12 Surprising Facts About Unforgiven

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Unforgiven, released on August 7, 1992, was Clint Eastwood's 16th movie as a director and his 34th as a lead actor. But it was the first one to earn him an Oscar nomination—three of them, actually: for Best Actor, Best Picture, and Best Director. He won the latter two, and was at the time the oldest person to ever take home the director trophy. Despite decades of popular success, both as an actor and a filmmaker, it wasn't until Unforgiven that Eastwood began to be recognized by the esteemed members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Of course, one could argue that it wasn't until Unforgiven that Eastwood deserved Oscar attention. We'll leave that for you to discuss. In the meantime, here are a dozen tidbits to enhance your appreciation for what remains one of Eastwood's greatest movies on the 25th anniversary of its release. Never mind whether you deserve them; deserve's got nothing to do with it. 

1. FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA ALMOST MADE IT.

The director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now optioned the screenplay in the early 1980s, but couldn't get the movie financed. When his option on the script expired in 1985, Clint Eastwood picked it up ... and kept it for another several years before he finally made the movie. 

2. THE SCREENPLAY HAD BEEN KICKING AROUND SINCE 1976.

David Webb Peoples was a film editor in the '70s, writing scripts on the side. His first big break in that field came when he was hired to co-write Blade Runner for Ridley Scott, and he subsequently worked on Ladyhawke and Leviathan. (His post-Unforgiven work includes Hero, Twelve Monkeys, and Soldier.) Originally, Peoples' Unforgiven screenplay was alternately known as The William Munny Killings and The Cut-Whore Killings, which might go a long way toward explaining why nobody wanted to make it. 

3. TAXI DRIVER CONVINCED THE SCREENWRITER TO GO MEGA-VIOLENT. 

The jury's out on how much movie violence inspires real-life violence, but there's no question it inspires more movie violence. Case in point: David Webb Peoples, turned off by the way film deaths tended to be unrealistic and devoid of consequences, had intended to write something murder-free. Then Taxi Driver changed his mind. He later explained: "All of a sudden I see Taxi Driver, and people are getting killed, and the characters maintained how they would be in real life. But at the same time, it's an entertaining movie, and that was always important to me ... I wanted to write entertainment. Taxi Driver opened up what entertainment could be. It said, 'Yeah, you can write this kind of stuff and it'll be entertaining.'" 

4. EASTWOOD WAS INITIALLY STEERED AWAY FROM THE MOVIE.

Sonia Chernus, a longtime associate of Eastwood's (and screenwriter of The Outlaw Josey Wales), read The Cut-Whore Killings in the 1980s and was appalled by it. She wrote Eastwood this memo: "We would have been far better off not to have accepted trash like this piece of inferior work ... I can't think of one good thing to say about it. Except maybe, get rid of it FAST." (It may be worth noting that Chernus was in her seventies at the time, and the script was full of profanity and violence.) Eastwood took her advice and didn't read the script. Then, while looking for someone to rewrite a different project, he read The Cut-Whore Killings as a sample of Peoples' work, not realizing it was the screenplay Chernus had warned him away from. 

5. EASTWOOD PUT OFF MAKING THE MOVIE BECAUSE HE WANTED TO BE OLDER.

True, he had other irons in the fire in the second half of the 1980s—plenty of other movies to work on—but he has said that part of the reason he kept pushing Unforgiven back was that he wanted to wait until he was old enough to play the lead himself. 

6. IT WAS FILMED IN CANADA BECAUSE EASTWOOD GOT A "FAMILY" DISCOUNT. 

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Eastwood is famously loyal to his crew, with a few dozen technicians, designers, and other cogs in the moviemaking machine having worked with him for decades. His longtime cinematographer, Jack Green, was shooting a non-Eastwood project in Canada once when an official for a filmmaking union asked whether Clint was ever going to make a movie in the Great White North. Green told him never, "because he can't bring his 'family.'" (Normally, if you're going to shoot a film in a foreign country, you hire a local crew for all but the most crucial positions.) The Canadian union offered a deal: They'd waive the normal work rules for any Eastwood crew member who could prove he or she had worked on at least five Eastwood movies. That turned out to be most of them—around 50 people. "And that," said Green, "is how Unforgiven came to be shot in Canada." 

