50 fascinating facts about the film industry
Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg said, “Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about.” The magic began more than a century ago in an industry unlike any other in the world. Both glamorous and ugly, the film industry's beginnings came with an ambitious New Jersey inventor, two French brothers, several cameras, and a series of moving images that would eventually tell stories to entertain and enthrall audiences everywhere. It is a world filled with a rich and ever-expanding history.
Stacker compiled 50 fascinating facts about the film industry using various entertainment and news publications and film sites including Newsweek, Film School Rejects, The Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair, and IMDb. The list includes facts that touch upon every aspect of the industry from directing, cinematography, and costume design to acting and writing. The list also includes industry firsts, awards trivia, and a blend of both historical and contemporary facts.
From the first film kiss and the first Black actor to win an Oscar to interesting facts like director cameos and improvised moments, these industry nuggets are both interesting and informative. The list contains several obscure facts that will enthrall both the film novice and the expert cinephile.
Discover the director who was also a talented illustrator, or the first movie to feature full-frontal male nudity (and how long it came after the first to show full-frontal female nudity). Find out which actor helped pay for an Oscar-winning film, and why the Hollywood sign disappeared for three months. Here, we uncover the best and worst about an industry that continues to fascinate and bring joy to millions around the world.
Read on to learn these fabulous film facts.
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The first toilet did not flush on the American big screen until 1960
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” features the first shot of a flushing toilet in mainstream American cinema. Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, flushes a piece of paper, setting up the audience for the infamous “shower” scene, wherein Hitchcock kills off his leading lady midway through the movie.
Leonardo DiCaprio did not do the drawing in ‘Titanic’
“Titanic” director James Cameron stood in as the “stunt hand” during the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio draws Kate Winslet’s character, Rose. Cameron, a talented illustrator, actually drew Winslet. The issue when shooting the scene was that the men did not write with the same hand, so in post-production, the editor had to mirror-image the shot.
The first narrative film is under 12 minutes long
Though it was not the first film ever made, the 1903 film “The Great Train Robbery” was the first film that told a story and is considered the first narrative fiction film. Under 12 minutes long, it was produced by Thomas Edison’s Edison Studios. The film shoot took place in New Jersey.
Tom Hanks helped pay for ‘Forrest Gump’
Speaking on “In Depth With Graham Bensinger,” Tom Hanks revealed that he and director Robert Zemeckis paid for some of the film when Paramount limited its budget. While the director and actor paid to shoot several scenes, they asked the studio for an increase in the profits. Tom Hanks earned an estimated $65 million for the film.
‘Schindler’s List’ relied on advertisements to get costumes for extras
The film’s costume designer, Anna Biedrzycka-Sheppard, required costumes for the 20,000 extras in the film and advertised to fill the need. Many people in Poland still had clothes from the 1930s and ‘40s, and were happy to sell them. Biedrzycka-Sheppard received an Oscar nomination for her efforts.
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One of the most memorable moments in ‘Pretty Woman’ was improvised
When Edward snaps the necklace case on Vivian’s fingers, Julia Roberts' reaction is genuine— Richard Gere decided to improvise, surprising her. Filmmakers found the moment so endearing, they decided to leave it in the film.
One of the most famous lines in film almost didn’t happen
At the end of the 1939 film “Gone with the Wind,” Rhett Butler says, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” The Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, prohibited profanity in film. Producer David O. Selznick came up with 22 alternate versions of the line, but thankfully he never had to use them.
The Academy announced Oscar winners differently
The Academy announced Oscar winners three months prior to the first Academy Awards held on May 16, 1929. The sealed-envelope system we know today started in 1941. This was a direct result of the Los Angeles Times’ announcing the winners in the evening edition before the ceremony took place in 1940.
The film industry got its start in New Jersey
The American film industry began not in California but on the opposite coast. Many studios started out in the New Jersey towns of Bayonne and Fort Lee at the beginning of the 20th century, including famous names like Fox, Paramount, and Universal.
A famous ‘Pulp Fiction’ shot was filmed in reverse
John Travolta pulls the needle out of Uma Thurman’s chest after she overdoses in the film "Pulp Fiction." The actual shot was filmed in reverse, which made it seem as if the needle made contact with Thurman’s skin. This made the shot much safer since it reduced the risk of Travolta puncturing his co-star.
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