20 Mind-Boggling Facts About Inception

Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception (2010).
Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception (2010).
Warner Bros. Pictures

After The Dark Knight made $1 billion worldwide, Warner Bros. let director Christopher Nolan to make his passion project, Inception (although most passion projects don’t generally have a budget of $160 million). The confusing-but-exhilarating film, which was released on July 13, 2010, made more than $800 million worldwide. Here are some things you might not know about the film.

1. Christopher Nolan toyed with the idea of making Inception a horror movie.

Christopher Nolan both wrote and directed Insomnia. He originally came up with the idea in the early 2000s, after he finished making Insomnia. Originally, he considered using the same concept, but as a horror film.

2. The main characters in Inception each represent a key part of the filmmaking process.

Each character represents a vital part of the film industry. “The Point Man” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur) is the producer; “The Architect” (Ellen Page as Ariadne) is the production designer; “The Forger” (Tom Hardy as Eames) is the actor; and “The Mark” (Cillian Murphy as Robert Fischer) is the audience. As for Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, he’s a stand-in for the director, giving him obvious parallels to Nolan. “I can lose myself in my job very easily," Nolan told Entertainment Weekly. "It’s rare that you can identify yourself so clearly in a film. This film is very clear for me.”

3. Christopher Nolan didn’t research dreams while writing the screenplay for Inception.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Berenger, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, and Ken Watanabe in Inception (2010).Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros. Entertainment

He took a similar approach to writing a movie about dreams as he did to writing Memento, a movie about memory. He primarily used his own experiences and feelings rather than outside information. “I think a lot of what I find you want to do with research is just confirming things you want to do," Nolan told Collider. "If the research contradicts what you want to do, you tend to go ahead and do it anyway. So at a certain point I realized that if you’re trying to reach an audience, being as subjective as possible and really trying to write from something genuine is the way to go. Really it’s mostly from my own process, my own experience.”

4. Christopher Nolan had to convince the studio that the various dream layers in Inception would be as minimally confusing as possible.

He told them, “One of the dream levels is in the rain, one of them is a night interior, one is outdoors in the snow ... even in a close-up, you would be able to tell which level you were in as you cross-cut.”

5. Inception's casting decisions revolved around Leonardo DiCaprio.

Nolan knew that he wanted Leonardo DiCaprio for the role of Cobb, so according to him, “We were just trying to cast the best people I could find for those parts, who felt right around Leo.” This also involved casting a young ensemble because Nolan “wanted to get a young, energetic cast around him who wouldn’t make [DiCaprio] look younger.”

6. Leonardo DiCaprio worked with Christopher Nolan to make Inception more character-driven.

Christopher Nolan directs Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page in Inception (2010).Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros. Entertainment

“Once Leo came on board, I spent months and months sitting with him and discussing the script," Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter. "He made some extraordinary contributions to the script and really challenged me to make the script clear, but also to follow its interior logic and really be true to the essence of the characters and the rules we set out.”

Nolan’s wife and producing partner, Emma Thomas, said that “the work [DiCaprio] did on his character with Chris made the movie less of a puzzle and more of a story of a character audiences could relate to.”

7. Ellen Page didn’t have to audition for Inception.

She met with Nolan for a sit down that had nothing to do with the film. The next week, she was asked to read the script for Inception. She had to read it in an office, not at home. Luckily, she loved the character and Nolan gave her the role.

8. Ariadne is named after the daughter of Minos in Greek mythology.

It’s a unique name for a modern day character, but it makes complete sense for the part. In one story, Minos actually has Ariadne take control of a labyrinth. In the film, the labyrinth that Ariadne draws for Cobb’s test is very similar to paintings of the ancient character’s labyrinth. Nolan acknowledges this connection. “I wanted to have that to help explain the importance of the labyrinth to the audience," he told Wired. "I don’t know how many people pick up on that association when they’re watching the film. It was just a little pointer, really. I like the idea of her being Cobb’s guide.”

9. Inception was filmed in locations around the world.

The rotating set that Arthur flies through was created in Bedfordshire, England. Calgary, Alberta was the location for the epic mountain scenes. They also did shoots in Morocco, Tokyo, London, and Los Angeles. Overall, they ended up filming in six different countries.

10. Christopher Nolan considered filming Inception in 3D.

Eventually, though, Nolan determined that they would be “too restricted by the technology.” After filming, they almost converted the movie to 3D in post-production, but there simply wasn’t enough time.

