17 Surprising Facts About Misery

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Based on a 1987 Stephen King novel, Misery starred Kathy Bates in an Oscar-winning performance as Annie Wilkes, a nurse and huge fan of author Paul Sheldon, portrayed by James Caan. When Annie finds Sheldon after a car accident, she takes the author into her home and holds him hostage, torturing him and preparing to kill him once she discovers that he has killed off her favorite character, Misery Chastain. Here are some facts about the movie that will keep you from being a lying ol’ dirty birdy.

1. ANNIE WILKES WAS A METAPHOR FOR DRUGS.

The author had substance abuse issues during the time he wrote the novel. King told The Paris Review, “Annie was my drug problem, and she was my number one fan. God, she never wanted to leave.”

2. KING WOULD ONLY SELL THE MOVIE RIGHTS TO ROB REINER.

After Reiner’s work on his Stand By Me, King would only agree to let Reiner’s production company, Castle Rock, get involved with Misery if the former All in the Family actor either produced or directed it. At a Misery screening, King was enjoying himself so much that he yelled, “Watch out. She’s got a gun!” during the film’s climax.

3. BETTE MIDLER TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF ANNIE WILKES.

Midler thought it was too violent. She later called herself “stupid” for her decision. The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and All the President's Men screenwriter William Goldman wrote Misery with then unknown but respected theater actress Kathy Bates in mind.

4. JAMES CAAN WAS FAR FROM THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY PAUL SHELDON.

Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, and Robert Redford all said no to the role of Paul Sheldon. William Hurt said no twice. Warren Beatty showed a lot of interest and gave Reiner and Goldman ideas for the character before having to turn them down, too, because he had to keep working on Dick Tracy.

5. THERE WAS A BIG DEBATE AS TO WHETHER TO KEEP THE FOOT AXING SCENE IN THE MOVIE, AND IT COST THEM A DIRECTOR.

In the book, Annie chops off one of Paul’s feet with an axe. George Roy Hill—director of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and Slap Shot—agreed to direct Misery, then quickly changed his mind once he realized he couldn’t handle the lopping scene, which Goldman insisted be left in. This led Reiner to just direct it himself. It also may have influenced him to change the script for Annie to “just” break Paul’s ankles. Goldman later admitted Reiner was right.

6. BATES WASN’T HAPPY THAT THE SCENE WAS CHANGED.

Bates was initially disappointed that the axe scene was changed to the sledgehammer. 

7. BATES ENDED UP GETTING UPSET OVER THE VIOLENCE.

Caan recalled that his co-star was crying when it came time to shoot that infamous scene. Bates also cried before shooting the fight sequence at the end.

8. CAAN’S FAKE LEGS WERE MOLDED OUT OF GELATIN.

Armatures with wire were inserted into the prosthetic ankles so that after Annie hit them with the sledgehammer, they would bend at the desired, gruesome angles. There were holes so that Caan could slip his real legs up to the knee.

9. REINER STUDIED ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIES TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO SHOOT A THRILLER.

He watched every Hitchcock film. Reiner had Hitchcock on the brain so much that Caan overheard Reiner chastising himself one day on set, asking himself, “Who do you think you are, Alfred Hitchcock?”

10. IT WAS SHOT IN GENOA, NEVADA.

“Nevada’s oldest town” stood in for Silver Creek, Colorado. The crew built a cafe, a radiator shop, a sheriff’s station, and a general store. Cast and crew also utilized the Genoa Bar and Saloon.

11. CAAN HAD TO STAY IN BED FOR 15 WEEKS OF SHOOTING.

Caan said he thought that Reiner was playing a “sadistic” joke on him, knowing the actor wouldn’t enjoy not moving around for so long. Caan wasn’t used to playing a reactionary character, and found it much tougher to play.

12. FUTURE MEN IN BLACK DIRECTOR BARRY SONNENFELD WAS THE CINEMATOGRAPHER.

For a scene where Caan had to crawl out of bed, Sonnenfeld spit on the hardwood floor to indicate where Caan should crawl up to. The Godfather actor claimed to Reiner and Sonnenfeld it was the only movie he ever worked on where someone was hocking his marks.

13. BATES AND REINER AGREED ON AN UNWRITTEN, UNSPOKEN ANNIE BACKSTORY.

Used to giving her characters rich backgrounds to help her find her voice, Bates and Reiner agreed that Annie was molested by her father as a child. It helped explain for Bates why Annie had a history—as explained in the book and in the movie—of killing infants and old people in her nursing care.

