In the new book Best. Movie. Year. Ever. (published April 16), former Entertainment Weekly writer Brian Raftery makes a strong case that 1999 did indeed represent a pinnacle in the cinematic arts. He also dives deep into the films released during that twelve month period, detailing the production histories of The Blair Witch Project, Office Space, The Matrix, Cruel Intentions, Election, Rushmore, Eyes Wide Shut, Fight Club, Three Kings, Boys Don’t Cry, Magnolia, and more. Check out five things we learned reading Best. Movie. Year. Ever. below.
Election (Alexander Payne)
Working with editor Kevin Tent, director Payne spent so long editing the biting Reese Witherspoon vehicle that the director “had two Christmas parties on the cutting room floor”— literally.
The Matrix (The Wachowskis)
To get into shape for the sci-fi film, Joe Pantoliano (who played Cypher) underwent an $8,000 liposuction procedure. According to Raftery’s book, Pantoliano sent the bill for the surgery to the studio, claiming that the liposuction counted as “research and development.” The actor did not receive reimbursement.
Fight Club (David Fincher)
Helena Bonham Carter often broke out laughing while shooting takes for perfectionist Fincher’s black comedy, to the dismay of costar Edward Norton. “It was like, ‘You know Fincher’s already going to do forty of these takes,’ said Norton. ‘Do you really want to make it seventy?’ ”
The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez)
To help maintain the fiction that the harrowing events depicted in The Blair Witch Project actually happened, publicity appearances by the film’s three stars — Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard — were strictly limited. This strategy proved so successful that Donahue’s mother even received a sympathy card from someone who believed her daughter had really died. “Everybody wanted to make money,” Donahue says in Best. Movie. Year. Ever. “And they didn’t give a rat’s a– about us.”
Three Kings (David O. Russell)
Russell screened the war movie for President Clinton in Washington D.C., with other audience members including cast member Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola. According to the filmmaker, “He said, ‘Y’all are my cheap thrill for today — you and the Purdue Women’s Basketball Team. And let me tell you: their coach is stunning.’ And we were all thinking ‘Not really what you should be talking about.'” More impressive? Following the movie, Clinton gave an impromptu, hours-long lecture on the history of the Middle East. “He talked us right under the table, until we finally left at midnight,” says Russell.
- The oral history of Office Space
- Before Keanu Reeves, The Matrix producer wanted Sandra Bullock as Neo
- The Blair Witch Project almost ended with a different, terrifying fate