12 Fast Facts About Catch Me If You Can

Dreamworks
Dreamworks

One of Steven Spielberg's funniest, breeziest movies is the one about a teenage con artist who pretends to be a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. What fun! OK, he also steals more than $2 million—but at least nobody gets hurt. Catch Me If You Can was Spielberg's first (and so far only) collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio, his fourth with Tom Hanks, and the first time those two mega-stars worked together. The result? A hit with critics and audiences alike, with a 96 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and a worldwide box office haul of $352 million. Put on your fake Pan Am uniform and dive into the behind-the-scenes story of the film, which made its debut 15 years ago today. 

1. IT TOOK 22 YEARS FOR THE BOOK TO BE TURNED INTO A MOVIE.

The real Frank Abagnale Jr. published his memoir (co-written by Stan Redding) in 1980, and sold the film rights the same year. (It was Johnny Carson who encouraged him to write a book, by the way.) A decade later, producer Michel Shane optioned the book again, then sold the rights in 1997 to another producer, Paramount's Barry Kemp, who hired Jeff Nathanson to write the script. Finally, in 2001, Kemp, Shane, and Shane's partner Anthony Romano accepted "executive producer" credits so that DreamWorks could bring in its own producer/director: Steven Spielberg. The film was released on Christmas Day 2002.

2. FRANK ABAGNALE ADMITS THAT THE STORY WAS EXAGGERATED.

When the film came out, Abagnale posted a message on his website acknowledging that it would probably have some exaggerations—because so did the book it was based on. The memoir's co-author, Stan Redding, interviewed Abagnale "about four times" and "did a great job of telling the story, but he also over-dramatized and exaggerated some of [it]." "He was just telling a story and not writing my biography," Abagnale said, and the book had a disclaimer indicating as much. Abagnale wrote that he was "honored" to have Spielberg, DiCaprio, and Hanks make a film inspired by his life, but added, "It is important to understand that it is just a movie ... not a biographical documentary." Still, he later told an interviewer that the movie and subsequent stage musical based on it were "about 80 percent accurate." 

3. A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE ALMOST DIRECTED IT BEFORE STEVEN SPIELBERG DID.

As of 2000, David Fincher was going to make the film, but dropped out to make Panic Room instead. Gore Verbinski was next in line, with Leonardo DiCaprio attached as the star. (Verbinski cast James Gandolfini in the Tom Hanks role, Ed Harris in the Christopher Walken part, and Chloë Sevigny in the role Amy Adams would eventually play.) But DiCaprio's commitment to make Gangs of New York first led Verbinski to drop out (that's when he made The Ring). Lasse Hallström was in negotiations next, followed by Spielberg (in his role as producer) offering it to Milos Forman and almost Cameron Crowe. Spielberg finally decided, in August 2001, to direct it himself. 

4. IF IT WERE TRUE-TO-LIFE, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN WOULD HARDLY BE IN IT.

In real life, Abagnale never saw his father again after he ran away. But Spielberg wanted to have Frank Jr. continue to seek his father's approval, to show up in his Pan Am uniform to impress him and seek advice from him. (For what it's worth, the real Abagnale approved of these changes.) 

5. FRANK'S MOTHER WAS RECOMMENDED BY BRIAN DE PALMA.

Spielberg wanted an actual Frenchwoman to play Paula Abagnale, so he asked the Scarface and Carrie director, a longtime friend then living in France, to look around. De Palma did screen tests with several actresses, including Nathalie Baye, whom Spielberg recognized from the 1973 François Truffaut film Day for Night. She was exactly what he was looking for. 

6. LEONARDO DICAPRIO HAD 100 WARDROBE CHANGES.

Costume designer Mary Zophres said, at first glance, she thought dressing DiCaprio would be easy. Isn't Frank in his fake pilot's uniform for most of the movie? Turns out, no. His wardrobe changes more than 100 times, though that includes minor alterations like removing a jacket. 

7. THEY SHOT IN MORE THAN 140 LOCATIONS IN JUST 52 DAYS.

That's an average of almost three locations a day, many of them in and around Los Angeles, but quite a few in New York City and Montreal. And as anyone who's worked on a film set can tell you, even a move of a few blocks is a massive undertaking. Spielberg and his crew worked fast.

