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Terms of Endearment (1983) Poster

Trivia

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At the end of production, to congratulate him for completing his first movie, James L. Brooks received a book of "Life in Hell" cartoons, drawn by Matt Groening. Brooks was so impressed that he asked Groening to create cartoon shorts for The Tracey Ullman Show (1987), which led to The Simpsons (1989).
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Debra Winger behaved erratically on the set because she was fighting severe cocaine addiction. At one point, she and Shirley MacLaine got into a shoving match.
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Shirley MacLaine said Jack Nicholson would do crazy things on the set like show up practically naked, and that a lot of their scenes were improvised.
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Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger were both nominated for 1983's Best Actress Oscar, which went to MacLaine. On her way to the podium, she reportedly whispered to Winger, "Half of this belongs to you", to which Winger reportedly replied, "I'll take half."
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John Lithgow was called in to replace another actor. His part was filmed in three days, during a break from filming Footloose (1984).
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James L. Brooks settled on Shirley MacLaine to play Aurora because "she was the only one who saw it as a comedy."
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The character of Garrett Breedlove does not appear in the novel, and was written specifically with Burt Reynolds in mind. Reynolds loved the script, but was already committed to star in Stroker Ace (1983). Paul Newman and Harrison Ford turned down the role before Jack Nicholson signed on. Nicholson talked with several real astronauts while in Houston, in preparation.
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In her autobiography "My Lucky Stars" Shirley MacLaine re-enacted some of the hostile moments between her and Debra Winger on the set. "The result was a bracingly complex mother-daughter bond onscreen, if not a pleasant set. We knew what we were doing a lot of the time, sparring back and forth," Winger said. "It was a very gritty way of working. People at Paramount thought we were crazy." MacLaine continued that Winger yelled at her to "get over here," when it was time to hit her marks on set. "'I heard you,' I said. 'I know marks when I see them,'" MacLaine wrote in her book. "'Good,' she said. 'How's this for a mark?' She turned around, walked away from me, lifted her skirt slightly, looked over her shoulder, bent over, and farted in my face." "I can't deny that we fought," Winger told the New York Times in 1986. "We're not having lunch together today. We challenged ourselves, and when we got tired of challenging ourselves, we challenged each other. But I think there was always a respect between the two of us."'
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Jodie Foster turned down the role of Emma Horton due to her commitment at Yale.
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Debra Winger began dating then-Governor Bob Kerrey while shooting the movie in Nebraska. He told reporters, "She swept me off my foot", alluding to the fact that the lower part of one of his legs was amputated due to injuries sustained in Vietnam.
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Jennifer Jones originally owned the book rights, and wanted to play Aurora. Sissy Spacek was originally scheduled to play the Debra Winger role. Jones and her husband, millionaire Norton Simon, originally commissioned the screenplay from Brooks as a comeback film. The writer decided that Aurora should not have to be tailored to a particular actress, and persuaded Paramount Pictures to purchase the rights from Jones and Simon. On accepting the Oscar for Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium, Brooks especially thanked Jennifer Jones Simon.
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Real-life mother and daughter duo Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis were considered for the roles of Aurora Greenway and Emma Horton.
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James L. Brooks was the fourth director to win an Academy Award for a directorial debut. Previous winners were: Delbert Mann for Marty (1955), Jerome Robbins for West Side Story (1961), and Robert Redford for Ordinary People (1980).
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The MPAA originally gave the film an R rating due to strong language. It was reduced to PG upon appeal; the PG-13 rating didn't exist at the time.
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In interviews, Shirley MacLaine said James L. Brooks played weird head games with the cast, and liked to keep everyone terrorized, on edge, and in a state of chaos. She said it got so bad at that she drove to the airport while the movie was in production, to quit.
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Shirley MacLaine turned down the role of Dr. Lesh in Poltergeist (1982) to play Aurora Greenway in this movie.
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Debra Winger was an up-and-coming star at the time, but she was also notoriously difficult to work with. She got into fights with Shirley MacLaine on the set of this movie. She clashed with Richard Gere while shooting An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). She clashed with Ivan Reitman on the set of Legal Eagles (1986). She clashed with Lynda Carter on the set of Wonder Woman (1975). She dropped off the A list and into obscurity. In interviews, Winger admits she is hard to get along with, and says she has few friends. Searching for Debra Winger (2002) was made about it.
