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Universal offers up 100 fun movie facts for their centennial celebration

Universal Pictures 100th Anniversary Logo

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Did you know the working title for “E.T.” was “A Boy’s Life”? Or that both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were extras in “Field of Dreams”? All of those facts plus 98 more were released today by Universal Pictures to tease their 100th anniversary. Included are everything from the name of the mechanical shark in “Jaws” to what Bela Lugosi was wearing at his funeral.

It’s a fascinating list for movie buffs so check it out below. When you’re finished with that, hit up Universal’s birthday website here to find out more about the dozens of new centennial edition Blu-rays and DVDs that the company is releasing this year.


1. Universal Film Manufacturing Company was officially incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. Company legend says Carl Laemmle was inspired to name his company Universal after seeing “Universal Pipe Fittings” written on a passing delivery wagon.

2. The only physical damage made during the filming of National Lampoon’s Animal House was when John Belushi made a hole in the wall with a guitar. The actual Sigma Nu fraternity house (which subbed for the fictitious Delta House) never repaired it, and instead framed the hole in honor of the film.

3. The working title for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was “A Boy’s Life.”

4. In the movie All Quiet on the Western Front, the Greek writing on the blackboard in the schoolroom is the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey: “Tell me, oh Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide.”

5. In 1969, a then 22-year old Steven Spielberg was assigned to direct the Universal Television series pilot, Night Gallery. It’s safe to say things went pretty well for Steven after that.

6. The word “dude” in The Big Lebowski is used approximately 161 times in the movie: 160 times spoken and once in text (in the credits for “Gutterballs” the second dream sequence). The F-word or a variation of the F-word is used 292 times. The Dude says “man” 147 times in the movie—that’s nearly 1.5 times a minute.

7. The first feature filmed at Universal City was Damon and Pythias in 1914.

8. President Ronald Reagan starred in the 1951 Universal feature film, Bedtime for Bonzo.

9. Back to the Future’s DeLorean time machine is actually a licensed, registered vehicle in the state of California. While the vanity license plate used in the film says “OUTATIME,” the DeLorean’s actual license plate reads 3CZV657.

10. The film A Beautiful Mind was shot in sequence in order to help Russell Crowe better develop his character’s emotional and physical arc.

11. American Graffiti’s budget was exactly $777,777.77, and it was delivered on time – and on budget.

12. In the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds, Tippi Hedren was actually cut in the face by a bird during the shooting of one sequence.

13. Throughout his career, Rock Hudson appeared in 46 feature films with Universal including Pillow Talk, All That Heaven Allows and Magnificent Obsession. In 1953, he was elected Mayor of Universal City.

14. The infamous apple pie in the movie American Pie was purchased by the production from Costco.

15. In the movie The Breakfast Club, the students ate the following for lunch: Andrew: A bag of chips, chocolate cookies, three sandwiches, milk, a banana and an apple. Claire: Sushi. Allison: Sandwich with Pixie Stix and Captain Crunch cereal. Brian: Soup, sandwich with peanut butter and jam and apple juice. Bender: Nothing.

16. In Brokeback Mountain, the song Jack plays on his harmonica is “He Was a Friend of Mine,” the same song Willie Nelson sings during the closing credits.

17. The film Buck Privates took in $4 million at the U.S. Box Office (at a time when theater admission ranged between 10 and 25 cents).

18. A sneak preview of the film Buck Privates was held in late January 1941 for soldiers at Fort MacArthur, California.

19. The Munster’s House on Colonial Street was originally built for the 1946 production, So Goes My Love.

20. The title of the movie Do The Right Thing comes from a Malcolm X quote: “You’ve got to do the right thing.”

21. According to reports, during some of the Russian roulette scenes in the movie The Deer Hunter, a live round was put into the gun to heighten the actors’ tension per Robert De Niro’s suggestion. It was checked, however, to make sure the bullet was not in the chamber before the trigger was pulled.

