My Cousin Vinny (1992) Poster


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Shortly after her Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actress, a rumor started circulating that Marisa Tomei had won by mistake because presenter Jack Palance had incorrectly read out the wrong name. This is a highly unlikely occurrence--the Academy specifically has two officials stationed offstage to intervene and read out the correct name if such an event should ever transpire. Such an event didn't occur until the 2017 Academy Awards when Warren Beatty was given the wrong card and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced La La Land as Best Picture, instead of the actual winner: Moonlight. The error was corrected on the telecast in about two minutes.
The misunderstanding between Vincent Gambini and Judge Haller regarding the two "utes" was in fact a real conversation between Joe Pesci and director Jonathan Lynn. Lynn, who is British, at first had a hard time understanding Pesci's pronounced New Jersey accent. He decided that the routine was quite funny and put it in the film.
Director Jonathan Lynn actually has a law degree and insisted the film's legal proceedings be realistic. In fact, many attorneys and law professors have praised the film for its accurate depiction of trial strategy and courtroom procedure, especially with regards to presenting expert witnesses at trial.
When Vinny is trying to explain his "real name" to Judge Haller he knocks over the judge's chess board. This was accidental but director Jonathan Lynn thought it was so funny and authentic he decided to leave it in the film.
The exchange between the prosecutor and automotive expert about the equipment used to analyze the tires was taken almost verbatim from an actual court transcript. The witness, asked how he analyzed the evidence, answered "I have a dual-column gas chromatograph, Hewlett-Packard model 5710a with flame analyzing detectors." The D.A. quipped, "Does that thing come turbo-charged?" and the witness answered, "Only on the floor models." This appears in lots of "funny things said in court" collections.
According to director Jonathan Lynn the screech owl in the scene in the woods was a real owl that had a little prior training so it wouldn't be scared away by the gunfire. The crew got it to open its mouth by giving it little pieces of beef, and artificially induced screeches were added to the film in post production. The owl's reaction to Vinny shooting the gun was authentic and needed only one take. The director states on the DVD commentary, "we got amazingly lucky with that screech owl".
The American Bar Association's publication, the ABA Journal, ranked the film #3 on its list of the "25 Greatest Legal Movies.
Near the end of the trial, Sheriff Farley informs the court that "two boys, who fit the defendants' description, were arrested two days ago by Sheriff Tillman in Jasper County, Georgia." Sheriff 'Mack' Tillman was actually the real-life sheriff of Jasper County, at the time, where much of the film was shot, and this line was a hat-tip to him for the assistance he provided to the producers during filming.
Austin Pendleton, a real-life stutterer, originally turned down the part of the stuttering John Gibbons. But he did it as a favor to his friend, Jonathan Lynn. According to Pendleton, he had trouble finding work in film for years because he became typecast as a stutterer.
Final feature film of Fred Gwynne.
Near the end of the film, as Vinny leaves, Fred Gwynne can be seen giving the exact same wave that he did as Herman Munster on The Munsters (1964).
According to the DVD commentary, when Gambini says, "Now, Mrs. Riley, and ONLY Mrs. Riley, how many fingers am I holding up now?", Joe Pesci ad-libbed the "only Mrs. Riley!" part.
Joe Pesci was 49, while Marisa Tomei was 27 when this movie was released.
Beechum County isn't a real county in Alabama. It was also filmed in Georgia, the Sac o Suds is still open and still called the Sac o Suds, and the 3 hotels are closed.
Joe Pesci won the Academy Award for Goodfellas (1990) while making this film and brought the award to the set to show cast and crew.
Director Jonathan Lynn proposed Fred Gwynne for the role of the judge after seeing him in The Cotton Club (1984).
The quote "dead-on balls accurate" is a reference to an actual attorney named Joey Callo, from whom the name Jerry Callow/Gallow was borrowed.
During defense attorney John Gibbons' opening statement, if you look at the defense table behind him, you can see Stan, Bill, and Vinny all trying to hold in their laughter.
Temperatures exceeded 100 degrees during the courtroom scenes, which were filmed in the midst of a Georgia summer in a converted warehouse with a corrugated metal roof.
Although set in Alabama the film was actually shot in Georgia.
In 2002 Marisa Tomei temporarily lost the Oscar she won for this film when she moved into a new house.
Lorraine Bracco was the first choice for the role of Mona Lisa Vito but declined the role.
On the Dan Le Batard radio show, actor Jim Belushi admitted he regretted that he turned down the title role in this film.
Joe Pesci reprised his character for his 1998 album "Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You".
The prison scenes were filmed at Lee Arrendale Correctional Institute in Alto, Georgia. Though depicted in the film, the prison has neither a death row or death chamber facility. The prison was also the setting for the movies Unshackled (2000) and Bad Boys (1983).
