"Twenty eight days, six hours, forty two minutes, twelve seconds. That is when the world will end."
#DonnieDarko, the 2001 movie starring #JakeGyllenhaal, is a story about a wretched teenager that unwittingly became the savior of the universe as we know it. The movie wasn't a big hit the year it came out, but became a sleeper success, and morphed into the cult classic that we know and love today. Need a refresher? Watch the trailer below:
The movie was simply mind-blowing; so mind-blowing, in fact, that it kept me up at night thinking about it for days on end. I thought I knew and understood the film and the life lessons it left me with. Still, it turns out there's a lot I didn't know about the film, such as the fact that the movie was filmed in just 28 days. Below are more mind-blowing facts about Donnie Darko.
1. Jason Schwartzman Was Almost Donnie
It's hard to imagine anyone other than Gyllenhaal playing the eponymous Donnie, but he was far from the first choice. Jason Schwartzman liked the script and agreed to play the role, but scheduling conflicts forced him to back out. Vince Vaughn was also considered to play the role but he was uncomfortable about playing a 16 year-old. Before Gyllenhaal, Mark Walhberg was offered the part too, but would only do so if Donnie had a lisp.
2. There Was No Stunt Double Inside The 'Stupid Bunny Suit'
As revealed in the commentary, the actor who played Frank, James Duval, was inside the bunny suit the whole time. It makes me kinda mad at Donnie for calling the bunny suit stupid — that was total dedication right there!
3. Drew Barrymore — The Real MVP
#DrewBarrymore stepped in and agreed with director Richard Kelly that her production company, Flower Films, would produce the movie for $4.5 million, and she would also play Donnie's teacher, Ms. Pomeroy. Richard Kelly said that if she hadn't stepped in, the film would have gone straight to video or on Cable TV via Starz.
4. Richard Kelly Had To Be Physically Removed From The Set
Beth Grant's character, Kitty Farmer, was ranting about how Donnie directed her to put the Lifeline exercise card up her ass. This made the writer-director laugh so hard that he had to be physically removed from the set for his distractions.
"They had to physically remove me from the set because I was messing up the takes I was laughing so hard. To be able to laugh while you're working is the coolest thing in the world. It's the comedy that makes it fun, that makes it tolerable, that makes it the best that it can be."
I reckon you'd be lying if you said that this wasn't one of the best parts of the movie!
5. It Was Seth Rogen's First Big-Screen Appearance
While this comedian has starred in over forty films at this point in his career, making him one of the most recognizable faces in the industry, did you know that Donnie Darko was #SethRogen's big-screen debut?
6. Was This Sharpay?!
Like Rogen, Donnie Darko was also the first big-screen appearance for Ashley Tisdale. She was so unrecognizable in her role as the dorky teen Kim, that I had to do a double-take. Sharpay wouldn't approve of that look and bad hair day, I'm sure.
7. Jim Cunningham's Clothes Were Authentic
#PatrickSwayze, the guy whose character Donnie called the antichrist, wore his real clothes from the 1980s. Jim Cunningham's informercials were even shot in Swayze's ranch in Calabasas, California. Richard Kelly confirmed this when he was asked about his experience working with Swayze:
"He's the nicest guy ... He wanted to take a flame-thrower to his image. He was fearless. We shot the infomercials on his ranch. Those were his real clothes from the '80s. He frosted his hair specifically for the part. He totally got it and was so cool about it."
8. Donnie, How Are Smurfs Made?
Richard Kelly sought permission from the estate of Peyo, the Belgian creator of the Smurfs, to show Donnie and his friends shooting a Smurf doll. They were also going to talk about sexual interactions between Smurfs — Peyo approved the dialogue, because what was written in the script was apparently accurate. Too bad they weren't able to find a Smurf doll to shoot — in the final cut, they shot bottles instead.
9. Football Blobs
Due to Donnie's powers he could see future blobs coming from people's stomachs. This was inspired by football TV analyst John Madden and his "telestrator", where he superimposed diagrams over a paused video showing where the players were about to go before rolling the tape again. Richard Kelly watched this while not entirely sober and hypothetically thought what would happen if "someone upstairs" was doing it.
10. The Evil Dead
Richard Kelly originally wanted C.H.U.D. to be shown during Donnie and Gretchen's date at the movie theater. However, they had problems obtaining the rights to it. Fellow director Sam Raimi allowed Kelly to use a footage of #TheEvilDead, free of charge. It's quite symbolic, as Frank initially seemed like an evil manipulated dead. Raimi also saw his movie in a marquee while driving by where Donnie Darko was being filmed; freaky coincidence, really.
11. Ultimate Sacrifice
The other film playing at the double-feature was The Last Temptation of Christ. Is this further proof that Donnie embody Christ and sacrifice himself in order to save humanity? You decide!
It's also widely speculated that when he and Gretchen finally got it on, she died shortly after, and it was then that Donnie realized he had to use his powers to send back the artifact to the primary universe, effectively erasing the last 28 days.
12. The Director's Cut is More Detailed
The cut had an additional 21 minutes of footage and more science fiction logic that strongly hinted at Donnie's telekinetic powers and his destiny to save humanity. While the director's cut was slightly less ambiguous than the original theatrical cut, it was still mind-blowing. Here it was also revealed that the fat man in the tracksuit watching Donnie and Gretchen was an FAA employee spying on the Darkos, and the mysterious woman with the clipboard was a talent scout.
13. Cellar Door: The Most Beautiful Word
Cellar door. So sophisticated and iconic. Drew Barrymore's character, Ms. Pomeroy, has imparted this key phrase to Donnie, and was the location of the 'ensurance trap'. The ensurance trap was set in place so Donnie had no choice but to send back the jet engine to the primary universe so that the tangent can collapse safely.
The 'famous linguist' mentioned in relation to 'cellar door' could be anyone, as there were really a lot of famous authors that spoke highly of this phrase.
14. The Film Just Took 28 Days to Shoot
28 days — otherwise known as the time left Donnie Darko had until the plane was going to crash. The best part? Richard Kelly swore that it's just a coincidence!
15. There Was A "Sequel"
The "sequel" was without the involvement of Kelly, who said that he'd never make a sequel because it would destroy the integrity of Donnie Darko. The only original cast member who returned was Daveigh Chase. The sequel called S. Darko, centered on Donnie's youngest sibling Samantha, but y'know, we don't talk about that.
Donnie Darko was such a complex movie that is open to various kinds of interpretation and interesting discussions. No doubt the trivia are easier to absorb than the topics about science, politics, and religion that the film touched. The most important question watching the film, however:
What does Donnie Darko mean to you? Let me know in the comments!