22. In the first scene of the movie Double Indemnity, when Walter first kisses Phyllis, there is a wedding ring on Walter’s hand. Fred MacMurray was married and the ring was not noticed until post-production.

23. When Bela Lugosi, star of the monster classic, Dracula, died in 1956, he was buried wearing a black silk cape similar to the one he wore in the film.

24. At 29,500 sq. ft., Universal Studios’ Stage 12 is the 7th largest soundstage in the world. It was originally built for the 1929 musical Broadway.

25. Carl Laemmle Jr. offered James Whale a list of more than 30 film adaptations he could direct and out of them all, Whale picked Frankenstein. It was his transition from war movies to monster pics.

26. Today’s Universal City officially opened March 15, 1915. Nearly three years after Universal Film Manufacturing Company was created. The first mayor was Herbert Rawlinson.

27. Vans, the company behind the checkerboard shoes worn by Sean Penn (a.k.a. Jeff Spicoli) in the cult movie classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, became a national brand after the film’s release in 1982.

28. Actor Charlton Heston “parted” the Red Sea attraction on the Universal Studios Tour at the attraction’s grand opening in 1973.

29. Neither Michelle Rodriguez nor Jordana Brewster had drivers’ licenses or even learners’ permits before production of the film in Fast and the Furious.

30. Universal pioneered the Academy Award-winning Sensurround Sound System which made its first appearance in the 1974 movie, Earthquake. The Sensurround system caused low-frequency audio waves to be felt by the audience and created a visceral complement to the seismic tremors and destruction depicted on screen..

31. In the movie Field of Dreams, both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are among the thousands of extras in the Fenway Park scene. Over a decade later, when Phil Alden Robinson worked with Affleck on the production of The Sum of All Fears, Affleck said, “Nice working with you again.”

32. In the coliseum scenes in Gladiator, only the bottom two decks are actually filled with people. The other thousands of spectators are computer-animated.

33. Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey was the first actress at Universal to receive a nomination for “Best Actress” at the Academy Awards.

34. William Powell from the 1936 film, My Man Godfrey was the first actor at Universal to receive a nomination for “Best Actor” at the Academy Awards.

35. The Universal sound technician, Jack Foley, developed the method of creating and recording many of the natural, everyday sound effects in a film. Today this method is named after him.

36. Universal’s first talking picture was Melody of Love.

37. The Universal Amphitheatre opened in 1972 with a staged concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar. The film version was released in 1973.

38. The legendary thriller and suspense director Alfred Hitchcock did not win any Academy Awards while working with Universal.

39. Thomas Edison presented Universal Studios with a plaque dedicating its first electric studio on October 27, 1915.

40. In the infamous shower scene in Psycho, the sound of the knife-stabbing actress Janet Leigh was made by plunging a knife into a melon.

41. The film Traffic in Souls is considered Universal’s first full-length feature film.

42. The legendary studio head Irving Thalberg got his start in show business as Carl Laemmle’s personal secretary in 1917.

43. ET: The Extra Terrestrial is Universal Pictures’ all-time highest grossing film.

44. With the over-budget production of Show Boat, Carl Laemmle was forced to sell Universal Studios to his creditors in 1936.

45. In 1995, Waterworld generated worldwide attention for being the most expensive film made to date. Unable to live up to expectations at the box office, the film eventually turned a profit due to strong home video sales and inspired one of the most popular theme park attractions of all time.

46. About 25% of the film Jaws was shot from water level so audiences could better relate to treading water.

47. In the film The Invisible Man, the director dressed Claude Rains in black velvet and filmed him against a black velvet background to create the effect that he wasn’t there.

48. Some of the props used in the 2005 version of King Kong were original props from the 1933 version. These props came from Peter Jackson’s personal collection and include the Skull Island spears and brightly painted shield, and some of the drums from the sacrifice scene.

