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has earned a place in moviegoers’ hearts, not to mention plenty of “best movies of the 21st-century” lists. The mind-bending romantic dramedy with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet is the perfect pairing of bizarre screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (
) and whimsical French director Michel Gondry, whose unique vision would later be seen in
, here are some details you might not know, or that maybe you used to know before you paid someone to erase them.
1. YOU CAN THANK MOTHER NATURE FOR THAT CLASSIC SCENE ON THE FROZEN LAKE.
The script called for snow and ice, but Gondry was prepared to omit such details if the weather didn’t cooperate. Luckily, New York State had a fierce winter that year, and the lake froze over as hoped. Carrey and Winslet lying next to a crack in the ice would become one of the film’s iconic images.
2. MICHEL GONDRY ENJOYS BEING FORCED TO IMPROVISE.
Unlike most filmmakers, who prefer to control every aspect of their films, Gondry likes it when unexpected problems such as weather issues force him to think on the fly. It keeps you on your toes, he says in the DVD commentary: “It makes everybody work faster, with more energy.” We’re guessing not everyone on the crew feels the same way.
3. THE IDEA CAME FROM A FRENCH ARTIST FRIEND OF GONDRY’S.
story. Gondry explained in an interview that Bismuth “had the concept of sending a card to people mentioning they had been erased from the memory of someone they thought they knew. He wanted to study their reaction as part of an art experiment.” Bismuth eventually opted not to pursue the project, but Gondry liked the concept and enlisted the artist’s aid in developing a story around it, which Charlie Kaufman then turned into a script. The three men were rewarded for their efforts with the 2005 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
4. MOST OF THE VISUAL TRICKS WERE DONE THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY.
There’s a scene 57 minutes into the movie where Joel (Carrey), in his memory, watches himself meet with Dr. Howard
Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) earlier that day. The camera shows Joel observing, then pans over to the desk where the doctor and the other Joel are sitting, then pans back to the first Joel again. No digital trickery here: Gondry had Jim Carrey run back and forth behind the camera, quickly donning and doffing his hat and coat to play the different versions of himself.
Kaufman and Gondry had been pitching their film since 1998, two years before Christopher Nolan’s
arrived with its similarly fractured narrative about memory and loss. When
started making waves, Kaufman says he got nervous. “I totally freaked out,” he said. “I thought, ‘Oh, I can’t do this anymore,’ and I called Michel and said, ‘I am not doing it,’ then we called [producer] Steve Golin and said, ‘We’re not doing it.’ Steve Golin was very angry and said, ‘You are doing it!’ So we did it. I wasn’t influenced by
, you can imagine Kaufman worrying himself sick about something like this.)
Kaufman added that detail “for fun, for myself.” But it turned out to be unfeasible to use the same building for
It began with an old woman—later revealed to be Mary, Kirsten Dunst’s character—trying to publish a manuscript called
, implied to be a tell-all about Lacuna. At the end of the screenplay, we discover that Mary is still working for Howard (who’s very,
very old), and that Clementine has had Joel erased from her memory at least 15 times over the decades.
8. CLEMENTINE’S DIFFERENT HAIR COLORS WERE ACHIEVED THROUGH WIGS, NOT DYEING.
Kate Winslet, ever the trouper, was willing to dye her hair. But since the film (like almost all films) wasn’t shot sequentially, she sometimes had to have different colors on the same day, so dyeing wasn’t practical. “Literally some days I would start with red, and then by lunchtime I would be blue, and then the afternoon I’d be going back to red again.” (She said the red one was her favorite, by the way.)
9. GONDRY APPROACHED NICOLAS CAGE TO PLAY THE LEAD.
As Gondry put it, “Every independent director who wanted to make a commercial movie asked Nicolas Cage to be in their movie after
, except he would only do one out of 10 of those projects.” It’s sobering to realize there was a time when Nicolas Cage was selective.
