11 Rapid-Fire Facts About The Untouchables

Paramount
Paramount

Loosely based on the 1960s cops-and-robbers television series starring Robert Stack, Brian De Palma's The Untouchables pitted Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness against Robert De Niro’s unhinged crime boss Al Capone in a highly fictionalized (and stylized) account of their real-life Prohibition feud. We’ve drawn a chalk outline around some of the film’s more fascinating facts, in honor of its 30th anniversary.

1. ROBERT DE NIRO INSISTED ON GETTING FAT. AGAIN.

MovieClips via YouTube

After impressing audiences and critics with his bulging gut and saggy jowls for 1980’s Raging Bull, De Niro informed The Untouchables director Brian De Palma he wanted time to put on 30 pounds of fat to play chubby Al Capone. “He’s very concerned about the shape of his face for the part,” De Palma told the Chicago Tribune. To cultivate mass and achieve a rounded jawline, De Niro stuck to his “Raging Bull diet” of pancakes every morning and went to Italy on an eating tour. In spite of his gorging, the production still had to use padding to fill out his midsection.

2. BOB HOSKINS WAS BRIAN DE PALMA’S SECOND CHOICE FOR AL CAPONE.

Bob Hoskins recalled meeting De Palma and being told that the production was expecting De Niro would agree to play Capone—but if not, they were really hoping the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? star would step in. Hoskins agreed; De Niro ended up committing to the part. A short while later, Paramount sent Hoskins a check for $300,000. It was a pay or play deal, and he was due to be compensated either way. Hoskins reportedly called it "the best job I ever had!"

3. PARAMOUNT HATED THE SCRIPT.

Paramount

Acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, and director David Mamet is responsible for the combustible dialogue in The Untouchables, but not everyone was a fan. According to Mamet, Paramount executive Ned Tanen thought the script “was a piece of dreck.” Producer Art Linson insisted they stick with Mamet, who based the film in some part on Ness’s autobiography. Mamet would later state the movie stayed generally true to his work, but tossed out closing text that explained the end of Prohibition.  

4. THEY THOUGHT ABOUT DOING IT IN BLACK AND WHITE.

To help evoke the 1930s for modern audiences, director of photography Stephen Burum tried to convince De Palma to allow him to shoot the picture in black and white. De Palma’s response was to shake his head, telling Burum, “Don’t break your heart, Steve. They won’t let us do it.”

5. THE BASEBALL BAT DINNER SCENE ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

MovieClips via YouTube

While some of the film’s facts were bent into some narrative shape—though Costner’s Ness has a family, the real lawman was single at the time—one memorable scene was inspired by a true event. In May 1928, after getting word several of his associates were plotting to murder him, Capone invited them all to a dinner, got them drunk, and then proceeded to beat each man to death with a baseball bat.

6. ELIOT NESS AND JIMMY MALONE NEVER REALLY MET.

In the film, the earnest Ness is tutored by gruff Chicago cop Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery). In real life, Malone and Ness never crossed paths: as part of the Treasury department, Malone was getting his hands dirty trying to infiltrate Capone’s organization to uncover evidence of suspected tax evasion.

7. THE BABY CARRIAGE SHOOTOUT ALMOST DIDN'T GET SHOT.

Paramount

De Palma, who has often made visual references to Alfred Hitchcock throughout his career, honored another director for the famous shootout at the Chicago train station featuring a runaway baby carriage. The scene’s premise originated with Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 film Battleship Potemkin. (Mamet, who didn’t write the scene in the script, called it “cockamamie.”) When De Palma wanted to film it, Paramount was already insisting he wrap up production—but he had covertly been stashing away raw film stock so that he’d have enough for the scene.

8. FILMMAKERS GOT HELP FROM A REAL UNTOUCHABLE.

To help capture the camraderie and characterizations of Ness’s U.S. Justice lawmen, producers turned to Al “Wallpaper” Wolff—at 85, the lone surviving member of his team. As a form of reciprocation, Paramount gave Wolff 160 free tickets to the premiere. (In 1987, Wolff—who got his nickname for combing over everything during a room toss but the wallpaper—said that sometimes raids would result in empty rooms. He imagined one of the “Untouchables” had leaked the information.)

