saddles (1974)

Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles (1974)
Warner Home Video

Mel Brooks released two classic comedies in 1974, but this writer's subjective opinion is that Blazing Saddles is funnier than Young Frankenstein. Co-written with Richard Pryor (who would have starred in it, too, except that Warner Bros. found him too unreliable), this Western spoof is often like a Looney Tunes short come to life—with the added bonus of mocking racists with gleeful abandon. Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, and Madeline Kahn give hilarious performances.

10. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

A still from 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' (1974).
New Line Cinema

This low-budget horror flick, basically the godfather of the "teens go somewhere remote and get murdered" genre, isn't nearly as bloody as its reputation suggests. That's partly a testament to director Tobe Hooper's ability to suggest ghastliness without actually showing it, and partly due to the fact that most of the film's many imitators are drenched in gore. More than 45 years later, the film's raw, nightmarish final 30 minutes are still horrifically effective.

11. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
© 1975. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Like Mel Brooks, the Monty Python gang employed many types of comedy in telling their medieval story: slapstick, wordplay, satire, meta-references, and a killer rabbit. Perfectly capturing the anarchic, freewheeling, peripatetic spirit of the group's sketch comedy TV series, Monty Python and the Holy Grail often feels like a series of skits—but who cares when the skits are all so brilliant?

12. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

A still from 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (1975)
Warner Bros.

The 1970s were a fantastic decade for Jack Nicholson, who appeared in 15 movies including Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, the aforementioned Chinatown, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest—and those are just the ones that earned him Oscar nominations. He won for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, in which he plays a non-insane man in an insane asylum who questions authority and tries to break people out of complacency, themes that still resonate today.

13. Jaws (1975)

Susan Backlinie in 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

Jaws invented the "summer blockbuster" as we know it (that season was previously considered a dead zone), rocketed Steven Spielberg to the A-list of young directors, and made millions of ordinary people sharkphobic. Jaws also happens to be an expertly made dramatic thriller, with superb editing by Verna Fields (whom Spielberg credited with saving the picture) and an instantly iconic musical score by John Williams.

14. Taxi Driver (1976)

Robert De Niro in 'Taxi Driver' (1976)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

New York City was a violent cesspool in the '70s, and nobody captured it better than Martin Scorsese did in this jarring drama—it's almost a horror film—about an unstable cabbie (Robert De Niro) who longs to clean up the sleazy streets. Long before "toxic masculinity" was a common phrase, Travis Bickle was taking women to porno movies on first dates and personifying the violent ends to which some men will go to get what they want.

15. Rocky (1976)

Sylvester Stallone in Rocky (1976)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Watching the many, many sequels, it's easy to forget that the original Rocky was more character drama than boxing movie, focused on a working-class schlub who just wants to go the distance, win or lose. Sylvester Stallone's down-to-earth screenplay and natural performance were enhanced by the journeyman sensibilities of director John G. Avildsen, who later brought the same rousing spirit to The Karate Kid.

16. All the President's Men (1976)

Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in 'All the President's Men' (1976)
Warner Home Video

After the national trauma of Watergate and the disgrace of Richard Nixon's resignation, Americans needed a film to sort it all out for them. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, both already big stars, played household-name Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in a steady, methodical film directed by To Kill a Mockingbird producer Alan J. Pakula. With moral clarity and a thrilling story, All the President's Men stands as the best and most important political film of the decade.

17. Network (1976)

Peter Finch stars in 'Network' (1976)
Warner Home Video

Just as trenchant in this bicentennial year as All the President's Men, Network (directed by Serpico's Sidney Lumet) satirized that most American of inventions: the television industry. Nearly every outrageous thing that happens in this depiction of a fictional broadcast network run by ruthless executives has since happened in real life, making the film even more potent now than it was then. And the performances by Faye Dunaway, William Holden, and Peter Finch are terrific fun.

18. Star Wars (1977)

Mark Hamill stars in 'Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope' (1977)
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

George Lucas's space fantasy, a sort of interstellar Western, elevated old good guys vs. bad guys tropes to the level of high (and highly successful) art. The effects of the Star Wars franchise on Hollywood and the world need not be recited here. What's notable is that even if there had never been a sequel, spinoff, or toy tie-in, the original Star Wars would still stand as, well, an original.

19. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now (1979)
Paramount Home Entertainment

In the annals of movies whose behind-the-scenes stories were as troubled and disastrous as the stories they depicted, few rank higher than Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. But the result of a year of filming plagued by weather, sickness, and Marlon Brando's unpreparedness was a movie that has only risen in people's estimation since then, vividly depicting the insanity of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a rattled Martin Sheen as he searches for a rogue Army Special Forces officer.

20. Alien (1979)

Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, and Yaphet Kotto in Alien (1979)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Alien could be on any list of important movies for its famous advertising tagline alone: "In space no one can hear you scream." Directed by Ridley Scott from a long-in-development screenplay by Dan O'Bannon, this sci-fi thriller about a killer E.T. in a spaceship is a masterpiece of tension and horror and chest-bursting. Look how many other films on this list influenced it: O'Bannon pitched it as "Jaws in space"; Scott called it "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre of science fiction"; and 20th Century Fox only gave it a greenlight because Star Wars had suddenly made outer space cool again. Whatever it took to get it going, the result was worth it.

21. Being There (1979)

Shirley MacLaine and Peter Sellers in Being There (1979)
Warner Home Video

A TV-obsessed simpleton stumbling his way into the higher echelons of political power sounds totally implausible ... but that's the premise of this genteel but sharp comedy directed by Hal Ashby, whose other films from this decade—Harold & Maude, The Last Detail, Shampoo, Bound for Glory, and Coming Home—could all be on this list. Peter Sellers's lead performance, just like the movie, perfectly walks the line between the absurd and the sublime.

Disney+ Users Are Already Facing Technical Problems

Pedro Pascal in The Mandalorian (2019).
Pedro Pascal in The Mandalorian (2019).
© 2019 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved

It seems that the highly anticipated Disney+ release did not go as smoothly as the company had hoped. Variety reports that the streaming service launched this morning, only to find its IT department being flooded with phone calls, tweets, and emails from angry users complaining of malfunctions.

Many customers took to social media to vent their frustration that they either couldn’t login into their account or couldn’t watch certain content.

The service did offer an explanation for all the technical issues via Twitter, posting, “The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our high expectations. We are working to quickly resolve the current user issue. We appreciate your patience.”

Too bad a little Disney magic couldn’t help them with these tech glitches.

[h/t Variety]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER