13 Fascinating Facts About Natural Born Killers

YouTube
YouTube

One of the most controversial movies ever made, 1994’s Natural Born Killers caught the attention of the media with its story about two mass murderers and the media’s boundless fascination with them. Here are some facts that know the difference between right and wrong, but don’t necessarily give a damn.

1. QUENTIN TARANTINO WROTE THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT.

It was titled Mickey and Mallory and focused more on the media than on Mickey Knox and Mallory Wilson. He sold the rights to the movie for $10,000 because he was unable to get it made himself (this was before Pulp Fiction). Tarantino ended up getting a story credit for Natural Born Killers, while Richard Rutowski, Oliver Stone, and David Veloz each got a screenwriting credit.

2. JAMES WOODS AND GARY OLDMAN WERE UP FOR THE PART OF DETECTIVE SCAGNETTI.

According to Tom Sizemore, he got the part of Detective Jack Scagnetti after writing a monologue for the character, which he made Oliver Stone listen to in the parking lot of a bar. In addition to reading up on Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, he got clean for 97 days before filming. Unfortunately, the sobriety didn’t last.

3. MICHAEL MADSEN ALMOST TOOK THE LEAD.

Michael Madsen was considered for the lead role of Mickey: "Oliver Stone wanted me, but the studios offered him an extra $20 million to cast Woody Harrelson," Madsen told The Guardian.

4. WAYNE GALE WAS PARTIALLY PATTERNED AFTER GERALDO RIVERA.

After briefly considering casting Geraldo Rivera himself in the role, Stone offered the part of TV tabloid journalist Wayne Gale to Robert Downey Jr. To prepare for the role, the actor spent some time with A Current Affair reporter Steve Dunleavy and his producer, Wayne Darwen. Both Dunleavy and Darwen have been individually credited as the inspiration for Downey’s character and his Australian accent.

5. RODNEY DANGERFIELD WROTE ALL THE "FILTHY STUFF" HIS CHARACTER SAID.

Oliver Stone didn’t give the comedian a script; he simply told Dangerfield he was going to play “the father from hell.”

6. STONE PLAYED LOUD MUSIC BETWEEN TAKES.

Sometimes it was “loud, industrial rock music” which was blasted through speakers to keep up the tension. Other times it was “African tribal music” being played at top volume.

7. THE SHOOT WAS A "NIGHTMARE" FOR THE DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY.

Cinematographer Robert Richardson’s wife became ill giving birth to their daughter, and told her husband that if he worked on Natural Born Killers she would divorce him (and eventually did). Adding to this stress: Richardson's brother ended up in a coma in the midst of production, the images he was shooting brought up bad childhood memories, and he broke a bone in his hand while shooting in the prison. Richardson “almost went mad” and described the experience of shooting Natural Born Killers as a “nightmare.”

8. THE PRISON SCENES WERE SHOT AT STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER.

The Illinois facility was also used in The Blues Brothers and Bad Boys. The more complicated scenes were shot in studios in Chicago on sets built to look like the prison. Actual prisoners were cast as extras, and paid $50 a day.

9. MICKEY AND MALLORY GOT MARRIED IN NEW MEXICO.

The unconventional wedding ceremony was shot on The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in Taos, New Mexico.

10. NO, COCA-COLA DIDN'T KNOW THEIR PRODUCT WOULD BE USED THE WAY IT WAS.

Coke agreed for their old polar bear commercial to be used in the movie, believing the ad would be shown while Tommy Lee Jones was watching the Super Bowl. Instead, it was juxtaposed with violence. The soda giant's board of directors was “furious,” but it was too late to do anything about it.

11. MICKEY AND MALLORY DIE IN THE ALTERNATE ENDING.

The killers survive in the final version because Oliver Stone believed that the 1990s were a time when the bad guys got away with it.

12. ROBERT DE NIRO WAS NOT PLEASED THAT JULIETTE LEWIS IMPROVISED.

Three years before Natural Born Killers, De Niro and Lewis had worked together on Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear. When De Niro praised her work in the film, Lewis explained that she improvised most of her lines, which De Niro did not like. He admonished the young actress for disrespecting the film's writers.

13. JOHN GRISHAM THOUGHT OLIVER STONE SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE ACTIONS OF MICKEY AND MALLORY COPYCATS.

Two of the most notable “copycat killers” to follow in the footsteps of Mickey and Mallory were Ben Darras and Sarah Edmondson, two Oklahoma teens who murdered businessman Bill Savage in Mississippi then shot and paralyzed convenience store clerk Patsy Byers in Louisiana. The teenagers claimed that their crime spree was inspired by Natural Born Killers, leading Byers's family to file a lawsuit against both Stone and Time Warner—an action that was fully supported by bestselling author/lawyer John Grisham, who was a personal friend of Savage's. Grisham claimed that because of the direct "causal link" between the film and the teens's actions, "the artist should be required to share responsibility along with the nutcase who pulled the trigger." The case against Stone and the studio was eventually dismissed.

12 Perfectly Spooky Halloween Decorations Under $25

Amazon/shopDisney
Amazon/shopDisney

Halloween is right around the corner—which means it’s officially time to bring out the jack-o'-lanterns, watch scary movies, buy your costume(s), and hang up your festive decorations. Although there are thousands of decorations to choose from, you don’t have to blow your budget while decking out your house or apartment in honor of the spooky season this year. With a little guidance, you'll find plenty of ways to create the perfect ambiance at home without going for broke. (And best of all, you can put the money you saved toward extra Halloween candy to stash away.)

From giant spiders to hanging ghosts and lawn decorations, here are a few of our favorite props under $25.

1. Halloween Pillow Covers (4-Pack); $17

ZJHAI/Amazon

These adorable Halloween-themed pillowcases make the perfect accessory for any couch, sofa, or mattress. Made with thick linen fabric, these are durable, sturdy, and designed to last for seasons to come. (Tip: To prevent the zipper from breaking, fold the pillow in half before inserting.)

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black Lace Spiderweb Fireplace Mantle; $12

Aerwo/Amazon

This versatile spiderweb prop is made with 100-percent polyester, and its knit lace spiderweb pattern adds a spooky touch to any home. Display it on your doorway, across your fireplace mantel, or atop your table. (It also makes a great backdrop for Halloween photo ops.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Statement Halloween Signs; $16

Dazonge/Amazon

These festive, statement-making banners come pre-assembled, making them incredibly easy to install. They’re also weather-resistant and washable for both outdoor and indoor use. Use tape, push-pins, or weights to prevent the signs from blowing away.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Jack Skellington and Sally Plush Dolls; $23 (Each)

Disney

Celebrate your favorite holiday with a pair of adorable Jack Skellington and Sally plush dolls from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack stands at 28 inches tall, while Sally is a bit shorter at 21 inches. Set them up on your sofa or against the window sill for all to see.

Buy them: Disney Shop (Jack and Sally)

5. Halloween Zombie Groundbreaker; $22

Joyin/Amazon

This spooktacular zombie lawn decoration is sure to scare all of your friends, family, and neighbors alike. Made with a combination of latex, plastic, and fabric, this durable Halloween prop is sure to last for years to come.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Hanging Ghost Decoration; $14

Moon Boat/Amazon

Drape this handmade, 14-foot-long hanging ghost decoration over your porch, doorway, or window. You can also hang it outdoors over a tree or a (very tall) bush. And, since it comes pre-assembled, you won’t have to waste time constructing it yourself.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Two-Piece Hanging Ghost Set; $17

GeeFuun/Amazon

This pair of ghosts adds a whimsical touch to any home. While they’re not “scary,” per se, they certainly are adorable. Display them in your front yard, on your porch, on a lamppost, or a tree. To hang, simply tie the ribbons and bend the wires, arms, and tails.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Pumpkin String Lights; $19

Eurus Home/Amazon

Not only are these solar-powered, 33-foot-long LED string lights good for the environment, they’re also incredibly easy to install (no long, tangly power cable chords necessary). Since they’re waterproof, you can use them both indoors and outdoors. Choose from eight different light settings, including twinkling, flashing, fading, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Inflatable Ghost; $22

Joiedomi/Amazon

This adorable inflatable ghost (which dons a cute-as-can-be wizard hat!) features built-in LED lights and sandbags to help it stay sturdy. It also comes complete with a plug, extended cords, ground stakes, and fastened ropes. Simply plug it in and watch it magically inflate within just a few minutes.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Graveyard Tombstones; $17

meiguisha/Amazon

Turn your front lawn into a graveyard with this six-piece set. Each tombstone is made with foam and designed to add a touch of spookiness to your space. To install, insert one holder into the bottom of the tombstone, and one into the soil. You can use these indoors, as well.

