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The Butterfly Effect (2004) Poster

Trivia

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All of the prison scenes were filmed in a real prison (Washington State) with real prisoners.
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Was one of the most widely read unproduced scripts in the industry. It wasn't until Ashton Kutcher signed on as an executive producer of the movie that it was greenlit.
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During one of Evan's flashback scenes, he can be heard reading part of Ray Bradbury's short story "A Sound of Thunder." In this story, a group of people travel millions of years into the past to hunt dinosaurs. One of them accidentally steps on and kills a butterfly, which dramatically alters the future.
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In early versions of the script, the character of Evan was originally Chris Treborn. When the "T" is moved over, it becomes "Christ Reborn". This was changed to Evan Treborn, which is a play on "Event Reborn".
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The lights flicker in the background of the psychiatrist's office when Evan is being hypnotized, after they blew up the mailbox. This was not a planned special effect - it was an actual short in the wiring on set. The directors thought it fit well with the scene and used that take in the final cut of the movie.
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Elden Henson shot all of the later "normal" scenes with his character first because he had to gain around 20 pounds in a month for the later timelines in which his character is crazy. He was to look bigger as crazy Lenny and thinner as normal Lenny. To the filmmaker's amazement, he accomplished this.
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They only had three of the postboxes to blow up and they only got it right on the third try.
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Ashton Kutcher did extensive research on psychology, mental disorders, and chaos theory to prepare for his role in this film.
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Logan Lerman (Evan at 7) wore dark contact lenses to match Ashton Kutcher's eyes.
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When Evan wakes up in the sorority house, there is a "Bradbury University" pennant on the wall - a reference to Ray Bradbury.
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The title is a reference to a concept in chaos theory where small events may lead unpredictably to large events. This is explained in the opening quotation which explains that a butterfly flapping its wings may result in a typhoon. It may also be seen secondarily as a reference to the short story, "A Sound of Thunder", by Ray Bradbury.
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The picture over Evan's bed in his dorm room is "Sleep" by Salvador Dalí.
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The wig that Eric Stoltz wears in the film was made of Stoltz's real hair.
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Evan's cigarette burn scar looks very much like an outline of the Mandelbrot set, often a symbol of chaos theory at the heart of the butterfly effect.
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Josh Hartnett, Seann William Scott, and Joshua Jackson were each offered the role of Evan.
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The teenage versions of Evan, Kayleigh, and Tommy go see Se7en (1995) at a movie theater that's also showing Dumb and Dumber (1994). Both of those movies, as well as this one, were released by New Line Cinema. Elden Henson (Lenny) and William Lee Scott (Tommy) both appeared in Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003).
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The main character, Evan, wrote a total of ~4,745 entries from ages six to age 19 (basically 365 days x 13 years). Therefore 4,745 entries divided by 192 pages (front/back) in a standard notebook would take up around 24 notebooks in this movie.
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Evan's diaries have the same cover layout as the diaries of John Doe in Se7en (1995), also released by New Line Cinema. They are standard composition notebooks that are used by school children across the country every day.
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Ali Larter was offered the role of Kayleigh, but dropped out.
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The Hilltop Café, Kayleigh (Amy Smart)'s workplace, was also used in Bates Motel (2013). In Episode 2.2, Bates Motel: Shadow of a Doubt (2014), Dylan (Max Thieriot), and Bradley (Nicola Peltz Beckham) wait there for the bus.
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The "butterfly effect" refers to major events of the future being changed by something as innocuous as stepping on a butterfly or, for the intro to this film, a butterfly flapping its wings. This comes from a 1952 Ray Bradbury story, The Sound of Thunder. In the story, a time traveler goes on safari to hunt dinosaurs. The animal is known to have been doomed to die within minutes by a tree fall, so his death won't matter, and they are suspended above the ground on a projected trail and wearing hazmat suits, but the man panics, falls off the trail and the hunt is over. Upon his return to the present, he finds that history has taken a disastrous turn. As he takes off his hazmat suit, he sees, embedded in the mud on his boots, a crushed prehistoric butterfly. The sound of thunder is his self-inflicted gun shot.
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When Evan is placing the phone call at "State", the number he dials is 555-5785, a number often repeated by Frank Rizzo of The Jerky Boys.
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Kevin G. Schmidt (13-year-old Lenny) and Ashton Kutcher (adult Evan) have previously played in Cheaper by the Dozen (2003).
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Tommy may suffer from antisocial personality disorder.
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Elden Henson (Lenny) accompanies his friends to presumably see the comedy Dumb and Dumber (1994) but sees a different film instead. Henson would appear in the sequel to that film, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003).
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Ethan Suplee (Thumper) really was as obese as depicted. He later underwent an intense and prolonged exercise and diet regimen that completely transformed his physique.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