49. In Jurassic Park, a guitar string was used to make the water ripple on the dash of the Ford Explorer by attaching it to the underside of the dash beneath the glass.

50. Universal entered the 3-D market with the film, It Came from Outer Space (1953)

51. Universal won its first Best Picture Academy Award for All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930.

52. Steven Spielberg nicknamed the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws, “Bruce.”

53. In the film The Incredible Shrinking Man, when Louise is on the phone asking for the operator, the music playing on the radio is the theme song to Written on the Wind, which was made at Universal the year prior.

54. The script Charlton Heston holds in the film Earthquake as he’s running lines with Genevieve Bujold is actually the script for “Earthquake” and on the page of the scene being shot.

55. It took two-and-a-half hours a day to apply Lon Chaney’s makeup in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

56. Legendary Universal Chairman Lew R. Wasserman received an Academy Award in 1973 for his role as a humanitarian.

57. With the film Meet the Fockers, the MPAA would not allow use of the name ‘Focker’ unless the filmmakers could find an actual person with that last name.

58. The first American film to show a toilet flushing on screen was Psycho.

59. While Jurassic Park was in post-production, Steven Spielberg began working on Schindler’s List in Poland and worked via satellite, courtesy of technology provided by George Lucas.

60. In the film, Scarface, an M16 assault rifle with an M203 40mm grenade launcher attached to the barrel is Tony’s “little friend.”

61. The 1932 film Scarface was one of the first films to feature the Thompson submachine gun, known historically as the “tommy gun.”

62. In the film Pillow Talk, Tony Randall was supposed to fake a reaction to being decked in the face by one of the restaurant patrons. However, during filming, the actor overestimated and actually knocked out Randall. The shot was so well done— it was used in the film.

63. Alfred Hitchcock did not choose to conclude the film, The Birds, with the usual “THE END” title because he wanted to leave the audience with the feeling of unending terror and uncertainty.

64. Groucho Marx explained the title Duck Soup as follows: “Take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you’ll duck soup the rest of your life.”

65. For Despicable Me, the film’s directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin provide most of the voices for Gru’s minions.

66. In The Nutty Professor starring Eddie Murphy, the family dinner scene was initially going to be cut out due to what was believed to be its lack of relevance.

67. When the Universal Studios Tour opened to the general public in 1964, the general admission price for one adult was $2.50.

68. The children who sang the song, “Every Sperm is Sacred” in the Monty Python film, The Meaning of Life, later said they had no idea what sperm was or what they were singing about.

69. In the film, My Little Chickadee, Cuthbert J. Twille (W.C. Fields) says to Flower Belle (Mae West), “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”—This is in reference to West’s famous line in the film She Done Him Wrong.

70. The following institutions have existed at one time on the Universal Studios lot—a school, zoo, and hospital.

71. The hair-washing scene in Out of Africa was shot very close to a live, territorial hippopotamus. Meryl Streep was extremely nervous during its filming.

72. The locusts in the 1999 film, The Mummy, were mostly computer-generated, however, some live grasshoppers were used. Hours before filming they were chilled in a refrigerator to make them more sluggish.

73. In Smokey and the Bandit, the Trans-Am featured in the bridge jump scene was fitted with a more powerful Chevrolet engine.

74. The average shot length in the film Vertigo is 6.7 seconds.

75. The permanent set in Stage 28 was created to be a replica of the landmark The Paris Opera House, for the classic film, The Phantom of the Opera.

76. When you hear the sound of the crowd cheering, “Spartacus! Spartacus!” in the movie Spartacus, it was actually a pre-taped recording from a 1959 football game at Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium.

77. In Sullivan’s Travels, director Preston Sturges can be seen in the background on the set of ‘The Girls’ period movie.