9. THE STUDIO WAS SQUEAMISH ABOUT THE VIOLENCE.

During a screening for Paramount executives, producer Linson and De Palma heard concerns over some of the graphic shootout scenes depicted in the film. The studio was especially concerned over a scene that featured a man being killed while standing in front of a white marble wall: The background revealed bits of brain matter behind him. De Palma’s contract, however, granted him final cut. So the shot stayed in.

10. THE MOVIE EARNED SEAN CONNERY HIS ONLY OSCAR.

Despite starring in dozens of features over a 30-year (at the time) career, Connery was nominated for an Academy Award only once. Fortunately, it was also a win. Connery took home a Best Supporting Oscar in the spring of 1988 for his portrayal of Ness’s mentor, Jimmy Malone. His appearance during the ceremony was so popular that he got a standing ovation—not for the award, but for presenting the Best Visual Effects Oscar earlier in the show.

11. DE PALMA CONSIDERED A PREQUEL WITH NICOLAS CAGE.

Following the success of The Untouchables, De Palma and Paramount attempted to continue the franchise with a prequel script titled Capone Rising, which would chart the mobster’s climb to power prior to clashing with Ness. In 2007, De Palma was interested in Nicolas Cage as Capone, with Gerard Butler playing a younger version of Connery’s character. In 2012, the director told Collider that the script was “great” but that they’ve “never been able to get it all together.”

Mifflin Madness: Who Is the Greatest Character on The Office? It's Time to Vote

Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
NBC

Your years of watching (and re-watching) The Office, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary, have all led up to this moment. Welcome to Mifflin Madness—Mental Floss's cutthroat competition to determine The Office's greatest character. Is Michael Scott the boss you most love to hate? Or did Kevin Malone suck you in with his giant pot of chili?

You have 24 hours to cast your vote for each round on Twitter before the bracket is updated and half of the chosen characters are eliminated.

The full bracket is below, followed by the round one and round two winners. You can cast your round three vote(s) here. Be sure to check back on Monday at 4 p.m. ET to see if your favorite Dunder Mifflin employee has advanced to the next round. 

Round One


Round Two


Round Three


The Office Planned to Break Up Jim and Pam in the Final Season—Then (Smartly) Thought Better of It

Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly's relationship in The Office was truly a romance for the ages. Fans were delighted when, in Season 3—after years of flirting—John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s characters finally got together. But an alternative plan for the show’s ninth and final season saw the couple going their separate ways.

Season 9 saw one of the most stressful storylines the show had to offer when Jim took a job in Philadelphia and Pam struggled to take care of their children on her own back in Scranton, putting intense strain on their otherwise seemingly perfect relationship. In one unforgettable scene, a particularly tense phone call between the couple ends with Pam in tears. Fischer’s character then turns to someone off camera named Brian for advice.

As Collider reports, Pam and Jim's relationship could have taken a turn for worse in the final season—and the writers had planned it that way. As recounted in Andy Greene's new book, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, series creator Greg Daniels sat down with each of the show's stars before starting the final season to discuss where their characters would go. John Krasinski, who played Jim, pitched the idea of putting Jim and Pam’s relationship on thin ice. According to Krasinski:

"My whole pitch to Greg was that we’ve done so much with Jim and Pam, and now, after marriage and kids, there was a bit of a lull there, I think, for them about what they wanted to do … And I said to Greg, ‘It would be really interesting to see how that split will affect two people that you know so well.'"

Several writers weighed in with ideas about how they might handle a split between Jim and Pam from a narrative standpoint—though not everyone was on the same page.

Warren Lieberstein, a writer on the series, remembered when the idea of bringing Brian—the documentary crew's boom operator—into the mix. “[This] was something that came up in Season 5, I think," Lieberstein said. "What if that character had been secretly there the entire time and predated the relationship with Jim and had been a shoulder that she cried on for years?’ It just seemed very intriguing." Apparently, the writers thought breaking the fourth wall would jeopardize the show, so they saved it for the last season.

Writer Owen Ellickson said there was even some talk of Pam and Brian “maybe hooking up a little bit," but the negative response to the storyline led the writers to "pull the ripcord on [Pam and Jim's separation] because it was so painful to fans of the show." Ellickson said that they backtracked so quickly, they even had to re-edit certain episodes that had already been shot to nix the idea of Jim and Pam splitting up. Which is something the show's millions of fans will be forever grateful for.

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