14 Faithful Facts About Sister Act

YouTube
YouTube

From The Sound of Music to Dead Man Walking, nuns have always had a place on the silver screen—but none of those movies have given personality to the women behind the habits quite like Sister Act. If Sister Mary Clarence and the sisters of St. Katherine's made your toes tap, here are 14 facts you'll give praise for.

1. DELORIS/SISTER MARY CLARENCE WAS PARTIALLY INSPIRED BY A REAL NUN.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

As part of his research, screenwriter Paul Rudnick visited the Regina Laudis Abbey in Bethlehem, Connecticut, to meet Mother Dolores Hart. Hart had been a Hollywood actress, singer, and dancer, starring in movies such as Where the Boys Are and King Creole. Though she left the industry to become a nun when she was just 24, she’s a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to this day.

2. BETTE MIDLER WAS ORIGINALLY ATTACHED TO STAR.

Though the Divine Miss M was originally onboard, she later backed out for reasons she came to regret: “I said: ‘My fans don’t want to see me in a wimple.’ I don’t know where I got that from. Why would I say such a thing? So Whoopi did it instead and, of course, she made a fortune.”

3. THE NAME OF THE MAIN CHARACTER WAS CHANGED WHEN MIDLER LEFT.

The original name of the singer-turned-sister was Terri Van Cartier. It was changed when Whoopi Goldberg was cast, because, according to Rudnick, “She’d always wanted to play someone named Deloris.”

4. CARRIE FISHER HELPED REWRITE THE SCRIPT.

When Midler backed out, script adjustments went far beyond a name change—but Disney only allowed writers two weeks to overhaul the script after the lead actress change. Additional writers were brought in to help doctor the script; in addition to Carrie Fisher, other contributors included Nancy Meyers and Robert Harling. Fisher, by the way, has a long history of fixing scripts—she also worked on last-minute rewrites to Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer.

5. THE WRITER “JOSEPH HOWARD” IS NOT A REAL PERSON.

By the time the movie was released, it had been rewritten so much that Rudnick didn’t consider it his work anymore. He suggested the work be credited under the name R. Chasuble after the priest in The Importance of Being Earnest. That was rejected, so Rudnick tried for “Screenplay by Goofy.” Another no-go. Finally, “Joseph Howard” was accepted. “It sounds like the name of someone who helped found the Mormon Church,” Rudnick later wrote.

6. KATHY NAJIMY BASED HER CHARACTER ON MARY HART.

Kathy Najimy wasn’t totally sure how she was going to portray such a bubbly, cheerful nun—until she happened to catch anchor Mary Hart on Entertainment Tonight. “I turn on the TV. It's something with me and Sally Field running around, and they come back to Mary Hart, and she went, 'That Sally Field, ya gotta love her!’ And I said, 'Oh my God, that's my nun!'"

Najimy later sent Hart a bouquet of roses. “[But] I didn’t say why.”

7. SOME OF THE ACTRESSES GOT UP TO SOME MISCHIEF BETWEEN SCENES.

The production spent some time filming in a Reno casino, which the actresses loved. "That was great, because I love gambling,” Najimy said. “Wendy [Makkena, who plays Sister Mary Robert] smokes, and we'd sit at the 21 table in our nun outfits with drinks in front of us. That was hilarious."

8. NO, THAT’S NOT THE REAL ACTRESS SINGING SISTER MARY ROBERT’S PARTS.

One of the subplots of the movie is Deloris’ efforts to bring the timid Sister Mary Robert out of her shell. We eventually realize that the soft-spoken sister can really belt one out—but it’s not really actress Wendy Makkena singing. She was dubbed by singer Andrea Robinson. Whoopi, however, did her own singing.

9. ONE OF THE SCENES WAS CHANGED AT NAJIMY’S BEHEST.

There was originally a scene that called for Najimy’s character, Sister Mary Patrick, to protest against a pornographic bookstore. Najimy felt it encroached on her First Amendment rights and asked the director to come up with something different. Instead, Sister Mary Patrick ended up selling raffle tickets.

