We love movie trivia, and in 2021, Ranker published oodles of fascinating facts about Hollywood and its stars. As we count down to the end of the year, we've reflected on the most intriguing behind-the-scenes movie facts, the romance and drama of famous power couples, little known details about actors from Hollywood's Golden Age, and of course, our favorite actors.
Now it's time to look back on the things we learned about nostalgic actors - most of whom enjoyed their greatest successes in the 1980s and '90s. Vote up the facts you're learning for the first time!
- Photo: Coach Carter / Paramount Pictures12,009 VOTES
Samuel L. Jackson grew up in Tennessee and didn't engage much with politics until he attended Atlanta's Morehouse College in 1966. There, he met Vietnam veterans who warned him that he'd end up drafted if he didn't buckle down to his studies. The point was driven home when, the following year, Jackson's own cousin was killed in Vietnam.
Afterward, Jackson became more involved in civil rights issues and actively opposed the war in Vietnam. He participated in a "lock-in" on the campus of Morehouse, where activists refused to let members of the Board of Directors leave until they listened to their petition. The tactic was effective, but later caused Jackson to be expelled from Morehouse.
Jackson started to believe there would be a full-on civil war in the US. He associated with the Black Panthers and bought himself a gun to prepare for the coming conflict. These actions put him on the FBI's radar. One day, in 1969, an FBI officer showed up at his mother's house. The agent said if Jackson didn't leave Atlanta and stop associating with the Panthers, he'd be dead within the year. Jackson recalled his mother showing up, ostensibly to take him to lunch - but instead drove him straight to the airport, where she told him not to stop until he got to his aunt's house in Los Angeles.
- Photo: The Rundown / Universal Pictures
Growing up, Walken worked many different jobs to earn a living - the wildest of which has to be the summer he spent taming lions. According to Walken, he applied for the job when he was 16 - after picking it out of a trade paper. As he told Vanity Fair in 2012,
It was a touring circus that was owned by a man named Terrell Jacobs. It was just one big tent, and he was a lion tamer. He didn’t have any kids, but the bit was that I would dress up as his son in an identical outfit. When he would finish his act, there would be one lion left, and I used to go in and have this lion do tricks. It was a female named Sheba, and she was very sweet. Like a dog, really. I would wave the whip, and she would run and sit up and roll over and do things.
Walken likes to clarify that he wasn't really "taming" anyone; he just ended the show with a very well-trained lion. "Sheba. Old girl. Very nice," he says. "She’d come and bump your leg. Like a house cat."
- Photo: Warner Bros.31,301 VOTES
The last role River Phoenix signed on to play before his passing in 1993 was interviewer Daniel Molloy in Interview with the Vampire, a film adaptation of Anne Rice's novel of the same name, starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
Christian Slater, who was cast to replace Phoenix in the role, donated his entire paycheck from the box-office hit to two of River Phoenix's favorite charities, Earth Save and Earth Trust.
In a 2018 interview, Slater explained why he chose to donate the money on behalf of Phoenix:
It was hard. How to replace somebody that died in that way, and somebody that I admired greatly. I thought we’d be in this business forever and we’d be competing for the same roles and doing all these things and instead that tragedy happened. So it was very, very sad. I tried to deal with it in the best way that I could. It didn’t feel right taking money for it, so I ended up donating the money to charities and things that he was involved with.
- Photo: 1941 / Universal Pictures41,165 VOTES
Actor and SNL alum John Belushi was not originally buried in an unmarked grave. His tombstone, located in Martha's Vineyard, MA, sported a skull and crossbones, and the epitaph,
Here Lies Buried The Body Of John Belushi... "I may be gone, but Rock and Roll lives on."
Unfortunately, hard-partying Belushi fans repeatedly trashed the grave site, which prompted his widow to move his remains to an unmarked location.
- Photo: Mary Poppins / Buena Vista Distribution Company, Inc.51,065 VOTES
In 1965, Mary Poppins was nominated for a record 13 Oscars, while My Fair Lady was nominated for 12. Media and fans alike concocted a rivalry between the two leading ladies, Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn, respectively.
While Andrews did not in fact have any sort of rivalry with Hepburn, she did perhaps harbor some ill will toward Jack Warner, the producer of My Fair Lady.
Although Andrews had made Eliza Doolittle famous onstage and almost the entire stage cast of My Fair Lady was brought on for the film, Warner opted to go with Hepburn over Andrews as leading lady. Andrews got the last laugh, though, when she walked away with the Best Actress Oscar for her role as Mary Poppins.
In her acceptance speech, Andrews made a point to thank "the man who made a wonderful movie and who made all this possible in the first place: Mr. Jack Warner."
- Photo: Geena Davis Archery Tricks / Funny Or Die
Most people know Davis as a talented actress with musical abilities to boot. However, not many are aware that Davis is also a talented sportswoman.
According to accounts, Davis never knew she would be successful in sports, as most of her career focused on acting. She was even once quoted as stating, “I never thought of myself as athletic, but I was actually good at everything.” She proved just how athletically inclined she was when she took up archery at the age of 41.
Davis remarked that after watching the 1996 Summer Olympics, she became fascinated with archery, and this fascination led to her seeking out a coach and training grueling hours six days a week. After only two years of learning the sport and practicing religiously, she became proficient enough to compete for a coveted spot on the US archery team set to compete at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Although she never made the team, she did place 24th overall, an incredible feat considering she had only been participating in the sport for less than three years.