The Funniest People in Movies: 250 Anecdotes

These are the first 10 anecdotes from my book The Funniest People in Movies: 250 Anecdotes, available for .99 CHEAP at online booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBookstore, Kobo, etc.

Academy Awards

Oprah Winfrey was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in her first feature film, The Color Purple, directed by Stephen Spielberg. Her father made sure that he saw the movie—it was the first time he had gone to a movie theater in 25 years. At the Academy Awards ceremony, Ms. Winfrey did not win, but she joked that she was relieved because her recently altered dress turned out to be too tight: “Perhaps God was saying to me, ‘Oprah, you are not winning because your dress is too tight for you to make it up all those steps to receive the statuette.’”[1]

In 1988, Jodie Foster won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in The Accused. Following her acceptance speech, she joked backstage that she would immediately put the Oscar to good use: “I rented three videos last night … and they said if I brought this in I would get them free.”[2]

When a man streaked across the stage during the Academy Awards, Oscar presenter David Niven said, “Let’s not pay any attention to him. All he is doing is showing his shortcomings.”[3]

Actors

 Javier Bardem, the Spanish actor who played the very evil murderer in the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men, had a number of other jobs before becoming an actor. In fact, for one day when he was a teenager, he was a stripper. He says, “Unfortunately, I made the mistake of talking about it years later and my mother and sister read the article. You talk about showing your *ss and then your mother reads all about it.” As a citizen of Spain, he has a perspective different from that of Americans. For example, one day he had a nude scene, and the American crew made sure that he was covered up when he was not actually working—he definitely got the idea that people did not want to see his rear end. However, when he was murdering people in a scene, the Americans on set were happy. Mr. Bardem says that “the day I was killing people they were like, ‘Yaah! That was good!’ I know I don’t have a nice *ss, but I would go for an *ss over killing people every time.” A final difference between Spain and other countries—which in the opinion of the author of the book you are reading now definitely includes the USA—is this, according to Mr. Bardem, “I like the way people behave in my country. It’s about being open to life instead of being obsessed about getting somewhere. There’s a moment when they put the worries about paying the bills to one side and just live. In some countries, it’s all about being number one and if you are second you are a failure.”[4]

Kathy Bates won the Oscar for Best Actress in Misery, co-starring James Caan and made into a movie from a book by Stephen King. Director Rob Reiner told her that she had the lead part of Annie Wilkes, and Ms. Bates, who had never had the lead in a movie before, said, “The part. I’ve got it?” Mr. Reiner nodded and said, “You’ve got it.” Unbelieving, Ms. Bates said, “The Annie part. Annie Wilkes. That part?” Mr. Reiner nodded again. Still unbelieving, Ms. Bates said, “Annie Wilkes. The lead. And I’ve got it and it’s all set and everything?” Mr. Reiner replied, “All set.” Ms. Bates said, “Let me just get this straight—I am playing Annie Wilkes, the lead, in Misery?” Again, Mr. Reiner replied affirmatively. Ms. Bates said, “It’s done and everything, I mean, I am definitely playing Annie, and that’s set and done and everything, no mistakes or anything?” Mr. Reiner said, “It is so set you wouldn’t believe it.” Ms. Bates sat silently for a moment, then asked, “Can I tell my mother?”[5]

Jack Pierce was a master of makeup, and he created the makeup for such movie monsters as Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man. When making up actor Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster, Mr. Pierce made sure that the mask he had created came down only as far as Mr. Karloff’s eyebrows. That way, the actor could use his eyes and mouth to express emotion. In the three movies starring Mr. Karloff as the monster, he moves very awkwardly—the result of having a heavy rod placed along his spine, and of wearing boots that together weighed 26 pounds. Mr. Karloff’s performance as Frankenstein’s Monster was very sympathetic and thousands of children wrote him and showed compassion for the monster. Mr. Karloff remarked, “These children saw beyond the makeup and really understood.”[6]

Some people know what they like very early in their life. When Honor Blackman was 15 years old, her father let her choose which of two presents she wanted to receive: a bicycle or lessons in elocution. Young Honor, later to become the female lead in the movie Goldfinger and one of the female leads in the British TV cult classic The Avengers, chose the elocution lessons. (Another thing she likes is anecdotes. She tells about a young, overly enthusiastic director explaining the fine points of direction to actress Irene Handl, who listened patiently for a while, grew bored, and eventually told him, “Excuse me, I think you’ve mistaken me for someone who gives a f**k.”)[7]

In Quentin Tarantino’s first film, the hit Reservoir Dogs, Kirk Baltz played a rookie police officer who is tortured by the sadistic Mr. Blonde, played by Michael Madsen. To get into character, Mr. Baltz asked Mr. Madsen to put him in the trunk of his car, then drive him around for five minutes. (In the movie, the police officer is put in the trunk of Mr. Blonde’s car, then driven around.) Unfortunately for Mr. Baltz, Mr. Madsen also wanted to get into character. Acting like the sadistic Mr. Blonde, Mr. Madsen drove Mr. Baltz around for not five minutes, but for 45 minutes.[8]

In Spike Lee’s movie Jungle Fever, the beautiful Halle Berry plays a crack addict, a role she wanted because too many people assume that beautiful people don’t get addicted to crack—or so the people casting this kind of role seem to think. She worked hard to prepare for the role. She asked co-star Samuel L. Jackson to drive her around some of New York City’s poorest neighborhoods. She also visited a crack house in the presence of some police officers—who made her wear a bulletproof vest. Finally, for the 10 days before filming started, she did not take a bath.[9]

In the screwball classic movie It Happened One Night is a famous scene in which Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert are hitchhiking, but they can’t get a lift until Ms. Colbert shows her legs by the side of the road. At first, Ms. Colbert was shy and declined to show her legs in the scene, so director Frank Capra brought in a chorus girl to serve as Ms. Colbert’s body double. Ms. Colbert looked at the chorus girl’s pudgy legs, realized that movie-goers would think that the pudgy legs belonged to her, and decided to show her own thin and shapely legs in the scene.[10]

[1] Source: Sara McIntosh Wooten, Oprah Winfrey: Talk Show Legend, pp. 67-69.

[2] Source: Therese De Angelis, Jodie Foster, p. 17.

[3] Source: Kermit Schafer, The Bedside Book of Celebrity Bloopers, p. 87.

[4] Source: Martyn Palmer, “Javier Bardem is killing them softly.” The Times. 15 December 2007 <http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article3009905.ece>.

[5] Source: William Goldman, The Princess Bride, p. 339.

[6] Source: Tom Powers, Movie Monsters, pp. 19, 31.

[7] Source: Stuart Jeffries, ‘I have never been a bimbo.’ The Guardian. 28 March 2007 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,2044261,00.html>.

[8] Source: Joe Bob Briggs, Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies That Changed History!, p. 222.

[9] Source: Michael A. Schuman, Halle Berry: “Beauty is Not Just Physical,” pp. 35-36.

[10] Source: Peter Guttmacher, Legendary Comedies, p. 50.

 

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