13 Sharp Facts About Hook


People of a certain age remember it fondly, but Steven Spielberg's Hook was not well-received when it was released in December of 1991. Critics found it overlong and curiously lacking in imagination, and though it was profitable, it wasn't the mega-hit everyone expected from a Spielberg movie about a grown-up Peter Pan played by Robin Williams. (It was the sixth highest-grossing movie of 1991. Among Spielberg movies, it ranks 15th out of 30.) Home video earned Hook some more young fans, and it eventually became something of a cult favorite for '90s kids.


Steven Spielberg had been thinking about a live-action version of Peter Pan through the first half of the 1980s, but put it on hold in 1985, when his first child, Max, was born. "I guess it was just bad timing," the director later said, according to Joseph McBride's Steven Spielberg: A Biography. "I didn't want to go to London and have seven kids on wires in front of blue screens swinging around. I wanted to be home as a dad, not a surrogate dad."


Screenwriter Jim V. Hart had been trying to find a new angle to the Peter Pan story for years when, in 1982, his 3-year-old son produced a drawing. "He said it was a crocodile eating Captain Hook," Hart recalled in Steven Spielberg: A Biography, "but that the crocodile really didn't eat him, he got away ... So I went, 'Wow, Hook is not dead. The crocodile is. We've all been fooled.'" A few years later, Hart's son brought up the subject of Peter Pan again, asking whether he'd ever grown up. "I realized that Peter did grow up, just like all of us Baby Boomers who are now in our forties," Hart said. "I patterned him after several of my friends on Wall Street, where the pirates wear three-piece suits and ride in limos."


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"Michael had always wanted to play Peter Pan," Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. "But I called Michael and said, 'This is about a lawyer [who used to be Peter Pan],' so he understood at that point it wasn't the same Peter Pan he wanted to make." However, Vanity Fair reported in 2003 that Jackson had paid a witch doctor to put a curse on Spielberg (among others), so perhaps there was lingering resentment.


The director of The Last Starfighter and The Boy Who Could Fly (not to mention an episode of Spielberg's Amazing Stories) was working with screenwriter Hart to get the movie made at Columbia-TriStar when Sony bought the company and put someone new in charge—Mike Medavoy, who'd been Spielberg's first agent. Medavoy sent Spielberg the Hook script for perusal, and Spielberg jumped at the chance to direct it. Castle was taken off the project with a $500,000 settlement and a "story by" credit along with Hart. (As the story goes, Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams weren't willing to make the film with Castle anyway, so it wasn't a matter of Spielberg "stealing" a movie from another director.)


The most famous previous adaptations of Peter Pan (the Disney cartoon and the Broadway show) had been musicals, so Spielberg had that in mind for his version. John Williams wrote several songs for it before the idea was discarded, later incorporating their tunes into the musical score. Two songs (with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse) did make it into the final film: "We Don't Wanna Grow Up" and "When You're Alone." 


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Though Spielberg liked Hart's screenplay overall, he thought the characters of Captain Hook and Tinkerbell were underwritten. To work on Hook's dialogue, he brought in a writer named Malia Scotch Marmo (who later helped on Jurassic Park, too). For Tinkerbell, Spielberg called on Carrie Fisher—actress, novelist, and screenwriter. Marmo got a writing credit, but Fisher remained uncredited.


Spielberg had been a careful and conscientious director ever since the disastrous excesses of 1941, but he let the size of the Hook production get the better of him. Shooting was supposed to last 76 days; it lasted 116. It was supposed to cost $48 million; it cost somewhere between $60 and $80 million. Hoffman and Julia Roberts's perfectionism were contributing factors, along with the general difficulties of working with children, employing huge live-action special effects, and coordinating scenes with hundreds of extras. Still, Spielberg accepted all the blame himself. "It was all my fault," he said. "Nobody else made it go over budget."


Gwyneth Paltrow, who was 18 years old at the time, was cast as the teenage version of Wendy when Spielberg—her godfather and a close family friend—noticed she looked like Maggie Smith, who plays the elderly Wendy. Spielberg said he realized it when the Paltrow and Spielberg families were driving home from seeing The Silence of the Lambs


Glenn Close plays the (male) pirate who displeases Captain Hook and gets locked in a chest with a scorpion. 


Peter Banning's kidnapped children are called Jack and Maggie, which are nicknames for John and Margaret. The German equivalents of those names, Johannes and Margarete, have the familiar diminutives of Hansel and Gretel. 


In addition to playing Captain Hook, Dustin Hoffman provides the voice of the airline pilot when the Bannings fly to England—appropriate, of course, because he says, "This is your captain speaking." Young Peter Pan is played by Hoffman's son, Max, then not quite 7 years old, and Max's older brother, Jake, appears as a Little League player. 


Her million-watt smile notwithstanding, America's sweetheart was miserable for much of the shoot because of problems in her personal life. She'd recently had a nasty breakup with Kiefer Sutherland, was beginning a new romance with Jason Patric, and was generally frail and exhausted. Defending her, Spielberg said, "Her biggest problem was timing. Her personal life fell apart, and she reported to work on the same weekend." She freaked out one day on the set when someone called for "Kieffo" (the name of Hoffman's stunt double) and Roberts misheard it as "Kiefer," i.e., Sutherland. "Call security. How did he get on the lot?" she asked the set coordinator, who cleared up the confusion. 


