12 Old Time Facts About Risky Business

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

On August 5, 1983, Tom Cruise—wearing Ray-Bans and his skivvies—starred in the teen dramedy Risky Business and slid his way into pop culture history. In his first starring role, Cruise dealt with a killer pimp named Guido, romanced a call girl named Lana, and charmed his way into Princeton. The film’s $63.5 million gross launched Cruise as a bona fide movie star, a title he still holds three decades later. Here are 12 things you might not know about the '80s classic, on its 35th anniversary.

1. AT ONE POINT THE MOVIE WAS TITLED WHITE BOYS OFF THE LAKE.

Because the movie took place, and was partly filmed, in Chicago’s affluent Highland Park suburb, located along Lake Michigan, writer-director Paul Brickman (who grew up in Highland Park) told Salon that, "The working title was White Boys Off the Lake. I think the studio rejected that because it sounded like an off-Broadway play. So we started doing word association to come up with a new title.”

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY THE CONFORMIST.

Brickman also told Salon that Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist was a huge influence on the film: “I thought, ‘Why can’t you present that as a film for youth and aspire to that kind of style and still have humor in it?’ That was the test: to meld a darker form of filmmaking with humor. Tone is what I wanted to play with.” Though Risky Business comes off as a satire about capitalism couched as a teen comedy, The Conformist is a political drama situated during Italy’s 1940’s Fascist regime.

3. THE DIRECTOR WAS NOT INITIALLY SOLD ON TOM CRUISE.


Warner Home Video

Cruise was filming The Outsiders in Tulsa, Oklahoma when he got the call to audition for Risky Business. Cruise told Interview, “Originally, Paul [Brickman] had seen Taps and said, ‘This guy for Joel? This guy is a killer! Let him do Amityville III!’ Somehow, my agent, without me knowing, arranged to have me just drop by the office to say hello. So I went in wearing a jean jacket, my tooth was chipped, my hair was greasy. I was pumped up and talking in an Oklahoma accent, ‘Hey, how y’all doing?’ Paul just sat there, looking at me.” Cruise returned to Tulsa but flew back to L.A. and auditioned again. “I walk in and see this stunningly gorgeous woman sitting there looking at me and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God,’” Cruise said. “Rebecca [De Mornay] had already been cast. They wanted to see the two of us together. I tested, and to make a short story long, we didn’t test that well. Paul just believed in me.”

4. CRUISE LOST WEIGHT IN ORDER TO LOOK MORE BABY-FACED.

According to an interview with Cruise in a September 5, 1983 issue of People, Cruise “shed 14 pounds in five weeks by jogging in the Florida sun and strict dieting. When he had reached his weight goal, he stopped exercising ‘so I could put on a little layer of baby fat’ for his unathletic character.” Cruise explained, “[Joel's] a very vulnerable person. I didn’t want any physical defenses up for him. No muscle armor at all.”  

5. CRUISE IMPROVISED THE UNDERWEAR SCENE.

In what became the movie’s most iconic moment, Cruise uses a candlestick holder as a mic and dances around his house to Bob Seger’s 1978 song “Old Time Rock and Roll." “I was just looking for something that was a timeless rock and roll piece that wouldn’t be dated,” Brickman told Yahoo! of his song choice. The scene wasn’t filmed at the Highland Park-located house; it was filmed at a schoolhouse in Skokie, Illinois.

Cruise told Cameron Crowe how the scene unfurled: “So I took the candlestick, and I said, ‘How about making this the audience?’ And then I just started ad libbing, using it as a guitar, jumping on the table. I waxed half the floor and kept the other half dirty, so I could slide in on my socks. As we went along, I threw more stuff in. Like the thing with the collar up, jumping on the bed. Originally, it was only one line in the script: ‘Joel dances in underwear through the house.’ We shot it in half a day.” And Cruise danced his way into history.

6. SEVERAL PARODIES EXIST OF THE SEGER DANCE SCENE—INCLUDING TWO INVOLVING BEN STILLER.

When Ron Reagan, Jr. hosted a 1986 episode of SNL, the cold open entailed Reagan being home alone at the White House, where he does what any First Kid would do: strip down to his underwear and dance to “Old Time Rock and Roll." During a scene in Scrubs, three of the characters hilariously recreate the dance moment. A 1992 episode of The Ben Stiller Show involves Stiller doing a spot-on impression of Cruise, who in the sketch is turning his life into a musical called Tom Cruise: Dress Casual, replete with a snippet of the underwear scene. Then, at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards, Stiller once again parodied Cruise—but this time as Cruise’s stunt double. Cruise appears in the skit as himself and allows Stiller to once again act out the underwear scene. The Stiller/Cruise comedic partnership continued years later when the good-humored Cruise worked with Stiller in the Stiller-directed 2008 film Tropic Thunder.

