13 Mysterious Facts About Clue

These days, no one is shocked when Hollywood announces they’ll try to make a movie based on a toy, let alone a board game. But that wasn’t the case 30 years ago, when Clue and its many mysteries hit theaters. Time’s been kind to this odd little gem of a movie, though, thanks to an ever-growing cult following and the ability to watch all three of its alternate endings at once. So, in honor of three decades of candlesticks, falling chandeliers, and flames on the sides of our faces, here are 13 fun facts about the film.

1. JOHN LANDIS WAS THE ORIGINAL DIRECTOR.

An American Werewolf in London

director John Landis crafted the original premise for Clue—a group of strangers, all being blackmailed, stuck in a mansion as a murder mystery unfolds around them—and initially planned to direct it himself. After commissioning Jonathan Lynn—at the time a Hollywood unknown best known for British TV work like Yes Minister—to write the screenplay, Landis decided to direct the Chevy Chase/Dan Aykroyd comedy Spies Likes Us instead, leaving Clue without a director. Impressed by Lynn’s background in theater, Landis suggested that he direct the film.

“He worked so hard and he was passionate about it,” said Landis. “He had this amazing [theater] background, and I thought, ‘Gee, you know, why don’t you do it, because it will be more than a year before I’m even available.’”

2. LANDIS WANTED TOM STOPPARD TO WRITE THE SCRIPT.

Though Landis had the initial framework for the film in place, what he didn’t have was an actual solution to the mystery, so he set out to get a “real writer,” and approached famed playwright Tom Stoppard. Stoppard worked for a year on the script before giving up and returning his paycheck, so Landis went to the great Stephen Sondheim (Into the Woods) and Psycho star Anthony Perkins, who’d previously collaborated on the mystery film The Last of Sheila. They turned the job down, and after a few more writers, Landis found Lynn.

3. CARRIE FISHER WAS THE ORIGINAL MISS SCARLET.

In the film’s original cast, its biggest star was Carrie Fisher. Days before she was supposed to show up for rehearsals, though, Fisher entered rehab. At the time, Lynn and Fisher both hoped she could work out a schedule that would allow her to receive treatment and do the film at the same time, but Clue’s insurers were having none of that, so the role of Miss Scarlet went to Lesley Ann Warren instead.

4. TIM CURRY WAS THE THIRD CHOICE FOR WADSWORTH THE BUTLER.

When considering who would play the butler at the center of the story, Lynn initially wanted Leonard Rossiter (Barry Lyndon), who at the time was starring in a London production of Loot that Lynn was also involved in. Unfortunately, Rossiter died on October 5, 1984 (he passed away in his dressing room while preparing to go on stage for a performance of Loot). Lynn then turned to Rowan Atkinson, who had just broken through with his British comedy Blackadder, but the studio wasn’t interested. Finally, the role went to Tim Curry, a former schoolmate of Lynn’s who already had his The Rocky Horror Picture Show credibility.

5. COLLEEN CAMP HAD TO FIGHT HARD FOR THE ROLE OF YVETTE.

According to Colleen Camp, the role of Yvette the maid was a coveted one in Hollywood, and everyone from Jennifer Jason Leigh to Madonna was interested in the part. Determined to win it for herself, Camp showed up to her audition in a rented maid’s outfit, and won the role.

6. MRS. WHITE’S ROLE GOT LARGER WHEN MADELINE KAHN CAME ABOARD.

According to Lynn, the role of Mrs. White was “underwritten” in the first draft of the script. When comedy legend Madeline Kahn—famous for the duel triumphs of Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles—became interesting in the part, Lynn went back and expanded the role.

7. THE DIALOGUE PACING WAS INSPIRED BY HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

Lynn set the film in New England in 1954, deliberately recalling tones of old Hollywood, and he wanted his cast to keep that in mind. Before they started shooting, Lynn screened for his cast the classic Cary Grant/Rosalind Russell film His Girl Friday, a film famous for its rapid-fire dialogue.

“He wanted us all to have that cadence, that very clipped, quick delivery on our lines,” Lesley Ann Warren recalled.

8. THE CHARACTERS' CARS MATCH THEIR NAMES.

Each of the main characters’ classic cars reflects the color given in their name. So when we first see Miss Scarlet, she’s by the side of the road next to a red car, then Professor Plum gets a plum-colored car, Colonel Mustard’s car is yellow, Mrs. Peacock’s is blue, and so on.