10. WE GOT TO MEET JOEL’S EX-GIRLFRIEND NAOMI IN A DELETED SCENE.
Joel makes several references to his ex, Naomi, the one he was living with when he met Clementine. He even considers getting back together with her. We never see her in the finished movie, but the character was in a few scenes in the original version (including a post-breakup hook-up). And her voice, provided by Ellen Pompeo, is heard over the phone in a deleted scene.
11. GONDRY DIDN’T REALIZE HOW REALISTIC HIS MOVIE WAS UNTIL HIS GIRLFRIEND LEFT HIM.
), and he says that makes the movie too sad for him to watch anymore. But the experience also made him see the film’s accuracy. Gondry had thought the moment when Joel throws all of Clementine’s stuff into a garbage bag was “a stereotype.” Then, when his own girlfriend left him, “I lived it! I had to put all my stuff in a cardboard box and send it back to Los Angeles, and I thought, ‘OK, now I understand what the movie was saying.’”
Composer Jon Brion had never done anything in the hip-hop world until Kanye West, impressed by his
score, asked him to collaborate. They had the basics of “Gold Digger” laid down after the first day.
Not because he was too much of a ham, but because his character is reserved and un-spontaneous. This led to some frustration on Carrey’s part, especially when Gondry was urging Winslet, Dunst, and Mark Ruffalo to cut loose with their characters. “Sometimes, I had to talk to Kate Winslet in a different room and tell her, ‘Go as big as you want! This is a comedy!’ And to Jim, I’d say, ‘This is a drama, not a comedy,\'" Gondry told The Daily Beast. "Jim was very frustrated while we were shooting it.”
14. THEY MADE IT LOOK LIKE THE TIDE WAS COMING IN TO THE BEACH HOUSE AT THE END BY BUILDING A HOUSE ON THE BEACH AND LETTING THE TIDE COME IN.
Sometimes the simplest explanations are the right ones. Most of the film’s effects are practical, not digital, and that was true of the rising water in the beach house, too.
In 2014, scientists reported that they’d successfully manipulated mice’s memories, or at least the emotions associated with those memories. See, we form the informational part of our memories—the facts and events—in the hippocampus neighborhood of the brain. The emotions connected to them—how we feel about those facts and events—are stored down the road in the amygdala. Scientists messed with some mice’s amygdalae and basically reversed how they “felt” about prior lab experiences, changing an unpleasant association into a pleasant one, and vice versa.
The scientists were quick to point out that while this could be useful in erasing a person’s negative emotions about something in their past (for PTSD sufferers, for example), it would be a bad idea to actually make them forget that these events had happened. Which means they must have gotten the message of
10 Fascinating Practices on UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage List
You\'ve probably heard of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites—places like Machu Picchu, Auschwitz, and the Tower of London that UNESCO has deemed architecturally or historically important. But UNESCO doesn’t just choose important
to protect—it also maintains an Intangible Cultural Heritage List, which includes traditions and ways of life passed down from generation to generation and now in danger of being lost.
The list is rooted in a 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which created the list to raise visibility for the practices and encourage dialogue around cultural diversity. The list protects five types of cultural heritage: oral expression and traditions (including language); performing arts; social practices, rituals, and festivities; knowledge and practices about nature and the universe; and traditional craftsmanship.
In some ways, cultural heritage is even more fragile than buildings and archaeological sites because it lies in people’s memories, and so can be easily lost or changed with no real record to preserve it. And the results of a loss of cultural heritage can be dire: Culture helps define a minority group, and the loss of that culture can mean a disconnection from the past.
UNESCO now maintains two lists: the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (the latter only includes items identified as needing immediate protection).
To be added to a list, an item must be nominated by one of the countries that is a party to the convention. A committee then meets annually to determine which practices should be added to the lists, based on whether they meet the convention\'s definitions of cultural heritage, whether inscribing the practice will encourage dialogue and awareness, and whether there\'s been wide involvement by the culture concerned, among other criteria.
