15 Iconic Movie Props And The Stories Behind Them
Here are 15 backstories for some of the comedies' most famous props.
#1 The Coconuts: Monty Python and The Holy Grail
Source: Python (Monty) PicturesTerry Jones reveals in The Pythons: An Autobiography By The Pythons that the coconut gag was the original gag that started it all. They did discuss having horses at one point, but soon abandoned the idea since they thought it would be more fun not to and because they couldn't afford horses anyway.
#2 The Giant Joint: Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke
Source: UniversalDuring their early live concerts, Cheech and Chong would imitate their huge joints for humorous effect. However, when it came time to make the film, they were given the opportunity to make the actual thing. According to Chong, it was quite bad because they didn't use genuine weed, but rather a herbal combination that wasn't particularly palatable.
#3 The Hamburger Phone: Juno
Source: Searchlight PicturesJuno's production designer, Steve Saklad, stated that the hamburger phone was in the very first version of the script Diablo Cody wrote. They discovered the phone on a Chinese toy website and attempted to have it transported to Canada, but it was intercepted at customs due to a ban on importing toys from China to Vancouver. The phone was instead delivered to the United States and driven into Canada.
#4 The McLovin ID: Superbad
Source: Apatow ProductionsChris L. Spellman was only aware that he needed to create a phony ID for McLovin, but because he had recently completed a film in Hawaii, he suggested that Hawaii be the state on the card. Seth laughed and replied, "Let's make him from Hawaii."
#5 The Red Stapler: Office Space
Source: 20th Century StudiosDid you know that the red stapler was invented by Mike Judge, the director of Office Space? Judge needed a stapler that stood out amid the greys and blues of the cubicles, so he had the props department paint one red and slap "Swingline" on the side of it. Swingline only began producing red staplers after so many customers called in to request them, and counterfeits began to appear on eBay.
#6 The Leg Lamp: A Christmas Story
Source: MGMReuben Freed, the production designer, told Ohio Magazine "The phrase 'leg lamp' was coined by Jean. I obtained a mannequin limb and consulted with costume designer Mary McLeod. She handed me a single pump, and I added fishnet stockings since a wicked girl would wear them. I based the lampshade on an image from a comic book with a 1940s vibe. That was the simple part. The challenge was coming up with something that would break on order, that we could have multiples of, that could be electrified and stand on its own."
#7 The Fuzzy Pen: Legally Blonde
Source: MGMAs soon as he saw the fuzzy pen, director Robert Luketic had a holy experience. "This pen was brought to my attention by my art department," he explained. "My gaze was drawn immediately to the pink fluffy ball. I'd never seen anything like it before. That was the pen you brought to Harvard Law on the first day. She did things her own, in her own way, in her own universe. She was not going to give in."
#8 The Hockey Stick Putter: Happy Gilmore
Source: Universal PicturesAccording to production designer Perry Blake, there were no putters with hockey stick ends back then, so they had to create the putter from scratch. The most difficult aspect of the design was that Sandler wanted a "prove-it" shot in which he sinks a put with the hockey putter from 25 feet out, so it had to be practical as well as hilarious. Blake claims that on the day of the scene, everyone was waiting with bated breath for Sandler to sink his put after numerous attempts, and when he finally did, everyone cheered.
#9 Big Ern's Bowling Ball: Kingpin
Source: MGMThe rose ball was discovered when investigating historic Pittsburgh bowling lanes for the film, according to Kingpin director Peter Farrelly. Farrelly noticed the ball on the shelf and quickly purchased it for Big Ern. According to Farrelly, Murray was tickled by the ball, which currently resides on the Kingpin wall at Kings Alley in Boston, Massachusetts.
#10 The Alarm Clock: Groundhog Day
Source: Columbia PicturesHarold Ramis' main requirement, according to Amie McCarthy-Winn, prop master for Groundhog Day, was that the props work. McCarthy-Winn discovered the ideal antique clock at a flea market in Sandwich, Illinois. Because the clock was so one-of-a-kind, she could only find one other working model as a backup, and nine or ten non-working models were constructed for further backups.
#11 Spaceballs The Flame Thrower
Source: Metro-Goldwyn-MayerMel Brooks told Dennis Parrish, Spaceballs' prop maker, to go crazy with manufacturing a ton of "Spaceballs: The" objects. Parrish claims he came up with twice as many items as the screenplay called for and built the flamethrower out of a juiced-up cannabis burner.
#12 The Little Tramp's Cane: Charlie Chaplin
Source: United ArtistsIn his 1964 autobiography, Charlie Chaplin describes how he discovered his most famous character, The Little Tramp, using props. He was told to put together a comedy act for a scene right away, so he headed to wardrobe to brainstorm ideas. "I'd dress in baggy pants, huge shoes, a cane, and a derby hat," he stated. I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants to be big, the coat to be tight, the cap to be small, and the shoes to be large. I created a little mustache, reasoning that it would add age without masking my expression."
"I had no idea who he was. But after I was clothed, the clothes and make-up made me feel like the person he was. I began to get to know him. When I confronted Sennett, I played the part and walked about, swinging my cane and prancing in front of him. My head was buzzing with jokes and comedy ideas."
#13 Sex Panther: Anchormanhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ccp-lEmoAE
Anchorman prop master Scott Maginnis explained that to build the sex panther box, he acquired a humidor for holding cigars, carpeted it with Astroturf, and built a miniature elevator for the panther to come up in. On shoot day, however, the camera's focus-pull frequency and the panther elevator's frequency were tripping each other up, making it appear "jerky." Adam McKay concluded that the choppy takes were funnier.
#14 Otto Pilot: Airplane!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMhYl74vw2c
Airplane! co-director/co-writer David Zucker says the concept came from drawing a stereotypical pilot in blow-up form. The art department then constructed models that could be attached to an air machine and inflated/deflated as swiftly or slowly as the directors desired. According to Zucker, the concept for the doll's "winking" came from a grip on set.
#15 Amps Up To 11: This Is Spinal Taphttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMSV4OteqBE
There are no screenplays, only outlines, like with many of Guest's mockumentaries, which is exactly what production designer Bryan Jones received. Jones had free reign in the scene where Nigel shows off his guitars, and collected all of the unique instruments from "Norm's Rare Guitars." He went to Ray Johnson Studio and had special plates made for the dials that went up to 11 for the amps that go to 11.