The 1993 movie “The Sandlot” is a classic American coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s. It’s about nine boys spending their summer days playing baseball in an unkempt piece of land. Their summertime fun takes a wrong turn when the main protagonist of the movie, Scotty Smalls, hits his step-father’s baseball, signed by “The Sultan of Swat” Babe Ruth, into a yard protected by a massive dog known as “The Beast.” The boys must now help Smalls get the ball back before The Beast chews it to pieces. Each character in the film has a different personality and a different skill, but they are bound together by their love of baseball.
Groups of military friends are a lot like the Sandlot kids, especially when they are deployed to the “Sandbox” (mil-speak for the Middle East). And just like any group of friends, each person brings a different dynamic and trait to the group in order to complete a mission. No matter what era you served in, veterans can relate to having their group of battle buddies/shipmates be just like characters from this cult classic film:
Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez
Benny is the group’s leader and everyone looks up to him. He serves as a mentor to the others, especially Smalls. Benny is brave, smart, and a physically fit stud who can out hit and outrun every kid (as well as The Beast) with his trusty P.F. Flyers shoes on. Along with being a great player, Benny is friendly, humble, and a teacher. The best thing about “The Jet” is that he is wise beyond his years and willing to risk life and limb (for instance, hopping over the fence to challenge “The Beast” to get the ball back) to help his friends.
Military Friend: The Leader
Every group of military friends seems to have a clear leader. He or she seems to be good at everything they do. They are physically dominating and willing to take a risk for the betterment of the team. The group leader is not only awesome but selfless. For this person, it’s all about the team.
Scotty Smalls is the new kid in the neighborhood trying to fit in. “The Jet” reaches out to him, like the good leader and person he is, and takes the new kid under his wing. Scotty is introduced to the rest of the guys, but the boys are not too keen on him at first due to his lack of baseball skill. Eventually, the team warms up to him, and is simply referred to him by his surname ‘Smalls.’ Although he is now a part of the team, the boys like to give him grief throughout the movie for his lack of understanding of common things like S’mores, chewing tobacco, and (of course) not knowing who Babe Ruth is. This frustration introduces the classic line “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!” Smalls gets the team into the situation or ‘pickle’ when he hits the baseball signed by “The Great Bambino” over the fence and into the grips of The Beast.
Military Friend: The New Guy/Gal
New people are always cycling into the military. Think of Smalls as the new private/airman joining the unit. The new kid lacks knowledge and always seem to be getting in some sort of dilemma that the rest of the group needs to get him/her out of. It can be frustrating. Despite the growing pains, the “Smalls” of a group of military friends eventually becomes a reliable member.
Hamilton “Ham” Porter
Despite the physique, Ham is the muscle of the team. Don’t let the chunks fool you, Ham is a good athlete and a classic home-run hitter. Ham can also flat out talk trash like the best of them, especially to anyone who challenges his friends. The character’s most famous scene is when he tells a rival ball player that he “plays ball like a girl,” a classic “drop mic” line. Ham tells it like it is and enjoys messing with his teammates from time to time.
Military Friend: The Enforcer
Every group of military buddies has an enforcer. This military friend is probably more muscularly defined than Ham’s “soft belly meat,” but the character traits are the same as the curly haired catcher. This friend will always stand up for his friends and is not afraid of anyone.
Michael “Squints” Palledorous
Squints likes to tell stories although he does seem to exaggerate many of his tales (especially when it comes to talking about “The Beast”). He even claimed the dog ate anywhere between 120-173 guys. (Talk about an imagination!) Squints may look like a classic nerd-bomber with his big-ass birth-control glasses and teeth – on the contrary, he is self-confident, cool, and ballsy. He is so daring, he even pretends to drown at the pool just to kiss his crush, Wendy Peffercorn, who is the prettiest girl in town.
Military Friend: The Storyteller
Veterans always seem to have that friend who likes to tell elaborate stories. Despite their size and look, this friend may also ooze confidence, even if they have eyewear bigger than their face.
With his signature fastball “The Heater,” Kenny DeNunez is the team’s pitcher. He is a dedicated and hard-working ballplayer second only to “The Jet” in terms of baseball skill. He is a solid teammate.
Military Friend: The Dependable One
Most groups of military battle buddies have a great worker who may lack a big personality but is reliable when he/she is needed most.
Alan “Yeah-Yeah” McClennan
Yeah-Yeah is a bit of a smart aleck who started many of his sentences with “Yeah-Yeah.” It’s a perfect nickname for him. He is also a bit of a daredevil when he attempted to retrieve the Ruth ball in an aerial style attack over the fence. It’s disclosed at the end of the film that “Yeah-Yeah” joins the military and later becomes a pioneer of bungee jumping.
Military Friend: The Smartass Daredevil
This friend likes to joke around and do dangerous activities. It is safe to say every group of military buddies has a “Yeah-Yeah” in their group. Maybe even more than one.
Bertram Grover Weeks
Bertram is an infielder who seems like a subdued character for most of the film, but then shows signs of a “bad boy” when he gives his friends some chewing tobacco.
Military Friend: The Quiet Rebel
Don’t mistake his quiet nature for his rebellious side.
Timmy is the architect who helped built the group’s treehouse near the sandlot. He’s a thinker in many ways and comes up with the idea to do the aerial attack.
Military Friend: The Builder
This friend can make anything with spare material and some 550 cord.
Tommy “Repeat” Timmons
Tommy is the smallest kid of the group. He is also the most bothersome because he repeats everything his older brother Timmy says throughout the movie. It’s easy to forget Tommy except for this annoying habit.
Military friend: The Annoying One
Sometimes you just want to choke him out.
Military friends are a unique cast of characters who share a special bond, especially when serving in “The Sandbox.” Eventually, friends go their separate ways but the memories of their time together live “FOR-EV-ER!”
Few actors play a salty old veteran better than Clint Eastwood. Eastwood was drafted into the Army during the Korean War, but never quite made it over to the Korean Peninsula. He was a swimming instructor at Fort Ord and survived a plane crash where he had to swim to safety. Four years later, the onetime soldier was one the silver screen, in 1955’s Never Say Goodbye. Ever since, the veteran’s life has been a critical aspect of many of his onscreen characters, of which there have been many.
Mitchell Gant, “Firefox”
Clint Eastwood plays Gant, a Vietnam veteran and pilot who’s assigned to sneak into the Soviet Union and steal the most advanced fighter aircraft ever built. Part action-adventure, part spy thriller, Firefox may not wow you today, but the character of Mitchell Gant is a fun one. He is a former USAF prisoner of war who was held captive in Vietnam, but now, because he speaks Russian (his mother was Russian), he gets to embark on a top-secret spy mission to infiltrate the USSR.
Frank Corvin, “Space Cowboys”
Space Cowboys doesn’t just have Clint Eastwood, it has a digitally young version of Eastwood as Frank Corvin shows his disappointment with the Air Force for abandoning his crew’s mission to go into space. After 40 years and the crew much aged, Eastwood’s Corvin, along with Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, and Donald Sutherland, get their chance to show off the right stuff. There aren’t many movies about the USAF test pilots’ glory days, and Space Cowboys is a great example.
Walt Kowalski, “Gran Torino”
Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran who is very content with the way things are, even as the rest of his world is crumbling around him. Kowalski is very much prejudiced against Koreans, long after the war ended. This fact is only highlighted when a Korean family moves in next door, and the youngest son attempts to steal his well-kept 1972 Gran Torino. Gran Torino features at least one of Eastwood’s most badass lines: “Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have f**ked with? That’s me.”
Josey Wales, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”
Josey Wales is a farmer turned Confederate bushwhacker who ends the Civil War on the run from Union soldiers, but Josey Wales wasn’t fighting for the Confederacy, not really. He was fighting to avenge the murder of his family by pro-Union militias. With a bounty on his head, Wales is joined by a group of extraordinary adventurers who help Josey Wales on his quest to stay alive, stay free, and escape to Mexico. He gets revenge against the man responsible for his family’s death, but his escape is a lot less of a shootout than expected.
Way before that, though, Josey Wales wipes out a whole unit with a Gatling gun.
Pvt. Kelly, “Kelly’s Heroes”
In the closing days of World War II, Private Kelly – once a Lieutenant Kelly, who ended up court-martialed for a failed infantry attack – gets wind of million in gold bars hiding just behind enemy lines. While his unit is halted near the town of Nancy, Kelly enlists some of his men to go AWOL and make a dash for the gold. They fight their way to the gold against overwhelming odds. When they can’t fight anymore, they offer the Germans a cut of the action.