7. SEVERAL PORSCHE 928S WERE USED IN THE FILM.

“Porsche, there is no substitute,” Joel says as he speeds around town in his dad’s Porsche, only to have it later sink into Belmont Harbor. Porsche manufactured the 928 model from 1978 to 1995, and it was the first mass-produced Porsche with a V8 engine. Four of the 1979 models show up in the movie (and a 1981 model), including one that was gutted for the lake scene, and another that was painted gold. A collector tried to track down all of the Porsches but only found one of them, which he bought for $49,200 at a 2012 Hollywood memorabilia auction.

8. CRUISE THINKS THE FILM IS ABOUT CAPITALISM.

Ten years prior to casting Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, Cameron Crowe spoke with Cruise for Interview and asked him what he thought Risky Business was about. “It’s about today’s capitalistic society,” Cruise said, in 1986. “Do the means justify the ends? Do you want to help people, or do you just want to make money? Joel is questioning all of that. So am I ... I’m not saying I’m some erudite political figure—but it bothers me. At least I’m asking the question. The movie is Joel’s exploration of society, how he gets sucked into this wild capitalistic ride.”

9. THE MANUFACTURER OF THE CRYSTAL EGG WENT OUT OF BUSINESS IN 2011.

“I’m very disappointed in you,” Joel’s mom tells her son after she comes home from vacation to find her prized crystal egg cracked. Earlier in the film, hookers steal the egg from the mantel but return it to Joel by throwing it like a football. In real life, the egg was made by a century-old Corning, New York manufacturer named Steuben Glass Works, who made all kinds of prized pieces until they shuttered operations in 2011, mainly because the demand for crystal declined post-recession.

10. THE FILM WAS THE MOVIE DEBUT OF BOTH MEGAN MULLALLY AND BRONSON PINCHOT.

Before she was a Emmy-winning actress, Megan Mullally played a hooker in Risky Business. Wearing pink lingerie and with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth, she appears for just a few seconds. In the end credits she’s listed as “Call Girl.” Bronson Pinchot has much more screen time starring as Joel’s wise-cracking friend Barry. In a 2009 interview with The A.V Club, Pinchot said working with Cruise was “weird” and called Cruise “the biggest bore on the face of the Earth.”

11. TOM CRUISE AND REBECCA DE MORNAY DATED IN REAL LIFE.

Cruise has always been coy about his private life, but in 1986 he opened up to Rolling Stone about a girlfriend whom he fell in love with. “That girlfriend was his Risky Business costar, Rebecca De Mornay,” reads the article. “Despite their incendiary love scenes, they didn’t start dating until after the film’s release in late summer of 1983.” The long-distance relationship dissolved some time after Cruise shot the film Legend, in London, and before he went off to film Top Gun. “Relationships are hard,” Cruise told the magazine. “You have to know when you’re going to be in a different place from someone else, you have to have the strength to separate.” In 1987, Cruise married his first wife, actress Mimi Rogers.

12. TWO ENDINGS WERE SHOT, BUT BRICKMAN ONLY LIKED THE ORIGINAL.

At the end of Risky Business, Joel dines at a restaurant with Lana and he says, “I was just thinking where we’ll be in 10 years,” and she says they’re going to make it big. He asks, “Was this a setup?” and she says, “No.” Cut to them walking through a park at night and them talking about how they won’t be seeing each other for a while. She asks to spend the night with him and he jokingly asks if she has any money, and then his voiceover kicks in: “My name is Joel Goodsen. I deal in human fulfillment. I grossed over $8,000 in one night ... Time of your life, huh, kid?”

But in the alternate ending, they dine at the same restaurant and have a similar conversation. “Was our night together just a setup?” he asks Lana and she says “no” then adds “Why does it have to be so tough?” He summons her to come over and sit on his lap, which she does. The camera pulls back to reveal a stunning view of Lake Michigan (it’s obvious they’re dining inside the Hancock building). While still on his lap, the couple embrace and Joel’s voiceover is exactly the same except “time of your life” gets changed to “isn’t life grand?”—a subtle yet more sarcastic and ambiguous ending.

“We had to change the ending to make it more upbeat and commercial,” Cruise told Cameron Crowe. “Geffen Films felt it was too ... basically they felt it was a bummer, okay? At one point, Paul [Brickman] said he wouldn’t direct the new ending. They were going to hire another director to direct it. Paul really fought it. We all did … In the end, I think we got across the same point, though. Joel knows in his heart that this woman is more important than money.” At a 30th anniversary screening of the film, Brickman finally showed an audience the ending he had intended for the film.

