12 Fascinating Facts About Jackie Brown

Miramax
Miramax

Jackie Brown is the third film from director Quentin Tarantino and the only one of his movies not based on his original material (it’s a liberal adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch). Considered by many fans and critics to be one of Tarantino’s most “mature” cinematic efforts—its pace and bravado stand in stark contrast to Pulp FictionJackie Brown is one of those rare movies that only gets better with age and subsequent viewings. On the 20th anniversary of its debut, here are 12 facts you might not have known about the Oscar-nominated crime drama.

1. QUENTIN TARANTINO ALMOST ADAPTED ANOTHER ELMORE LEONARD BOOK INSTEAD.

After Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s production company purchased the rights to three Elmore Leonard novels: Rum Punch, Freaky Deaky, and Killshot. He thought one of them would make a great next project, but was unsure of exactly which one. “I thought I was gonna do another one of them,” Tarantino explained in a bonus interview on the Jackie Brown Blu-ray. “I didn’t think I was gonna do Rum Punch. [So] I was just getting ready to give Rum Punch to another director that I knew. And in reading it again that night, I fell in love with it the exact same way I did a couple of years before.”

2. TARANTINO WAS WORRIED LEONARD WOULD HATE THE SCRIPT.

Tarantino made some significant changes to Leonard’s material—most notably changing the title from Rum Punch, making Jackie’s last name Brown instead of Burke (an obvious homage to Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown character), and changing Jackie’s race from white to black. Though Tarantino had purchased the rights to the novel and was allowed to take whatever creative liberties he wanted, he was concerned that Leonard would disapprove.

“He called me right before he went into production on Jackie Brown,” Leonard recalled. “He said, ‘I’ve been afraid to call you for the last year.’ And I said, why? Because you changed the title and the color of the main character? He said, ‘Yeah!’ I said, well that’s alright. Do what you want, you’re the filmmaker!”

As it turns out, Tarantino’s fears were unfounded. “[Leonard] really liked the script,” Tarantino said. “Then he came back and he said not only that he thought it was the best adaptation of his work he’d ever read, he thought it was maybe the best script he’d ever read.”

3. TARANTINO DID NOT SET OUT TO RESURRECT THE CAREERS OF ROBERT FORSTER OR PAM GRIER.

Robert Forster in 'Jackie Brown' (1997)
Miramax

Tarantino has garnered a reputation as a filmmaker with the ability to revive the careers of some of his favorite, albeit often forgotten, actors. But Tarantino doesn’t see it that way. “People do come up to me and go, 'Who are you gonna bring back next time? Who’s next on the radar? Who’s next on the list?'” Tarantino explained on the Blu-ray interview. “I’m not coming from that place. I’m trying to cast the best actors or the coolest actors in whatever role. And I’m just not using the hot star list in order to do it.”

4. GRIER AND TARANTINO WERE DESTINED TO WORK TOGETHER.

Speaking of Pam Grier: Tarantino had long been a fan of her work, and had recruited her to audition for the role of Jody, Eric Stoltz’s wife, in Pulp Fiction. Grier auditioned but Tarantino was convinced there was no way that Stoltz (who had already been cast) was going to tell Pam Grier to shut up. So the role ultimately went to Rosanna Arquette. But Tarantino made Grier a promise: “He said, ‘We’re gonna work together one day,’” Grier recalled. “And I said, ‘Yeah, right!’”

When Grier walked in to audition for Jackie Brown, “there were all my posters from 20 years ago, when I was just a piss and vinegar kid,” she recalled. “And I said, ‘Did you put these up because I was coming over?’ And he said, ‘No. I was gonna take them down because you were coming over!'"

5. ROBERT FORSTER’S RESERVOIR DOGS AUDITION GOT HIM THE JACKIE BROWN GIG.

Like Grier, Tarantino had promised Robert Forster that the two of them would work together after the actor auditioned for Reservoir Dogs. “I was reading for the part that Lawrence Tierney eventually played,” Forster recalled in an interview on the Blu-ray. “But when I read for him, Quentin said, ‘You know what? This may not work out. If it doesn’t, don’t worry. One of these days I’m gonna use you.’”

Years later Tarantino ran into Forster in a restaurant and deemed the meeting fate. He gave Forster the Max Cherry role on the spot. In 1998, Forster earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for Jackie Brown (the film’s sole nomination).