Buy it: Amazon

11. 10-Piece Skeleton Set; $24

Fun Little Toys/Amazon

This skeleton set includes a skull, hands and arms, and legs and feet—plus five stakes to hold everything in place. Each “bone” and “joint” is flexible, allowing you to prop the skeleton into different frighteningly fun poses. Simply place the stakes into the bone socket and turn clockwise.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Outdoor Spider Web; $18

amenon/Amazon

This giant, ultra-stretchy spider web spans a whopping 23 feet. It also includes a 30-inch black spider, 20 pieces of fake spiders, one hook, and one nail. Its thick polyester rope—combined with the sturdy stakes—allows the spider web to stay in place all season long. Place the hook on a wall or tree, and expand the web using the stakes.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

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

Cop Rock: How ABC Created the Strangest TV Musical Of All Time

The cast of Cop Rock—in a rare moment of not singing about law and order.
The cast of Cop Rock—in a rare moment of not singing about law and order.
Shout! Factory

A team of gun-toting officers storm into a drug den in the middle of the night as helicopters hover above; a young meth addict mother watches as her baby is taken away from her; a half-dozen gang members are violently placed under arrest.

The opening scene of Cop Rock, which premiered on September 26, 1990, initially resembles the gritty police procedurals co-creator Steven Bochco made his name with. Yet as the suspects are marched out of the house, the show immediately proves it’s a different beast than Hill Street Blues or L.A. Law. For the gang then breaks into an N.W.A-lite rap titled "We Got the Power."

Taking advantage of his 10-series deal with ABC, Bochco had thrown caution to the wind and released a show that was a blend of an ambitious black comedy, a weighty cop drama, and ... musical theater.

Later on in the pilot episode, a courtroom jury turns into a fully-robed gospel choir while belting out their verdict of “He’s guilty.” Elsewhere, a city mayor accepts a bribe from a property developer in the form of a ‘70s-inspired barroom rocker, and the aforementioned meth mom sings a sweet lullaby to her baby before selling the newborn for a measly $200. You can understand why TV Guide once hailed Cop Rock as “the single most bizarre TV musical of all time.”

Unfortunately, Cop Rock's strangeness didn’t pique the curiosity of enough ABC viewers and the show was canceled after just 11 episodes (although it did manage to attract 9 million viewers—a number that certainly wouldn't be sniffed at these days). Its songwriting talent seemed baffled that it ever even aired at all. Randy Newman, who penned both the theme tune and all five songs from its pilot episode, once told Bochco, “You’re crazy. It’ll never work.” Composer Michael Post, meanwhile, claimed it was the worst idea he had ever heard.

Bochco and fellow showrunner William M. Finkelstein didn’t exactly make things easy for themselves, either. The majority of actors were cast simply for their vocal abilities—hence the oft-wooden line deliveries. Conversely, those actors who were able to prop up the more dramatic scenes struggled to hold a tune. The creators also decided to forgo the typical lip-synching to pre-recorded vocals approach and capture each musical interlude live instead, which only added to the show's production complexities.

Unlike future hybrid shows such as Glee, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Empire, Cop Rock struggled to integrate its musicality into its storylines in an organic way. There’s a time and a place for a jaunty Hall & Oates pastiche, of course, but it’s probably not in the middle of a self-described "baby merchant" getting caught in a child abduction sting. Had the show sold itself as a pure comedy, such baffling set pieces might have worked. But most of the laughs Cop Rock got were of the unintentional variety.

The series may have gone down in infamy as one of the biggest misfires in network TV history, but many of the people who were involved with it still seem proud to be associated with a show that refused to play by the norms. In 2010, Bochco told the Los Angeles Times that he considered Cop Rock to be a highlight of his career. And let’s not forget that the show picked up five Emmy nominations, and won two of them: Outstanding Editing for a Series and Achievement in Music and Lyrics for Newman. (It's worth noting that The Wire, which is regularly cited as one of television's best crime dramas—and one of the greatest TV shows of all time—received just two Emmy nominations throughout its entire five-season run, both for Outstanding Writing.)

Although Cop Rock's songs may seem considerably dated today, a belated DVD release in 2016, courtesy of Shout! Factory, showed that the show's themes sadly remain all-too-timely today. Storylines included an unarmed African-American suspect being killed in cold blood by a white cop and a mother singing to her kids about Black history after racists plant a burning cross on their front lawn. Bob Iger, ABC’s former head of entertainment, even said that if the show had been a straightforward police procedural, it probably would have lasted more than a single season.

Perhaps we should consider Cop Rock as more of an admirable failure than an outright embarrassing disaster. As Bochco told The A.V. Club in 2016: "If you have the guarantee of getting that many shows on the air and you don’t do something bold and adventurous and experimental, then shame on you."