Netflix Is Testing Commercials, and Subscribers Aren't Happy

iStock
iStock

Save the occasional "Are you still watching?" message popping up between episodes, it's possible to watch an entire Netflix series in one sitting with little to no distractions. Now, the streaming service is testing something that could upend that: As CNN reports, Netflix has quietly started sprinkling advertisements into its programming, something the subscription-based service has been able to avoid up to this point.

The promotional content Netflix is experimenting with differs from conventional cable commercials in some fundamental ways. The promos won't be advertising third-party brands, Netflix promises: Rather, they'll exclusively show off Netflix original content, like seriesGlow and Stranger Things (though one Reddit user did report seeing an ad for Better Call Saul, which Netflix licenses from AMC). And instead of inserting ads throughout the program, as some non-subscription streaming services do, Netflix will only include them at the end of some episodes with a "skip" button similar to the one that allows viewers to bypass a show's opening credits. And each promo subscribers see will be personalized based on their viewing habits, hopefully turning them on to new shows and not just annoying them in the middle of their binge-watching sessions.

Despite these assurances from Netflix, viewers aren't happy. Many customers have taken to social media threatening to cancel their service if the promos become the norm, which likely may not happen: They've only been shown to a select number of test viewers so far, and based on user response, Netflix may decide to pull the plug on the experiment.

The good news is that as long as the ads are still in the test phase, you can choose to opt out of them. Just go to Netflix.com/DoNotTest and toggle off the switch next to the words "Include me in tests and previews." Now you're ready to resume your binge-watching marathon without interruption.

[h/t CNN]

10 Things You Might Not Know About Columbo

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

For more than 40 years, Peter Falk entered living rooms around the world as Lieutenant Columbo, an unconventional L.A. homicide detective known for his ruffled raincoat and trademark cigar. The actor would go on to win four Emmys for the role, while the series itself remains a benchmark for television crime dramas. But if series creators William Link and Richard Levinson went with their initial choice, the iconic role of Columbo would have gone to a syrupy-smooth crooner rather than the inelegant Falk. Get familiar with one of TV's most unique heroes with facts about Columbo.

1. BING CROSBY WAS ORIGINALLY EYED FOR THE ROLE.

Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link's first choice to play their low-key detective was crooner Bing Crosby. Der Bingle loved the script and the character, but he feared that a TV series commitment would interfere with his true passion—golf. It was probably providential that Crosby turned the role down, since his death in 1977 occurred while the series was still a solid hit on NBC. 

2. PETER FALK WAS AN UNEXPECTED SEX SYMBOL.

Peter Falk in 'Columbo'
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Character actor Lee J. Cobb was also considered for the role, until Peter Falk phoned co-creator William Link. Falk had gotten a copy of the script from his agents at William Morris and told Link that he’d “kill to play that cop.” Link and Levinson knew the actor back from their days of working in New York, and even though he was the opposite of everything they’d originally pictured for Lt. Columbo, they had to admit that Falk had a certain likeability that translated to both men and women. Falk was described by a certain female demographic as “sexy,” and males liked him because he was an unthreatening, humble, blue-collar underdog who was smarter than the wealthy perps he encountered.

3. FALK WAS A GOVERNMENT WORKER BEFORE BECOMING AN ACTOR.

Peter Falk wasn’t too far removed from the character he played. In real life he tended to be rumpled and disheveled and was forever misplacing things (he was famous for losing his car keys and having to be driven home from the studio by someone else). He was also intelligent, having earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University, which led to him working for the State of Connecticut’s Budget Bureau as an efficiency expert until the acting bug bit him. He was also used to being underestimated due to his appearance; he’d lost his right eye to cancer at age three, and many of his drama teachers in college warned him of his limited chances in film due to his cockeyed stare. Indeed, after a screen test at Columbia Pictures Harry Cohn dismissed him by saying, “For the same price I can get an actor with two eyes.”

4. COLUMBO'S DOG WASN'T A WELCOME SIGHT AT FIRST.

Columbo's dog
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Columbo was renewed for a second season, NBC brass had a request: they wanted the lieutenant to have a sidekick. Perhaps a young rookie detective just learning the ropes. Link and Levinson were resistant to the idea, but the network was pressuring them. They conferred with Steven Bochco, who was writing the script for the season opener, “Etude in Black,” and together they hatched the idea of giving Lt. Columbo a dog as a “partner.” Falk was against the idea at first; he felt that between the raincoat, cigar, and Peugeot his character had enough gimmicks. But when he met the lethargic, drooling Basset Hound that had been plucked from a pound, Falk knew it was perfect for Columbo's dog.

The original dog passed away in between the end of the original NBC run of the series and its renewal on ABC, so a replacement was necessary. The new pup was visibly younger than the original dog, and as a result spent more time in the makeup chair to make him look older.