10. THE PRODUCTION WAS SUED FOR PLAGIARISM.

In 1993, Donna Douglas (better known as Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies) filed a $200 million suit against Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, their production companies, Creative Artists Agency, Walt Disney Pictures, and more. Douglas had optioned a book called A Nun in the Closet, which they turned into a screenplay and submitted to the studio. They were turned down—and then Sister Act came out. The plaintiffs declined $1 million from Disney to settle, which was a mistake; eventually, the judge found in favor of Disney.

11. THEY WERE SUED AGAIN IN 2011.

This time, a nun by the name of Delois Blakely claimed that Disney and Sony Pictures sourced from her autobiography without permission. The filing stated that Blakely was a "young, Black, singing nun serving the street people and youths of Harlem," which was the focus of her 1987 book The Harlem Street Nun.

12. DESPITE APPEARANCES, THE CHURCH SCENES WERE SHOT IN AN UPPER-MIDDLE-CLASS NEIGHBORHOOD.

The church scenes were shot at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in San Francisco, which is in an affluent area of town. To make it look rundown, which was important to the plot, the street was dressed with trash and cars that appeared to be abandoned.

13. THE MOVIE WAS MADE INTO A MUSICAL.

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Sister Act opened on Broadway in 2011 and received several Tony Award nominations that year. Unfortunately, it was often up against The Book of Mormon, which took the Tonys by storm. When the show went to London's West End, Whoopi Goldberg made a limited appeareance—but this time, she played Mother Superior.

14. A REMAKE IS IN THE WORKS.

Could there be more sister shenanigans on the way? Maybe. Variety reported that writers and producers had signed on for the remake. Whoopi might be up for it:

“I generally say no to that, because so many of the nuns have passed and it just wouldn’t feel right for me," she said on Watch What Happens Live. “I’m kind of old for it now. That’s not to say I wouldn’t do it, but it feels like there’s a new generation for Sister Act and so maybe I can be a nun now.”

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

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3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

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4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

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9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Fascinating Facts About Normal People

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in Hulu's Normal People.
Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in Hulu's Normal People.
Hulu

In one breathless season, Normal People, author Sally Rooney's novel-to-Hulu hit series, sparked a streaming surge. The 12-part drama follows the love story of Irish teenagers Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), who begin a secret tryst that evolves into a hot and heavy four-year love affair full of fits and starts.

What on its surface could have been another cheesy teen romance quickly garnered critical acclaim for its authentic depiction of first-love chemistry and the “wrenching process of breaking down the person you were in order to become the person you’re going to be,” according to The New York Times. How did Normal People depict young love so accurately? Here are some facts about the steamy series.

1. Normal People was a best-selling book before it was a hit TV show.

Author Sally Rooney published Normal People, her second novel, in 2018 and it quickly became a U.S. bestseller—selling almost 64,000 copies in hardcover in its first four months of release, according to Vox. It even beat out former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Becoming to be named Book of the Year at the British Book Awards and was long-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.

2. Actor Paul Mescal is more like his Normal People character Connell Waldron than you might think.

Paul Mescal, the 24-year-old Irish actor who plays Normal People’s handsome lothario Connell Waldron, may be a TV newcomer, but he was a shoo-in for the leading man role. Like Connell, Mescal grew up playing Gaelic football and attended Trinity College in Dublin. Plus, he told GQ that Connell’s identity crisis felt all too familiar, saying, “how he perceives himself in the world and versus what he actually wants to do is also something that I definitely related to.”

3. A tip-off from a friend helped Daisy Edgar-Jones land the role of Marianne on Normal People .

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in Hulu's 'Normal People'
Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in Hulu's Normal People.
Hulu

Had Daisy Edgar-Jones not heard her friend auditioning for Marianne in her kitchen one day, she might never have sent in her own tape and scored the part. "I was in my bedroom and I was listening in," Edgar-Jones told Metro about how she learned of the project. "I was like, 'Oh, that sounds good.'" Normal People co-director Lenny Abrahamson was apparently so impressed by Edgar-Jones that the production flew her from England to Ireland for a chemistry reading with Mescal, who had already been cast. Needless to say, their chemistry was fog-your-glasses real.