Luther Whitney, “Absolute Power”
Luther Whitney is a Korean War veteran who left the military and became one of the world’s best and most formidable cat burglars. While robbing the home of a wealthy industrialist, he witnesses the President of the United States attempt to sexually assault the rich man’s wife. She fights him off until she’s killed by the Secret Service, who attempt to cover up the episode. After being framed for the killing, Luther decides to use his skills, along with evidence he took from the crime scene to re-frame the President.
With Ed Harris, Gene Hackman, Scott Glenn, and Dennis Haysbert, there’s so much testosterone in this movie, it might as well be a war film.
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway, “Heartbreak Ridge”
When Gunny Highway stands up to his Major and says “with all due respect, sir, you’re beginning to bore the hell out of me” while smoking a cigar, it was the one time I wanted to join the Marine Corps.
Harry Callahan, “Dirty Harry”
All badass characters who came before and after are all trying to live up to one character: “Dirty” Harry Callahan. A hard-boiled cop who operates using his own set of rules, Harry Callahan remains cool under fire but gets heated when the bad guys win. Not much is known about Dirty Harry, and you pretty much have to watch the whole series to get a picture of the character. We don’t even find out he was a Marine until the second Dirty Harry movie, Magnum Force, when we learn Harry didn’t finish his 20 years. In the final film, The Dead Pool, Harry drinks from a Marine Corps mug.
As an ardent Star Wars fan, I know what can come of voluntarily walking into the lion’s den of this fandom to offer any sort of commentary. Rest assured, I’m not going to challenge any well known canon (or dare mention the word midi-chlorian), but instead offer up some of the most interesting bits of Star Wars trivia, that are based more in fact than fiction.
George Lucas has never shied away from sharing the sources of inspiration that influenced the universe he created. In a 2005 interview, he told the Boston Globe:
“I love history, so while the psychological basis of ‘Star Wars’ is mythological, the political and social bases are historical.”
Star Wars, its heroes, and its villains were born from the likeness of Nazi Germany, Ancient Rome, the Vietnam War, the Knights Templar, and even U.S. Presidents. Lucas’s world reads as both commentary and cautionary tale, portraying what can happen when dark overpowers light.
Emperor Palpatine: A melting pot of authoritarianism
One of the most formidable characters Lucas created, Sheev Palpatine’s origins as both emperor of the Galactic Empire and Darth Sidious, a Sith Dark Lord, were composed of a handful of leaders throughout history who perceivably aimed to dismantle democracy. Originally, the character of Palpatine was based predominantly on Ming the Merciless, the fictional tyrannical dictator and archenemy in the Flash Gordon series, both print and screen. In the book Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, author Dale Pollock details the influence Ming had not only on Palpatine, but on Darth Vader as well.
In fleshing out a more long term vision of Palpatine as the series took off, inspiration started to come from the real world. Borrowing from the behaviors of dictators like Hitler and Julius Caesar, it was easy to see the kind of manipulation and underhandedness the character was meant to embody. The trajectory of Palpatine’s rise to power, including abusing an elected position to change or control governmental bodies, is perhaps an only slightly more dramatized version of real history.
Even the use of the title “chancellor” (prior to his invoking martial law and declaring himself Emperor) was a nod to Adolf Hitler, who bore the same title in 1933 as a result of Nazi Party electoral victories. The Nazi’s also gave the inspiration for Stormtroopers, who share a name with German soldiers from WWI as well as WWII’s Sturmabteilung, or Storm Detachment, the Nazi Party’s paramilitary organization.
The historical allusions were also found in the cinematography. A notable scene is in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, when Emperor Palpatine arrives at the Death Star and is met with an air parade of TIE fighters as well as stormtroopers, Army & Navy Troopers, officers and droids, all poised for the event within Hangar 272. The visuals in this scene were meant to resemble Russia’s May Day military parades.
One final name on the Palpatine vision board was the 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon. Lucas started diving further into the character during Nixon’s re-election campaign, reflecting on the state of the world, and questioning how seemingly flawed but functional democracies can become dictatorships. At a story conference in 1981, Lucas was asked whether or not the Emperor was a Jedi, to which Lucas replied:
“No, he was a politician. Richard M. Nixon was his name. He subverted the Senate and finally took over and became an imperial guy and he was really evil. But he pretended to be a really nice guy.”
…not exactly the greatest way to have your legacy paid homage, but hey, at least you can say you were a muse to George Lucas.
Ewoks & The Rebel Alliance: The poster kids for intergalactic guerrilla warfare
Prior to setting his sights on Star Wars, Lucas was slated to direct the now critically acclaimed war movie Apocalypse Now, a job that ended up going to Francis Ford Coppola, following his successes with the first two Godfather movies. With the Vietnam War weighing heavily on most people’s minds, it easily seeped into both the obvious and subtle context of artistic expression, especially for those who purposefully wanted to send a message.
Love them or hate them, Lucas had a reason behind creating the polarizing, meter tall inhabitants of Endor. He wanted the juxtaposition of a group using less advanced means of fighting taking on the much more technologically adept force of the Empire. The Ewoks used primitive weapons and modes of transportation–knives, spears, hang gliders–and in terms of surviving in their natural environment, they thrived in ways the Empire’s technology was unable to adapt to. They were able to understand, respect and adapt to their terrain in a way that gave them the upper hand in a lot of ways. The defeat of the Galactic Empire was a direct comparison to the Viet Cong, who fought against American soldiers during Vietnam.
The Ewoks weren’t alone in their position of little fish in a big pond. Lucas applied the practices and techniques of both the Viet Cong as well as the People’s Army of Vietnam when thinking about the Rebel Alliance’s approach to combating the power of the Empire. He likened the Empire to the United States, a larger and more technologically advanced superpower, versus smaller groups.
“The irony is that, in both of those, the little guys won. The highly technical empire — the English Empire, the American Empire — lost. That was the whole point.”
-George Lucas, from James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction
A tale of two Empires: Neither Rome nor the Republic was built in a day
We’ve already mentioned the impact Julius Caesar had on the development of the character of Palpatine, so the leap of comparing the Star Wars Empire to that of Ancient Rome isn’t really all that far. They both began as republics, seemingly strong ones that theoretically should have been long standing parts of their development over time.
Both Caesar and Palpatine held onto their elected positions much longer than they were slated to, due to conflict and under the guise of “protecting their republic”
…which was really just an opportunity for them to gain more control and the ability to give themselves a job promotion that inevitably shifted both republics into dictatorships.
They also each had their own instances of entering into, or starting, conflicts with the reasoning of either expansion or supremacy. Rome had the Punic Wars, three separate conflicts between Rome and Carthage, who were the two major powers of the Western Mediterranean at the time. Star Wars had both the Old & New Sith Wars, as well as the Clone Wars.
The Clone Wars are probably the most integral to the recognition of the darkness it takes to overthrow a democracy, as they were masterminded and orchestrated by one person orchestrating both sides (Palpatine as Chancellor of the Republic, and Palpatine again, as Darth Sidious, at the head of the Separatists).
The Empire and Ancient Rome also share the similarity of being slowly brought down by much smaller factions, with the Roman Empire being met by force from the Huns and Germanic tribes, while the Rebel Alliance took on the Galactic Empire.
“The whole point of the movies, the underlying element that makes the movies work, is that you, whether you go backwards or forwards, you start out in a democracy, and democracy turns into a dictatorship, and then the rebels make it back into a democracy.”
The Jedi: Sharing the moral high ground with ancient warriors
Jedi are well known for being keepers of peace, guardians of justice within the Galactic Republic, and an overall force for good within the universe. Their ability to defend and protect, while also embodying the noblest of character traits is arguably what makes them the ultimate good guys (with Anakin being a divisive exception). They use the Force for good, are never self-serving, and remain committed to improving themselves through training and seeking greater knowledge.
“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.”
-Jedi Master Yoda, Episode III; Revenge of the Sith
Aesthetically, Lucas modeled the Jedi after both Shaolin monks and Japanese samurai, in the kinds of clothing they wore as well as drawing some inspiration for the Jedi fighting style and lightsabers from Katana fighting. The monk and samurai belief systems can also be seen mirrored throughout the Jedi timeline.