Exteriors were shot in Monticello, Georgia. The scene where Vinny and Lisa stop to check the tires in front of Lucy's Secondhand Store served as an establishing shot for the town where the trial takes place and where Lisa later gets Vinny's red tux. The courthouse in the background is actually Jasper County Superior Court in Monticello. Wazoo, Alabama is a fictional town. There is, however, a Yazoo City in Mississippi.
The red convertible that Vinny and Lisa are driving is a 1962 Cadillac..
Gambini's cross examination of Sam Tipton (grits), Ernie Crane (dirty windows), and Constance Riley (glasses) represents technically competent impeachment of the prosecutor's witnesses. Overall the film does an excellent job, though abridged and succinct, of representing the criminal judicial process.
During the recess, while Vinny and Lisa are in the restaurant discussing Lisa's photos, in the background a mint green convertible with a white roof drives by.
Lisa's pink camera is a Kodak Disc model 3600. Kodak Discs were produced between 1982 and 1990. Film for the cameras was produced and supported for development until 1998, so it's possible that in 1992, if the camera was still in good working order, that Lisa could be carrying one.
Joe Pesci's reportedly stands 5'4", Fred Gwynne was 6'5".
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When the judge warns Vinnie that he'd better show up in court with a full knowledge of Alabama law, he's setting Vinnie an impossible task. Alabama has the longest constitution of any state in the country, clocking in at more than 300,000 words. The U.S. constitution is only a bit more than 4,000 words.
In the climatic scene where Mona Lisa was brought to the court as an expert witness in automotive general knowledge, it has been noted that Vinny had an alternative if Mona Lisa hadn't cooperated on the stand, or she was disqualified by the court as an expert. Namely, while it is discouraged by standard attorney ethics in most situations, the rules of court would have allowed Vinny to take the stand himself to testify as an expert in general automotive knowledge because he could not have anticipated at the beginning of the trial that such knowledge would be relevant.
A sequel was discussed where Vinny Gambini would be practicing in Britain. Unfortunately, Marisa Tomei dropped out of the project, and subsequent attempts with another screenwriter to create a suitable story without her character went nowhere to the point where the proposed film was canceled. However, in 2017 mystery writer Lawrence Kelter began a sequel novel called "Back to Brooklyn," which has the further cases of Vincent Gambini as an attorney with Mona Lisa Vito serving as his investigator. This was intended as the first of a "My Cousin Vinny" novel series which is intended to be essentially a modern working class Italian-American version of The Thin Man (1934) mystery series.
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When Judge Haller bluntly overruled Vinny's objection to the introduction of a surprise expert witness, he committed a blatant reversible error. Thus, Vinny would have had excellent grounds for appeal if his clients were convicted and a good chance to have their convictions overturned.
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Ivy League connection with this movie. Vincent Gambini meets with Judge Chamberlain Haller (Fred Gwynne). in his chambers , Gambini notices the Yale Law degree on his wall. In real life Fred Gwynne attended Harvard University on the G.I. bill and graduated.
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When the preliminary hearing is being conducted, a door to the right rear of the witness is open, and a photograph may be seen hanging on the wall. The picture is of William Randolph Hearst, a somewhat odd choice to hang in a courthouse.
In the film, Judge Haller gives Vinny a constant hard time because of Vinny's being from New York. This is ironic, considering that Fred Gwynne, who plays Judge Haller, was a native New Yorker himself. While, oddly, Joe Pesci (Vinny) is not.
Many of the shots at the beginning were filmed along Highway 83 in Bostwick, Georgia. One plantation house was actually built in the early 1900s though it looks like an antebellum home.
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Actress Paulene Myers played Constance Riley. the witness that had trouble seeing. Earlier in her career, she played Judge Frances MacKenzie in an episode of All in the Family.
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During the opening credits, the boys pass a truck. They pass in a no passing zone.
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After questioning Mrs. Riley, Marisa Tomei holds out her hand to Joe Pesci to congratulate him. Although a slapping sound is heard, he actally misses her hand by quite a bit.
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One of two theatrical feature film comedies directed by director Jonathan Lynn that debuted in the year of 1992. The other one is The Distinguished Gentleman (1992).
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Besides being filmed in Covington, GA, this movie has a few other connections to the TV series In the Heat of the Night (1988).
  • This movie use the same courtroom featured in every courtroom scene on Heat.
  • Jill Jane Clemens, who plays the court reporter, also played Maudie the pawnbroker on Heat.
  • The building used as the Sac-O-Suds also served as Munn's Market in In the Heat of the Night: A Frenzied Affair (1992).
  • The tan Ford Bronco that Vinny & Jim Trotter go hunting in was also used as Bubba Skinner's personal vehicle on Heat.
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In the film, Marisa Tomei's character has the last name Vito. This could be a partial reference to Joe Pesci's famous role of Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas (1990).
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Marisa Tomei's Best Supporting Actress Oscar win was this film's only Oscar nomination.
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The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Dave's Bar B Que in Monticello GA was used for exterior shots. Still doing business today. The courthouse seen from the interior of Dave's is the Newton County Courthouse miles away in Covington GA.
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