78. The cake in the movie Sixteen Candles is made of cardboard.

79. The final speech by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird was done in one take.

80. The diner in the movie The Sting is the same diner interior used in Back to the Future.

81. In 1928, famous cartoon character, Mickey Mouse, debuted at a Universal-owned theater.

82. Elizabeth Taylor made her feature film debut in Universal’s 1942 film, There’s One Born Every Minute.

83. Yes, at some point, some Universal executive, or team of executives, thought 1986’s Howard the Duck was a good idea.

84. The dog chase scene at the beginning of the film Beethoven was filmed on the Universal backlot.

85. The title of the film Streets of Fire starring Michael Paré and Diane Lane, was drawn from a Bruce Springsteen song, from his album Darkness on the Edge of Town. The song, unfortunately, does not appear in the film.

86. Robert Redford’s character in The Sting is named after blues legend John Lee Hooker. The character’s name is Johnny Hooker.

87. 1920’s Shipwrecked Among Cannibals was the first film to gross $1,000,000 for Universal.

88. Prominent Universal Director Edward Laemmle was the nephew of Universal Founder Carl Laemmle. He directed over 60 films (including shorts) for Universal.

89. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the films that are watched by the “employees” in the Smar-Tech store are all produced by Universal.

90. The Blues Brothers “Bluesmobile” is a 1974 Dodge Monaco.

91. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is only the second time Bela Lugosi would play “Dracula” in a feature film. (He played other vampires in the interim, but not Dracula.)

92. In 1973’s High Plains Drifter starring Clint Eastwood, one of the headstones in the graveyard bears the name Sergio Leone as a tribute.

93. On Golden Pond was Henry Fonda’s final film, and the only one he starred in with his daughter Jane.

94. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is the third major motion picture produced by Universal from a book written by Theodore Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

95. In 1992’s Scent of Woman, Al Pacino repeatedly shouts “Hoo-ah.” “Hoo-ah” comes from the military acronym “HUA” which stands for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged.”

96. The car wash in Car Wash was named The Dee Luxe Car Wash.

97. 1971’s Play Misty for Me was set in Carmel, CA, where Clint Eastwood later lived and became mayor in 1986.

98. “The Bride” in “The Bride of Frankenstein” is the only one of Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters to have never killed anyone.

99. Throughout its hundred year legacy, Universal brought to audiences the first films of talents such as John Ford, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Norman Jewison, Ben Stiller, Robert Zemeckis, John Hughes, Amy Heckerling, Spike Jonze, Zack Snyder and Judd Apatow.

100. More than 100 million people from around the world have taken the Universal Studios “studio tour.” While the tour officially began in 1964, Universal has been welcoming the public to our studio since 1915 and the silent era.

Which of these movie facts did you find most interesting? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

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The Nutty Professor Eddie Murphy 1996

Weird Science

10 Weird Movie Substances That Had Hilarious Consequences

Catch The Nutty Professor this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

If you’ve ever opened your refrigerator to find some seriously gnarly days-old potato salad, then you know that sometimes the most harmless-seeming things can turn freaky. Movies have conjured up some truly bizarre stuff, often the work of crazed scientists. Before you catch The Nutty Professor on IFC, check out some of the icky-est, gooey-ist and just plain weird substances on the big screen.

10. Flubber

Flubber
Walt Disney Studios

Professor Brainard’s “flying rubber” increases its speed every time it bounces, and increases the chaos, destruction and unlikely basketball-dunkage of anyone who uses it. Thankfully the movie ends before its thermodynamic impossibility cause the incineration of the entire universe.


9. Quantonium, Monsters Vs. Aliens

Monsters Vs Aliens
DreamWorks

In Monsters vs. Aliens, both action-packed parties are battling over Quantonium, an exotic material which massively empowers anyone who holds it. Literally in the case of Susan Murphy, whose exposure turns her into Ginormica and enables her to fight against Gallaxhar’s invasion force.


