13 Facts About Se7en for Its 25th Anniversary

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en (1995).
Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en (1995).
Warner Home Video

While the 1980s were all about the cinematic mass murderer as a mute, emotionless entity, the 1990s were a good time to peddle screenplays about high-IQ serial killers: The Silence of the Lambs started the decade by becoming one of the few thrillers to ever receive a Best Picture Oscar. But with audience fatigue setting in, few expected that 1995’s Se7en—from a first-time screenwriter and an as-yet-unproven director—would turn out to be a modern genre classic.

1. Se7en came from the mind of a record store employee.

Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker was a graduate of Penn State’s film program. Several years later, however, he was no closer to achieving his goal of working in the industry. Making ends meet at a New York City Tower Records store, Walker was so depressed that he wrote a bleak and oppressive script about the hunt for a killer who uses the seven deadly sins as inspiration for his crimes.

Satisfied with the outcome, he sent the script to professional writer David Koepp, then followed up with a phone call. Koepp agreed to send it to his agent, who found a buyer in New Line Cinema. (After reading it, Koepp also advised Walker that he "needed professional help.")

2. David Fincher signed on to direct Se7en because of a mix-up.

Getty Images

With only the disappointing experience of Alien 3 under his feature directing belt, David Fincher knew he wasn’t going to get too many more chances to impress Hollywood. He chose Se7en because of its unconventional approach to the genre—particularly the finale, which featured Brad Pitt’s detective character finding that the killer, “John Doe,” had beheaded his wife and stuffed her cranium into a box. Producers wanted the ending changed so that the wife lived, but when Fincher expressed interest in the film, he was accidentally sent Walker’s earlier, more intense climax. Fincher told the studio that was the draft he intended to shoot; they agreed, although producer Arnold Kopelson continued to argue against it throughout filming.

3. Brad Pitt worked himself to the bone on Se7en.

Brad Pitt in Se7en (1995).Warner Home Video

During a scene in which Pitt’s character, Detective David Mills, is chasing the killer through a perpetually rainy backdrop, Pitt slipped and drove his arm through a windshield. The resulting injury (a severed tendon) was so deep it went down to the bone. Pitt had to wear a cast for the rest of filming, which was written into the script; for scenes that had to be shot that took place earlier than the chase, the actor had to conceal his arm as best he could.

4. Se7en’s "Sloth" was a very, very underweight young man.

Warner Home Video

To cast the role of a victim who was chained to a bed and starved, producers had only two criteria: the ability to lay down for long periods of time and a very slight frame. At 98 pounds, actor Michael Reid MacKay fit the profile. Mostly. “They asked if I could lose a little more weight,” he said. “I didn’t.”

5. Se7en’s “Greed” didn't know what he was in for.

Actor Gene Borkan answered a casting call looking for a smarmy lawyer type. It wasn’t until he arrived on set that he realized he was going to spend his time naked, covered in blood, and acting like a corpse. "Right there and then I renegotiated," he said, asking for (and getting) five times the Screen Actors Guild day-scale fee of $522, as well as a pair of underwear.

6. Most of Se7en’s violence happens off-screen.

Warner Home Video

Despite extended examinations of tortured, bloated, or insect-infested corpses, virtually all of the actual bloodletting in Se7en takes place before Detectives Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills arrive on the scene. The film’s lone on-camera murder happens only when Mills kills Doe for murdering his wife.

7. Even Se7en’s title sequence was revolutionary.

Fincher originally intended to open the film with scenes of Detective Somerset visiting a home in the country and taking the train back. But when Fincher had to screen a rough cut for studio executives, he needed some filler. That’s when he called Kyle Cooper, a Yale graduate who created a kinetic opening montage of John Doe’s journals set to a Nine Inch Nails song. The New York Times hailed Cooper’s work as a step forward in filmmaking; the designer would go on to high-profile projects including the Spider-Man series and Dawn of the Dead. His work was so compelling, director Zack Snyder once said that some directors refuse to use him because he “makes title sequences better than the movie.”