In the bookStar Wars and History, author Terrance MacMullen puts forth another area of influence in creating the Jedi: the Knights Templar. Often referred to as “warrior monks”, the Templars were a Catholic military order, originally established in 1119 to protect Christian pilgrims in the dangerous “Outremer,” or Crusader states, following the First Crusade. Of all the warriors that built the idea of the Jedi, the most direct parallels can be drawn to the Templars.
Both Jedi and Templars went into battle fearlessly, regardless of being outnumbered or overpowered. It was this dedication to the cause, or rash invincibility complex, that distinguished them both as formidable opponents and examples of aggressive morality. This fearlessness was guided by invisible forces on both sides. For Jedi, it was quite literally the Force, while the Templars were driven by their faith.
Oppression plays a large role in the history of Templars and Jedi as well. In 1307, almost 200 years after their inception, the Templars were taken down by King Philip IV of France, who essentially just wanted to steal their amassed wealth and pay off his outstanding debts. Many high ranking members were taken tortured and ultimately burned at the stake. In 1314, two years after Pope Clement V disbanded the order, the Grand Master Jacques de Molay was burned alive. Which is essentially like if they had publicly executed Yoda.
Jedi also faced oppression at the hands of the Galactic Empire and the Order of the Sith Lords when the Great Jedi Purge was ordered, which aimed to extinguish any Jedi who remained following Order 66, a previous attempt to destroy the Jedi en masse. While the vast majority were lost, the Jedi Order, though bruised, remained intact and held together by the surviving Jedi.
The overarching reach and appeal of Star Wars is undeniable and virtually untouchable, but even more interesting still is its ability to parallel almost any moment in time. History buff that he is, Lucas was able to pick up on common tropes of humanity, and present them in an approachable and entertaining way.
“The story being told in Star Wars is a classic one. Every few hundred years, the story is retold because we have a tendency to do the same things over and over again. Power corrupts, and when you’re in charge, you start doing things that you think are right, but they’re actually not.”
-George Lucas, in a 2005 interview with Wired Magazine
With politics, world events, media and entertainment seemingly enmeshed like never before, Lucas’s legacy and continuing commentary is a great representation of art imitating life, and life imitating art (we didn’t even get to tackle Star Wars metaphors being used in politics, I’m looking at you, Ronald Reagan). In the end, it feels like the classic battle of good vs. evil is almost unavoidable, both on and off screen. What seems equally predictable however, is that light always finds a way to overpower the darkness.
Hobbs & Shaw, the Fast & Furious spin-off film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, comes to theaters this weekend, hoping to further solidify F&F as the most bankable franchise that doesn’t involve jedis or superheroes. And once you have enjoyed 136 minutes of watching Johnson and Statham bicker like an old married couple, you will likely find yourself faced with one question: Is there a scene after the credits? After all, sitting around watching the credits roll can be a real bore but it might be worth the wait if the movie ends up giving fans an Easter egg or hints at what the sequel might be about.
Fortunately, this question has already been answered by none other than Johnson himself, who responded to a question about a post-credits scene on Twitter and affirmed that there is a definitely a post-credits scene that will give fans an idea of what is coming next in the Hobbs & Shaw corner of the Fast & Furious universe.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – Official Trailer [HD]
Having seen the film, we can confirm that what Johnson is saying is 100 percent true and while we won’t be sharing any spoilers regarding the scene or the film in general, the scene definitely points to who will be joining Hobbs and Shaw on their next mission to save the world from total destruction.
Of course, this all assumes that there will be a Hobbs Shaw sequel at all. Though, considering that it’s currently projected to make nearly 0 million at the global box office this weekend, we wouldn’t advise betting against the two teaming up again.
Hobbs Shaw comes to theaters August 2.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
We’ve talked before about the bizarre Hollywood phenomenon of Twin Films – essentially films with near identical premises inexplicably released around the same time – and all of the machinations that can lead to them existing. Today, rather than focusing on an industry wide trend, we’re going to discuss a specific example of something similar — the bizarre tale of the time two comic artists based in the UK and US respectively somehow both created “Dennis the Menace” at almost the same time, with the first editions of each published on the exact same day, despite neither one knowing anything about what the other was doing.
While it’s commonly misstated that the UK version of “Dennis the Menace,” which debuted in Beano #452, came out on March 17, 1951, in truth both “Dennis the Menace” comics hit the shelves on March 12, with the incorrect date for the British version coming from the fact that this date was on the original cover. As to why, a common practice at the time was to post-date editions to try to keep them on the shelves longer.
Beyond sharing a name, both characters own dogs that usually aid in their mischief, with American Dennis having a snowy white Airedale mix called Ruff, and British Dennis owning a “Abyssinian wire-haired tripehound” called Gnasher. Like their owners, each dog has a distinct personality, Gnasher being decidedly more violent than Ruff, with his favourite pastime being chasing and biting postman. Another similarity between the two Dennises is their penchant for causing mischief with a slingshot, which is considered to be a trademark of each character in their respective home markets.
Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher.
That said, it should be noted for those unfamiliar that the British Dennis is an intentional menace who relishes in the mayhem he causes, whereas the U.S. version tends to be over all good natured and ends up being a menace in many cases via trying to do something good, but having it all go wrong.
Nevertheless, given the similarities, it should come as no surprise that soon after each comic hit the stands on the same day in 1951, news of each other’s comics quickly reached the two creators. While initially foul play was suspected, it became clear to all parties involved that the whole thing couldn’t possibly be anything but a massive, inexplicable coincidence.
In the end, both creators agreed to continue as if the other comic didn’t exist and the only real change made to either comic was that as both comics gained in popularity, the name of the British version evolved, initially just in foreign markets, but eventually everywhere to Dennis and Gnasher.
During discussions about how each creator came up with the idea of “Dennis the Menace,” it was revealed that British Dennis was the brainchild of Beano editor, George Moonie. Moonie was inspired to create the character after hearing the lyric “I’m Dennis the Menace from Venice” while visiting a music hall. With this lyric in mind, Moonie tasked artist David Law with creating a character called, you guessed it, Dennis the Menace, saying simply that the character was a mischievous British schoolboy.
Although Law was responsible for drawing Dennis from his conception until 1970 when Law fell ill, the now iconic look of Dennis was first suggested by Beano Chief Sub Ian Chisholm who is said to have sketched a rough drawing of what would come to be Dennis’ default look on the back of a cigarette packet while Chisholm and Law were at a pub in St Andrews, Scotland.
Billed as “The World’s Wildest Boy!” in his debut strip, proto British Dennis looked markedly different from his modern counterpart, with some of his more iconic features, such as his pet dog and bestest pal Gnasher or his iconic red and black striped sweater, not being introduced until later comics.
In the end, “Dennis the Menace” played a big part at revitalizing Beano, as noted by Beano artist Lew Stringer, “‘Dennis the Menace’ was like a thunderbolt. The Beano was flagging by 1950 and no longer radical. But there was an energy to ‘Dennis the Menace,’ it was modern and became one of the first naughty kids characters of the post-war period.”
As for American Dennis the Menace, he was the creation of Hank Ketcham. Ketcham briefly attended the University of Washington in Seattle, but had a passion for drawing from a very young age when a family friend had showed him his, to quote Ketcham, “magic pencil”, and how it could draw things like cartoon characters such as Barney Google.
Fast-forward to his freshman year of college in 1938, after seeing “The Three Little Pigs” Ketcham promptly dropped out of school and left Seattle, stating,
I had one thing on my mind: Walt Disney. I hitchhiked to Hollywood and got a job in an ad agency, changing the water for the artists for [about 9 today] a week. Which was OK because I lived at a rooming house on Magnolia – three meals a day and a bike to ride to work – for a week. Then I got a job with Walt Lantz at Universal, assisting the animators, for . It was the tail end of the glory days of Hollywood and I loved it! I was on the back of the lot, where W.C. Fields, Bela Lugosi, Crosby, Edgar Bergen were all parading around. My neck was on a swivel! Marvelous!
As he notes there, he eventually achieved his goal, doing some work for Disney on movies like Fantasia, Bambi, and Pinocchio.
When the U.S. entered WWII, he found himself in the Navy drawing military posters for things like War Bonds and the like. By 1950, he was working as a freelance cartoonist. On a fateful day in October of that year, his toddler son, Dennis, did something that changed the family’s fate forever.