8. WALKEN IMPROVISED HIS CHARACTER'S BIG EMOTIONAL SCENE.

It's when Frank Jr., now successful in his line of work (con artist), meets his father in a restaurant. The script calls for Frank Sr. to describe meeting his wife in France during the war ("Two hundred men, sitting in that tiny social hall, watching her dance ..."). Walken delivered the lines several different ways and then, on one take, without warning, became emotionally overwhelmed. "It was completely unexpected," DiCaprio said. "It wasn't in the script ... I thought the man was having a heart attack in front of me." Spielberg was blown away by the choice Walken had made for the character and the flawless way he executed it. That's the take they used in the final cut. 

9. JENNIFER GARNER ONLY HAD TO WORK FOR ONE DAY.

Spielberg had seen Jennifer Garner on Alias and thought she was about to become a big star. He was pleased that she was willing to take such a small role in his movie, and she was probably pleased, too: it only required a day of shooting. 

10. DICAPRIO MET THE REAL FRANK—WHICH SPIELBERG DIDN'T THINK HE SHOULD DO.

DiCaprio told an interviewer that Spielberg "thought maybe it wouldn't be a good idea" for him to meet Frank Abagnale. But DiCaprio contacted him anyway, somewhat secretly, and spent a few days following him around with a tape recorder. 

11. THE ONLY MAJOR CHARACTER WHOSE NAME WAS CHANGED WAS THE FBI AGENT.

Carl Hanratty is based on several FBI agents who pursued Frank Abagnale, mostly one named Joseph Shea. It was Shea who caught Frank, hired him at the FBI, and was friends with him for the rest of his life. Abagnale called him Sean O'Reilly in his book (since Shea was still working for the FBI at the time), and it became Carl Hanratty for the movie. Interestingly, at one point the screenplay called him Shea, or perhaps Shaye.  

12. IT BECAME A MUSICAL, BUT NOT A TERRIBLY POPULAR ONE.

Catch Me If You Can was subsequently adapted into a stage musical, with songs by the Hairspray team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. After a Seattle tryout, it opened on Broadway in the spring of 2011 and closed 170 performances later—a far cry from Hairspray, which ran for 2642 performances. Catch Me If You Can did win one Tony Award, though, for Norbert Leo Butz as Carl Hanratty. It went on to have a successful national tour.

Additional sources: DVD behind-the-scenes features

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

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

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Nintendo

- Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $199 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

15 Moving Facts About Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987).
Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987).
Paramount Pictures

Steve Martin and John Candy starred in the holiday movie classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles, writer/director John Hughes’s first big foray away from writing about teenage angst. Martin played Neal Page, a marketing executive who is desperate to get back home to Chicago to see his wife and kids for Thanksgiving, but along the way is thoroughly aggravated by shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (Candy) and the many, many, many mishaps that befall the two throughout their travels. Here are some facts about the film that are not pillows.

1. Planes, Trains and Automobiles was inspired by John Hughes’s own hellish trip trying to get from New York City To Chicago.

Before he became a screenwriter, Hughes used to work as a copywriter for the Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago. One day he had an 11 a.m. presentation scheduled in New York City on a Wednesday, and planned to return home on a 5 p.m. flight. Winter winds forced all flights to Chicago to be canceled that night, so he stayed in a hotel. A snowstorm in Chicago the next day continued the delays. The plane he eventually got on ended up being diverted to Denver. Then Phoenix. Hughes didn’t make it back until Monday. Experiencing such a hellish trip might explain how Hughes managed to write the first 60 pages of Planes, Trains and Automobiles in just six hours.

2. Howard Deutch was originally supposed to direct Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Deutch directed Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful for Hughes. Hughes decided to direct himself after Steve Martin signed on. Deutch got to direct The Great Outdoors instead.

3. Steve Martin thought the script for Planes, Trains and Automobiles was too long.

The comedian, who had written his own screenplays, thought the 145-page length of the script was a lot for a comedy. When Martin asked Hughes where he thought they might cut scenes, Hughes was confused by the question. Martin later claimed that the first cut of Planes, Trains and Automobiles was four and a half hours long.

