10 Marvelous Facts About The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Sarah Shatz, Amazon Studios
Sarah Shatz, 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 Amazon Studios series, which was just nominated for eight Emmy Awards.

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.

Amazon promos 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 show opens in 1958, which required a healthy amount of research, but Sherman-Palladino had the inside track. Her father was Don Sherman, 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 award-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 we’ll have to wait for season two to see. “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."

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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