6. TARANTINO WAS UPSET THAT GRIER DIDN’T RECEIVE AN OSCAR NOD.

Pam Grier and Quentin Tarantino on the set of 'Jackie Brown' (1997)
Miramax

“Pam and Sam didn’t get nominated for an Oscar, and Robert did. And I was shocked by that," Tarantino said. "I was really surprised. And it was weird because I was really happy that Robert got nominated for an Oscar, but I was like really sad that Pam didn't get nominated … I really wanted Pam to be the first black actress to ever win an Academy Award [for Best Actress].”

7. ORDELL’S LOOK IN THE FILM WAS CONCOCTED BY SAMUEL L. JACKSON.

“That was all Sam’s idea,” admitted Tarantino of the look for Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Ordell Robie. “The whole thing with the long hair and the goatee, the whole kind of samurai, mad priest, mad kung fu priest on the mountain look he had—Sam came up with that. And it was just terrific. It just made it.”

8. MICHAEL KEATON WAS HIS OWN BIGGEST OBSTACLE IN GETTING THE ROLE OF RAY NICOLETTE.

According to Tarantino, Michael Keaton desperately tried to talk the director out of hiring him for the role of FBI agent Ray Nicolette. “His whole process was to convince me that he’s not right for the role,” Tarantino said. “But he never quite convinced me … Michael’s whole thing is to deny himself and to say he’s not right.”

Eventually Tarantino was able to convince Keaton that he was the man for the job and the rest is history. In fact, the following year, Keaton went on to reprise the role of Ray Nicolette in Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Out of Sight.

9. SYLVESTER STALLONE TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF LOUIS GARA.

Bridget Fonda, Robert De Niro, and Samuel L. Jackson in 'Jackie Brown' (1997)
Miramax

In an interview with Maclean’s, Sylvester Stallone said he turned down roles in two Tarantino films: Louis Gara in Jackie Brown and Stuntman Mike in Death Proof. Ultimately the role of Louis went to Robert De Niro.

10. PETER FONDA MAKES AN APPEARANCE IN THE FILM.

During a scene where Louis (Robert De Niro) and Melanie (Bridget Fonda) are watching television at her apartment, they are watching the film Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. The film stars Peter Fonda, Bridget's father.

11. TARANTINO SPENT A MONTH WATCHING THE MOVIE IN THEATERS.

Tarantino wanted to gauge the audience reaction to key moments in the film, so he spent the first several weeks following the film’s release watching it in theaters. “I saw that movie … like 13 times at the Magic Johnson Theatre,” said Tarantino. “The whole first four weeks it was there, I just lived there.”

12. TARANTINO CONSIDERS THE FILM HIS RIO BRAVO.

Tarantino compares Jackie Brown to Howard Hawks’ classic 1959 John Wayne western. “It’s a hangout movie,” he explained. “Jackie Brown is better the second time. And I think it’s even better the third. And the fourth time … Maybe even the first time we see it we go, ‘Why are we doing all this hanging out? Why can’t we get to more of the plot?’ But now the second time you see it, and the third time you see it, you’re not thinking about the plot anymore. You’re waiting for the hangout scenes … To me, [that’s] the thing that Rio Bravo did. I remember the first time I saw Rio Bravo, but I remember more the fifteenth time I saw Rio Bravo. It’s about hanging out with the characters.”

Additional Source:
Jackie Brown Blu-ray extra features

21 Fun Facts About Elf

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Everyone knows the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! But the second best way is to enjoy Elf. Revel in the giddy glow of this modern holiday classic with a slew of secrets from behind the scenes.

1. Jim Carrey was initially eyed to play Buddy the elf.

When David Berenbaum's spec script first emerged in 1993, Carrey was pre-Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and attached to front the Christmas film. However, it took another 10 years to get the project in motion, at which time Saturday Night Live star Will Ferrell was signed to star. Carrey would go on to headline his own Christmas offerings—the live-action How The Grinch Stole Christmas and the CGI animated A Christmas Carol.

2. Will Ferrell worked as a mall Santa.


Warner Bros.