Female divers (some as old as 80) from Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea have been collecting shellfish for hundreds of years. The divers, known as Haenyeo, submerge as much as 30 feet without scuba gear to harvest sea urchins and abalone, working up to seven hours a day. They hold their breath for a minute during each dive, and each makes a distinctive whistling noise when surfacing. Prayers are said to the goddess of the sea before the dives begin. The culture has played an important part in elevating women’s status on the island—women are the primary breadwinners in these families, and the
Palestinian women over the age of 70 are part of this narrative tradition. During the winter, at gatherings of women and children (it\'s considered inappropriate for men to attend), the older women in the community tell fictional stories that critique society from the female point of view and, UNESCO notes, often reveal a conflict between "duty and desire." The storytelling involves rhythm, inflection, and other vocal arts, but is now on the decline due to the availability of mass media.
Mongol camel herders perform a special ritual when they want a mother camel to accept a newborn calf or adopt an orphan. The mother and calf are tied together and the camel coaxer sings a special song that includes gestures and chants designed to encourage the mother to accept the baby. A horse-head fiddle or flute is also played. The ritual reinforces social ties in the nomadic society, and is passed down from parent to child. But as motorcycles are replacing camels as transportation, the practice is in danger.
In the Pyrenees Mountains of Andorra, Spain, and France, residents from local villages carry flaming torches down the hills to light large beacons on the night of the summer solstice. Carrying the torches is a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, and setting the first fire is a special role given to priests, politicians, or the newly married. Unmarried girls greet the torch carriers with pastries and wine, and ashes are collected the next morning to put in gardens.
In Mongolia, residents play a game in which small teams of six to eight people flick pieces of marble across a table to push sheep knuckle bones into a target. The shooters wear personalized costumes denoting their rank in the game, and use individually created shooting tools. They also sing traditional tunes throughout the game.
In northern Vietnam, folk songs in the Nghệ Tĩnh dialect are sung while people harvest rice, row boats, make conical hats, or put children to sleep. The songs focus on the values important in that culture, including respect for parents, honesty, and goodness. The songs also provide a way for unmarried young men and women to share their feelings with each other.
Nomads in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan make round yurts for use as temporary, portable homes, as well as for ceremonies like weddings and funerals. A round wooden frame forms the basis for the structure, and is then covered in felt and braided ropes. Men create the wooden frame, while women create the outside covering and inside decorations, working in groups to create the intricate patterns and reinforce social values.
Quechua-speaking peasant communities in Peru come together each year to replace the suspension bridge over the Apurimac River in the Andes Mountains. The bridge is made of an unusual material—straw that\'s twisted and tied into ropes. The ropes are attached on each side of the river, and the bridge builders work until they meet in the middle. When the bridge is complete, a festival is held.
Buganda craftsmen from southern Uganda harvest bark from the Mutuba tree and beat the bark with wooden mallets until it is soft, cloth-like, and a terracotta color. The barkcloth is worn as togas by men and women (who add a sash to their outfit) during ceremonial events. The availability of cotton has resulted in a reduction in the production of this specialized cloth.
In Oostduinkerke, Belgium, 12 families harvest shrimp using horses. The Brabant horses walk breast-deep in the water parallel to the shore, pulling funnel-shaped nets. They also pull a chain along the bottom, which causes vibrations that make the shrimp jump into the nets. The caught shrimp are then carried in baskets attached to the horses’ sides. Each family specializes in a particular part of the practice, such as caring for the horses or weaving nets. The community celebrates this heritage with a yearly Shrimp Festival.
ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in
, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short,
, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.
In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that last year Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. Here are 10 sweet facts about the ever-quotable comedy.
Jared Hess’ wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told
. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.’”
Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. “The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me,” she told
. “Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before.”
2. NAPOLEON\'S FAMOUS DANCE SCENE MANIFESTED FROM THE SHORT FILM.
, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told
. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”
Heder told The Huffington Post he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt “pressure” to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told
. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”
3. FANS STILL FLOCK TO PRESTON, IDAHO TO TOUR THE MOVIE’S LOCATIONS.
’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”
Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a
festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.
In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.
Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told The Huffington Post. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”
6. THE TITLE SEQUENCE FEATURED SEVERAL DIFFERENT SETS OF HANDS.
Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”
Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like
the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.
The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.
Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told
. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”
Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told
. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.
the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told
the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”
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