Sure, you can do the usual Oscars pool with your friends and put in your two cents over who you think will win — and who you’re positive will get snubbed. But the Oscars are all about surprises, so why not wow your crew with some cold hard facts? The Best Picture nominees are an impressive bunch of films — some based on true stories, others designed to make our jaws drop with their utter creativity. And all have incredible, behind-the-scenes stories that will make your friends deem you an Oscars know-it-all when you share them during the big show on Sunday, February 26.
The Arrival Creators Made Up an Entire Alien Language
You might be able to tell from the film's title that Arrival is a movie is about an alien invasion. But what you probably don't know is that the filmmakers went to great lengths to put together an entire language that the extra-terrestrials speak when they show up on Earth. Production designer Patrice Vermette worked with many linguists and anthropologists to design the perfect alien language—but nothing worked until his own wife (a painter) gave it a go and nailed it. The language that made it into the film was based on over 100 logograms—71 were seen in the movie—with the final looks a combination of inkblots and flies. "I saw flies over a lake and I did some research, and there's lots of flies over Lake Victoria in Africa,” Patrice told Thrillist. “I liked the way the movement of those flies occurred, so I gave those videos to the visual-effects team, and that's how they made the final logograms."
Fences Should Have Hit Theaters 30 Years Ago
If Denzel Washington and Viola Davis seem made to play married couple Troy and Rose Maxson in Fences, it’s because they already had plenty of experience with their characters. You see, Fences is an August Wilson play that first opened on Broadway in 1987 starring James Earl Jones (who won a Tony for playing Troy). It was revived on Broadway in 2010 starring Denzel and Viola—both of whom also won Tony Awards for their stunning performances. Things came full circle when Denzel took the helm as star and director. But it wasn't supposed to take 30 years for the play to make it onto the big screen. In fact, Paramount first scored the film rights back in 1987. Eddie Murphy was attached to play the role of Troy and Rose’s 17-year-old son Cory. But, alas, being that Eddie was already approaching 30, he just was a little too old by the time filming was set to begin.
Director Mel Gibson Doesn't Think Hacksaw Ridge Is a War Movie (Even Though It Takes Place During WWII)
This film is an incredible true story directed by Mel Gibson and starring Andrew Garfield as World War II American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss. Desmond served during the Battle of Okinawa—and because of his faith, refused to kill people. Miraculously, he became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. Audiences were so moved during the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival that they gave it an almost 10-minute standing ovation. But, don’t congratulate Mel on making such a moving war film. He considers this a movie about love and faith. “I see stories like this with a guy like Desmond whose faith is unshakeable and I’m inspired by them. Maybe I could take a leaf out of his book on some level. It’s not about religion so much as it’s about faith and conviction and standing by your beliefs and pure love which is at the heart of God, I think,” Mel told Collider.
Chris Pine Watched Jeff Bridges Channel The Dude on the Set of Hell or High Water
Chris Pine and Ben Foster play bank robbing brothers in Texas—with a Texas Ranger (perfectly played by Jeff Bridges) hot on their trail in Hell or High Water. The funny thing is for a movie that at times feels like a love letter to the Lone Star State—not a single scene was shot there. Most of the movie was filmed in New Mexico. And while Chris is doing everything he can to avoid running into Bridges on screen, off camera was a whole different story. You see, Chris was in shock that he was hanging out with Jeff aka “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski. Jeff even had Chris come to his trailer to jam. “I got to play country-and-western songs with Jeff F***ing Bridges. While he's sitting there drinking a White Russian!” Chris told Rolling Stone. “It was the best f***ing day of my life—I mean, maybe, if he'd given me his flip-flops and one of the Lebowski sweaters, that might have made it better. But for a second, I was living the dream.”
Hidden Figures Is Chock Full of Historical Easter Eggs
This incredible film is based on the true story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program—despite racial discrimination. And, the film is filled with nods to the time the movie takes place. For example, Katherine G. Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson) is required to use a separate coffee pot at work. The brand of coffee used in the film is Chock Full o’ Nuts—and that’s no coincidence! You see, Chock Full o' Nuts was one of the first major companies in New York City to hire a black executive as a corporate vice-president. And the house where Dorothy Vaughn (played by Octavia Spencer) lived—where the ladies played cards and danced—was not chosen at random. It’s the historic meeting spot of civil rights legends Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr. Finally, in a scene where Jim Parson’s character Paul Stafford is speaking to the NASA engineers, there’s a special “extra” in the crowd: Mark Armstrong, son of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Ryan Gosling Is Really Playing the Piano in La La Land
Now, we’re sure you’ve heard all the incredible buzz that La La Land has been receiving—it won a record breaking seven Golden Globes and now is nominated for another record breaking 14 Oscars (the only other films to do so are Titanic and All About Eve). But here’s something else you may not know about the musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone: Director Damien Chazelle had a very specific style and feeling he wanted the film (and its music) to evoke. And to keep things as authentic as possible, Ryan really did play the piano in his scenes (sigh, is there nothing he can’t do?). He spent two hours a day, six days a week taking piano lessons to learn the songs by heart. When it was time to film, no hand double or CGI was required.
Lion Was Filmed in the Same Village That the Main Character Lived In Briefly
This moving film is based on the memoir of Saroo Brierly called A Long Way Home (Saroo is played by Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel). As a child, he was separated from his family in India after falling asleep on a train that took him thousands of miles away. He was adopted by an Australian couple and relocated to Hobart, Tasmania, and as an adult he sets out to find his birth mother and siblings using social media and Google Earth technology. Dev says that filming the scene where (spoiler alert) Saroo reunites with his family demanded a lot of his “soul” because it was filmed in the actual village where Saroo was from. Filming in India was a homecoming of sorts for Dev—the last time he was there was when he was making his breakthrough film Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. He even worked with many of the same crew members that he worked with on Slumdog.
Manchester by the Sea Almost Starred John Krasinski Instead of Casey Affleck
Manchester By the Sea may be one of the most heartbreaking films ever with Casey Affleck playing janitor who must step and take care of his orphaned nephew. It’s hard to imagine anyone else but Casey as Lee Chandler but the film almost had a very different cast. You see, Matt Damon is good friends with Manchester By the Sea’s director/writer Kenneth Lonergan. Matt and his pal John Krasinski (yep, the same one from The Office) brought the idea to Kenneth to help him out while he was financially strapped. Originally, Matt and John were going to star in the movie. But scheduling conflicts got in the way and instead they both stepped behind the camera and served as producer (Matt) and executive producer (John) instead.
Mahershala Ali Was Really Teaching Alex Hibbert How to Swim in Moonlight
This gritty, coming-of-age drama follows the life of a boy named Chiron as he grows up in Liberty City, one of Miami’s roughest neighborhoods. The movie was written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by Barry Jenkins—they both grew up in Liberty City and they both went through much of the same trials and tribulations as Chiron. Like Chiron, both of their mothers got pregnant with them as teens, became addicted to crack, and tested HIV positive. Filming the movie was a deeply personal experience, and they even shot some of the rawest and most haunting scenes serendipitously. For example, in the beginning of the movie when Chiron is just a child and known as Little (played by Alex Hibbert), he’s taught to swim in the ocean by a drug dealer named Juan (played by Mahershala Ali). If the scene feels as if the characters are truly bonding in an almost unspoken way, it’s because Alex didn’t know how to swim and Mahershala actually taught him how to swim while filming the scene.