5. FALK'S REAL-LIFE WIFE PLAYED A ROLE IN THE SERIES.

Falk first met Shera Danese, the woman who would become his second wife, on the set of his 1976 film Mikey & Nicky. The movie was being filmed in Danese’s hometown of Philadelphia, and the aspiring actress had landed work as an extra. They were married in 1977, and she was able to pad out her resume by appearing on several episodes of Columbo. Her first few appearances were limited to small walk-on parts—secretaries, sexy assistants, etc. By the time the series was resurrected on ABC in the early 1990s, she was awarded larger roles.

She originally auditioned for the role of the titular rock star in 1991’s “Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star,” but her husband adamantly refused, since the role included a scene of her in bed making love to a much younger man. She instead played the role of a co-conspiring attorney, and was also allowed to sing the song that was the major hit for the murdered star.

6. THE CHARACTER'S TRADEMARK RAINCOAT CAME FROM FALK'S CLOSET.

The initial wardrobe proposed for Columbo struck Peter Falk as completely wrong for the character. To get closer to what he wanted for Columbo, the actor went into his closet and found a beat-up coat he had bought years earlier when caught in a rainstorm on 57th Street. And he ordered one of the blue suits chosen for him to be dyed brown. The drab outfit would become one of the trademarks of the character for decades.

7. STEVEN SPIELBERG GOT AN EARLY BREAK ON COLUMBO.

“Murder by the Book” was the second Columbo episode filmed, but it was the first one to air after the show was picked up as a series. Filming was delayed for a month, though, when Falk refused to sign off on this “kid”—a 25-year-old named Steven Spielberg—to direct the episode. Finally he watched a few of Spielberg’s previous credits (all of them TV episodes) and was impressed by his work on the short-lived NBC series called The Psychiatrist. Once filming was underway, Falk was impressed by many of the techniques employed by the young director, such as filming a street scene with a long lens from a building across the road. “That wasn’t common 20 years ago,” Falk said. He went on to tell producers Link and Levinson that “this guy is too good for Columbo."

8. COLUMBO'S FIRST NAME WOUND UP THE SUBJECT OF A LAWSUIT.

Fred L. Worth, author of several books of trivia facts, had a sneaking feeling that other folks were using his meticulously researched facts without crediting him. He set a “copyright trap” and mentioned in one of his books that Lt. Columbo’s first name was “Philip,” although he had completely fabricated that so-called fact. Sure enough, a 1984 edition of the Trivial Pursuit board game listed the “Philip” Columbo name as an answer on one of their cards, which led to a $300 million lawsuit filed by Mr. Worth.

The board game creators admitted in court that they’d garnered their Columbo fact from Worth’s book, but the judge ultimately determined that it was not an actionable offense. By the way, years later when Columbo was available in syndicated reruns and HD TV was an option, alert viewers were able to freeze-frame a scene where the rumpled lieutenant extended his badge for identification purposes in the season one episode “Dead Weight” and determine that his first name was, in fact, “Frank.”

9. THE SERIES DIDN'T FOLLOW A STANDARD MYSTERY FORMAT.

The premise of Columbo was the “inverted mystery,” or a “HowCatchEm” instead of a “WhoDunIt.” Every episode began with the actual crime being played out in full view of the audience, meaning viewers already knew “WhodunIt.” What they wanted to know is how Lt. Columbo would slowly zero in on the perpetrator. This sort of story was particularly challenging for the series’s writers, and they sometimes found inspiration in the most unlikely places. Like the Yellow Pages, for example. One of Peter Falk’s personal favorite episodes, “Now You See Him,” had its genesis when the writers were flipping through the telephone book looking for a possible profession for a Columbo murderer (keep in mind that all of Columbo’s victims and perps were of the Beverly Hills elite variety, not your typical Starsky and Hutch-type thug).

A page listing professional magicians caught their eye, and that led to a classic episode featuring the ever-suave Jack Cassidy playing the role of the former SS Nazi officer who worked as a nightclub magician. When the Jewish nightclub owner recognized him and threatened to expose him, well, you can guess what happened. But the challenge is to guess how Lt. Columbo ultimately caught him. 

10. THERE WAS A SPINOFF THAT KIND OF WAS BUT THEN WASN'T.

The 1979 TV series entitled Mrs. Columbo was not technically related to the original Peter Falk series. In fact, Levinson and Link opposed the entire concept of the series; it was NBC honcho Fred Silverman who gave the OK to use the Columbo name and imply that Kate Mulgrew was the widowed/divorced wife (the series changed names and backstories several times during its short run) of the famed homicide detective. The “real” Mrs. Columbo was never mentioned by her first name during the original series, but actor Peter Falk possibly slipped and revealed that her name was “Rose” when he appeared at this Dean Martin Roast saluting Frank Sinatra and asked for an autograph.

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