There are four alternate endings. Most of them involve Evan and Kayleigh having a chance meeting as adults in a timeline where they never knew each other as children. In the first, Evan turns around and talks to Kayleigh at the same time. In the second, Evan turns around after Kayleigh has already turned around and follows her. The directors referred to this as the "happy sappy stalker ending" and said that if the studio had insisted upon it being in the theatrical cut, they'd have publicly distanced themselves from the movie. In the third ending, Kayleigh turns around first and then Evan turns around and Kayleigh walks away. Evan stands there for a minute then walks away and does not follow her. The directors called this the "happy sappy ending" and said it was the minimum ending they'd be willing to accept in the theatrical cut if the studio insisted on it since Evan at least learns *some* lesson about self-sacrifice. In the fourth one, Evan watches a home movie of his birth rather than him meeting Kayleigh. He travels into the movie and strangles himself in the womb. (This can be seen at the end of the Director's Cut.) This was always the directors' preferred ending, but it was deemed by the studio to be too grim for the theatrical release, which features the ending of Evan telling Kayleigh off at a childhood party, thus keeping them from developing any relationship.
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Evan's mother makes mention of having previous late-term miscarriages before Evan was finally born. This information does more than just set the stage for the alternate ending in which Evan watches his birth video and strangles himself in the womb. It also adds intrigue as to whether these were natural events or if perhaps Evan had siblings who suffered the same fate and decided to end their own lives just before being born.
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The scene where Evan has no arms was achieved by using two shots: one with an empty bed, and one with Ashton Kutcher lying in the bed with green gloves on his hands (which were erased later). Both shots had identical camera movements. For most films, this would be achieved by using machine-controlled cameras, which can replicate the exact same movement for multiple takes. However, since this film was fairly low-budget, the filmmakers were not able to afford this kind of equipment and the two identical shots were achieved by manually moving the camera while using a stopwatch for reference. Any small changes in the two shots were fixed digitally in post-production.
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There is a scene where the alternate reality is created where Evan finds himself at college as a fraternity brother. When his memory is being 'rebuilt', Kayleigh hitches a ride to visit Evan at age 13 after he moved away. People don't realize (and it's not even mentioned in the DVD commentary) that the driver is Karl, the bald prisoner who would exist in that reality before going to the same prison as Evan.
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The movie's title screen is a scan of the brain (as shown from the front). The left and right lateral ventricles of the corpus callosum (the middle of the brain) in this picture are displaced. Such is the case with many schizophrenic patients. The displaced ventricles in the middle of the brain are sometimes referred to as looking like a butterfly. In the movie, Evan is not schizophrenic, but in the next to last universe he "jumps" to (after he accidentally kills Kayleigh as a child), he is treated as if he is; the doctors tell him that everything that happened to him throughout the course of the movie was made-up.
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In the scene where Evan and his mother are standing at Jason's grave, Kayleigh comes up and takes Evan's hand. It is unclear what she says to him because of the distance of the shot and the score playing in the background. She actually says, "You're probably better off now."
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The film takes place in 1989, 1996, 2002, and 2010.
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In the original ending, Evan travels back in time and commits suicide as an unborn baby in his mother's womb. That ending was used in the Director's Cut DVD. The film was given a different ending in the theatrical version, and the conclusion of the film was changed to Evan traveling back to the day he met Kayleigh as a child upsets her when he tells her that he hates her and her family and threatens to kill them all if she comes near him again. Evan did this because he felt the only way for him, his family, and close friends to be happy with their lives was to avoid interacting with Kayleigh or her troubled, protective brother Tommy. Doing this made it possible for Kayleigh and Tommy to live with their mother instead of staying with their father and being abused, which led to the original chain of events. As Kayleigh explains in an earlier scene, wanting to be near Evan was the reason she did not go to live with her mother.
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During Evan's penultimate flashback (the one after which he wakes up in the mental hospital), there is a quick succession of shots with people making funny faces. One of the people appearing on several pictures is co-director Eric Bress.
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Aside from appearing for a split second in a picture during the second last 'jump-back', co-director Eric Bress also appears as a patient in the mental hospital in the beginning of the movie. In the alternate ending on the director's cut, he also has a cameo as Andrea's new husband in the alternate time line created by Evan.
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The frat pledge scene was filmed on the lawns of the historic Ceperley House on the shores of Deer Lake in Burnaby, BC, Canada. Evan's proposal was filmed in front of the property's gardener's cottage, located behind the house. Coincidentally, the mansion was used as an actual frat house for SFU during a brief period in the 1960s, before the city of Burnaby evicted the students to convert the home into an art gallery. Defiant students barricaded themselves inside and lit the living room on fire.
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Evan's final note would not matter if he chokes himself in the womb (which for a fetus would be impossible to do) as Evan erases himself before he's even born then he's unable to write the note
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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