9. LESLEY ANN WARREN’S CORSET WAS SO TIGHT, SHE COULDN’T SIT DOWN.

Because Miss Scarlet’s dress was so tight, and costume designer Michael Kaplan dressed her in boned corsets, Lesley Ann Warren had difficulty sitting down while in costume, or really moving much at all. While the rest of the cast was enjoying games of pool in the billiard room, she was leaning against a board.

"To rest in that dress was a challenge, so they had slant boards,” Warren said. “It’s a diagonal board that one can lean against. It’s not uncomfortable, and there’re armrests, but you can’t sit down all that much. I spent a lot of time there. I didn’t play pool.”

10. THE FILM’S MOST FAMOUS SPEECH WAS IMPROVISED.

Lynn was not a fan of improvisation, and wanted his actors to stick to his script. One star in particular wasn’t a big fan of that, though: Madeline Kahn. So when Mrs. White is supposed to talk about how much she hated Yvette, Kahn lets loose a riff involving “flames” on the side of her face, and it was so good it just had to stay in the movie.

“All that was written was, ‘I hated her so much that I wanted to kill her,’ or something like that,” co-star Michael McKean said. “But she just kind of went into a fugue about hatred. She did it three or four times, and each time was funnier than the last.”

11. YOU MAY RECOGNIZE THE SINGING TELEGRAM GIRL AS A GO-GO.

YouTube

The Singing Telegram Girl, who only has a few seconds of (living) screen time in the film, wasn’t known as an actress at the time, but she was already a success in the music business. That’s right, it’s Go-Gos guitarist Jane Wiedlin, in her first film role.

12. THERE WAS ORIGINALLY A FOURTH ALTERNATE ENDING.

Clue

famously features three different solutions to the mystery, and they originally played in different theaters across the country (which is part of the reason why the film was a box office flop; no one knew which version to see). In the planning stages of the film, though, John Landis wanted four endings, one of which was eventually scripted and later scrapped by Lynn because it just wasn’t working. So, what was it? Well, Lynn claims he doesn’t remember, but the original movie storybook says it involved a scheme by Wadsworth to poison everyone.

13. THE MOVIE GOT ITS OWN PSYCH TRIBUTE EPISODE.

For its 100th episode, the mystery-comedy series Psych staged a Clue tribute in which various people are murder suspects inside a mansion. Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, and Lesley Ann Warren all appeared in the episode.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Facts About Real Genius On Its 35th Anniversary

Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Val Kilmer stars in Martha Coolidge's Real Genius (1985).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In an era where nerd is a nickname given by and to people who have pretty much any passing interest in popular culture, it’s hard to imagine the way old-school nerds—people with serious and socially-debilitating obsessions—were once ostracized. Computers, progressive rock, and role-playing games (among a handful of other 1970s- early '80s developments) created a path from which far too many of the lonely, awkward, and conventionally undateable would never return. But in the 1980s, movies transformed these oddballs into underdogs and antiheroes, pitting them against attractive, moneyed, successful adversaries for the fate of handsome boys and pretty girls, cushy jobs, and first-place trophies.

The 1985 film Real Genius ranked first among equals from that decade for its stellar cast, sensitive direction, and genuine nerd bona fides. Perhaps fittingly, it sometimes feels overshadowed, and even forgotten, next to broader, bawdier (and certainly now, more problematic) films from the era like Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science. But director Martha Coolidge delivered a classic slobs-versus-snobs adventure that manages to view the academically gifted and socially maladjusted with a greater degree of understanding and compassion while still delivering plenty of good-natured humor.

As the movie commemorates its 35th anniversary, we're looking back at the little details and painstaking efforts that make it such an enduring portrait not just of ‘80s comedy, but of nerdom itself.

1. Producer Brian Grazer wanted Valley Girl director Martha Coolidge to direct Real Genius. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.

Following the commercial success of 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds, there was an influx of bawdy scripts that played upon the same idea, and Real Genius was one of them. In 2011, Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School that the original script for Real Genius "had a lot of penis and scatological jokes," and she wasn't interested in directing a raunchy Nerds knock-off. So producer Brian Grazer enlisted PJ Torokvei (SCTV) and writing partners Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (Splash, City Slickers) to refine the original screenplay, and then gave Coolidge herself an opportunity to polish it before production started. “Brian's original goal, and mine, was to make a film that focused on nerds as heroes," Coolidge said. "It was ahead of its time."