His wife, Alice, went to check on the toddler who was supposed to be napping, but instead she found Dennis’ dresser drawers removed and contents unceremoniously dumped out, his curtain rods removed and dismantled, mattress overturned and just a general mess everywhere.
Ketcham would recount in an interview with the Associated Press on the 50th anniversary of his comic that Alice remarked in an exasperated tone after witnessing the destruction, “Your son is a menace!”
This statement resonated with Ketcham who quickly devised and refined the idea of a mischievous toddler who accidentally causes wanton destruction wherever he goes. Dennis the Menace was born, and a mere five months later debuted in 16 newspapers. This is despite the fact that Ketcham himself would later state, “Oh, the drawings were terrible! Even when I started with Dennis they were just wretched! How any editor ever bought that junk…”
Hank Ketcham in 1953.
Nevertheless, within a year of its debut, 245 newspapers across the world had picked it up representing a readership of over 30 million people. At its peak, the number of outlets that carried “Dennis the Menace” grew to over 1,000.
Unfortunately, things did not have a happy ending for the real Dennis. Much like with Christoper Robin Milne, who A.A. Milne based his character of Christopher Robin on, Dennis came to loathe the fact that his father had created a famous character after himself. Unlike Christoper Robin, Dennis never got over it.
That said, despite his son’s accusations, Ketcham vehemently denies ever using anything from his son’s childhood as fodder for the comic other than the name, noting he almost always used a team of writers to come up with the comics’ content, stating, “Anyone in the humor business isn’t thinking clearly if he doesn’t surround himself with idea people. Otherwise, you settle for…mediocrity — or you burn yourself out.”
Whatever the case, the comic was perhaps just a side issue. You see, as her husband’s fame grew, Dennis’ mother became an alcoholic and by 1959 she filed for divorce. Around the same time, with Alice no longer capable of taking care of Dennis, he was shipped off to a boarding school. Said, Dennis, “I didn’t know what was going on except that I felt Dad wanted me out of the way.”
Very soon after, his mother died after mixing barbiturates with a lot of alcohol. As for Dennis, Ketcham didn’t end up getting him from boarding school to attend the funeral, nor did he tell him about his mother’s death until weeks later, reportedly as he didn’t know how to break it to him, so delayed as long as possible. Said Dennis of this, “Mom had always been there when I needed her. I would have dealt with losing her a lot better had I been able to attend her funeral.”
Things didn’t improve when mere weeks later, Ketcham married a new woman, then moved the family off to Switzerland where he once again placed Dennis in a boarding school, which ultimately didn’t work out. To begin with, his new wife and Dennis weren’t exactly pals. Said Ketcham, “Jo Anne was unused to children. and she and Dennis didn’t get along.”
Seeing his son struggling academically because of a learning disability, combined with being in a foreign country and issues between his new wife and Dennis, Ketcham sent Dennis off to a different boarding school back in the United States where he hoped he’d be more comfortable.
After graduating two years later than most, Dennis joined the Marines for a tour in Vietnam and subsequently suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
As for his relationship with his father, it never improved, with Ketcham even losing track of him completely at one point. As Ketcham stated when asked about his son, “He’s living in the East somewhere doing his own thing. That’s just a chapter that was a short one that closed, which unfortunately happens in some families… He checks in about twice a year. And if he needs something, I try to help him.”
As you might imagine from all this, Ketcham would come to greatly regret using his son’s name for his character because of how he felt it negatively impacted him. “These things happen, but this was even worse because his name was used. He was brought in unwillingly and unknowingly, and it confused him.”
He also regretted not being there for his son. “Sometimes, young fathers scrambling to make a living, to climb the ladder, leave it to the mother to do all the parental things. But you get back what you put into a child. It’s like a piano. If you don’t give it much attention, you won’t get much out of it… I’m sure Dennis was lonely. Being an only child is tough.”
He goes on, “In my family now. I’m much more active with the kids and their schooling than I was before. I listen better. And I think I’m more patient. Maybe not. But I’d like to think so.”
As for Dennis’ side, he stated, rather than a successful, famous father, “I would rather have had a father who took me fishing and camping, who was there for me when I needed him… Dad can be like a stranger. Sometimes I think that if he died tomorrow, I wouldn’t feel anything.”
When Ketcham died on June 1, 2001, Dennis didn’t show up for the funeral and a family spokesman stated they hadn’t heard from him in years and didn’t know where he was.
To finish on a much lighter note, in 1959, Ketcham was invited to visit the Soviet Union as a part of a cartoon exchange trip. Never ones to miss an opportunity, the CIA asked Ketcham if he wouldn’t mind sketching anything significant he saw while in the Soviet Union. Said Ketcham, “We were flying from Moscow to Kiev, and it was during the day and I looked out the window and I saw some shapes. I had my sketch book, and I would put them down, and the flight attendant would walk by, and I would put a big nose and some eyes and make the whole thing into a funny face. So I had a whole book of funny-face cartoons at the end that I didn’t know how to read.” Needless to say, the CIA didn’t exactly appreciate his work.
“Dennis the Menace” creator Hank Ketcham.
Going back to British Dennis, Kurt Cobain was known to wear a jumper remarkably similar to that of the British Dennis the Menace on stage. As it turns out, the jumper was a genuine piece of official Dennis the Menace merchandise, though the singer didn’t know this. Apparently Courtney Love bought the jumper for Kurt for for £35 (about £70 or today) from a fan called Chris Black at a concert in Northern Ireland in 1992 after taking a liking to it.
Speaking of having to find a way to be original week after week in comics, Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, once sagely stated, “A cartoonist is someone who has to draw the same thing every day without repeating himself.” That’s a tall order for someone who created nearly 18,000 strips- and it wasn’t always easy. On this note, Cathy Guisewite, creator of the comic strip Cathy, revealed in an interview that Schulz once called her in something of a panic as he couldn’t think of anything to draw and was doubting whether he’d be able to come up with anything. Exasperated, she stated, “I said, ‘What are you talking about, you’re Charles Schulz!’… What he did for me that day he did for millions of people in zillions of ways. He gave everyone in the world characters who knew exactly how we felt.”
Bill Watterson, creator of “Calvin and Hobbes,” famously not only passed up but fought vehemently against merchandising of “Calvin and Hobbes,” costing himself many tens of millions of dollars in revenue. He stated of this that it wasn’t so much that he was against the idea of merchandising in general, just that “each product I considered seemed to violate the spirit of the strip, contradict its message, and take me away from the work I loved.” Despite this, it’s not terribly difficult to find merchandise of “Calvin and Hobbes,” but all are unauthorized copyright infringements, including the extremely common “Calvin Peeing” car stickers. Despite never having earned a dime from these, Watterson quipped in an interview with mental_floss, “I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.”
Most of the characters and names in “Winnie the Pooh” were based on creator A.A. Milne’s son’s toys and stuffed animals with the exception of Owl, Rabbit, and Gopher. Christopher Robin Milne’s toy teddy bear was named Winnie after a Canadian black bear he saw at the Zoo in London. The real life black bear was in turn named after the hometown of the person who captured the bear, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, who was from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The bear ended up in the London Zoo after Colebourn was sent to England and then to France during WWI. When he was sent to France, he was unable to bring the bear so gave it to the London Zoo temporarily and later decided to make it a permanent donation after the bear became one of the Zoo’s top draws. The “Pooh” part of the name was supposedly after a black swan that Christopher Robin Milne saw while on holiday. A black swan named Pooh also appears in the “Winnie-the-Pooh” series.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
It’s all fun and games to speculate about an “Avengers” movie or a “Star Wars” movie months and months before those films hit theaters, but when you’re less than two months away from an actual release, less is certainly more. And now, after the release of the epic final trailer for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” certain new photographs have been circulating around the less-than-scrupulous parts of the internet and they totally spoil a big twist at the end of the film.
I’m just going to give it to you straight: I have seen these photos. I wish I had not. I know now something that is going to happen in the film, which is really f*cking cool, but that I wish I could have experienced in the theater. This is not the same as reading a plot leak on Reddit. I saw two photos that were really amazing, and there’s every reason to believe they are real. YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE THESE PHOTOS. TRUST ME.
So, just like when footage leaked from “Avengers: Endgame,” now is the time to get into Star Wars lockdown mode. Here’s my guide for avoiding this stuff.
Don’t Google “Star Wars spoilers” or “Star Wars Leaks”
Avoid articles that mention “leaked photos” from The Rise of Skywalker.
