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When Jack Nicholson received the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama, he commented afterward, "I'm a little surprised. I thought we had made a comedy."
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The Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society is a real organization. Jack Nicholson filmed his scenes at the company's offices, and was given a plaque making him an honorary Woodmen member.
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The production crew created a lifetime Endowed Scholarship for the real-life Ndugu, Abdallah Mtulu, through the real Childreach Organization.
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Two sequels to the novel "About Schmidt" were written by Louis Begley: "Schmidt Delivered" and "Schmidt Steps Back". Writer and director Alexander Payne, who has the movie rights to the series, has declined to produce either, as he avoids making sequels of his work. He took a similar stance on Sideways (2004), where he declined to produce either of the sequel novels written by Rex Pickett.
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When Jack Nicholson met writer and director Alexander Payne to discuss his role, Payne had a one-sentence directive for him; it was "Jack, I want you to play a small man."
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Alexander Payne said the only actor he had in mind for the role of Warren Schmidt was Jack Nicholson, and he was going to do whatever he could to convince him to work on this movie.
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The plot involves the children's charity "Childreach". Since 2002, the year of this movie's release, the organization has referenced this movie and featured its poster in its literature for prospective child sponsors.
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The word "Ndugu" means "brother" literally in Kiswahili (same as Swahili). It is also used as slang for "friend" as in the U.S.
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When asked about this movie, author Louis Begley said he enjoyed it, and thought it kept the spirit of the novel alive, even though the movie changed almost everything from the novel. The one thing he said he missed, was the removal of Schmidt's Hispanic girlfriend, a key character in the novel that was dropped in the movie version.
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Melissa Hanna (Dairy Queen Employee) is an employee of the Dairy Queen in Omaha, Nebraska, where her scene was filmed.
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Once the filmmakers bought the rights to the Louis Begley novel, they kept the title and the main character, but changed just about everything else. In the book, the main character lived in the Hamptons, and his daughter was about to marry a lawyer. One element writer and director Alexander Payne considered keeping from the novel was Warren Schmidt's anti-Semitism, which would have been kept by having Dermot Mulroney's character Randall be Jewish (as was the lawyer who Jeanie was getting ready to marry in the book), but Payne decided the movie would work better if Schmidt was not a bigot.
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A scene that echoed Jack Nicholson's famous diner scene in Five Easy Pieces (1970) (his exchange with the waitress) was in an early cut of the movie, in which Schmidt concedes in a cowardly fashion to the dictates of the waitress. Though the preview audience went wild over it, writer and director Alexander Payne cut it from the final movie because he felt that the scene was too much of a pointed reference to Nicholson's iconography, and that something so referential took the audience out of the movie.
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The shot where Schmidt has dozed off while writing a letter in his bathtub is supposed to resemble the Jacques Louis David painting "Death of Marat".
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Alexander Payne said the screenplay was a hybrid of the Louis Begley novel and his own original screenplay, "The Coward", which he wrote while a student at U.C.L.A. The title, main character, and overall plot and theme were kept from "About Schmidt", while "The Coward" was a story about a closed-minded man having a spiritual awakening as he closes in on the end of his life.
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Listed on a cinema marquee: (left) Closed for repairs/(right) Sideways (2004), also written and directed by Alexander Payne.
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Oscar-winner Kathy Bates admits she had to down a "few cocktails" before stripping off for a nude scene in this movie. The then 54-year-old, who stars as free-spirited divorcee Roberta Hertzel, jumps naked into a hot tub with co-star and infamous ladies' man Jack Nicholson in a clumsy attempt to seduce him. Bates - who would be the first to admit that she does not possess the usual stick-thin Hollywood body - agreed to strip because the scene fitted in with Hertzel's ageing hippy character. But she challenged director Alexander Payne's initial plans for a full frontal nude scene and instead persuaded him to film her naked body from the side. Bates said there was a lot of discussion before she shed her clothes for About Schmidt. "There were kind of negotiations about what I will show, what I won't show, you know all this stuff back and forth," she said. "And I think we got to a place where I felt comfortable and Payne got what he wanted. "And I had a couple of cocktails before I did it, you know, just to relax and then I jumped in the pool."
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The only movie that year nominated for Best Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes, and not Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
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The word Warren finds when doing the puzzle in his study is "Vassal" the solution to the puzzle is "Tabs on the tabs".
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Since Jack Nicholson's retirement in 2010, this is the final film he received an Academy Award nomination for.
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Thomas Haden Church was originally considered for Randall.
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The movie theater, by which Warren drives, before he goes to the museum to look at the arrowheads, is the Pioneer 3 in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The "museum" is a Civil War museum in the same town, just down the street.
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Scenes taking place at the University of Kansas, were shot at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
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Shirley Jones was considered for the role of Roberta Hertzel.
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The person to whom Warren listens on his car stereo is conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
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The primary source cited by Wikipedia for its entry on "Woodmen of the World" (Schmidt's employer) is Alvin J. Schmidt.
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Len Cariou played Ray and Dame Angela Lansbury narrated the "Childreach" commercial. They played Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Nellie Lovett, respectively, in the original Broadway version of the musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street".
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The church shown during the wedding rehearsal is in Boulder, Colorado, twenty miles northwest of Denver. The church can be seen on the right from U.S. Highway 36, just as you enter town.
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Warren Schmidt lives in Omaha, Nebraska, the largest city in the state, with a population of about 390,000 in 2002, when this movie was filmed. The metro area was 770,000 in 2002.
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Other actors were also in this movie, but cut before release. These were (with their character names): Tim Driscoll (Grocery Store Manager) and Jeff Morris (Farmer at Gas Station).
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The scene where Warren is swinging on the monkey bars was filmed at Steinhart Park in Nebraska City, Nebraska.
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The exterior shots of the "fraternity house" are of the Tri Delta sorority house at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
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Nationally syndicated political cartoonist Jeff Koterba had a walk-on role in this movie. However, it was cut from the final version.
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Jack Nicholson previously appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; in which his character butts heads with a sadistic nurse (who won an Oscar for the role); and The Shining; in which he plays a writer vacationing in Colorado during a blizzard, based on a Stephen King novel. Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her performance in Misery, in which she plays a sadistic nurse who torments a writer, trapped during a blizzard in Colorado. It too was based on a Stephen King novel.
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The shoe box in which Warren finds the love letters written by his friend Ray to his wife Helen bears the brand name "Triangle", subtly underlining the situation revealed by its contents.
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