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Misery (1990) Poster

(1990)

Trivia

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James Caan once showed up to the set hungover, and all of the scenes he shot that day were unusable. Rob Reiner told Caan he had to do the scenes again because there was "a problem at the lab." When Caan learned it had nothing to do with labs, he offered to cover the money he lost the studio.
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Stephen King was quite impressed with Kathy Bates' performance in this film, so much so that he later wrote two more roles for her. The title role in his novel "Dolores Claiborne" was written with Bates in mind, and Bates later starred in the film adaption of Dolores Claiborne (1995). King also wrote the script for the TV mini-series The Stand (1994). His original novel featured a (male) character named Ray Flowers; upon hearing that Bates wanted to be involved in the miniseries, King re-wrote the part as a woman (Rae Flowers) just so Bates could play the part (uncredited).
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Jack Nicholson was offered the role of Paul Sheldon, but passed because he was not sure he wanted to do another movie based on one of Stephen King's novels, after what he had experienced with Stanley Kubrick on The Shining (1980).
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One of Stephen King's first typewriters had a malfunctioning "N" key, just like the one used by Paul in the movie. In the novel, the typewriter also drops its "T" and "E" keys. Those two letters are second and first most commonly used letters in the English language, respectively, making Paul's job even tougher.
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Annie Wilkes is Stephen King's favorite written character, because she was always surprising to write, with unexpected depth and sympathy.
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Stephen King was initially reluctant to sell the film rights to "Misery" because he was skeptical that a Hollywood studio would make a movie faithful to his vision. However, King was impressed with one adaptation of his works, Stand by Me (1986), and agreed to sell "Misery" under the proviso that Rob Reiner would either produce or direct the film.
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"Misery" was almost turned into a Broadway play, with Julia Roberts as Annie Wilkes. King vetoed the idea, because Annie is (in his words) "a brawny woman who can sling a guy around, not a pixie." However, in 2015, a Broadway adaptation was ultimately produced to critical and commerical success, starring Bruce Willis as Paul Sheldon, and Laurie Metcalf as Annie Wilkes.
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James Caan and Kathy Bates clashed over their acting methods. Caan believed in as little rehearsal as possible. Bates, with her theater background, was used to practicing a lot. When she commented to Rob Reiner that Caan was not attempting to relate or listen to her, Reiner told her to use that frustration toward her character.
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James Caan had to stay in bed for fifteen weeks of shooting. Caan said he thought that Rob Reiner was playing a "sadistic" joke on him, knowing the actor would not enjoy not moving around for so long. Caan was not used to playing a reactionary character, and found it much tougher to play.
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James Caan accepted the lead role after Jack Nicholson turned it down. Caan had previously turned down Nicholson's Oscar-winning role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), in which he also is the victim of a psychotic nurse, Louise Fletcher, who also won an Oscar for her role.
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Rob Reiner studied Alfred Hitchcock movies to figure out how to shoot a thriller, watching every Hitchcock film. Reiner had Hitchcock on the brain so much that James Caan overheard Reiner chastising himself one day on set, asking himself, "Who do you think you are, Alfred Hitchcock?"
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According to William Goldman's book "Four Screenplays," the role of Paul Sheldon was offered to Warren Beatty, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt (twice), Kevin Kline, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Denzel Washington, and Bruce Willis, all of whom declined. Willis, however, would later play the role years later on Broadway.
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Stephen King had originally planned to release the novel under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. While writing it, however, it was discovered that King was Bachman. King subsequently published the novel under his real name, and announced that Bachman had died from "cancer of the pseudonym".
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They wanted to make Buster "more proactive" than he is in the novel, and to that end they gave him more deductive skills and drive towards finding Sheldon.
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In 1991, Kathy Bates became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress in a horror or thriller film. The first performer to win an Oscar for a horror film was Fredric March for his performance as the title character in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). The only other winners for acting in a horror film were Ruth Gordon for her performance as Mia Farrow's new neighbor with a hidden agenda in Rosemary's Baby (1968) (Best Actress in a Supporting Role), Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster for Best Actor and Best Actress in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and Natalie Portman for Best Actress in Black Swan (2010).
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Rob Reiner was questioned before heading into production if this was really the right project for him, as his background was mostly comedy up to this point. He stated, "It's important for me to find my way into the film... and as you will see, the movie's really about a man who is trapped by his own success and is desperately trying to break out and establish himself in a different way. I felt very much those feelings when I finished All in the Family."
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Frances Sternhagen, who played the Sheriff's wife, was the voice talent for Dolores Claiborne on the audio book, which later starred Kathy Bates in the title role.
