11 Memorable Facts About Hereditary

Milly Shapiro in Hereditary (2018).
Milly Shapiro in Hereditary (2018).
A24

Hereditary premiered in 2018, forever ruining treehouses, miniature art, and cluck-ing sounds for everyone who saw it. Part occult horror and part domestic drama, the movie follows a family grappling with the traumatic death of its youngest member and the dark traditions that haunt its bloodline. The movie has been praised as an impressive debut from writer/director Ari Aster and a highlight of the new golden age of horror.

While many viewers likely wish they could scrub Hereditary from their minds, others may be curious to learn more about it, such as what inspired it, how the cast was convinced to sign on, and what the director really thinks of that scene. If you belong to the latter camp, read on for facts about the film.

1. Ari Aster’s disturbing shorts got the studio’s attention.

Hereditary was most fans’ introduction to Ari Aster, but it wasn’t his first work of cinema. Prior to his feature film debut, he had directed some noteworthy shorts. The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, Aster’s graduate thesis at the American Film Institute Conservatory, is the most prolific—and strangest—of the bunch: It tells the story of a father being sexually abused by his son. Despite the disturbing subject matter, the 30-minute short was an official selection at both the New York and Slamdance Film Festivals.

His short film Munchausen also infuses family dynamics with horror elements, with the plot following a mother who poisons her son to stop him from leaving for college. Both films caught the attention of the indie studio A24 and convinced executives that Aster could write and direct a twisted family drama.

2. Hereditary was inspired by another unsettling movie.

Aster’s vision for Hereditary was inspired by a few horror staples including Carrie (1976) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968). But there was another, more obscure source he drew from when crafting his movie. For those who are unfamiliar with Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, the 1989 film starring Helen Mirren and Michael Gambon, it centers on a woman having an affair with a man at her abusive husband’s restaurant. Like Hereditary, it’s more than the straightforward drama it appears to be on the surface. The unrated film is noteworthy for a host of controversial elements including explicit sex, defecation, and cannibalism. As a guest on the CineFix Directors Series, Aster said that he snuck the movie out of his local video store around age 12 after learning that it had upset his stoic father. “I regretted watching it for many years,” Aster said.

3. Toni Collette was hesitant to take the lead role.

Toni Collette stars in 'Hereditary' (2018)
Toni Collette stars in Hereditary (2018).
A24

Toni Collette’s performance as Annie is rightly lauded as a highlight of Hereditary, as well as a highlight of her acting career. But the role almost went to someone else—not because that’s what the director wanted, but because Collette was hesitant to sign on. She doesn’t consider herself a horror fan, and at the time she was approached with the script, she was only interested in doing lighter films. “I reallllllly wasn’t looking to do anything this heavy,” Collette told The Daily Beast. But after reading the script and realizing it wasn’t a typical horror flick, she couldn’t resist saying yes.

4. Ari Aster avoided calling Hereditary a horror movie.

Any movie that has as much satanism, decapitation, and creepy kid content as Hereditary does automatically falls into the horror genre. But when he was initially pitching the film, Aster was hesitant to use the label. "The film is a horror film, it's unabashedly one, but as I was pitching it, I was describing it as a family tragedy that curdles into a nightmare," Aster told NPR. "I wanted the film to function first as a vivid family drama before I even bothered attending to the horror elements.”

Aster's plan worked: The movie relies on classic horror tropes, but by bringing in elements from other genres, Aster convinced studios—and critics—to take it more seriously.

5. Sets helped create a dollhouse aesthetic.

From the opening scene, the director makes it clear that he wants you to view the characters like figurines in a dollhouse. But Annie’s career as a miniaturist isn’t the only way Aster conveys this information. To achieve a “dollhouse” aesthetic, all the house scenes were shot on a set on a soundstage. That way, the crew could remove ceilings and walls and film the actors from farther away than they would have been able to shooting in an actual house. The unique perspective is meant to evoke the feeling of looking at a scene in a diorama.