One of Hollywood's top directors working with some of its biggest stars on one of the most expensive sets ever built—naturally, everyone wanted to stop by Sony Pictures Studios and see what all the fuss was about. Among the celebrities sighted on set were Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Michelle Pfeiffer, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Mel Gibson, Prince, and actual royalty: Queen Noor of Jordan. 

Additional sources: Steven Spielberg: A Biography, by Joseph McBride

7 Weird Super Bowl Halftime Acts

Al Bello, Getty Images
Al Bello, Getty Images

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez seem like natural choices to perform the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl, but the event didn’t always feature musical acts from major pop stars. Michael Jackson kicked off the trend at Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, but prior to that, halftime shows weren’t a platform for the hottest celebrities of the time. They centered around themes instead, and may have featured appearances from Peanuts characters, Jazzercisers, or a magician dressed like Elvis. In honor of Super Bowl LIV on February 2, we’ve rounded up some of the weirdest acts in halftime show history.

1. Return of the Mickey Mouse Club

The era of Super Bowl halftimes before wardrobe malfunctions, illuminati conspiracy theories, and Left Shark was a more innocent time. For 1977’s event, the Walt Disney Company produced a show that doubled as a squeaky-clean promotion of its brand. Themed “Peace, Joy, and Love,” the Super Bowl XI halftime show opened with a 250-piece band rendition of “It’s a Small World (After All).” Disney also used the platform to showcase its recently revamped Mickey Mouse Club.

2. 88 Grand Pianos and 300 Jazzercisers

The theme of the halftime show at Super Bowl XXII in 1988 was “Something Grand.” Naturally, it featured 88 tuxedoed pianists playing 88 grand pianos. Rounding out the program were 400 swing band performers, 300 Jazzercisers, 44 Rockettes, two marching bands, and Chubby Checker telling everyone to “Twist Again."

3. Elvis Impersonator Performs the World’s Largest Card Trick

Many of the music industry's most successful pop stars—like Prince, Madonna, and, uh, Milli Vanilli—were at the height of their fame in 1989, but none of them appeared at Super Bowl XXIII. Instead, the NFL hired an Elvis Presley-impersonating magician to perform. The show, titled “BeBop Bamboozled,” was a tribute to the 1950s, and it featured Elvis Presto performing “the world’s largest card trick.” It also may have included the world's largest eye exam: The show boasted 3D effects, and viewers were urged to pick up special glasses before the game. If the visuals didn't pop like they were supposed to, people were told to see an eye doctor.

4. The Peanuts Salute New Orleans

Super Bowl XXIV featured one of the last halftime acts that was completely devoid of any musical megastars. The biggest celebrity at the 1990 halftime show was Snoopy. Part of the show’s theme was the “40th Anniversary of 'Peanuts,'” and to celebrate the milestone, performers dressed as Peanuts characters and danced on stage. The other half of the theme was “Salute to New Orleans”—not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the comic strip.

5. A Tribute to the Winter Olympics

Super Bowl XXVI preceded the 1992 Winter Olympics—a fact that was made very clear by the event’s halftime. The show was titled “Winter Magic” and it paid tribute to the winter games with ice skaters, snowmobiles, and a cameo from the 1980 U.S. hockey team. Other acts, like a group of parachute-pants-wearing children performing the “Frosty the Snowman Rap,” were more generally winter-themed than specific to the Olympics. About 22 million viewers changed the channel during halftime to watch In Living Color’s Super Bowl special, which may have convinced the NFL to hire Michael Jackson the following year.

6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

“Peace, Joy, and Love” wasn’t the only Disney-helmed Super Bowl halftime. In 1995, Disney produced a halftime show called “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” to tease the new Disneyland ride of the same name. It centered around a skit in which actors playing Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood stole the Vince Lombardi Trophy from an exotic temple, and it included choreographed stunts, fiery special effects, and a snake. Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett were also there.

7. The Blues Brothers, Minus John Belushi

The 1990s marked an odd period for halftime shows as they moved from schlocky themed variety shows to major music events. Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 perfectly encapsulates this transition period. James Brown and ZZ Top performed, but the headliners were the Blues Brothers. John Belushi had been dead for more than a decade by that point, so Jim Belushi took his place beside Dan Aykroyd. John Goodman was also there to promote the upcoming movie Blues Brother 2000. The flashy advertisement didn’t have the impact they had hoped for and the film was a massive flop when it premiered.

15 Fun Facts About Betty White

Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 98th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. Her name is Betty, not Elizabeth.

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. She's a Guinness World Record holder.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. Her first television appearance is lost to history.

A photo of Betty White
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Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. White's initial rise to stardom was derailed by World War II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. Her first sitcom hit was in the early 1950s.

A photo of actress Betty White
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Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she has won five times.

6. White loves a parade.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. She has been married three times.

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White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. Her meet-cute with husband number three happened on Password.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. White originally auditioned for the role of Blanche on The Golden Girls.

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Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. If she hadn't been an actor, she'd have been a zookeeper.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. She passed on a role in As Good as It Gets because of an animal cruelty scene.

A photo of actress Betty White
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White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A Facebook campaign made White the oldest person to ever host Saturday Night Live.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. She is the oldest person to earn an Emmy nomination.

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In 2014, White earned an Emmy nod for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. She loves junk food.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. She wants Robert Redford.

A photo of actor Robert Redford
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White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.