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Rob Reiner picked up on Kathy Bates getting more and more isolated as the shooting progressed, and told Bates to leave Annie Wilkes behind when the work day was done.
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After seeing The Shining (1980), Rob Reiner was immediately inspired to make a movie based on a Stephen King novel. He ended up directing two Stephen King adaptations, Stand By Me (1986), based on King's short story The Body, and this film, based on Stephen King's novel of the same name.
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Anjelica Huston was offered the role of Annie Wilkes, and was interested, but was unable to accept it due to her commitment to The Grifters (1990).
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Bette Midler turned down the role of Annie Wilkes, because she thought it was too violent. She later called herself "stupid" for her decision.
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Jessica Lange and Barbra Streisand were up for the role of Annie Wilkes.
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Annie was always intended in the novel to be an amalgam of Stephen King's scariest fans.
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Screenwriter William Goldman first suggested Kathy Bates to Reiner for the Annie Wilkes role. "She was our first and only choice."
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Paul preferred to write on white, long-grained mimeo paper. Paper cut long-grained resists curling, which is frequently caused by the hammering of manual typewriters, the heavy ink of pens, and changing weather conditions. Likewise, the dust jackets on hardback books, and the covers of larger paperbacks, are often shortcut. Thus they tend to curl away from the book instead of hugging it.
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The car accident scene was captured with a setup involving nine cameras, "six or seven" of which actually functioned. "We knew we weren't going to be able to throw a car off a cliff too many times."
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Paul Sheldon's (James Caan's) novels are published by Viking, the same publishing company that published Stephen King's books at that time.
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Annie Wilkes was ranked the seventeenth most iconic villain in the American Film Institutes list of "100 Heroes and Villains."
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When Paul's car is found, he is assumed to be dead, in a subplot original to the film. Coincidentally, on June 19, 1999, author Stephen King was hit by a car with some initial reports saying he had died. King eventually incorporated the accident into his book "The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower," which also briefly mentioned Annie Wilkes.
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Warren Beatty was involved briefly while they were developing the script and helped them close some possible plot holes in regard to Paul's efforts to escape. He said, "Pretend that it's me, Warren Beatty, an intelligent person trapped in the bed. I would think of every possible way to get out of this house." From there they worked through various possibilities and then made sure to block off those options from Paul.
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According to writer William Goldman, Richard Dreyfuss almost accepted the Paul Sheldon part because he regretted turning down the lead role in When Harry Met Sally... (1989) and he wouldn't like to disappoint the director Rob Reiner again - they previously collaborated in another Stephen King's adaptation in Stand by Me (1986). Reiner asked Dreyfuss to read the script but he didn't like it.
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The character played by Frances Sternhagen was created entirely for the film, and was not in the novel.
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Season 2 of Castle Rock on Hulu serves as a prequel to Misery and Annie Wilkes' story.
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William Goldman adapted his script for the stage for a limited run on Broadway during the 2015-2016 season. The play starred Bruce Willis as Paul Sheldon and Laurie Metcalf as Annie Wilkes. It marked Willis' debut on Broadway. Sixteen years before, in 1999, Ramón Langa, famous for being the official dubber of Willis in Spain, starred on a theater adaptation alongside Beatriz Carvajal.
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The empty phone is the closest element to a "cheat" in the film as there's no real reason why Annie would have it sitting there unless she expected Paul to escape from his room. They rationalized it by saying simply that she's crazy.
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The movie downplays one of the key themes in the book: Paul's addictions and substance abuse and how that plays into his captivity. The book gives us alot of backstory about his history of substance abuse; and how he'd recently gotten himself back on track. Being held in captivity; coupled with her feeding him novril pills all the time, (novril is a fictional form of codeine; an opiate); has caused Paul to relapse; and he has swung into full on addiction to the Novril/codeine. (These scenes of the drug addicted writer banging away compulsively at the typewriter as a kind of panacea bring up memories not just of The Shining and it's substance abusing writer; but also of King himself; who was the real deal and the inspiration for all of this). King himself has said that Annie is a symbol of Paul's own addictions; come to life; holding him captive; trying to kill him.
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(At 21 mins.) The POV approach towards and past Buster on the side of the road, which then turns to reveal Annie driving, was designed by the film's cinematographer, Barry Sonnenfeld.
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(At 59 mins.) The shot through the bed rails that transitions into a shot through trees is meant as a nod to the idea that Paul's basically in jail.
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They spent weeks getting Paul Sheldon's briefcase to look "just right" in regard to the faded and worn exterior.