6. Alex Wolff offered to break his own nose.

Alex Wolff not only shot Peter’s creepy desk scene without a stunt double, but he was willing to slam his face into a real, solid desk. “I said to Ari when that scene was coming up, ‘I will do it on a real desk, just tell me,’” Wolff told The Wrap. “And he said, ‘I love you and thank you but that is definitely not allowed, definitely an illegal thing to do so we’re not going to do that …’ break my own face.” To make the situation safer, the production team brought it in a cushioned prop desk, but according to Wolff, it was still hard enough to hurt. And he was really bleeding in that scene, but not from his nose: He had injured his knee after banging it against the desk.

7. The Hereditary trailer scared a lot of kids.

Even before Hereditary hit theaters, the film was terrifying audience members—unintentionally. In spring of 2018, an Australian movie theater accidentally screened the trailer before a showing of the family film Peter Rabbit. The theater was packed with at least 40 children, and they were understandably upset. The cinema gave out free movie passes as an apology.

8. That scene is Ari Aster’s favorite.

If you remember any part of Hereditary, it’s likely the gut-wrenching car accident scene that sets the horrifying events of the second half in motion. Aster is well aware of how effective it is. “That’s probably my favorite sequence in the film,” he told Vanity Fair, “everything that’s happening around those 15 minutes.” It’s probably the best sequence in the film, but favorite maybe isn’t the term we’d use.

9. that scene was almost more gruesome.

The same production design team that created the miniatures for Hereditary were also responsible for some of the gorier props used in the film. In an interview with The Verge, model and makeup effects designer Steve Newburn said that Hereditary’s most unsettling moment could have been much worse. In reference to Charlie’s decapitation, he said, “It’s toned down significantly [...] We had built entire puppets that the heads came off of, and squished, and blood went in every direction. It was all shot. It was pretty brutal to watch.” Fortunately for squeamish viewers, Aster decided to go with a “less is more” approach in the final cut.

10. Hereditary was partly inspired by Ari Aster’s real life.

Still of Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro in Hereditary

Gabriel Byrne, Toni Collette, Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro in Hereditary (2018).

A24

When writing and directing the most personal moments in Hereditary, Aster drew from his own life experience. He told the Indo-Asian News Service that he and his family endured a series of traumatic events over the course of a few years, with circumstances becoming so grim that he dubbed it a “curse.”

"I'd never want to baldly dramatize any of the suffering that I or my family had gone through, so by taking the idea of a family being cursed and then literalizing that, I was able to put a lot of those feelings through a horror movie filter, where the canvas demands a high level of catharsis,” Aster said. What exactly those events were the filmmaker hasn’t revealed, but it’s safe to assume the satanic possession portions of the movie were fabricated.

11. The cult’s symbol is hidden throughout the movie.

Observant viewers will notice many references to the film’s ending sprinkled throughout Hereditary. One of these is the symbol of the cult that terrorizes the family. Annie’s mother can be seen wearing it as a necklace at her funeral, but it also shows up in unexpected places, like on the telephone pole that decapitates Charlie.

11 Fun Facts About Dolly Parton

Brendon Thorne, Getty Images
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. You won't find Dolly Parton on a Dollywood roller coaster.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. Dolly Parton once entered a Dolly Parton look-alike contest—and lost.


Getty Images

Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. Dolly Parton spent a fortune to recreate her childhood home.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. Dolly Parton won't apologize for Rhinestone.


Getty Images

Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. Dolly Parton is Miley Cyrus's godmother ... sort of.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. Dolly Parton received death threats from the Ku Klux Klan.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
Getty Images

In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBTQ members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted. "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. Dolly Parton started her own "library" to promote literacy, and has given away more than 100 million books.

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. There's a statue of Dolly Parton in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. The cloned sheep Dolly was named after Dolly Parton.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. Dolly Parton turned down an offer from Elvis Presley.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. In 2018, Dolly Parton earned two Guinness World Records.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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.

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