Stay off Reddit
No really, stay off Reddit
Stay off publications that are less than reputable.
What do I mean about that last one? Well, as someone who has written about Star Wars for a long time, I can tell you that websites like Entertainment Weekly, Inverse, Vulture, and Den of Geek, are not going to post these leaked photos. That’s because, like Fatherly, there are real journalists working there. (Full disclosure, I’ve worked for more than half of those publications.) So, if you’re seeing an article about “The Rise of Skywalker” on some website you’ve never heard of, and it’s promising to tell you all the secrets of the movie, don’t click! Or, you know, click if you want, but be ready to have the movie spoiled for you. Stick to the publications you’ve heard of. They will play by the rules!
Let me tell you a little story to further reinforce why this is important. Back in 2002, I was about to turn 21-years-old, and “Attack of the Clones” was about to hit theaters that May. I was working at a bookstore called Brentano’s (they were briefly part of Waldenbooks, which at that time was part of Borders.) Well, guess what, we got all the “Attack of the Clones” books in early, and that meant, sitting in the stock room of the bookstore, behind closed doors, I was able to 100 percent know that Yoda fought with a lightsaber in the final moments of the movie. This literally ruined one of the biggest surprises of the movie for me. I’m still not over it. Let 21-year-old-me be a lesson to you all.
Because now, as a 38-year-old man, I have clearly not learned my lesson. Don’t make the same mistake. Hardcore spoilers are the path to the Dark Side. Resist!
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Hanson at the GI Film Festival San Diego. Photo credit BH.
Brian Hanson has lived a few lives and succeeded in some of the harder endeavors known to man: earning a Ranger tab and making a movie. He grew up in Southern California, worked in Hollywood for awhile and then felt called to serve in the U.S. Army. He left Hollywood and became a Ranger serving on multiple deployments to Afghanistan. Upon returning from his service he fulfilled his dream by writing, directing and producing his first film, The Black String, starring Frankie Muniz.
WATM: Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I was born in Detroit then my parents moved to San Diego. They were tired of the snow and wanted a new lifestyle on the West Coast. My father has always been a huge TV, film and history buff. I grew up in Escondido which is a suburb of San Diego. I had a sister that unfortunately was killed in a car accident when she was sixteen so that was a life changing moment in our lives. It was a paradigm shifter. My parents worked hard, and my youth was in many ways the normal SoCal life — riding bikes with friends, enjoying summers and playing sports. I had a real fascination toward movies and telling stories. It was always in me. I played football and baseball in high school. I also did student government. We did a field trip when I was a senior in high school to see a talk show at Paramount Studios to see The Kathy Lee Gifford Show. Seeing the stage, PAs and cameramen showed me that showbiz was a real industry and that I could do it. Even though I did (short) films with my friends it made me aware that I could direct myself toward the industry. It is a real thing.
I graduated that summer and my sister died, so all bets were off on going into the industry at that time. I did one year at San Diego State and then decided to travel abroad with a friend. We worked as bartenders and lived in the United Kingdom. It is what 18 year olds should do— go see the world. I started reading Syd Field books and Robert Rodriguez books like Rebel Without a Crew, watching El Mariachi, Swingers, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, Blair Witch, The Following…I was really into the big studio movies (Saving Private Ryan, Back to the Future, The Matrix) and the independents. It was like you can do this, get a camcorder and you can do it. I knew I wanted to join the military, but not at that moment in my life so I came back from Europe and transferred up to Cal State Northridge. I graduated and got my proper film school bachelor’s degree. I knew I wanted to be a Writer/Director. My parents were very supportive of my endeavor in making it in Hollywood and telling stories.
Once US Forces entered Iraq in 2003, I had read voraciously about 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. I knew I was going to join the military at some point, but when? I would be pouring drinks for young, good looking Hollywood people at a bar making hundreds of dollars a night where over their shoulder would be a TV on reporting the Battle of Fallujah. I started to not feel right about that, and I wanted to be an honest storyteller. I would like to be a storyteller that speaks truthfully and authentically and didn’t want to be the person that imitates. I didn’t want to be an imitator of Goodfellas or Full Metal Jacket. I knew I needed that life experience to be an authentic storyteller. I did a TV Pilot with some friends that we raised money for, and Brandon Routh was in it. This was right before he was cast as Superman in Superman Returns. Brandon and I bartended together at that time. He was a great guy to work with. I was also bartending at the Playboy mansion during the end of the glory days for Hefner and the Mansion. It’s tough to just walk away from all of that and you are making decent money in Hollywood. You are just one step or script away from “it” happening.
After not much happened with the TV Pilot I started to realize that Hollywood and LA are still going to be here. I wrestled a year or two of how to leave it behind after I had started a life. As I approached 30, I looked in the mirror and decided to join the Army because if I waited longer, the military wouldn’t let me join – I’d be too old. I would have regretted to my dying day if I did not serve. There were no questions in life. I knew joining as an older guy would be different when compared to most recruits. But I wanted to volunteer my time and some of the years of my life to serve my country, but I had to step up and go do it. I gotta do this and gotta do it now. I knew my goal was to come back to LA with this accomplishment and service to my country being complete.
Hanson at Fort Benning. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What made you want to become a Ranger and what was your experience like?
I didn’t know all the details when I enlisted as an 11Bravo (infantry), but I knew that Rangers and Green Berets were the high-speed special-operations units. One day in Basic Training at Fort Benning, the Ranger recruiters came out to ask for volunteers and my Drill Sergeant SFC Metcalfe looked at me and said, “Hanson, you better f’n volunteer.” So, I volunteered on the spot and a few months later I was reporting to Ranger Assessment Selection Program. Unfortunately, SFC Metcalfe was killed in action a year later when he deployed to Afghanistan with the 173rd. I thank SFC Metcalfe for pushing me to go Ranger.
I was stationed at Fort Benning with 3rd Ranger Battalion where it is a high-speed training cycle. You train for six months and then deploy for about 3 to 4 months. There is always a Ranger Battalion deployed. Just operating at that tempo, at all times, is exciting and inspiring to see your NCOs, squad leaders and platoon sergeants are on their sixth or tenth deployment. It was very inspiring to see their commitment to the unit at the cost of their family and personal time. When you are a single young, enlisted person it is very inspiring to see that level of motivation. Rangers hold themselves up to the highest standard of leading the way. You are always being tested. It is uncomfortable and you never have a chance to relax. It is a great way to stay sharp. It is a tough head space to always be in. You are always being watched. The young (new) guys compete like professional athletes to deploy, like trying to make the starting roster. Once you deploy you want to be on that mission every time. I deployed to FOB Salerno in Afghanistan on the border real close to Pakistan. My second deployment was at Camp Leatherneck/Camp Bastion and then my last deployment I was at FOB Shank aka “Rocket City”. That place was hit like all day with nonstop rockets. It’s funny how used to it you get.
The Taliban used a lot of ingenious guerrilla tactics like setting ice on the mortars to eventually melt and then go off at some point during the day. Apaches would launch to try and find the culprits however they were not there. We ran the night shift out there for High Value Targets (HVT) where we went on night raids. To see how targets were acquired and track and intel was gathering where the strike force commander was the CO. From top to bottom the whole thing was a collection of assets. We worked with the Air Force, Navy, Marines, big Army, DIA and had civilians running the drones. It is amazing to see people come together for these task forces where all of these people work together on the fly. Being 30 and seeing this strike force run by young soldiers/civilians is amazing because in Hollywood most 23-year olds close to me are up and coming bartenders/actors/writers/directors. In Afghanistan we had 23-year-old Forward Observers bringing in Chinook helicopters into dangerous LZs to pick us up for a night raid. 24-year-old squad leaders are ensuring that everyone is accounted for and that no one is left behind on the side of a mountain in Afghanistan. It is amazing to see what young people can do where they have been trained at such a high level and have high expectations. They achieve and are motivated. I think Hollywood is an amazing place where things get done, but I think a lot of it is a 10-year delay. It is a bit of an arrested development sometimes.