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A dress worn by Kathy Bates in her role as Annie Wilkes is on display at Planet Hollywood in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
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Bates was stage-trained and preferred excessive rehearsals while Caan was more "instinctive and naturalistic," so they had to balance the rehearsal time to make it less than she wanted and more than he wanted.
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They spent time crafting Wilkes as a "specifically sick person, not an all-purpose monster."
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The film cast includes one Oscar winner, Kathy Bates; and four Oscar nominees, James Caan, Richard Farnsworth, Lauren Bacall, and Rob Reiner. Bates won Best Actress for her now iconic role in the film.
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After filming wrapped, Richard Farnsworth gave Reiner the hat he wears in his introduction scene as Buster.
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For the scene where James Caan had to crawl out of bed, director of photography Barry Sonnenfeld spit on the hardwood floor to indicate to where Caan should crawl. Caan claimed to Rob Reiner and Sonnenfeld that it was the only movie on which he ever worked where someone was hocking his marks.
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The black and white photo sitting by the 'bunk' phone in Annie's living room is actually an old photo of a preteen Kathy Bates.
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This was the first feature produced by Rob Reiner's company, Castle Rock Entertainment, named for the small town appearing in his previous film Stand by Me (1986), and in several other stories by Stephen King. The novel this film is based on, however, has more connections to a neighboring town in his fictional universe, Derry. As a child, Paul Sheldon was friends with Eddie Kaspbrak, who moved to Boston after the events in It (1990). Misery takes place in the fictional town of Sidewinder, Colorado, near the Overlook Hotel, the setting of The Shining (1980). The character of Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers) also served in the army with the father of Mike Hanlon, another character from It.
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James Caan claimed in an interview on the DVD that he did not read the book in preparation for filming.
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Mary Tyler Moore wanted the role of Annie Wilkes.
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The day after Kathy Bates won the Oscar for her role in Misery (1990), she filmed a scene with Alec Baldwin where fans asked for their autographs. Kathy Bates later walked her dog and forgot to bring a clean-up bag and wound up using a fan's discarded autograph she found on the ground instead.
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It was William Goldman who picked the then-unknown Kathy Bates for Annie Wilkes. She would go on the win the Academy Award for Best Actress for the film.
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A video of When Harry Met Sally... (1989) (also directed by Rob Reiner) is visible in the general store.
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(At 50 mins) The signed photo is actually Reiner's handwriting.
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The theme music in one of the trailers for this film is a actually piece of James Horner's score from Aliens (1986), which has been used in several trailers for other films like Dark Universe (1993).
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Annie displays traits associated with an array of mental illnesses (at the very least, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a severe personality disorder with paranoid, antisocial and borderline features, and likely some sort of schizophrenic- or schizoaffective-spectrum disorder). In a special feature on the collector's edition DVD, a forensic psychologist described Annie as a "virtual catalog of mental illness."
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William Goldman who wrote the script said that the studio approached every man in Hollywood to play the part. Dustin Hoffman, Robert Deniro, Gene Hackman and Warren Beatty. He said everyone said no "because leading men hate to be passive; hate to be eunuchized by their female co-stars." He said the only person who never said no was Warren Beatty. Beatty just kept them hanging forever; he said "to this day I still don't think he said no". Which is humorous because the movie came out 20 years ago.
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Kathy Bates's Best Actress Oscar win was this film's only Oscar nomination.
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In the movie, during the scrapbook scene, pause whenever any of the news articles are visible. Most consist of only one or two paragraphs that are continuously repeated.
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George Roy Hill was at one point considered to direct.
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James Caan was not director Rob Reiner's first choice for the film. He was turned down by Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, William Hurt (twice), Richard Dreyfuss, and several others. However, after shooting the film he said, "But, at the end of the day, you can't imagine anybody else playing the part."
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Reiner loved the speech Annie gives, because "it's so wacky and nutty."
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
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Bill Murray was considered to play Paul Sheldon.
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Roseanne Barr and Rosie O'Donnell were considered to play Annie Wilkes. Roseanne did play her in an SNL parody. Ironically her on-screen sister, Laurie Metcalfe, would play Annie Wilkes on Broadway.
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During the course of the film, Annie says "Oh Paul" 12 times.
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The filmmakers originally considered Bette Midler for Annie, but Rob Reiner felt it was better to cast an unknown so that no one knew what kind of person Annie was.
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Dustin Hoffman turned down the role of Paul Sheldon, due to his dislike of violent films.
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Annie's jeep is a 1974 Jeep Cherokee S [SJ].
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Annie's revolver is a Colt Cobra "D" Frame .38 revolver.