11. Christopher Nolan wanted the explosions in Inception to look surreal, rather than the standard Hollywood orange flames.

Shooting guidelines in Paris frowned upon the use of actual explosions. So, the crew used high-pressure nitrogen, which they set off right near the cast. Said special effects coordinator Chris Corbould, “When we let an explosion off behind an actor, you get a very different reaction from when he is standing in front of a green screen and someone yells, ‘Explosion!’” More debris was added and the explosions were enhanced in post-production.

12. The paradoxical stairs in Inception were inspired by the art of M.C. Escher.

Nolan wanted to build a paradoxical staircase that worked, but it wasn't possible. So, they built a staircase that just ended abruptly. In order to make them look like a paradox on camera, the crew turned to a visual effects team. According to Paul Franklin, the Visual Effects Supervisor, “These steps have to be built in such a way that when you view them from one angle, the top most level of the staircase lines up with the bottom most level of the staircase. And so what visual effects is able to do is we’re able to make computer models of this and work out exactly the dimensions of the steps that have to be built and where the camera has to be in three-dimensional space to be able to film it.”

13. Christopher Nolan's production team built sets that shifted and rotated for Inception.

During the scene in which Cobb explains to Fischer that they are in a dream, he proves it by letting the room shake and shift. To pull it off, the crew moved the set 25 degrees while filming, without any of the props moving. “The entire set would be shifting," DiCaprio said. "We had to hold onto the actual set so we didn’t slide off.”

For the scenes in which Arthur is floating around the hotel without gravity, Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn’t acting in front of a green screen or placed in zero-gravity. The crew actually built the set so it could rotate a full 360 degrees. Then, they would suspend Gordon-Levitt from a wire to get their shots. It took 500 people and three weeks to film all those scenes. Gordon-Levitt only used his stunt double for one shot.

14. Inception's actors had an easy way of telling which level of the dream world they were supposed to be in during a particular scene.

“It was easy to orientate which dream sequence I was in because of my costume," Tom Hardy told Collider. "If in doubt, I could just look at my shoes and say, ‘Oh! I know which dream I’m in.'"

15. Inception's mountain set was built into the side of a mountain.

The set, built into a mountainside in Alberta, had no snow at the time. In fact, the crew was starting to get concerned that they wouldn’t end up having any snow by the time the shoot started. “The art department kept sending us pictures of mud," Thomas said. "The week before we went up there, we still had no snow.” But that wasn’t a problem for long. They ended up shooting in the middle of blizzards after the biggest storm of the decade.

16. The Inception scene in which the van falls off the bridge in slow motion took months to shoot.

According to Dileep Rao, who played the driver Yusuf, “We’d shoot it one day, go off and shoot something else. Then shoot another piece of [the van]. It was so complex and there were so many locations and so many different moves I have to do. It’s the stuff that makes or breaks that last sequence.” For the underwater portions, actors were holding their breath for up to five minutes at a time, with the occasional top off from a SCUBA tank. As for how they got the van to fall off the bridge? It was shot out of a cannon.

17. Though many special effects were handled on set, Christopher Nolan still had a lot of work to do in post-production on Inception.

For instance, Franklin said, “Getting the bits and bobs to fall out of the hotel cleaning trolley [in zero gravity]? That’s one guy—months of lonesome work.” And a team of CGI specialists worked on the “Limbo City” scenes with DiCaprio and Page for nine full months.

18. Christopher Nolan finished both early and under budget.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, and Dileep Rao in Inception (2010).Warner Bros. Entertainment

He actually prefers the constraints that time and money give him, so he makes a serious effort to be efficient when it comes to filmmaking.

19. Christopher Nolan hasn’t said much on Inception's ambiguous ending.

In 2010, Nolan told CNN that the film was intentionally left that way, so he has no desire to add to the conversation. “There can’t be anything in the film that tells you one way or another because then the ambiguity at the end of the film would just be a mistake," he said. "It would represent a failure of the film to communicate something. But it’s not a mistake. I put that cut there at the end, imposing an ambiguity from outside the film. That always felt the right ending to me."

Michael Caine has his own interpretation of the ending that he hasn’t been shy with, though. He claims that the ending is undoubtedly real, not a dream. “[The spinning top] drops at the end, that’s when I come back on," Caine told ScreenRant. "If I’m there it’s real, because I’m never in the dream. I’m the guy who invented the dream.”