And his A Night at the Roxbury co-star Chris Kattan was his elf. This was back when the pair were pre-Saturday Night Live, and part of the comedy troupe The Groundlings. Ferrell recollected to Spliced Wire, "I have some experience playing Santa Claus … Chris Kattan was my elf at this outdoor mall in Pasadena for five weeks, passing out candy canes. It was hilarious because little kids could care less about the elf. They just come right to Santa Claus. So by the second weekend, Kattan had dropped the whole affectation he was doing and was like (Ferrell makes a face of bitter boredom), 'Santa's over there, kid.'"

3. Director Jon Favreau favored practical effects.

Inspired by the Christmas specials he grew up with, Favreau explained in the film's commentary track that he employed “old techniques” instead of CGI whenever possible. This included stop-motion animation, and using forced perspective to make Buddy look like a giant among his elf peers. For North Pole scenes, two sets were built—one larger scale for the actors playing elves, the other smaller to make Buddy and Santa look big. These elements where then carefully overlaid in camera, using lighting to blend the seams.

4. Snow was often computer-generated.


Warner Home Video

Some effects just couldn't be practical. These included the snowflakes that drift over the opening credits, and many of the snowballs in Buddy's pivotal fight scene. It's probably not much of a shocker that much of these were added in post, considering Buddy's perfect aim. But to further underscore the drama that is a snowball fight in frosty New York, Favreau asked composer John Debney to give this section a Western vibe that would recall The Magnificent Seven.

5. Elf's production design was heavily influenced by Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

The classic stop-motion Christmas special from 1964 gave a memorable presentation of Santa's winter wonderland to which Favreau wanted to pay tribute. The elves' costumes in Elf were inspired by those worn by Hermey and his peers in the animated film. And Elf's workshops were modeled after the Rankin/Bass designs, as were the stop-motion animals of the area. The production did secure permission for these allusions, and was even granted the privilege of using the company's signature snowman.

6. There's a Christmas Story cameo.

Peter Billingsley, who memorably played the Red Ryder-wanting Ralphie in the 1983 holiday classic, popped in to play Ming the elf. It's an uncredited role, but between the glasses and those bright baby blue eyes, Billingsley stands out as an A Christmas Story Easter egg. This marks just one of many Billingsley and Favreau's collaborations. Billingsley has been a producer on several of Favreau's film and television projects.

7. Jon Favreau played multiple parts in Elf.

Jon Favreau directs Will Ferrell in 'Elf' (2003)
Alan Markfield, New Line Productions

As a writer/director/actor, Favreau has often appeared in his own films. He fronted Made with friend Vince Vaughn, and later found a sweet supporting role for himself in Iron Man. You may have picked him out as the doctor in Elf, but on the DVD commentary, Favreau revealed he also tapped in to his inner narwhal and provided the voices for some of the stop-animation critters who see Buddy off from the North Pole. He also voiced the rabid raccoon Buddy encounters.

8. Baby buddy was fired.

To play the bubbly baby version of the titular elf, Favreau had initially cast twin boys whose blonde curly hair made them great little doubles for the mop-topped Ferrell. However, the production ran into a problem when the boys couldn't perform. Instead of smiling and crawling as needed, they cried relentlessly. To replace them, brunette triplet girls were brought in, who were far perkier and more playful, and thereby ready for their close-ups.

9. Buddy was bullied in an early version.

In first drafts of Berenbaum's Elf script, Buddy's decision to seek out his dad was in part because he was being hassled by the actual elves for being different. Favreau pushed to take out this element. He preferred to keep the North Pole characters warm, even when Buddy bugs them. In the DVD commentary, Favreau offers, “It explained why Buddy was doing all these good things in New York if he grew up in a world where everybody was so sweet even when he’s obviously screwing everything up and doesn’t fit in at all.”

10. Elf hockey hit the cutting room floor.

Poor Buddy accidentally wreaks all kinds of havoc on his elf community because of his ungainly size. One such scene of his well-meaning mayhem featured Buddy playing hockey on a frozen pond. The friendly game becomes unintentionally violent when the too-big Buddy takes to the ice. Though it was shot, it ended up being chopped from the finished film.

11. Elf was shot on location in New York when it counted.

Like many productions, this one took advantage of the financial benefits of filming in Canada, and much of Elf was shot in sound stages in Vancouver. However, when Buddy comes to New York, it was important to Favreau to shoot on location whenever possible. This includes all the Manhattan exteriors, as well as scenes shot at Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and Central Park West, where Buddy's dad lives.

