10 Marvelous Facts About The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Amazon Studios
Amazon Studios

Miriam “Midge” Maisel has it all. Beauty, wit, a home that belongs in a magazine spread, and an alliterative name. Then she loses a major piece of the puzzle: her husband, who philanders and leaves her high and dry after sparking an interest in stand-up comedy in her. It’s on the stage that she finds success and herself, and it’s online that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has found similar success.

An effervescent comedy from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, the Rachel Brosnahan-starring series also tackles modern sexual politics with quick quips and antique flair. Here are 10 facts about the Emmy Award-winning Amazon Studios series, which just debuted its second season.

1. THEY BORROWED AN HERB FROM ROSEMARY’S BABY.

Rachel Brosnahan in 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'
Nicole Rivelli, Amazon Studios

In an early episode, a fortune teller hands over a charm to Midge’s mom, Rose (Marin Hinkle), that includes tannis root, which is made up. Specifically, it was invented for the Roman Polanski horror film Rosemary’s Baby, which doesn’t involve comedy so much as it involves a New York City apartment complex filled with Satan worshippers.

2. SOME INITIAL ADVERTISING MADE A CONFUSING RELIGIOUS STATEMENT.

Early Amazon promos for the series described Midge’s home as “an elegant Upper East Side apartment perfect for hosting Yom Kippur dinner,” which may have confused potential Jewish fans since Yom Kippur is marked by fasting. There is a meal called a “Break-the-Fast,” and while the pilot episode of the show gets that right, the advertising does not.

3. AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO’S FATHER WAS A COMIC IN THE 1950S.

The pillot opens in 1958, which required a healthy amount of research, but Sherman-Palladino had the inside track. Her father was Don Sherman, a stand-up who started off in the Greenwich Village comedy scene. “I grew up with stand-up comedians hanging out in my house,” Sherman-Palladino told Variety. “Stand-up comedians either work a lot or they have a lot of time on their hands to hang around with each other eating deli and making each other laugh. It was like Broadway Danny Rose a lot of the time at my house.” She also dedicated an episode to her father.

4. RACHEL BROSNAHAN WAS TOLD REPEATEDLY THAT SHE WASN’T FUNNY.

Rachel Brosnahan and Wakeema Hollis in 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'
Nicole Rivelli, Amazon Studios

Up until she was cast as Midge, Rachel Brosnahan mostly played haunted-eyed girls in severe dramas (see: House of Cards). A lot of bad stuff happened to her characters. She also lost a lot of acting jobs because, while talented, casting directors didn’t think she was funny. “It happened enough times that there was a pattern,” Brosnahan told Glamour. “I thought, ‘Maybe I should listen to it.’ Now I’ve realized you can continue to learn things even when you’ve formed a really solid sense of self.” Now she’s an Emmy-winning comedic actor. Not bad for someone who isn’t funny.

5. THE CREATOR KEEPS ASKING ACTORS IF THEY HAVE MORE HIDDEN TALENTS.

Beyond making a dramatic actor learn how to be a convincing stand-up comic, Sherman-Palladino continues to keep the actors on their toes. After wrapping the first season, Brosnahan got a text from Sherman-Palladino asking if she could ride a bike. Marin Hinkle got a text asking if she could speak French. They also made Brosnahan do something involving “a rolling chair and some choreography” that you'll see in the new season. “Took a tumble, so I’m learning new skills,” Brosnahan said.

6. MIDGE IS A SALUTE TO JOAN RIVERS.

Midge is brimming with the same kind of pioneering spirit exemplified by early female comics like Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers. Midge has a certain brashness that would resonate particularly with the latter. Brosnahan watched a lot of Rivers’s performances to prepare for the role, and even though their styles are somewhat different, their drive and tenacity in a male-dominated field is the same.

7. SHERMAN-PALLADINO WANTED TO MAKE A PERIOD PIECE BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T LIKE TECHNOLOGY.

The writer/producer is known for caffeine-powered dialogue that’s laced with pop culture references aplenty, but she’s not the biggest fan of modernity. Besides creating an homage to her father’s early career, mounting a mid-century series appealed to Sherman-Palladino because of its technological limitations. She relished “the opportunity to do any sort of show where I don’t have to think about Shapchat—I’m thrilled, delighted because I don’t understand technology. I just want to go back to a time where there wasn’t any,” she told Vanity Fair.

