10 Fun Facts About Better Call Saul

Matthias Clamer, AMC
Matthias Clamer, AMC

If making Breaking Bad was a high-wire act of maintaining perfection, Vince Gilligan stepped onto an even thinner wire when he decided to spin off the beloved series into Better Call Saul, a compendium of the legal misadventures of Saul Goodman (a.k.a. Jimmy McGill, a.k.a. Gene).

Played with exhausted enthusiasm by Bob Odenkirk, Jimmy’s journey to strip mall success is as harrowing and taut as watching Walter White navigate the meth business, but it’s (thankfully) a whole other animal.

Just ahead of its fourth season premiere, grab a Jell-O cup and eat up these 10 facts about Better Call Saul.

1. THE BREAKING BAD WRITERS USED TO JOKE ABOUT MAKING A SAUL GOODMAN JOKE.

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in 'Better Call Saul'
Nicole Wilder, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

While whittling a huge pile of ideas into the winners that became Breaking Bad's scripts, Vince Gilligan and the other writers had a lot of lines for Saul that got scrapped. “We love writing for the character,” Gillian told Uproxx. “We love putting words in his mouth, and we had so much fun, indeed, doing that, that it started as a lark. We’d come up with some great term or phrase, and we’d laugh about it in the writer’s room, and then we’d say, “You know, when we’re doing the Saul Goodman show we’ll be able to blah, blah, blah.” Be careful what you joke about.

2. JIMMY PICKED HIS ALIAS BECAUSE IT SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING ELSE.

Gilligan initially wanted to call the character Saul Good (like, “It’s all good”) as a hyper-memorable name for clients to remember when faced with their one phone call. Another writer suggested “Goodman,” and they all loved it. They were just lucky the first name rhymed with “Call.”

3. THE TITLES HAVE HIDDEN MEANINGS.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in 'Better Call Saul'
Nicole Wilder, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

You can take nothing for granted in the Better Call Saul universe, including the episode titles. In the first season, every episode (from “Uno” to “Marco”) ended in the letter O, except “Alpine Shepherd Boy,” which was supposed to be called “Jell-O” before the producers waved it off to avoid being sued by the gelatin makers. Even crazier, the first letters of season two’s episodes (S-C-A-G-R-B-I-F-N-K) unscramble to spell “Fring’s Back”—a clear message for Breaking Bad fans.

4. IT WAS ALMOST A COMEDY.

Sony and AMC were eager to buy the show even before Gilligan knew what it would be about. He toyed with the idea of exploring the events after Breaking Bad but thought it would rob the show’s finale of its mystique. Gilligan also considered a comedy where a famous comedian would cameo every week, bringing a funny legal problem to Saul to fix. Not all good, man.

5. IT (SORT OF) USES THE BREAKING BAD THEME SONG.

Dave Porter’s title theme for Breaking Bad utilized a dobro guitar stretching the sound over a moody, percussive vibe. For Better Call Saul’s outro titles, he’s remixed it into something a bit more surf rock—just on the edge of familiarity. Listen close, and you’ll hear the Breaking Bad theme in the mix.

6. CHUCK WASN’T INTENDED TO BE A BAD GUY.

Everyone who watches the show hates Chuck McGill, Jimmy’s brother played by Michael McKean, but it wasn’t until writing the seventh episode that Gilligan and the writers realized Chuck was a villain. “Believe it or not, the idea of Chuck being the ‘bad guy’ was a late addition to Season 1,” Gilligan explained during a 2015 Reddit AMA. “This points out one of the things I love most about writing for TV. There are enough episodes and enough lead time (if you’re lucky) for writers to change the direction of a story midstream."

7. THE SHOW USES A FAMILIAR TEQUILA.

Obviously Better Call Saul regularly pays homage to its predecessor. Yet one of the subtlest nods is the use of a rare brand of spirit. On Breaking Bad, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) poisons an entire drug cartel with Zafiro Añejo tequila, the same fictional brand Jimmy and Kim (Rhea Seehorn) down while trying to bilk an investor in the first episode of season 2.

8. YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT COLOR PEOPLE ARE WEARING.

Gilligan’s fanatical dedication to detail includes the colors that get associated with each character. It was a major element in Breaking Bad. It’s also a big part of Better Call Saul in the form of the “Fire and Ice Theory,” partially confirmed by writer Peter Gould, who confessed that hotter colors like red were associated with criminals. That tacitly means cooler colors are meant for the innocent, so it’s curious that Jimmy’s car is yellow with one red door …

9. THE SHOW WAS INFLUENCED BY STANLEY KUBRICK.

Breaking Bad was shot on 35mm, which gave it a grainy texture that fit with the cinematic tone of the show. Better Call Saul is shot in 4K digital, offering a crispness and enormity to the proceedings that echo Stanley Kubrick’s photographic style. That connection is intentional, as Gilligan tries to craft the show according to Kubrick’s rule of making the first image the most intriguing thing the audience has seen that day. Doing everything possible to stand out goes for the music cues, too. “Our needle drops come straight from Kubrick,” Gilligan said. “And then we’ll go for these one-point perspective shots as specific Kubrick tributes, or deliberate slow zoom-outs that we take from Barry Lyndon.”

10. JIMMY ENDS UP LIVING HIS “BEST CASE SCENARIO.”

In the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad, Saul erases his identity, prepares to move away from Albuquerque, and claims his best case scenario is managing a Cinnabon in Omaha, Nebraska. That’s exactly what he’s doing as “Gene” in the very opening of Better Call Saul. Congrats, Jimmy. You’re living the dream.

Orson Welles's Former Hollywood Hills Estate Is Taking Vacation Reservations

Fred Mott, Getty Images
Fred Mott, Getty Images

Orson Welles's former Hollywood Hills estate is a perfect place to get away from society, grow a bushy beard, and brood over a bottle of whiskey.

Interested? The late Hollywood icon's 3000-square-foot home is available to rent for about $755 a night through HomeAway. The house, which sits on its own private 15,000-square-foot knoll, was home to Welles at the very beginning of his career and is where he wrote the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane. Bring along your typewriter and try to channel some of his greatness.

Quite a few other celebrities have inhabited the house as well, including Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. Features of the grand four-bedroom mansion—built in 1928—include a lagoon pool, Jacuzzi, deck, and both canyon and city views.

There's never been a better time to rent Welles's abode: his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is set to premiere at this month's Venice Film Festival before arriving on Netflix. The unfinished flick, which was shot intermittently between 1970 and 1976, has been completed and restored for its much-anticipated release. (Of course the mansion has plenty of TVs for your viewing pleasure.)

The property has a three- to five-night stay minimum, depending on the season. For more pictures, see below or head to HomeAway. And since you're already in vacation-planning mode, another creative celebrity abode to consider is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Montgomery, Alabama home, which is available to rent via Airbnb.

Orson Welles' house
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles mansion
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

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