4. Normal People employed an intimacy coordinator to make the sex scenes authentic.

There’s a reason Normal People’s 41 minutes of sex scenes felt so real: The series employed an intimacy coordinator. Ita O’Brien is something of a pioneer in the field of amping up the realism of on-the-set intercourse. In addition to Normal People, she has worked on shows like The Great, Sex Education, Gangs of London, and I May Destroy You to make spicy sequences as authentic as possible.

5. The COVID-19 pandemic has been blamed on Normal People’s sex scenes.

Archbishop Michael Cox of the breakaway Tridentine wing of the Catholic Church told the Irish Sun that Normal People's full-frontal nudity was blasphemous and suggested that it somehow could be the cause of ... the current coronavirus pandemic?

“I’m not surprised we have COVID-19 with this sort of stuff on TV," Cox said. "Do I think that these outrages are responsible for the coronavirus? I think people should read the Bible and find out."

6. Connell’s signature silver chain on Normal People has its own Instagram account.

Paul Mescal in 'Normal People'
Normal People star Paul Mescal's silver chain has its own devoted fan base.
Hulu

If you want to understand the depths of fans’ passion for Normal People, look no further than Instagram account @connellschain. More than one thinkpiece has been penned about what author Rooney described in her book as “an unadorned silver neck chain” Connell wears throughout the story. Costume designer Lorna Marie Mugan had Connell wear it throughout filming and it caused such a stir that an observant viewer created a thirst account around the necklace which now has more than 186,000 followers.

7. Normal People has been lauded for making nudity an equality issue.

Unlike most depictions of TV nudity that tend to only showcase women's bodies, Normal People took the bold step of make sure that the skin exposure was equally split between Edgar-Jones and Mescal—a move that has been seen as a win for women in film. Mescal was fully onboard with directors Abrahamson and Hettie McDonald’s choice. “I was very keen that male nudity was more present, if not at least equal, because it makes no sense for it not to be the case," Mescal told Digital Spy. "If you're portraying nudity, why would it be any different if you're going to do it properly?"

Edgar-Jones wholeheartedly agreed with the direction as well, saying, “I wanted it to feel that it was equal, and also that the nudity wasn't sexualized—which I don't think it is. I think it's more often in a nonsexual capacity that they are nude."

8. The Normal People series takes some creative license with the book.

Like many adaptations for television, the Normal People series didn’t follow Rooney’s book entirely. Marianne's brother Alan is even more aggressive toward her in the novel. For instance, in the scene when she's home from college, he pours dishwater over her head, but in the book he grabs her by the arm and spits on her. The endings are also different. Spoiler alert: In the book Marianne doesn’t find out about Connell’s New York City MFA program until the very end, leaving their parting more nebulous than their television sweet goodbye.

9. There’s a Normal People/Fleabag crossover sequel.

Thanks to RTE Does Comic Relief, a fundraising effort in support of pandemic victims, TV viewers were given a comedy sketch starring Edgar-Jones and Mescal as their Normal People characters going to confession with Fleabag’s "Hot Priest" Andrew Scott. Dubbed “Normal People Confessions," the skit shows a forlorn Connell pouring out his soul to Scott's all-too-understanding priest before a knock on the door brings Marianne into the confessional with her own divulgence. The one-night-only event saw 1.4 million people tune in and raised more than $5 million for the cause.

10. A second season of Normal People could happen—one day. Or it could not.

Given the popularity of Normal People's first season, it's only natural that people are already asking about the possibility of a season 2. While it was originally written as a limited series and no second season has been confirmed, many of the show's key participants have been vocal about being game to revisit the world of Normal People. In a recent interview with Deadline, Abrahamson said:

"We’ve talked about the possibility of how interesting it would be to check back in with them, but apart from just general musings and over a drink, no, there have been no concrete discussions about what it would be like. As Sally says, the book stops where it stops because it feels right. But, I have a sneaking thing in the back of my head that if everybody was willing, and if the stars aligned, I’d love to revisit them in five years and find out what happened, where they are. Is somebody a father or a mother? What relationships are they in that then get disrupted by their meeting again? But it would be really strange to pick that up eight weeks later with him traveling to New York, I think. There needs to be time ... You’d do it for real, you’d do it á la Before Sunset.”