20. Film scholars have a lot of different theories about Inception.

Some of these include: it was all a dream, Saito is the actual architect, and Cobb is dreaming/not dreaming/dead at the end of the film.

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

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Instant Pot/Amazon

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Roomba/Amazon

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Sony

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Microsoft/Amazon

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Apple/Amazon

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Amazon

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12 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Each year, millions of Americans welcome the holiday season by tuning into their favorite TV specials. For most people, this includes at least one viewing of the 1966 animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Adapted from Dr. Seuss’s equally famous children’s book by legendary animator Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired more than 50 years ago, on December 18, 1966. Here are 12 facts about the TV special that will surely make your heart grow three sizes this holiday season.

1. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel And Chuck Jones previously worked together on Army training videos.

During World War II, Geisel joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as commander of the Animation Department for the First Motion Picture Unit, a unit tasked with creating various training and pro-war propaganda films. It was here that Geisel soon found himself working closely with Chuck Jones on an instructional cartoon called Private Snafu. Originally classified as for-military-personnel-only, Private Snafu featured a bumbling protagonist who helped illustrate the dos and don’ts of Army safety and security protocols.

2. It was because of their previous working relationship that Ted Geisel agreed to hand over the rights to The Grinch to Chuck Jones.

After several unpleasant encounters in relation to his previous film work—including the removal of his name from credits and instances of pirated redistribution—Geisel became notoriously “anti-Hollywood.” Because of this, he was reluctant to sell the rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, when Jones personally approached him about making an adaptation, Geisel relented, knowing he could trust Jones and his vision.

3. Even with Ted Geisel’s approval, the special almost didn’t happen.

By Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Whereas today’s studios and production companies provide funding for projects of interest, television specials of the past, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, had to rely on company sponsorship in order to get made. While A Charlie Brown Christmas found its financier in the form of Coca-Cola, How the Grinch Stole Christmas struggled to find a benefactor. With storyboards in hand, Jones pitched the story to more than two dozen potential sponsors—breakfast foods, candy companies, and the like—all without any luck. Down to the wire, Jones finally found his sponsor in an unlikely source: the Foundation for Commercial Banks. “I thought that was very odd, because one of the great lines in there is that the Grinch says, ‘Perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store,’” Jones said of the surprise endorsement. “I never thought of a banker endorsing that kind of a line. But they overlooked it, so we went ahead and made the picture.”

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas had a massive budget.

Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).

5. Ted Geisel wrote the song lyrics for the special.

No one had a way with words quite like Dr. Seuss, so Jones felt that Geisel should provide the lyrics to the songs featured in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

6. Fans requested translations of the “Fahoo Foraze” song.

True to his persona’s tongue-twisting trickery, Geisel mimicked sounds of classical Latin in his nonsensical lyrics. After the special aired, viewers wrote to the network requesting translations of the song as they were convinced that the lyrics were, in fact, real Latin phrases.

7. Thurl Ravenscroft didn’t receive credit for his singing of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

8. Chuck Jones had to find ways to fill out the 26-minute time slot.

Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.

9. The Grinch’s green coloring was inspired by a rental car.

Warner Home Video

In the original book, the Grinch is illustrated as black and white, with hints of pink and red. Rumor has it that Jones was inspired to give the Grinch his iconic coloring after he rented a car that was painted an ugly shade of green.

10. Ted Geisel thought the Grinch looked like Chuck Jones.

When Geisel first saw Jones’s drawings of the Grinch, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t look like the Grinch, that looks like you!” Jones’s response, according to TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas Special: “Well, it happens.”

11. At one point, the special received a “censored” edit.

Over the years, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been edited in order to shorten its running time (in order to allow for more commercials). However, one edit—which ran for several years—censored the line “You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch” from the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Additionally, the shot in which the Grinch smiles creepily just before approaching the bed filled with young Whos was deemed inappropriate for certain networks and was removed.

12. The special’s success led to both a prequel and a crossover special.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Given the popularity of the Christmas special, two more Grinch tales were produced: Halloween is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat. Airing on October 29, 1977, Halloween is Grinch Night tells the story of the Grinch making his way down to Whoville to scare all the Whos on Halloween. In The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat, which aired on May 20, 1982, the Grinch finds himself wanting to renew his mean spirit by picking on the Cat in the Hat. Unlike the original, neither special was deemed a classic. But this is not to say they weren’t well-received; in fact, both went on to win Emmy Awards.