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Although not specifically stated, the bulk of the story takes place during the late 1970s; a 1979 wall calendar is visible midway through the movie. During this time, N.A.S.A. needed Garrett's service as an astronaut the least. The final Apollo mission was in 1975, and the next manned space flight was the first Space Shuttle mission in 1981.
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This is one of only five films to receive two Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. The other four are: All About Eve (1950) (Anne Baxter and Bette Davis), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) (Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor), The Turning Point (1977) (MacLaine and Anne Bancroft), and Thelma & Louise (1991) (Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon). MacLaine is the only one to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.
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The role of Patsy was originally offered to Kim Basinger, who turned it down to appear in The Man Who Loved Women (1983).
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The film has been called one of the greatest movies of all time. The Evening Star (1996), in which Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson reprised their roles, was a critical and commercial failure, and is routinely called one of the worst sequels of all time.
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Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). That film also won awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium. Nicholson won an award for each film as well, but won Best Actor for the previous film, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for this one.
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Mary Kay Place and Albert Brooks do dubbing in this movie.
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Jack Nicholson received his Oscar from Timothy Hutton, who later married and divorced Debra Winger.
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This is James L. Brooks's directorial film debut.
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Jack Nicholson holds the record for the highest number of male Oscar nominations.
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The Auguste Renoir painting given to Aurora by her mother is referenced throughout the movie: when Aurora tells Emma she considered giving it to her as a wedding gift, when Emma calls Aurora asking to borrow money, and when Aurora uses it as an excuse to invite Garrett to her bedroom. The exact value of a Renoir original portrait is difficult to determine for a specific time period because they're sold so rarely. It's safe to assume that if Aurora had sold the painting through a reputable auction house around 1980, it would have sold for well over $100,000, possibly close to $1 million.
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The Kearney State College (now University of Nebraska at Kearney) scenes were shot at the University of Nebraska Lincoln due to major construction at the Kearney campus.
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A lot of Oscar success is due to strategy and politics. Most industry insiders thought Debra Winger made a mistake putting herself in the Best Actress category. As a young relative newcomer, she could have easily positioned herself in the Best Supporting Actress category, and won. Shirley MacLaine had been in the industry for over 20 years, and had been passed over for Best Actress several times.
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The film alludes to an affair between Patsy and Flap when the family is moving, and Patsy tells Flap he needs to take care of the family. He leans toward Patsy to whisper something. As she leans in, he abruptly stops and straightens up when he sees Aurora standing right behind Patsy, watching.
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The tagline for the movie was "Have You Come To Terms Yet?"
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Louise Fletcher was considered for the role of Aurora.
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On Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen: Amanda Peet & Debra Winger (2018), Andy Cohen asked Debra Winger if the rumors about her licking Shirley MacLaine during the shoot were true. Cohen said, "There were rumors that you tried to pass gas in her direction, you licked her leg while she was filming a love scene with Nicholson. Is any of that true?" A smiling Winger said there "was something true in there."' Both actresses, while admitting there was conflict on the set between the two of them, have also said James L. Brooks encouraged practical jokes and pranks between the actors to ratchet up the tension and get unprovoked reactions while they were shooting.
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When a hospital scene had to be reshot, a hotel room at the Holiday Inn on Cornhusker Highway in Lincoln, Nebraska was quickly modified to look like a hospital room. To enable the filming of another shot, a new stairway was installed on the north side of the Holiday Inn's "Holidome".
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This is the only film directed by James L. Brooks to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
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This is Jack Nicholson and James L. Brooks's first film together.
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Shirley MacLaine turned down the lead in Poltergeist (1982) to appear in this film.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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This is the third time Shirley MacLaine has starred in a Best Picture Oscar winner. She also starred in Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and The Apartment (1960).
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James Garner turned down the role of Garrett Breedlove, and Sissy Spacek turned down the role of Emma. Years later they starred in Streets of Laredo (1995) also written by Larry McMurtry.
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Jeff Daniels and Jack Nicholson appeared in Heartburn (1986).