7. THEY BUILT A PRETTY CONVINCING WESTERN TOWN.

Eastwood's production designer, Henry Bumstead, and his team built the main set for the 1880s town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming on a lonesome prairie in Alberta from which no signs of modern civilization could be seen in any direction. The nearest big city was Calgary, 60 miles away. For authenticity—and since so much of the movie was to be shot on this set—all of the buildings were fully functional (and expensive), not just facades.

8. NO CARS WERE ALLOWED ON THE SET.

Eastwood wanted the painstakingly built set to maintain its Old West feel, so no modern vehicles were permitted. 

9. GENE HACKMAN WAS INITIALLY TURNED OFF BY THE FILM'S VIOLENCE.

"I swore I would never be involved in a picture with this much violence in it," he said in a DVD interview. "But the more I read it and the more I came to understand the purpose of the film, the more fascinated I became." 

10. HACKMAN'S PERFORMANCE WAS BASED IN PART ON FORMER L.A. POLICE CHIEF DARYL GATES.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Gates, a 40-year veteran of the LAPD, had been criticized for what many considered to be a heavy-handed, militarized, and racist approach to policing. It came to a head with the Rodney King beating in March of 1991, followed by the acquittal of the officers and the ensuing riots a year later. Hackman saw parallels between Gates and Sheriff Daggett, especially since the character most abused by Daggett was to be played by a black actor (Morgan Freeman).

Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel, who was on the Unforgiven set, wrote that Hackman referred to the scene where Daggett oversees Ned Logan's torture as "my Rodney King scene." (Gates resigned from the LAPD about six weeks before Unforgiven hit theaters and passed away in 2010.) 

11. THE FINAL PRODUCT SHOWS ALMOST NO CHANGES FROM THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT.

That's a rarity in Hollywood, where even the best screenplays are tinkered with as they're converted from words on a page into images on a screen. Eastwood had some ideas for revising Peoples' script, too, only to discover that "the more I fiddled with it, the more I realized I was screwing it up." All he ended up changing was the title. According to Peoples, Frances Fisher—who plays Strawberry Alice—told him "that this was the first time she saw a shooting script that was entirely in white. Most of them are multicolored, full of blue and red pages or whatever representing various changes in the screenplay." 

12. EASTWOOD HELPED WRITE THE MUSIC.

Though the movie's beautiful score is attributed to frequent Eastwood collaborator Lennie Niehaus, who indeed did most of the heavy lifting, the main melody came from Eastwood. The director has subsequently written the scores for several more of his movies entirely by himself. 

Additional Sources:
DVD/Blu-ray commentary and special features

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Remembering Rebecca: 11 Facts About Daphne du Maurier's Enduring Novel

Lily James as Mrs de Winter and Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter in Rebecca (2020).
Lily James as Mrs de Winter and Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter in Rebecca (2020).
KERRY BROWN/NETFLIX

“Rebecca, always Rebecca. I should never be rid of Rebecca,” laments the second Mrs de Winter in Daphne du Maurier’s beloved 1938 novel Rebecca. Mention the title to any bibliophile and they will no doubt give you many reasons why the novel has charmed and captivated so many generations over the years. So it's hardly surprising that this gothic thriller about a nameless young woman—who is swept off her feet by a wealthy widower, taken to live in his estate off the Cornish coast, and haunted by memories of his first wife—is the subject of Netflix’s next big-budget original.

The film, which stars Lily James (Downtown Abbey) and Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) arrives on Netflix on October 21, 2020. As you wait for the new adaptation to drop, here are a few facts about this enduring novel to keep you curious. **Warning: Spoilers below!**

1. Rebecca was first published in 1938 and has never gone out of print.

Selznick International Pictures, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Since it was published in 1938, Rebecca has never gone out of print [PDF], selling 2.8 million copies between 1938 and 1965. Over time, the novel has transformed from bestseller to cultural classic, with many stage and screen adaptations, including an Oscar-winning film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, and a 1993 book sequel by Susan Hill titled Mrs de Winter. In 2017, English bibliophiles voted Rebecca their favorite book of the past 225 years.

2. The heroine of Rebecca, Mrs de Winter, remains unnamed throughout.

Rebecca, after whom the novel is named, is dead when the story begins. She is brought to life via the impressions and memories other characters have of her and her lingering presence in Maxim de Winter's estate, Manderley, via her scent, her handwriting in books, and the carefully preserved clothes that remain in her wardrobe. Mostly, we see her through the eyes of the new Mrs de Winter, the "heroine" of the novel who, paradoxically, remains unnamed—a choice that surprised many fans of the book, including Agatha Christie [PDF].