4. John Hughes acted out the entire movie to a publicist hoping to work on Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Reid Rosefelt went in to meet Hughes for the unit publicist position. Rosefelt recalled in his blog that he found it strange, but admirable, that Hughes did not allow Rosefelt to see the script to the movie he would potentially work on and promote beforehand. After the two grew more comfortable with one another at their meeting, Rosefelt asked what the movie was about—he only knew Steve Martin and John Candy were starring and it was called Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Hughes then performed the entire movie for him. Rosefelt didn’t get the job.

5. John Candy arrived to shoot Planes, Trains and Automobiles with exercise equipment in tow.

On the first day of shooting, the crew brought in treadmills, weights, and other exercise equipment for Candy to use in his hotel suite. Martin said Candy didn’t use any of it.

6. The entirety of Planes, Trains and Automobiles was meant to be shot in Chicago, but there wasn’t enough snow.

Some exterior scenes were filmed in Buffalo, New York. Martin said that the cast and crew pretty much lived the plot of the movie. “As we would shoot, we were hopping planes, trains, and automobiles, trying to find snow.”

7. The constant delays on production on Planes, Trains and Automobiles were very beneficial to one actor.

In John Hughes: A Life in Film, Kirk Honeycutt wrote that one actor, who played a truck driver, was only supposed to have one line and work for one day. Hughes chose to keep him on standby. The actor ended up working enough days while the crew waited for the snow to come that he was able to make a down payment on a house. It’s very possible this was Troy Evans, who was uncredited, as the shy truck driver in the movie. He went on to appear, credited, on ER for the show’s final five seasons as Frank Martin.

8. Edie Mcclurg’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles improvisations impressed John Hughes.

McClurg, probably best known as Grace, Principal Rooney’s secretary in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, played the St. Louis car rental employee upon whom Neal dropped 18 F-bombs. For the first few takes, McClurg simply raised her finger and had a standard phone conversation with a customer. Then Hughes told her to improvise talking on the phone about Thanksgiving. She then came up with the stuff about needing roasted marshmallows and taking care of the crescent rolls because she can’t cook based on her own life. When she finished, Hughes asked her how she came up with those details so quickly. When McClurg explained she just got it from her own life just like he does with his scripts, he said, “Oh yeah!” She claims people to this day ask her to tell them they’re f*cked.

9. Steve Martin and Edie McClurg's F-bomb-filled exchange earned Planes, Trains and Automobiles an R rating.

That sweary tirade between Martin and McClurg is reportedly one of the scenes that made Martin want to make the movie. Its overuse of the word f*ck is also apparently what pushed the movie's rating from PG-13 to R.

10. In one scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Susan Page is watching She’s Having A Baby—another John Hughes movie.

In the scene that goes back and forth between Neal trying to sleep next to Del clearing his sinuses and Neal’s wife (Laila Robins) watching TV alone in their bed, she is somehow watching She’s Having a Baby, which wouldn’t be released in theaters until February of the following year. Kevin Bacon stars in that movie, and made a cameo in Planes as the guy who out-hustles Neal in getting a cab. Some people believe Bacon—who was officially listed in the credits as “Taxi Racer”—was playing his She’s Having a Baby character, Jake, in that scene.

11. A scene in a strip club was cut from Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

After their car blew up, Neal and Del went inside a strip club to use a phone, where Del got distracted by the dancers. Actress Debra Lamb didn’t know that her scene was cut until she went to a screening.

12. Jeri Ryan was cut from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but her scene wasn’t.

It was the actress’s first role. She was one of the passengers on the bus ride and couldn’t help but laugh at Martin and Candy’s antics. They re-shot the scenes without her.

13. Elton John wrote a song for Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Carlo Allegri, Getty Images

Elton John and lyricist Gary Osborne were almost finished writing the theme song when Paramount insisted on ownership of the recording master, which John’s record company would not allow. The song has never been released.

14. In the original ending of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Del followed Neal all the way home.

Hughes decided during the editing process that instead, John Candy’s character would be “a noble person” and finally take the hint from Martin’s character, and let Neal return home alone, before Neal has a change of heart and finds Del again.

15. In the scene where Neal thinks about Del on the train in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Steve Martin didn’t know the camera was on.

In order to get the new ending he wanted, Hughes and editor Paul Hirsch went back to look for footage they previously didn’t think would be used. Hughes had kept the cameras rolling in between takes on the Chicago train, without his lead’s knowledge, while Martin was thinking about his next lines. Hughes thought Martin had a “beautiful expression” on his face in that unguarded moment.