14. CAAN AND BATES CLASHED OVER THEIR ACTING METHODS.

Caan believed in as little rehearsal as possible. Bates, with her theater background, was used to practicing a lot. When Bates commented to Reiner that Caan wasn’t attempting to relate or listen to her, Reiner told her to use that frustration toward her character.

15. BATES TOOK HER FRUSTRATION PRETTY FAR.

Reiner picked up on Bates getting more and more isolated as the shooting progressed, and told Bates to leave Annie Wilkes behind when the work day was done.

16. CAAN ONCE SHOWED UP TO THE SET HUNGOVER.

All of the scenes he shot that day were unuseable. Reiner told Caan he had to do the scenes again because there was “a problem at the lab.” When Caan learned it had nothing to do with labs, he offered to cover the money he lost the studio.

17. GOLDMAN ADAPTED THE SCRIPT FOR THE STAGE.

The theatrical version of Misery premiered in 2012, and just debuted on Broadway starring Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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Good Gnews: Remembering The Great Space Coaster

Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
Tubby Baxter and Gary Gnu in The Great Space Coaster.
YouTube

Tubby Baxter. Gary Gnu. Goriddle Gorilla. Speed Reader. For people of a certain age, these names probably tug on distant memories of a television series that blended live-action, puppetry, and animation. It was The Great Space Coaster, and it aired daily in syndication from 1981 to 1986. Earning both a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award for excellence in children’s programming, The Great Space Coaster fell somewhere in between Sesame Street and The Muppet Show—a series for kids who wanted a little more edge to their puppet performances.

Unlike most classic kid’s shows, fans have had a hard time locating footage of The Great Space Coaster. Even after five seasons and 250 episodes, no collections are available on home video. So what happened?

Get On Board

The Great Space Coaster was created by Kermit Love, who worked closely with Jim Henson on Sesame Street and created Big Bird, and Jim Martin, a master puppeteer who also collaborated with Henson. Produced by Sunbow Productions and sponsored by the Kellogg Company and toy manufacturer Hasbro, The Great Space Coaster took the same approach as Sesame Street of being educational entertainment. In fact, many of the puppeteers and writers were veterans of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Producers met with educators to determine subjects and content that could result in a positive cognitive or personal development goal for the audience, which was intended to be children from ages 6 to 11. There would be music, comedy, and cartoons, but all of it would be working toward a lesson on everything from claustrophobia to the hazards of being a litterbug.

The premise involved three teens—Danny (Chris Gifford), Roy (Ray Stephens), and Francine (Emily Bindiger)—who hitch a ride on a space vehicle piloted by a clown named Tubby Baxter. The crew would head for an asteroid populated by a variety of characters like Goriddle Gorilla (Kevin Clash). Roy carried a monitor that played La Linea, an animated segment from Italian creator Osvaldo Cavandoli that featured a figure at odds with his animator. The kids—all of whom looked a fair bit older than their purported teens—also sang in segments with original or cover songs.

The most memorable segment might have been the newscast with Gary Gnu, a stuffy puppet broadcaster who delivered the day’s top stories with his catchphrase: “No gnews is good gnews!” Aside from Gnu, there was Speed Reader (Ken Myles), a super-fast sprinter and reader who reviewed the books he breezed through. Often, the show would also have guest stars, including Mark Hamill, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Henry Winkler.

All of it had a slightly irreverent tone, with humor that was more biting than most other kid’s programming of the era. The circus that Tubby Baxter ran away from was run by a character named M.T. Promises. Gnu had subversive takes on his news stories. Other characters weren’t always as well-intentioned as the residents of Sesame Street.

Off We Go

The Great Space Coaster was popular among viewers and critics. In 1982, it won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming—Graphic Design and a Peabody Award in 1983. But after the show ceased production in 1986, it failed to have a second life in reruns or on video. Only one VHS tape, The Great Space Coaster Supershow, was ever released in the 1980s. And while fan sites like TheGreatSpaceCoaster.TV surfaced, it was difficult to compile a complete library of the series.

In 2012, Tanslin Media, which had acquired the rights to the show, explained why. Owing to the musical interludes, re-licensing songs would be prohibitively expensive—potentially far more than the company would make selling the program. Worse, the original episodes, which were recorded on 1-inch or 2-inch reel tapes, were in the process of degrading.

That same year, Jim Martin mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to begin salvaging episodes and digitizing them for preservation. That work has continued over the years, with Tanslin releasing episodes and clips online that don’t require expensive licensing agreements and fans uploading episodes from their original VHS recordings to YouTube.

There’s been no further word on digitizing efforts for the complete series, though Tanslin has reported that a future home video release isn’t out of the question. If that materializes, it’s likely Gary Gnu will be first to deliver the news.