This is the thirty-third in a series of examinations of legends from movies and the people who make them and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous movie urban legends.
MOVIE LEGEND: All timepieces in Pulp Fiction are set to 4:20.
A very popular “true fact” is about a cute little drug reference in the film, Pulp Fiction.
As you will see in many different places, it is stated as true that:
All of the clocks in the movie “Pulp Fiction” read 4:20.
4:20, of course, being a popular reference to marijuana enthusiasm (which evolved from a time when teens would smoke marijuana after school to the point where April 20th is practically a holiday now for fans of marijuana).
However, much like a recent Comic Book Legends Revealed that I did that stated that there is a reference to Superman in every episode of Seinfeld, what we have here is simply a case of exaggeration from an actual true occurrence in Pulp Fiction.
A bunch of clocks ARE set to 4:20 in Pulp Fiction, but, before we even look at ALL of the clocks, note that the most famous timepiece in the movie, Butch Coolidge’s watch, is shown not set to 4:20 when it is given to him as a child.
(click to enlarge)
But if you want to argue that that does not count as a clock, fair enough.
So here is a clock in the film NOT set to 4:20.
(click to enlarge)
So yeah, it is just an exaggeration.
MOVIE LEGEND: Ten months after the release of Forrest Gump, the studio behind the film ostensibly were in the HOLE over $60 million on the film!
STATUS: Apparently True
In 1986, Winston Groom wrote a novel called Forrest Gump…
It didn’t do particularly well, but in the early 1990s, Robert Zemeckis and Paramount Pictures optioned the book for a movie. He agreed to a $350,00 up front fee, plus 3% of the net profits of the film.
The movie then went on to become one of the biggest movie hits ever upon its release in July of 1994.
The film won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Tom hanks) at the Academy Awards, and by May 1995, it had sold over $600 million in ticket sales worldwide (and the VHS home movie had just recently been released).
However, by May 1995, Groom had yet to be paid ANYthing past his initial salary!
You see, Winston Groom, along with a few other people involved in the film (including the screenwriter, Eric Roth, and producers Wendy Finerman and Steve Tisch), only got percentages of the films’ NET profits, and in May of 1995, Paramount had yet to acknowledge that the film had actually MADE money yet!
Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis ALSO had percentage deals, but THEIR deals were off of the GROSS profits of the film, so by May 1995, each man had earned roughly $30 million for the film. In fact, Hanks and Zemeckis’ pay-outs were partially what were keeping the other four people from making any money.
Paramount’s position is that their accounting practices were completely valid.
They claimed that as of December 1994, after splitting the ticket sales with the movie theaters, they took in $191 million on the film, then $62 million went to Hanks and Zemeckis (net now $129 million), $50 million went to paying off production costs of the movie (net now $79 million), $74 million went to promoting the film (net now $5 million), $6 million went to interest payments on the financing of the film (now showing a net LOSS of $1 million) and then $62 million for distribution expenses, resulting in a net loss of roughly $63 million!!
Groom felt that this was bogus, and hired a lawyer to assert as much. Paramount responded by giving him another $250,000 (on top of his $350,000 original fee) as an “advance against future profits,” stating that they were sure that once the home video sales and the additional ticket sales came in, the movie would make a sizable net profit.
Still, it’s pretty amazing to see how a film as big as Forrest Gump could be said to have LOST $62 million six months after its release, and that it had not yet officially MADE money TEN months after its release!
Thanks to Bernard Weinraub of the New York Times for the information behind this legend.
MOVIE LEGEND: The airport scene at the end of Casablanca was produced using a cardboard model of a plane and little people actors in the background!!
The majority of the classic 1942 film, Casablanca, was filmed on the studio lots.
However, they did, in fact, have an actual Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior for the final scene in the film where Rick forces Ilsa to go with her husband, Victor Laszlo.
The problem was, they could not film the plane actually taking OFF. There are competing theories as to WHY, either they did not have the time/space/money or there were airport restrictions on filming a plane taking off at night.
Either way, they were stuck – they had a plane but they could not film it taking off, and the studio lot was not big enough to build a life-sized airport to house the plane.
So the filmmakers came up with an ingenious, if slightly odd, solution.
They built a cardboard model airplane to LOOK like the Lockheed plane, then they filmed in a fashion to make the perspective look like it was much further away than it really was. To aid in this endeavor, they hired a group of little people actors/extras to work on the plane to make it look bigger.
You’ll note that when Laszlo goes to put their bags on to the plane (to give Rick and Ilsa time alone), he doesn’t walk TO the plane, but off camera, stage right…
So when Rick and Ilsa have their climactic scene together, they’re not all that far away from the plane!
Fog is added to disguise the fact that the plane is a model. It’s a pretty darn good job, I think.
Again, when Laszlo and Ilsa leave, they again don’t walk to the plane, but rather stage right…
Here’s the model, with some heavy fog to disguise it…
Again, I think it looks pretty darn good.
This DOES serve to put Rick’s speech into new context, though – “it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people…”
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org