8. COFFEE IS ONE KEY TO THE CHARACTER.

How does one spew all those lines written by Sherman-Palladino? “It helps when you really love the project and the role,” Brosnahan told Harper's Bazaar. “But as we went on, it definitely involved digging pretty deep, and a lot of coffee. Lots and lots and lots of coffee.” The show’s scripts are 10 to 15 pages longer than the average television series.

9. BROSNAHAN GOT THE ROLE DESPITE BOMBING AN AUDITION AND GETTING APOCALYPTICALLY SICK.

After years of being told she wasn’t funny, Brosnahan almost missed the Mrs. Maisel boat, too. She thought she’d done horribly in her initial audition, and then she got sick just before a second chance test with Sherman-Palladino and executive producer Dan Palladino. She postponed the test to see if she’d get better, but she only got worse.

“I rallied, but I honestly was so sick during the camera test," Brosnahan admitted. "I was so sweaty Amy kept stopping me because I had to powder my face, I was blowing my nose, I took my shoes off at some point ... at best, that test was a beautiful disaster. But Midge is kind of a disaster sometimes.”

10. BROSNAHAN DOESN’T THINK OF MIDGE AS A FEMINIST.

Despite treading on traditionally male ground, Brosnahan doesn’t apply the feminist label to her character. Hers is more of a quiet, personal, subversive revolution. “What I love about Midge is that she is so not a feminist,” she told The New York Times. “She’s a creature of her time. What she is, is curious. She’s insatiable. If she doesn’t know things, she wants to know them. And she doesn’t know any other way than forward."

15 Facts About Rushmore On Its 20th Anniversary

The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

On December 11, 1998, Wes Anderson introduced the world to his unique brand of whimsical comedy with Rushmore. Though it wasn't his feature directorial debut—he had released Bottle Rocket, which he adapted from a short, in 1996—it was his first major Hollywood movie. And kicked off his still-ongoing collaborations with a stable of talented actors that includes Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. It was also the second film Anderson co-wrote with Owen Wilson.

To celebrate the quirky comedy's 20th anniversary, here are some things you might not know about Rushmore.

1. Rushmore Academy was the director's Alma Mater.

Wes Anderson sent location scouts across the United States and Canada to find the perfect high school to shoot the movie. He was having a tough time trying to find the school, until his mother sent him a picture of his old high school in Houston, Texas: St. John's School. Anderson thought it was the perfect location to make the movie.

2. Bill Murray wanted to make Rushmore for free.

Bill Murray in Rushmore (1998)
The Criterion Collection

Once Bill Murray read the screenplay, he wanted to be in the movie so badly that he considered appearing in it for free. Murray ended up working on Rushmore at scale with the Screen Actors Guild day rate minimum for smaller indie film projects. Anderson estimated that Murray made about $9000 for his work on the film.

3. Film critic Pauline Kael had a private screening.

Pauline Kael’s film criticism was a major influence on Anderson’s view of cinema. “Your thoughts and writing about the movies [have] been a very important source of inspiration for me and my movies, and I hope you don't regret that," he once wrote to her.

Kael retired from The New Yorker in 1991, so Anderson arranged for her to have a private screening of Rushmore before the film came out in 1998. He wrote about the screening in the introduction to the published version of the screenplay, and shared what Kael told him about the film: "I genuinely don't know what to make of this movie."

4. It was Jason Schwartzman’s first film role.

Casting directors searched throughout the United States, Canada, and England to find a young actor to play the lead role of Max Fischer. Australian actor Noah Taylor was the frontrunner for the part when, on the last day of casting in Los Angeles, Jason Schwartzman auditioned. He was wearing a prep school blazer with a Rushmore Academy patch that he made himself.

5. Owen Wilson's private school experiences inspired some of the movie's plot points.

As a sophomore at St. Mark High School in Dallas, Texas, Rushmore co-writer Owen Wilson was expelled for stealing his geometry teacher's textbook (the one that contained all the answers); he went to Thomas Jefferson High School to complete 10th grade. This was the inspiration for when Max is expelled from Rushmore Academy and is forced to attend Grover Cleveland High School.

Although Wilson doesn’t have a credited role in Rushmore, he does appear as Ms. Cross’s deceased husband, Edward Appleby, in a photo in Appleby’s childhood bedroom.

6. Wilson's Dad Inspired a Moment in the Movie.

Wilson’s father, Robert Wilson, was the inspiration for Herman Blume’s speech about privilege at the beginning of Rushmore.