In a training incident I was a towed jumper. We were doing our yearly training for airfield seizures which is an entire battalion operation to seize an airfield. I was the last guy to jump out of a C-17 at night with a full combat load and got hung up on the plane which made me a towed jumper. I was hanging outside of a C-17 at 1000 to 1500 feet circling Fort Benning banging against the side of the plane and fully conscious. Thinking that I might die at any moment and this is not a normal thing to happen to people. My static line wrapped around my weapons case where when you are jumping your weapons case is attached to your thigh and your harness. Somehow there was too much slack in the static line to where it wrapped around the weapons case so it wouldn’t release me. The static line stays clipped inside the plane and it is supposed to pull the back of the pack tray. You jump and it pulls it out, but it got wrapped around and it pulled me.
I was okay with a tight body position and covered my reserve chute, so it didn’t release. I was out there for six minutes. I thought they were going to cut me loose to where all I have left is my reserve chute to land on some trees at night next to the Chattahoochee River. Then I started looking at my boots flying through the air and thought this is what parasailing must be like. Then I thought, did they forget about me and is the C-17 going to try to land? Do they not know I am out here, and I am going to do some high-speed combat roll on a tarmac as the C-17 lands? You are trained to keep a tight body position out there, so they know you are not unconscious. I kept slamming against the side of the C-17 behind a gigantic turbine engine. I hit the plane and stayed there where I started to get dragged across the skin of the plane. I felt hands underneath my arms and they pulled me in. Everybody was so glad to see I was alive and in one piece. I was just relieved as I was out there so long, I went beyond any initial shock, concern to just cut me loose guys so I can land on a tree with my reserve shoot.
They pulled me in and did a great job making sure I was okay. I had to retell the story for weeks to a lot of soldiers, especially Sgt Majors at the DFAC wanted to hear the story of a towed jumper. It was a very bizarre story because no one wants to be a towed jumper. It is a total nightmare scenario short of both chutes failing. It all ended well and twelve stitches in my chin was it. After all of that my 1stSgt checked on me and made sure I was alright. He then told me, “Get ready you are jumping tomorrow.” We had another jump the next day. The 3rd Ranger Battalion was like you are jumping tomorrow to get over any fear of jumping again. Just get out there and do it. I jumped not 24 hours later and believe me I was concerned. I said, “There is no way that can happen twice.” I got out the door and was fine. There is not a lot of pity or sympathy it is like get back up and do it again unless you are truly hurt, alright get up and do it as there is no time to think about. That is something I take with me to this day.
All of the pre-jump training you do these repetitive and boring things you already know, and I did one of those things without even thinking about it. It dawned on me why I do this training every single time. When that one time does happen, you are ready and have gone over the worst-case scenario. You will be that much quicker to save your own life or someone else. It seems so mundane and so repetitive and a waste of time until you need it. That repetitive action like weapons malfunctions….but when you need that instantaneous second nature habit it is the most important thing you could have known at that point.
Hanson at Camp Leatherneck. Photo credit BH.
Hanson on his last mission at FOB Shank. Photo credit BH.
Paratroopers jumping from C-17 Globemasters.
View of Camp Salerno. Photo credit wikipedia.com.
WATM: What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
I am proud I stepped up to the challenge of 75th Ranger Regiment (thank you SFC Metcalfe) and made the team. Severing with my Ranger buddies was like the saying goes: “I was no hero, but I walked amongst a few.” I did my part and I know guys that are still out there doing it. I know squad leaders that are now getting their own platoons. Some guys have gone into elite units like Delta Force and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. I still think about them often and stay in touch. I want to make them proud because of the work they are still doing…I try to keep pushing myself in a way that would do right by the effort they are putting on…I am proud to have been on a team with those guys and seen what leadership means…and at such a young age and for so many people. I am proud to have seen it and been associated with that level of person.
Frankie and Paige Muniz, Kayli, Chelsea and Brian at Dances with Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
One thing that you see among some twenty something bartenders or Hollywood newbies that is unacceptable in the Ranger Regiment and also unacceptable in the Army are excuses. It is the same on production, there are no excuses. There are just no excuses. I don’t want to hear it other than a solution. Maybe an, “I’m sorry,” and that is it where I don’t even want to hear an excuse. Unless there is something disastrous you need to untangle. No excuses, just solutions. The high-level professional types of productions have that mentality where I really appreciate it. I do see the correlation between military units and productions. You have one mission where everyone comes together to accomplish it.
Also, you see this in the military and it is a career everything, keep moving forward just like a twenty-mile ruck march. You worry about the next step, then the next phone pole, then the next quarter mile where they will all add up. You can be overwhelmed by all of it if you look at it all at once where if you do it one step at a time you see that you can do it. Those are two crucial lessons I learned in the Army.
Hanson, Frankie and crew at Dances With Films. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
Even though I had worked in Hollywood before leaving, I came back a veteran, and still had to learn that there is a system in Hollywood. The system is not as rigid perhaps as the military. It isn’t just this artistic endeavor where you get to be a genius and be Quentin Tarantino or you are Steven Spielberg because you say you are. There is a hierarchy and there is a smart way to navigate. There is a way to get oriented and to a very real map of how this town works and have very realistic expectations. I think that veterans and others think of their prior accomplishments, whether a lawyer or a company commander of an infantry company, where you are not going to be a 1st AD. That is a ten-year path that is very regimented. The biggest challenge is understanding what the path to success is and how to realistically pursue those things. Know that they all take time and embrace that.
***Since leaving the Army I have learned so much by working as a Production Assistant on HBO’s Barry, Silicon Valley, Room 104 and worked as Assistant to Matthew Rhys on Perry Mason. Being on set and working for top level professionals has been an incredible learning experience and given me insight to become a better filmmaker on my own projects. I also greatly appreciate the film/tv mentorships, education and opportunities I was given through Veterans in Media Entertainment (VME), USVAA and WGF. It has been very important to find mentors and work for professionals.
Hanson with members of the cast and production staff at the Austin Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What was it like writing, producing and directing your own feature film, The Black String?
The story was percolating for a long time before making the film such as Donnie Darko, Repulsion, Jacobs Ladder, which does a great job of blending horror and military, and Rosemary’s Baby. It was conceived with my bartending buddy Andy Warrener before I joined the Army. We wanted to explore in that story what it is like to be on that edge where you are experiencing something and no one else believes. It is you against the world. How do you convince someone of something that crazy of a witch conspiracy or a coven of witches? Or some really wild, evil cabal? The moment you say those words you already sound like you are having mental problems. Doctors will definitely not be going to believe.
The challenge we wanted was for a character to have to convince his family, his friends and his doctors of something that is inconceivable where no one in the real world is going to believe that. We put that in a genre we enjoyed which was horror. Now we thought maybe we would make that movie, but I joined the Army and Andy got married and moved to Florida. The wild thing is that you never know what you write today may be a movie in five or ten years. I lived a whole crazy life in between thinking of the story while tending bar with my buddy and then going into the Army. The difference in the time gap was about seven years. I could not have guessed that would have happened, especially with Frankie Muniz.
The creative part I was very comfortable with in the directing and writing having made many short films. I got an MFA from Mt. Saint Mary’s University with the GI Bill, which is a beautiful thing, loves the GI Bill. I owe so much to the GI Bill. So, I got very comfortable with the directing portion where you get very creative to bring this vision and feeling and this emotion you have to life in a very technical way. It is running the business, the producing part of things, to where you are starting a business, you are an entrepreneur. My producing partner Richard Handley, he is a Navy veteran and was an officer and Physician’s Assistant, he runs a contracting business with the DoD. We ran a business together where many purely creative types don’t understand what that level of dedication and commitment is.
To this day I have had probably had equal amounts of discussions about corporate taxes, LLCs, investor shares and running a business as I have about storyboarding shots. When you are doing an independent film like this, truly a passion project, you are building a team that is not a whole lot different…then opening a small company. You and your business partner are shouldering the burden if not for months, but for years. You have to love it and I do where it has been a great journey to where we had such great crew members and other producers that have helped us along the way. It is a multiple year endeavor when you do something like that in the independent world. You really are from the very beginning of raising money all the way to negotiating with distributors and foreign distributors and how you cut checks to your investors. It’s a true business education and kind of feels like I got this mini MBA education.
That was unexpected but the directing part was just amazing. Working with such talented people and friends that I had before joining the Army…we really were able to bring a lot of relationships such as Ravi Patel I bartended with as well. Cullen Douglas and Ravi and I did a TV pilot in like 2008. It was amazing to be able to reach back to my pre-Army friends that are so talented and my post Army, new team of filmmaking friends and bring everybody together. We called on so many favors. We had such great support from Mt. Saint Mary’s, VME and Vega Baby. We called in every favor where it is such a positive experience. When we landed in Frankie Muniz where he is a champ.