8. Sustengo, Little Fockers

Sustengo
Universal Pictures

After finally finding favor with his hard-bitten father-in-law, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) finds himself strapped for cash and starts promoting Sustengo, an erectile dysfunction drug. Which means leaving boxes of ED drugs lying around a family who can’t even use a toilet without triggering a series of hilarious misunderstandings.


7. Iocane, Princess Bride

Iocane
20th Century Fox

Iocane is a deadly poison with no odor or taste that dissolves instantly in any liquid. The perfect tool for murder isn’t usually hilarious, but The Princess Bride makes everything funny. Hero Westley (Cary Elwes) tricks cunning Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) into drinking the poison in a game of wits. Vizzini lost, not knowing that the answer is “Don’t drink anything offered by someone who just talked about how awesome their poison is.”


6. PX-41, Despicable Me 2

PX41
Universal Pictures

The mutation compound engineered by PX-Labs turns anything into a purple, fluffy, indestructible killing machine. And when Despicable Me‘s famous Minions are dosed with it, look out. Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) crafts an antidote, PX-41 Antidote, proving he’s much better with chemicals than he is with names.


5. Mood Slime, Ghostbusters II

Mood Slime
Columbia Pictures

When the Ghostbusters came back for their 1989 sequel, the slime they encountered was sillier and scarier. The “Mood Slime” was a special form of ectoplasm utterly saturated in the emotions of everyone and everything around it. And while our heroes energize some positive vibes with Aretha Franklin tunes, the entire city of New York’s psychic outpourings are filling the sewers with something distinctly less positive.


4. The Stuff

The Stuff
New World Pictures

A science fiction soft-serve satire, The Stuff is about an oddly organic treat which is utterly delicious and zero calories. In fact it’s negative calories, because if you eat enough it’ll take over your brain and hollow you out from the inside.


3. Miracle Weight Loss Serum, The Nutty Professor

Buddy Love
Universal Pictures

The core component of The Nutty Professor‘s plot is a miraculous weight loss serum, a simple fluid which re-engineers human DNA all by itself. This allows sweet but sizable Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) to transform into the tight, toned and turbocharged Buddy Love (Murphy again). The serum is revealed to be fatally dangerous, but anything which allows Eddie Murphy to play himself cranked up to the max is pure comedy gold.


2. Cobalt Thorium G, Dr. Strangelove

Dr Strangelove
Columbia Pictures

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb is about a bomb built with Cobalt Thorium G. It’s a doomsday device designed to annihilate all human civilization and is, slightly worryingly, based on the least fictional materials on this list. Cobalt and thorium both have applications in nuclear weapon design. Luckily we haven’t got them up to G yet.


1. Ectoplasm, Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters
Columbia Pictures

The Ghostbusters live in a world where ghosts are real but physics is still in charge. So while the ghouls are flung around with proton packs, they get the boys in grey back with their appalling ectoplasm, or slime, trail. As Venkman says, getting covered in the stuff will make you feel all funky.

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Fast Times Jennifer Jason Leigh

Retro Grades

The 11 Best Movie Comedies of the ’80s

Catch Fast Times at Ridgemont High during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

The ’80s gave us so many great things (Tab, anyone?), but when it comes to movie comedies, the Reagan years were a golden age of funny. In honor of IFC’s ’80s Weekend, we’ve selected the best big screen comedies from the decade that gave us Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and other comedy greats. And like one of the movies featured below, this list goes to 11.

1. Back to the Future

“A high school slacker goes back in time, takes his mother to a dance, and gets dangerously close to becoming his own father.” The elevator pitch for Back to the Future doesn’t sound so charming, but the 1985 flick starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover is declared by many as being the perfect movie. (Though we can’t officially say if the Eric Stoltz version would’ve been better.)


2. Ghostbusters

The sheer number of childhoods that were professed to be ruined by the recent reboot should tell you how beloved the original film is. A perfect blend of comedy, horror and fantasy, Ghostbusters has an indelible cast at the top of its game and a heap of one-liners worthy of countless casual references. They have the tools, and they have the talent.