7. Alexis Bledel was an extra in the film.


Getty Images

Before she starred as Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, actress Alexis Bledel was an uncredited extra—she played a Grover Cleveland High School student—in Rushmore. You can see her in the background in various scenes, including dancing with the character Magnus Buchan (Stephen McCole) at the end of the film.

8. Both Anderson and Wilson's brothers had parts in the movie.

Owen and Luke Wilson’s older brother Andrew plays Rushmore Academy’s baseball coach, Coach Beck. He also appeared in Anderson’s directorial debut, Bottle Rocket, playing the bully John Mapplethorpe.

Eric Chase Anderson, Wes's brother, plays the architect who designs Max’s aquarium.

9. The Movie's Editor Made a Cameo.

Rushmore editor David Moritz plays the Dynamite Salesman; he sells Max the dynamite and explosives for his stage play Heaven and Hell at the end of the film.

10. Producers Made a Deal to get a Bentley.

Producers needed a Bentley for Murray's character, Herman Blume, but Rushmore’s production budget was only $20 million and they couldn’t afford to rent one. A Houston resident was willing to lend them his Bentley if they gave his daughter a role in the film. Producers agreed; the man's daughter plays an usher who seats Miss Cross at Max’s play at the end of the movie.

11. Mason Gamble's role in Dennis the Menace almost cost him the part of Dirk Calloway in Rushmore.

Mason Gamble in Rushmore (1998)
The Criterion Collection

Wilson referred to the character of Dirk Calloway, played by Mason Gamble, as the conscience of the film. Originally, Anderson didn’t want to cast Gamble in the part because of the actor’s previous—and very recognizable—role as Dennis Mitchell in the 1993 live-action movie Dennis the Menace.

12. Rushmore Upset Francis Ford Coppola.

Director Francis Ford Coppola owns a winery, and when he first saw Rushmore, he was upset with Anderson because he used Coppola’s chief Napa Valley wine rival during Max's post-play celebration. (It probably didn't help matters that Coppola is Schwartzman's uncle.)

13. Anderson's Brother Did the Movie's Criterion Collection Artwork.

The Criterion Collection edition of 'Rushmore' (1998)
The Criterion Collection

Eric Chase Anderson did the artwork for the Criterion Collection DVD cover, an interoperation of a shot from the montage of Max’s extracurricular activities at the beginning of the movie. The Yankee Racer shot is itself a recreation of a photo from French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue, taken in 1909 when he was only 15.

14. Schwartzman waxed his chest to play Max.

Although Max only shows his chest once in the film (during the high school wrestling match), Anderson made Schwartzman wax his chest for the duration of Rushmore's filming.

15. The Max Fischer Players Appeared on MTV.

During the 1999 MTV Movie Awards, the Max Fischer Players recreated the year's hit movies—The Truman Show, Armageddon, and Out of Sight—as stage plays.

An earlier version of this article ran in 2014.

Harry Potter Star Daniel Radcliffe Says Broadway Made Him a Better Actor

Dominik Bindl, Getty Images
Dominik Bindl, Getty Images

For 10 years, moviegoers watched as Daniel Radcliffe matured on film throughout eight Harry Potter films. But the 29-year-old recently revealed that he believes the bulk of his professional growth has occurred as a result of his Broadway stage work.

“It gives me a lot of confidence as an actor, which is not always something that I’ve felt,” Radcliffe told Variety. “I feel like doing theater ... it was really very important for me psychologically.”

Radcliffe starred in a number of films after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the final film in the franchise, including The Woman in Black, Now You See Me 2, and Lost in London. His Broadway credits include Equus, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and The Cripple of Inishmaan.

“There’s something about doing it without an editor to save you, or a myriad of things in post-production that can help you out, something that made me go: ‘OK, I can act,’" Radcliffe continued. "I’ve grown a little bit as an actor every time I’ve gone back to the theater."

Radcliffe crediting his professional growth to working in theater may leave some Potterheads wondering if he thinks playing Harry Potter for so long held him back.

“Not professionally, at all,” he said. “There were moments when probably I coped with the personal effects of Harry Potter not as well as I could have. But professionally, no.”

According to Radcliffe, "There are directors that were, I think, excited to—I am quoting one of them here and I won’t say who—'reinvent' me.”

Radcliffe fans can gauge that reinvention for themselves with The Lifespan of a Fact, the new Broadway play starring Radcliffe, Bobby Cannavale, and Cherry Jones. It is running at New York City's Studio 54 through January 13, 2019.

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