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Production designer Polly Platt was Peter Bogdanovich's wife at the time. The book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" details the love triangle that developed between her, Bogdanovich, and Cybill Shepherd. It was also fictionalized in Irreconcilable Differences (1984).
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The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson; and four Oscar nominees: Debra Winger, John Lithgow, Danny DeVito, and Albert Brooks.
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Troy Bishop later appeared in Scream (1996).
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Though Lelise Folse has a small role, Brooks thought her vocal qualities weren't suitable for her scene with Jack Nicholson, and had Mary Kay Place dub her lines.
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A big chunk of the book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls", which follows the rise and fall of the auteur movement and the Baby Boom generation in Hollywood in the 1970s, is about Jack Nicholson and his legendary exploits during that period. Nicholson bragged to an interviewer at one point that he put cocaine on his penis during sex to heighten arousal and sensitivity.
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This is routinely called one of the best movies ever made.
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This is one of the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Aurora lives in the River Oaks section of Houston, TX.
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Molly Ringwald would later play Aurora in a 2016 Off-Broadway stage adaptation of the screenplay.
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When Flap and Aurora are in the hospital cafeteria discussing where the children should be, Flap is wearing the same tie that Emma gave him years before that made her very happy.
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In the novel, Aurora was involved with a General. He appears in the sequel, The Evening Star (1996).
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Early in the film, Emma and Patsy listen to an Ethel Merman album. One of Merman's signature roles was in Gypsy, where she plays a controlling mother whose daughters rebel in order to escape her, not unlike Emma.
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Albert Brooks provides the voice of Rudyard, Aurora's husband at the beginning; and John Lithgow plays Sam; Emma's lover. The two would co-star in another dramedy-romcom about 30 years later; This is Forty.
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The movie is included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the 500 movies nominated for the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
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Composer Michael Gore is Lesley Gore's brother. His big gig prior to this was composing Fame (1980).
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This is the second Best Picture Oscar winner in which Jack Nicholson appeared. The first was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor. It's the second time he co-starred with Danny DeVito, who also appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). Nicholson later appeared in The Departed (2006), another Best Picture Oscar winner.
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Patsy and Aurora face off several times in The Evening Star (1996); Patsy is one of the main antagonists.
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Writer/director James L. Brooks has stated that he and his team are not good at naming movies.
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This won four of the same Academy Awards as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). Both films won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress. Jack Nicholson, who won Best Actor before, won Best Supporting Actor.
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Towards the climax of the film, Patsy calls Emma her "touchstone". Within the next year after this movie's release, Paramount Pictures executives Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who were somewhat responsible for getting the movie made, left that studio to preside over The Walt Disney Company, which had recently launched a film division dedicated to films not necessarily for children -- Touchstone Pictures. Under their watch, Touchstone produced several hit movies including Three Men and a Baby (1987), Pretty Woman (1990), and so on.
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Cameo 

Albert Brooks: The voice of Aurora's husband in the opening scene.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

John Lithgow was hired last minute to play Sam Burns, who Emma has an affair with about halfway through the movie. According to the DVD commentary on the movie the original actor was fired. Nobody seems to know for sure who that original actor was, but media speculation has linked it to either George Dzundza or Jeff Bridges.
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In The Evening Star (1996), Aurora talks to the picture of Emma, who is now deceased. Director Robert Harling had to get permission from Debra Winger for the production to use her likeness. She replied "You are welcome to use my picture, and Shirley MacLaine is welcome to throw darts at it after you're done shooting". It's an allusion to the intense rivalry that sprang up between the two actresses while shooting this film.
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Huckleberry Fox and Troy Bishop, who played Emma's sons, got very good reviews when the movie came out. Their characters' deathbed scene with Emma is routinely cited as the best scene in the movie, possibly one of the best deathbed scenes ever. However, they were not cast in The Evening Star (1996), even though they were the right ages for the roles.
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Sam Burns never visits Emma as she's dying. She never bothers to tell him she's sick.
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Emma has a fixation with Broadway tunes. She gets stoned on the day before her wedding to Anything Goes, and has sex to West Side Story on her wedding night.
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In the novel, Flap and Patsy have an affair. In the movie, they don't.
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In this movie, Patsy's last name is Clark. In The Evening Star (1996), it's Carpenter, likely due to her ex-husband.
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