3. Airplane!

Speaking of one-liners, it doesn’t get much more quotable than the 1980 Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker classic Airplane!. Almost a one-to-one parody of the 1957 disaster film Zero Hour!, Airplane! works so well because of how straight faced the zaniness is played — which is something its many imitators fail to notice.


4. This Is Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer created the de facto mockumentary film with the hilarious 1984 rock diary This Is Spinal Tap. Heralded as one of the most accurate depictions of backstage life by actual real-life bands, the movie showcases an aging glam metal band struggling for the spotlight while keeping the group intact (especially the spontaneously combustible drummers).


5. National Lampoon’s Vacation

While Caddyshack and Fletch are quintessential Chevy Chase films, nothing beats the bumbling patriarch of the Griswold clan losing his mind en route to Wally World, America’s favorite family fun park. Yes, the sequels saw diminishing returns (aside from Christmas Vacation), but the one that started them all is endlessly watchable. Amen, let’s go!


6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe managed to capture exactly what high school life was like in the early-’80s. The awkwardness, the frustrations, the scares, the search for purpose and gratification, Fast Times presents its young characters as fully fleshed-out individuals (even the designated stoner shows nuance) and doesn’t talk down to its audience like many teen movies do. (Click here to see all airings of Fast Times at Ridgemont High on IFC.)


7. Beverly Hills Cop

A reminder of the days when Eddie Murphy was the edgiest comedian in showbiz, the one-two punch of Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. set the template for modern action comedies. We wouldn’t have the Rush Hour franchise and every Kevin Hart film without Axel Foley.


8. Trading Places

A treatise on the Nature vs. Nurture argument at the height of Reagan-era excess, Trading Places depicts the lives that are held in the balance when the mega-rich make friendly $1 wagers and just how joyous the retribution can be. Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis are terrific as the leads, the Duke Brothers are delightfully evil, and in all seriousness, that is a nice purse.


9. Better Off Dead

This 1985 Savage Steve Holland movie is teen angst at its most surreal and affably goofy. John Cusack stars as Lane Meyer, a high schooler still reeling from the loss of his girlfriend to a cocky champion skier. (Is there any other kind in an ’80s movie?) With bloodthirsty paperboys, foreign-exchange street races and stop-motion hamburger interludes, Better Off Dead doesn’t let realism get in the way of accurately portraying pure teen heartbreak.


10. Midnight Run

Of all the critically acclaimed pairings that actor Robert De Niro has had through the years, few are as entertaining as his reluctant team-up with a persnickety Charles Grodin in 1988’s Midnight Run. Perfect foils, the bounty hunter and mob accountant race against time, the Feds and mafia hits until mutual Stockholm Syndrome kicks in and the partnership stops becoming merely professional. (The counterfeit bill scene alone is worth the watch.)


11. Heathers

Heathers is the kind of pitch-black comedy that would never get a major release in 2016. Unflinching in its satire of school shootings, teen suicide and the tragedies that come with the need to fit in, the movie remains relevant to the kids currently growing up in a cruel and judgmental world. And the fact that it’s laugh-out-loud funny while also making a sharp point about youth culture is a testament to how great the movie really is.

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Bill Hader in Conan Star Wars Audition Sketch

Acts of Wars

Watch Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy and More Audition to Play Young Han Solo

The Documentary Now! star shows off his best Han and Chewie.

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Photo Credit: TBS/YouTube

Thanks in large part to The Force Awakens not sucking, the Star Wars universe is about to get a lot more expansive. Sequels, spin-offs, TV shows, and more are underway — which means a helluva lotta casting calls. Fortunately, Conan O’Brien got his hands on a few audition tapes of celebrities trying out for a role as a young Han Solo.

Check out Documentary Now!’s Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy, Portlandia favorite Jeff Goldblum, Todd Margaret star Will Arnett and other funny folks offering their takes on what that younger, brasher space swashbuckler would be like.

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