3. Daphne du Maurier struggled with writer’s block while writing Rebecca.

Daphne du Maurier circa 1947.Ben van Meerendonk, AHF, IISG, Amsterdam // Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

Du Maurier struggled with a serious case of writer’s block when she began writing Rebecca. She discarded the first 50 pages of an early draft, telling her publisher: "The first 15,000 words I tore up in disgust and this literary miscarriage has cast me down."

4. Once she got past her writer’s block, Daphne du Maurier wrote Rebecca in four months.

Once she got past her early writing challenges, du Maurier wrote quickly and completed the manuscript for Rebecca in four months. Her secret? Arranging to spend time away from her children. “I am not one of those mothers who live for having their brats with them all the time,” du Maurier later wrote.

5. Rebecca has been celebrated as an important piece of feminist literature.

Initially marketed as a romance novel with Rebecca as the villainous, menacing wife, feminist interpretations of du Maurier’s novel now see it as a critique of gender power dynamics and a sexist society’s fear of powerful women. Some feminist critics suggest du Maurier intended for Maxim de Winter to be the real villain—the controlling husband who not only murders Rebecca when she refuses to play the obedient wife, but also oppresses and alienates the second Mrs de Winter, marrying her after the most unromantic of proposals: “I am asking you to marry me, you fool.”

6. In 2007, to mark the centenary of Daphne du Maurier's birth, the BBC produced two documentaries on the author.

Daphne, directed by Amy Jenkins, was based on Margaret Forster's biography of du Maurier which revealed, for the first time, du Maurier’s bisexuality. For the second documentary, The Road to Manderley, director Rick Stein set off in search of the author's world in Cornwall.

7. Some scholars believe Rebecca's second Mrs de Winter reflected Daphne du Maurier's sexual fluidity.

Some critics have wondered to what extent the character of the second Mrs de Winter was influenced by the author’s complicated and fluid sexuality. As Margaret Forster points out in her 1993 biography, du Maurier didn't think her desire for women made her a lesbian. The word transgender was not yet in common use then, but the author saw herself as female on the outside “with a boy’s mind and a boy’s heart.”

In the novel, the narrator casts herself as an androgyne, a friend and companion to Maxim, "a sort of boy," and obsessively wonders about Rebecca’s absent body, how she wore her coat, the color of her lipstick, her scent “like the crushed petals of azaleas."

8. Rebecca’s Manderley was inspired by two real-life estates.

A photo of Milton Hall.Julian Dowse, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The secretive mansion which lends the novel its famous opening line, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," was partly inspired by Milton Hall [PDF], an estate near Cambridge that du Maurier spent time at as a child. When she wrote Rebecca nearly 20 years later, du Maurier told Milton Hall's owner that she based Manderley's interiors on her memories of the "big house feel" [PDF] of Milton during WWI.

The other estate du Maurier had in mind when imagining Manderley was the Menabilly estate in Fowey, Cornwall. Du Maurier fell in love with the house when she was 21 years old. Five years after Rebecca was published, she convinced its owners to lease her the home. But just like Manderley is forever lost to Mrs de Winter in a fire, du Maurier was forced to move out of Menabilly in 1969.

9. Daphne du Maurier has been accused of plagiarizing parts of Rebecca from Brazilian author Carolina Nabuco's book The Successor.

Brazilian critics have long argued that du Maurier plagiarized Rebecca from Brazilian author Carolina Nabuco's 1934 book, The Successor. While the two novels do share striking plot similarities, the allegations were never proven one way or another. Du Maurier also faced a lawsuit in 1947 for allegedly plagiarizing Edwina DeVin McDonald’s novel Blind Windows and the short story "I Planned to Murder my Husband." Du Maurier denied any charges.

10. During World War II, a copy of Rebecca was discovered among the possessions of two captured German spies.

British intelligence officers determined that a copy of Rebecca had been used by the Germans during World War II as a code key.

11. Rebecca has been adapted to a variety of media.

Rebecca had been adapted for film several times, but the best-known adaptation is Hitchcock’s 1940 film of the same name. It’s also been adapted to television a number of times, as a radio play, and an opera.