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At one point, Carol Burnett was considered for the role of the agent, and Vicki Lawrence was considered for the role of Annie Wilkes.
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Jeff Daniels, Ed Harris, John Heard, Robert Klein, and Ed O'Neill were considered for the role of Paul Sheldon.
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The title of Paul's next novel is "The Higher Education of J. Philip Stone," a possible reference to actor Philip Stone, who appeared in The Shining.
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Tim Allen and Robin Williams were both considered for the role of Paul Sheldon.
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Originally released via Castle Rock Entertainment's production and distribution arrangements with Columbia Pictures. By 2021, the (television) versions were retro-fitted as an MGM movie, with the more modern www.mgm.com opening and closing animated logos, completely replacing the 1990 versions of the Columbia logos.
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First of three screenplay adaptions by William Goldman, based on novels by Stephen King. Goldman also wrote the screenplays for Hearts in Atlantis (2001) and Dreamcatcher (2003). Ironically, in Stephen King's novel, It (2017) - which was first published in 1985, five years *before* Misery (1990) came out - author Bill Denbrough talks with his agent, Susan Browne, about the upcoming film adaption of one of his horror novels. Browne mentions William Goldman as a possible screenwriter for the project.
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Blizzards are a driving factor in "Misery", "Dreamcatcher", and "The Shining", all Stephen King novels.
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Paul's car was a, 1966 Ford Mustang.
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Sheriff Buster's car is a, 1972 Chevrolet Blazer [K-5].
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James Caan and Richard Farnsworth previously appeared in Comes a Horseman (1978).
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The typewriter that Annie buys for Paul to use is a Royal Model 10 typewriter. The Royal 10 was one of the first successfully mass produced typewriters which would set the technical standard for most typewriters that would follow it. Produced between 1914 and 1934, Paul's model can be pinpointed to be from 1914 to 1923 due to the double paneled beveled glass located on both sides of the machine. Models from 1924 to 1934 had only single paneled beveled glass. The 10 model would see use well after the model was discontinued as Royal Typewriters subsidiary Rigal Rebuilt would completely refurbish and rebuild the machines after they reached the the intended lifespan giving the model many more years of use well into the 1950's and 60's. Due to its mass sales and twenty year production the Royal 10 remains one of the attainable typewriters that can be picked up by collectors of the machines in the 21st Century.
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This movie has echoes of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane; another movie which is essentially a two-hander about a pyschotic woman holding a star hostage and torturing them for two hours. This also draws on Sunset Blvd, where a demented powerful woman tasks a writer in her house with writing the perfect story that will somehow free both of them. Misery would also inspire other similarly themed horror movies, two handers about a captor and a captive; and the sort of cat and mouse game that develops. Hard Candy is very similar thematically to Misery; so is Saw in some ways, as well as Better Watch Out, all suspensers about a captor and a captive which can be traced back to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. It's hard to think of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane as a 60s version of Saw; but there it is!
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Cameo 

J.T. Walsh: State of Colorado Police Chief.
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Director Cameo 

Rob Reiner: The helicopter pilot.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

After refusing to speak about his motivations for writing "Misery" for two decades, Stephen King finally came out and stated that it is indeed about his battle with substance abuse. Kathy Bates' character is a representation of his dependency on drugs, and what it did to his body, making him feel alone and separated from everything, while hobbling any attempts he made at escape. In his statement, he said he did not come out with it at the time, because he was not ready, and because he was afraid it would detract from the story.
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When Kathy Bates picked up her Oscar and made her speech, one thing she said humorously was, "I would like to thank Jimmy Caan, and apologize publicly for the ankles."
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Kathy Bates was reportedly disappointed that a scene was cut in which she kills a young police officer by rolling over him repeatedly with a lawnmower. Director Rob Reiner was afraid that the audience would laugh at it.
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Annie (Kathy Bates) places a wooden block between Paul's (James Caan) ankles and uses a sledgehammer to "hobble" him. In the book, Annie cuts his left foot off with an ax. The scene was changed so that there would not be too much gore.
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In the novel, Annie cuts off Paul's foot to prevent him from escaping. Screenwriter William Goldman had stated that the reason he decided to adapt the book to film was because of this gruesome scene, and the effect it would have on the audience. However, Rob Reiner and Andrew Scheinman's script revision changed the method of torture to Paul getting his ankles broken with a sledgehammer. Goldman was opposed to the change until viewing the film.
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In the original idea for the novel, Annie planned to kill Paul Sheldon by feeding him to Misery the pig, and take his skin to bind the book he had written. The title would have been "The Annie Wilkes 1st Edition."