8. Se7en opened against Showgirls.

Gina Gershon in Showgirls (1995).Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Se7en opened in theaters September 22, 1995, the same day as director Paul Verhoeven’s critically reviled Showgirls. While the latter was not the complete commercial disaster it’s often remembered as—Se7en made $13 million in its first weekend, compared to $8 million for the NC-17 film—it came nowhere near Fincher’s worldwide take of more than $327 million dollars.

9. Morgan Freeman was supposed to shoot the killer in Se7en.

Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in Se7en (1995).Warner Home Video

Walker and Fincher toyed with the idea of having Freeman’s Detective Somerset shoot John Doe after finding his partner’s wife’s head in a box, but Pitt vetoed the idea: he figured anyone who found their loved one like that would put a bullet into the perpetrator without a second thought.

10. Brad Pitt made sure Gwyneth Paltrow's head stayed in the box in Se7en.

After a bad experience where studio heads intervened on Legends of the Fall, Pitt was determined to make sure Se7en didn’t suffer the same fate. When he signed on to the film, he insisted that the original “head in a box” ending stayed intact. New Line agreed, but after testing the film, Pitt found himself having to put his foot down. “They go, ‘You know, he would be much more heroic if he didn’t shoot John Doe—and it’s too unsettling with the head in the box,’” Pitt recalled in 2011. "'We think maybe if it was the dog’s head in the box ...'"

11. Audiences swore they saw Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in Se7en.

As with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and its legendary shower scene, audiences believed they were shown more than they were. Viewers came out of the film believing the severed head of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who played Pitt’s wife, appeared onscreen. It did not. “The thing I appreciated about it and what I thought Andrew Kevin Walker’s script did so well was that it got your mind in overdrive,” Fincher told Playboy in 2014. “It worked on your imagination … we were in great shape and didn’t have to show the head in a box.” Despite his protests, Fincher has gotten into at least one argument with someone who swears they saw it.

12. Se7en inspired a comic book.

In 2006, Zenescope Entertainment acquired a license to produce a seven-part limited series based on John Doe’s fascination with the seven deadly sins. “Pages” of the journal glimpsed in the film were included. The title lasted seven issues.

13. Naturally, the studio wanted a sequel to Se7en.

Despite the closed nature of the film’s ending—Pitt’s character is probably headed for either prison or a mental institution—New Line wanted to build on what they thought could become a franchise. The studio took a spec script titled Solace about a psychic investigating a serial killer, and had it retrofitted for Freeman’s Detective Somerset. The project never moved forward with Freeman; Solace was eventually released—with former Hannibal Lecter Anthony Hopkins—in 2015.

This story has been updated for 2020.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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America’s Most Popular Horror Movie Villains, Mapped

FrontierBundles.com
FrontierBundles.com

No matter how you feel about scary movies, it's hard to avoid them around Halloween. This is the time of year when the faces of cinema's classic horror villains seem to pop up in every store window and television set you see. Depending on where you live, certain horror icons may be especially hard to ignore. Check out the map below to find out the most popular scary movie villain in your state.

To make the map, FrontierBundles.com chose 15 classic horror movie antagonists and looked at regional Google Trends data for each name from the past year. Frankenstein's Monster from 1931's Frankenstein dominates most of the country, with 11 states including Pennsylvania and Arizona searching for the character. Ghostface from 1996's Scream ranked second with eight states. Chucky from Child's Play (1988), the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, and Norman Bates from Psycho (1960) also rank high on the list.

FrontierBundles.com

Not every Halloween term Americans are searching for is horror-related. Some of the more wholesome seasonal queries that appear in Google's data include candy, crafts, and maze. But for every Google user searching for family-friendly fall activities, there are plenty looking up horror movies and monsters as well. Here's what people are Googling in your state for Halloween.