He brought his “A game” even for the tiny movie it was. He loved the character and the chance to do something different. He gave everything to our tiny project as he would have to our multi-million-dollar project. He treated us with respect, and he treated the script with respect. He came to set daily with a big folder of his personal notes. He was meticulous like a pro and his level of preparation and how he kept track of everything and what he brought was just amazing. He took that movie and made it really something different than perhaps something we thought. Frankie made it his Breaking Bad character. Like his Malcolm in the Middle dad, Bryan Cranston did on Breaking Bad. He was still kind of that funny person but had a much darker take on it. It is a dark twist on that guy you already know. Frankie imbued the role in the film with his Malcolm in the Middle persona, but whoa that is the dark side of it. What happened? Like Breaking Bad, what went wrong? To work with a pro, I learned.
To be able to work with actors like Ravi, Frankie, Cullen, Oded and Chelsea where they are people that do this for a living to be able to work with people like that and be creative partners with them for my first feature was inspiring. To see how a team can really work with everybody really contributing some high-level creativity. Everyone on the team had so much to add. You have to shepherd the project to where everyone stays on track, but still allow personal creative contributions from cast members. A director is like a manager of a company. You have to work with the talent, resources and the money of your company. You still have to get to the goal, but you can’t be resistant to some things that are great new ideas.
Poster for The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Rich and Mari Handley with Yani and Brian. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Hanson and Handley on stage at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
“No excuses” and intense preparation for a project. It is preparing like you are the best and spending hours a day preparing. Don’t assume, always do pre-combat inspections. It is having everything truly ready to go. Because once you arrive on set and once you arrive at that location it needs to be ready and needs to be operational. If not you, need to have a back-up plan. Research and having contingency plans. Checking your equipment and your team. It can be seen as micromanaging, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. In the military everybody checks their troops. It’s just how it is to make sure your guys and your buddies are ready to go. I think that can be transferred to the civilian world and film production.
Frankie Muniz and Richard Handley in The Black String. Photo credit IMDB.com.
More of Muniz in The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
Screen capture of The Black String. Photo credit BH.
WATM: As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
We need support from great organizations to promote veteran voices and veteran creators. Such organizations as We Are The Mighty, Veterans in Media and Entertainment (VME), of which I volunteer heavily with, the USVAA, United States Veteran Artistic Alliance, and the WGA Writer’s Guild Foundation do support veterans. We need the support from industry professionals and organizations. They are out there, and they are growing. I think that with the people in the position in power right now, the producers and executives that can green light things, I do think they do a really good job where there is always a presence of the military and law enforcement. There are always more and different perspectives. To keep in mind and do the rote, stereotypical type of story lines. There are a lot of really nuanced, interesting and unexpected perspectives that veterans can bring to the time-honored tradition of military inspired entertainment. The producers, executives and showrunners should be open to finding those unexpected angles to veteran stories.
Hanson with Steve Fiorina and Handley at the GI Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What would you like to do next in your career?
I plan on directing my second film in 2021. My first one was the horror genre where my next one is likely going to be a thriller with a military character. I always want to do things that are thought provoking. I definitely want to challenge viewers and explore philosophies. …Christopher Nolan makes great entertainment and with challenging ideas and philosophies. He is an independent filmmaker making giant movies, which is something to strive for. Since I have completed my first film…I have been working to get on great television shows as a writer. There are so many stories to tell and I joined the Army and lived this life to help tell authentic stories. I would love to be in day in and day out be in a room with other story tellers creating an amazing show. Creating stories with a team. I will continue directing but would love to be in that writer’s room doing innovative television.
Brian Matthew Rhys on “Perry Mason”. Photo credit BH.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
I am most proud of serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment. In a sense in my career I may never do anything as meaningful as that even if I make ten more movies or even if nominated for an Academy Award. I don’t think that I’ll ever be prouder than spending those days with my Ranger buddies in Afghanistan or sweating in Fort Benning. I am also proud of making that first movie and everyone that contributed to that colossal effort from nothing. Rich Handley and I being these recent film graduates decided to make a movie where we built that coalition from the ground up. It is an effort we are very proud of and what we did and everybody that was able to help us achieve that.
On the back end we got distribution through Grindstone and Lionsgate to where we had to find everything from scratch. The studio didn’t fund this. Movie making is a risky endeavor and long commitment over many years. The movie has been out now over a year and we are still making producer phone calls and receiving emails four years later. When you divide the money, you might make on the back end of an indie film and divide the hours by what you put in it, there might not be much money so that passion that drives you to keep working. There is a bond between people that have that level of passion to work 15-hour days. You are not really thinking about the paycheck where you are there to get the job done because you believe it is similar to the military mindset.
My wife Yani Navas-Hanson is from Venezuelan; she left the country and I met her in Atlanta when I was at Fort Benning and she was studying at Georgia Tech. She was the accountant by trade and then was our accountant on the movie. She left her country, learned English here in the US and transitioned from corporate accounting to entertainment accounting and from taking on the challenges of an independent film. What someone like her can accomplish if they are driven and keep pushing forward and to be able to accomplish that in a few years is amazing. People do have to surround themselves with the right people. If you are in a relationship with someone who is not supportive with this career path or your family is not supportive, then you might have a tough time during the ups and downs. Family and friend support is crucial. I have fantastic and supportive friends and family.
Brian and Yani at Sitges Film Festival. Photo credit BH.
We loved him 3,000 in Avengers: Endgame, and even gave him an extended tearful goodbye in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but now it looks like Tony Stark might already be back in the Marvel game.
On Sep. 5, 2019, news broke that actor Robert Downey Jr. is already in talks to return as Tony Stark/Iron Man for a new Disney+ TV series. If true, Tony would feature in a show called Iron Heart, based on the Marvel comic book series and character of the same name. In contemporary Marvel comics, “Iron Heart” is the alias for a new version of Iron Man, who is actually a woman named Riri Williams. In the series, Riri takes over the mantle of Iron Man from Tony Stark, who basically retires.
If this all sounds a little like the relationship between Tony and Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming and the past few Avengers movies, it should. But, because legal issues will likely prevent Spider-Man from crossing over with MCU films ever again, it’s telling that Iron Man may have another successor lined-up.
The only tricky part here, of course, is the simple fact that we all saw Tony Stark die in Avengers: Endgame. It feels pretty unlikely that Marvel would undo Tony’s meaningful sacrifice so soon, particularly if he wasn’t actually the star of a new Marvel film. After all, if an Iron Heart series happens, it will be Riri’s story about learning how to become the titular hero, not Tony’s.
The best bet? Maybe Robert Downey Jr. is coming back to play the voice of Tony Stark, and maybe Iron Heart is just one more installment of the upcoming animated What If? series, which specifically reimagines big Marvel heroes in a Sliding Doors kind-of-way. If that’s the case, then all of this makes sense. But, if Downey Jr. really is back, in the flesh, as Tony Stark, then Marvel has a lot of explaining to do. Plus, we’re going to bet that his daughter, Morgan Stark, is going to want to see him.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The standard U.S. Armed Forces field ration is, above all other considerations, designed to make you emotional.
Sure, an MRE needs to be nutritious. Obviously, it also needs to be lightweight, packable, durable, quick, and easy to prepare. It’s got to have a long shelf life because who knows when it’ll be called up for active duty. And at the end of the day — and not just because it’s the end of the day — the damn thing ought to taste good.
After years of research and development, laboratory refinement, and testing in the field, the military has the MRE dialed to within an inch of its life. Private, does your dinner have “Vegetable Rotini” stamped on its olive drab shrink wrap? Yes? Then, by God, you can trust that when you just add water, the thing you find rehydrated on the end of your spork will resemble a rotini (Vegetable Class) to the highest degree achievable by military science.
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl trusted in the prowess of the military’s culinary industrial complex. After all, he named his show after its signature offering.
When he visited the labs and testing facilities of the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA, he was excited to spend some quality time covering familiar territory. What he didn’t count on was the depth of the emotional response that many of his interview subjects had to meals they’d eaten as soldiers in the field. And it turns out, that response is no accident.
We want it to be a quality meal that we provide to them. We don’t know if that’s going to be their last meal.
Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.”
Meals Ready to Eat can be seen on KCET in Southern California, on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410), and online at KCET.org.