2. Martha Coolidge’s priority was getting the science in Real Genius right—or at least as right as possible.

In the film, ambitious professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) recruits high-achieving students at the fictional Pacific Technical University (inspired by Caltech) to design and build a laser capable of hitting a human-sized target from space. Coolidge researched the subject thoroughly, working with academic, scientific, and military technicians to ensure that as many of the script and story's elements were correct. Moreover, she ensured that the dialogue would hold up to some scrutiny, even if building a laser of the film’s dimensions wasn’t realistic (and still isn’t today).

3. One element of Real Genius that Martha Coolidge didn’t base on real events turned out to be truer than expected.

From the beginning, the idea that students were actively being exploited by their teacher to develop government technology was always fictional. But Coolidge learned that art and life share more in common than she knew at the time. “I have had so many letters since I made Real Genius from people who said, 'Yes, I was involved in a program and I didn’t realize I was developing weapons,'" she told Uproxx in 2015. “So it was a good guess and turned out to be quite accurate.”

4. Val Kilmer walked into his Real Genius audition already in character—and it nearly cost him the role.

After playing the lead in Top Secret!, Val Kilmer was firmly on Hollywood’s radar. But when he met Grazer at his audition for Real Genius, Kilmer decided to have some fun at the expense of the guy who would decide whether or not he’d get the part. "The character wasn't polite," Kilmer recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1995. "So when I shook Grazer's hand and he said, 'Hi, I'm the producer,' I said, 'I'm sorry. You look like you're 12 years old. I like to work with men.'"

5. The filmmakers briefly considered using an actual “real genius” to star in Real Genius.

Among the performers considered to play Mitch, the wunderkind student who sets the movie’s story in motion, was a true genius who graduated college at 14 and was starting law school. Late in the casting process, they found their Mitch in Gabriel Jarrett, who becomes the third generation of overachievers (after Kilmer’s Chris and Jon Gries’s Lazlo Hollyfeld) whose talent Hathaway uses to further his own professional goals.

6. Real Genius's female lead inadvertently created a legacy for her character that would continue in animated form.

Michelle Meyrink, Gabriel Jarret, Val Kilmer, and Mark Kamiyama in Real Genius (1985).Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Michelle Meyrink was a staple of a number of ‘80s comedies, including Revenge of the Nerds. Playing Jordan in Real Genius, she claims to “never sleep” and offers a delightful portrait of high-functioning attention-deficit disorder with a chipper, erratic personality. Disney’s Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers co-creator Tad Stones has confirmed that her character went on to inspire the character of Gadget Hackwrench.

7. A Real Genius subplot, where a computer programmer is gaming a Frito-Lay contest, was based on real events.

In the film, Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite) plays Lazlo Hollyfeld, a reclusive genius from before Chris and Mitch’s time who lives in a bunker beneath their dorm creating entries to a contest with no restrictions where he eventually wins more than 30 percent of the prizes. In 1969, students from Caltech tried a similar tactic with Frito-Lay to game the odds. But in 1975, three computer programmers used an IBM to generate 1.2 million entries in a contest for McDonald’s, where they received 20 percent of the prizes (and a lot of complaints from customers) for their effort.

8. One of Real Genius's cast members went on to write another tribute to nerds a decade later.

Dean Devlin, who co-wrote Stargate and Independence Day with Roland Emmerich, plays Milton, another student at Pacific Tech who experiences a memorable meltdown in the rush up to finals.

9. The popcorn gag that ends Real Genius isn’t really possible, but they used real popcorn to simulate it.

At the end of the film, Chris and Mitch build a giant Jiffy Pop pack that the laser unleashes after they redirect its targeting system. The resulting popcorn fills Professor Hathaway’s house as an act of revenge. MythBusters took pains to recreate this gag in a number of ways, but quickly discovered that it wouldn’t work; even at scale, the popcorn just burns in the heat of a laser.

To pull off the scene in the film, Coolidge said that the production had people popping corn for six weeks of filming in order to get enough for the finale. After that, they had to build a house that they could manipulate with hydraulics so that the popcorn would “explode” out of every doorway and window.

10. Real Genius was the first movie to be promoted on the internet.

A week before Real Genius opened, promoters set up a press conference at a computer store in Westwood, California. Coolidge and members of the cast appeared to field questions from press from across the country—connected via CompuServe. Though the experience was evidently marred by technical problems (this was the mid-1980s, after all), the event marked the debut of what became the online roundtable junket.