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According to director Rob Reiner, Annie Wilkes' (Kathy Bates') killing spree is loosely based on that of Genene Jones, a nurse who is believed to have killed as many as fifty children, who were in her care over a two-year period.
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King has Paul pretend to burn Misery's Return at the end and then go on to see it published, but the film has him actually destroy the only copy. Reiner suspects that King, even subliminally, fears what might happen if he doesn't supply his constant readers with the kinds of books they expect from him. The director wanted to affirm Paul's desire to move on to other things.
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James Caan's fake legs were molded out of gelatin. Armatures with wire were inserted into the prosthetic ankles so that after Annie hit them with the sledgehammer, they would bend at the desired, gruesome angles. There were holes so that Caan could slip his real legs up to the knee.
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After seeing the notorious scene where his character gets his ankles broken at a screening, James Caan turned to Rob Reiner and said, "You're a sick fuck".
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Kathy Bates ended up getting upset over the violence. James Caan recalled that his co-star was crying when it came time to shoot the hobbling scene. Bates also cried before shooting the fight sequence at the end.
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When Annie demands that Paul burn his manuscript, she lights the paper and we see a close-up of the words on the paper. It's an article about Cameron Crowe and how he is an amazing scriptwriter. It talks about his movies, but mostly offers praise for Say Anything (1989).
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Cast and crew were excited for the scene where Paul picks the bedroom door lock and rolls himself out into the house to explore for possible escape options. "We had literally only moved, like, four feet, but it was exciting to be shooting something other than that bedroom."
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In a recent interview with Melvyn Bragg, William Goldman revealed that few actors wanted the role of Paul Sheldon, because Annie Wilkes overshadowed him so much as a character. Warren Beatty commented before declining that the hobbling scene made Paul Sheldon "a loser for the rest of the film." Goldman was determined to keep that scene in the film, as it was his favorite from the novel.
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James Caan said that, after doing this movie, he has heard maybe one hundred thousand times, "How are your legs, Jimmy?".
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At one screening, Stephen King was enjoying himself so much that he yelled, "Watch out! She's got a gun!" during the film's climax.
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Used to giving her characters rich backgrounds to help her find her voice, Kathy Bates and Rob Reiner agreed that Annie was molested by her father as a child. It helped explain for Bates why Annie had a history, as explained in the book and in the movie, of killing infants and old people in her nursing care.
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The novel has Annie chop off Paul's foot and cauterize the stump, but they opted to simply hobble him instead by having her break his feet with a sledgehammer. Their thinking was that they wanted him to be victorious in the end, and losing his feet would be too high of a price. "It was pretty darn painful to look at, so I don't think we compromised it too much."
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In the movie, Annie forces Paul to burn his manuscript, which is "untitled" (as seen in the close-up). In the novel, Paul titles it "Fast Cars," and it is a story reminiscent of 1950s detective dramas, and one hundred eighty degrees away from the Victorian Era-set "Misery" novels that made him famous. The profanity in both versions is still what drives Annie to hate it and force Paul to burn it.
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Reiner thinks the film was one of the earliest examples of the audience thinking the villain is dead only to have the killer pop back into frame. A few decades' worth of a slasher movies would disagree with him, but it was probably among the earliest for big studio movies.
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Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) is also a Liberace fan. The soundtrack features Liberace performing Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto during the typing montage, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata during the hobbling scene, and "I'll Be Seeing You" over the closing credits after the zinger.
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In the book Annie not only chops off Paul's left foot as retaliation for him having moved around the house without her approval. She later cuts off his left thumb with an electric carving knife. And then serves him a birthday cakes with his thumb as an unlit candle in it. Threatening him that if he doesn't eat the cake he'll have to eat his thumb too.
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Towards the end of the movie, its finally established just how long Paul has been there. Perhaps surprisingly, only 4 weeks have passed since the road accident. The ongoing snow and rain falling would also have covered up the various tyre and foot tracks at the crash site, hence the delay in finding the crash site in the first search.
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The weapons used by the villains in The Shining and Misery have been swapped. In the book The Shining the weapon was a mallet. In Misery it was an axe. In the movies an axe was used in The Shining and a mallet was used in Misery.
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In the novel, Annie cuts off one of Paul's feet. William Goldman thought this was too graphic for the film, and would lose sympathy for Annie. So he changed it to hobbling Paul, which fitted with the Southern slave setting of the Misery novels.
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According to urban legend, the sledgehammer used in the famous hobbling scene was provided by Pontefract Support Worker Liam Rowbotham, but this is in fact not the case.
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Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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