Army Game Studio developer, TheTots, explained on the forum for America’s Army that the new game be used by both players and developers to test out the new capabilities for the Army. The game will feature new concept vehicles ranging from tanks to deployable UAVs.
Players can also customize new vehicles and test them in a no-stress situation that could one day be developed into actual combat vehicles.
The Army Capabilities Integration Center’s Lt. Col. Brian Vogt said, “Gaming is a tremendous medium to connect soldiers to the concept. Gaming is not just for entertainment anymore, now it is for experimenting.”
There is a precedent for gamers being used to improve complex research and development projects like this.
Back in 2008, scientists were trying to figure out the detailed molecular structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus found on monkeys. It stumped molecular biologists for years.
After the game Foldit (a collaborative online game to solve this exact issue) came out, gamers solved it in just 10 days.
The best ideas from the game will likely be adopted by Army RDECOM for new weapons platforms, tactics and specs based on the game’s detailed analytics.
Nobody really believed the gritty, dark, and controversial version of Joker would lead to more movies set in the Batman universe. But now, it appears that is exactly what is happening. The standalone Joker origin story will no longer stand alone. Director Todd Phillips has secured the rights to at least one more story based on characters from DC comics, which means Joaquin Phoenix will likely meet at least one more famous DC character in a sequel. But will it be Batman?
On Nov. 20, 2019, The Hollywood Reporter published the news that Todd Philips was able to convince Warner Bros to let him do at least one more movie set in the Batman/DC Comics universe. According to the report, this is partly because Joker did pretty well at the box office, despite the fact that everyone was freaked out about the movie for like three weeks straight. “Phillips is in talks to reprise his role as director for a second Joker outing,” writes Tatiana Siegel.
But what does it mean? Is the next Todd Philips movie a direct sequel to the Joker? Or will this be another, bizarre take on a different DC villain?
The biggest question most sane people have is whether or not Batman would show up in a potential sequel. The huge age difference between this version of the Joker and the young Bruce Wayne we saw in the movie makes us think it’s unlikely. (Then again, the Fox TV series Gotham had this exact same problem, and ended up bringing in Batman anyway.) Plus, having a different Batman in a Joker sequel feels like a bad move from Warner Bros, since they’re clearly pouring all their resources into making us all happy about Robert Pattinson being the newest big-screen Dark Knight. Phillips has already said outright that his Joker won’t meet Robert Pattinson’s Batman.
Still, the news here is mostly centered on the fact that Phillips got the rights to do another DC Comics movie, which doesn’t necessarily mean he is doing a follow-up to the Joker. After all, because Joker was so successful, who is to say Philips couldn’t do another villain origin story? Depending on who you ask there hasn’t been a good Lex Luthor since Gene Hackman in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Could Phillips be ready to tackle a Joker-style Lex Luthor origin story? These days, anything is possible. But, when you consider that Lex Luthor shares a lot in common with Donald Trump, and at one point, DC Comics did have Luthor get elected president, a giant Lex Luthor movie is timely enough to not be out of the question.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Seemingly forgotten in all this hoopla about the Army-Navy game is the United States Air Force Academy. What’s the deal? It’s not like the Air Force fields a bunch of slouches. In fact, the Air Force Academy Falcons have had a number of outstanding players, including 1987 Outland Trophy winner Chad Hennings and quarterback Dee Dowis, a 1989 Heisman finalist. In 1985, they were ranked #2 and came pretty close to a championship.
So, why do the Falcons get so little spotlight compared to the Black Knights and the Midshipmen? Well, one small consideration is geography: While the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Naval Academy at Annapolis are both on the East Coast, the Air Force Academy is in Colorado Springs — way out west. Geography matters in rivalries. Do you think the Bears and Packers would have the biggest rivalry in NFL history if it weren’t for proximity? The Air Force is simply too far away to build a lasting rivalry with the other branches.
Also, the Air Force Academy is a (relatively) recent addition. Their football team started in 1955, a full 65 years after Army and Navy began their rivalry. All great sports rivalries develop over time. Bears-Packers? 96 years. Harvard-Yale? 142 years. Army-Navy? 120 years. You can see the trend.
We’ve got one last theory for you: the competition for the Commander in Chief’s Trophy. This trophy is awarded to the service branch’s football team that emerges victorious over the other two in a given season. The Air Force Academy has earned this trophy outright 20 times and retained it once due to a service-wide tie. The Navy has 15 wins and has retained it three times and the Army’s won 6.
Maybe all the Army and Navy fans are busy trying to forget that the Air Force Academy Falcons win so often. Air Force might not be in the running for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy this year, but when Army and Navy face off, remember that there’s a third, formidable team waiting in the wings.
You’ve seen him before. You know that guy… that guy from that one movie… he was in that thing. You know… And we do know. We all know. There are actors who stake their entire careers on being “that one guy.” Their bios describe themselves as “that guy” or “that guy from that thing.” They accept it, it’s their “thing” and it makes us love them all the more.
For war and action films, a few of these underutilized, gifted actors stand out above all others. Some even outshine the cast headlining their films. You know what I mean. Even if you don’t know their names, you know who I’m talking about.
1. Brian Cox
From playing Super Troopers’ highway patrol Captain O’Hagan to the numerous times he’s played Shakespeare roles, it should be obvious to anyone Brian Cox can be anything. He nearly kills all mutants as Col. William Stryker in X-Men II, leads the Greek siege as Agamemnon in Troy, gets tortured by Steven Seagaland freaking created Jason Bourne.
Also, how much cooler would Braveheart have been if this guy had more screen time?
His next war flick is the story of Winston Churchill in the hours leading up to D-Day. Awesome.
2. Keith David
You know Keith David. If any character actor can be considered as having a lot of time in fictional service, it’s Keith David. He was an integral character in the legendary war film Platoon, way back in 1986, and has since been a go-to for military roles.
While Enlisted wasn’t the greatest military TV show (it would be very difficult to top the undisputed champion anyway), no one lent it more credibility than Keith David’s role as Command Sergeant Major Cody. David’s characters are always out to make sure we get the job done. Finally, let’s face it, the guy knows how to wear the uniform.
If you don’t love Keith David now, you will. His next military film might become the military film of military films, Range 15(starring WATM’s buds from Article 15 and Ranger Up!). Check out the teaser:
3. David Morse
David Morse, a Nic Cage and John C. McGinley companion, adds heart to his roles with the bad guys and chutzpah to his roles with the good guys. He always looks like a man teetering on the edge.
The Hurt Locker wasn’t his fault. If anything, it would have been a whole lot worse without him (FYI, he was Col. “Wild Man” Reed). He was moto in The Rock (even if the white camis were more than a little suspect), watching him pull his teeth out in World War Z was cringeworthy, and besides, he was the Father of our Country. Show some respect!
4. John C. McGinley
Probably best known as Dr. Cox on Scrubs and as one of the Bobs in the film Office Space, John C. McGinley may have eclipsed being “That Guy,” but as far as military films go, he’s definitely one of the “Guys.” He was in Platoon with Keith David, The Rock with David Morse and was also killed by Steven Seagal (“On Deadly Ground”), just like #6 Brian Cox.
But unlike those guys, he was in Fat Man and Little Boy with Paul Newman, Born on the Fourth of July, and Highlander II, where he is killed by none other than #2 on this list, Michael Ironside.
5. Michael Ironside
If you saw Total Recall as a child, then this man haunted your dreams as he did mine.
If that wasn’t enough, Ironside is also responsible for the the best scene ever filmed. Easily one of the greatest people ever cast for anything, Michael Ironside adds intensity to any situation. You probably know him best as Jester from Top Gun and in real life, Jester would have smoked Maverick.
Ironside is vaguely threatening and intimidating. He doesn’t shout. He doesn’t have to. You’ll know if you f*cked up, because he’ll tell you. And you will respect him for that.
If Michael Ironside was an actual military leader, ISIS would never have even started their sh*t.
6. William Fichtner
The first guy shot by the Joker in The Dark Knight, William Fichtner is probably the most recognizable on this list, even if his name escapes you. He’s number one for a very good reason, Sergeant First Class Sanderson in Black Hawk Down.
Yeah, he was an Air Force Colonel, an astronaut in Armageddon (with Keith David!) but Fichtner trained with Delta Force for the role as SFC Sanderson. He might be more qualified to fight a war than some people in the actual U.S. military. And when the Independence Day aliens return for the sequel, they can look forward to fighting William Fichtner.