12. Some of Elf’s sets were built in a horror factory.

Okay, technically it was an abandoned mental hospital, where the production team constructed the interior sets for Walter's Central Park West apartment, Gimbels's lavish toy department, and that grim prison cell. The facility is called Riverview Hospital, and it has played host to a long list of film and television productions, including The X-Files, Final Destination 2, Jennifer's Body, and See No Evil 2.

13. Macy's stood in for Gimbels.

The sprawling department store that takes up a whole block in Manhattan was digitally altered to transform into Elf's Gimbels. A bit awkward: Gimbels was once a real department store, and a noted rival of Macy's. Though immortalized here and in the 1947 classic Miracle on 34th Street, the department store closed its doors in 1987, its 100th year of operation.

14. Will Ferrell broke James Caan.


Warner Home Video

The Academy Award-nominated star of The Godfather was hired to play Walter in part because Favreau wanted a stern persona to play against Ferrell's giddy Buddy, and Caan took the comedy of Elf seriously. He knew it was crucial for Walter to be annoyed—never amused—by his supposed son's antics. But when it came to the blood test scene where Buddy bellows when pricked by a needle, Caan cracked. Watch closely and you'll see he turns away from the camera so as not to ruin the take.

15. The studio didn't get a joke from the mailroom sequence.

This was the last set piece shot for Elf, and one that filmmakers were wavering on from its conception late in production. Grizzled Mark Acheson's casting as Buddy's drinking buddy concerned execs because of the line, "I'm 26 years old." The studio noted the actor does not look 26, to which Favreau—who had previously cast Acheson in a small role that had been cut before production—responded that this disconnect was part of the joke.

16. Will Ferrell went method with those jack-in-the-boxes.

In the scene where Buddy suffers as a toy tester, he's subjected to popping open an endless stream of menacing jack-in-the-boxes. The anxiety etched on Ferrell's face in these scenes is real. Rather than standard jack-in-the-boxes that would pop at the song's end, these were remote controlled by Favreau, who purposely manipulated their timing to toy with his star and get authentic reactions.

17. Will Ferrell frolicked all over New York City in character.

The final day of Elf's New York shooting was pared down from a massive crew to just three people: its star, its director, and one cameraman. Together, this trio traveled around the city, looking for mischief for Buddy to get into with random passersby turned background extras. This included him leapfrogging across a pedestrian walk, happily accepting flyers, and getting his shoes shined, all of which made it into the movie's cheerful montage.

18. That epic burp was real, but overdubbed.

Though uncredited, that lengthy belch came not from Ferrell, but from noted voice actor Maurice LaMarche, who might be best known for Brain of Pinky and the Brain. LaMarche shared his secret to such an impressive burp with The A.V. Club, saying, "I’ve always been able to do this weird effect, where I turn my tongue, not inside out, but almost. I create a huge echo chamber with my tongue and my cheeks, and by doing a deep, almost Tuvan rasp in my throat, and bouncing it around off this echo chamber, I create something that sounds very much like a sustained deep burp."

19. Elf made its star stick.

In the movie, Buddy is happy to gobble down an endless supply of sweets, including maple syrup-coated spaghetti and cotton balls made of cotton candy. But this sugary diet played havoc on Ferrell, who told About Entertainment, "That was tough. I ingested a lot of sugar in this movie and I didn't get a lot of sleep. I constantly stayed up. But anything for the movie, I'm there. If it takes eating a lot of maple syrup, then I will—if that's what the job calls for."

20. Will Ferrell refuses to make Elf 2.

Though the comedian reprised the role of Ron Burgundy for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and returned as Mugatu in Zoolander 2, he flat out rejected the possibility of bringing back Buddy, even after being offered a reported $29 million. In December of 2013, he told USA TODAY, "I just think it would look slightly pathetic if I tried to squeeze back in the elf tights: Buddy the middle-aged elf."

21. Elf became a hit Broadway musical.

From November 2010 to January 2011, Elf the musical ran on Broadway, boasting songs like "World's Greatest Dad," "Nobody Cares About Santa," and "The Story of Buddy The Elf." This run was a huge success, taking in more than $1.4 million in one week, a record for the Al Hirschfield Theater where it debuted. Plus, The New York Times called it, "A splashy, peppy, sugar-sprinkled holiday entertainment." A revival hit in time for Christmas 2012, and national tours have been recurring.

Can You Guess J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beast From Its Magical Power?

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