10 of geek cinema's more curious quirks of fate

Top 10 Ryan Lambie 11 Jul 2014 - 07:25

We take a light-hearted look at a few of the more strange coincidences and quirks of fate in recent cinema history...

Stories are often built on coincidences and happenstance. Chance encounters at railway stations. Bruce Willis bumping into Ving Rhames while he's out and about in his Honda in Pulp Fiction. But what about those weird patterns we see in our everyday reality, or, more to the point, in cinema history?

When Batman Begins came out, it was widely noted that Christian Bale had already played an unfathomably rich man with a secret double life before, in Mary Harron's adaptation of American Psycho. Bale's character, Patrick Bateman, even has a surname that's basically Batman with an 'e' added to it.

Those are the kinds of strange quirks of fate we're looking at here. If you have any of your own, do share them in the comments section.

10. Instruments of doom

In Tim Burton’s eccentric 1989 Batman movie, Jack Nicholson casts a long, cackling shadow as the Caped Crusader's flamboyant nemesis, The Joker. In Burton’s version of The Joker’s origin story, hoodlum Jack Napier's cheeks are pierced by a bullet shortly before he falls into a vat of chemicals, leaving his face permanently disfigured. We see Napier attempt to have this disfigurement reversed by a back street surgeon in a later scene, only for the procedure to make him look even worse. It's when Napier first sees his reflection that he becomes the cackling Joker.

If you look closely, the surgical implements in this sequence might start to look a little familiar. This is because they were props taken from the 1986 remake of Little Shop Of Horrors, where Steve Martin’s sadistic dentist uses them on an unsuspecting patient played by Bill Murray.

The original Roger Corman version of The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960) had a similar scene, and weirdly, it was a very young Jack Nicholson strapped in the dentist’s chair. The use of those props might have been an oblique in-joke on the part of Batman's production designers. After all, Jack Nicholson's performance in this scene - laughing, wise-cracking, worryingly masochistic - is very Joker-like:

Or, more likely, the props were lying around at the studio and recycled to save a bit of time and money. It's a fun coincidence, though.

9. Numerology

After the comedy heist sequel Ocean's Twelve (2004), Steven Soderbergh directed 12 more live action movies that got a US cinema release before retiring. Weirdly, Soderbergh also edited 12 films during his career as well, starting with Sex, Lies, And Videotape in 1989 and ending in 2013 with his last feature, Behind The Candelabra. A strange quirk of fate, a deliberate move by Soderbergh, or a glitch in the Matrix? We'll put on our tin foil hats now.

8. Capaldi who?

You'll probably be well aware of this one, but here goes. Before last year, Peter Capaldi was well known to most UK residents as the terrifying, sharp-tongued political spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in TV’s The Thick Of It, even though he's had a long and varied career in film and television. One of those roles was in World War Z, the zombie disaster movie (very) loosely adapted from Max Brooks’ novel of the same name. In it, Capaldi played a World Health Organisation researcher stationed in a remote part of Wales, who Brad Pitt’s character meets near the end of the film.

In World War Z’s credits, Capaldi’s character is one of several listed as 'W.H.O. Doctor'. A few months later on August 4th, the BBC would announce, to considerable fanfare, that Capaldi was the new incarnation of the Time Lord in Doctor Who. Was this a coincidence, or an in-joke for industry types who’d already gotten wind of Capaldi’s plum role?

7. De Niro’s boxing future

This particular coincidence has been picked up by other geeky sites before, including the brilliant Cracked, as you can see here, but we thought we’d mention it anyway because it’s simply too strange to ignore. In Francis Ford Coppola’s classic crime drama The Godfather: Part II (1974), we see Robert De Niro’s character standing in front of a poster advertising the next fight for boxer Jake La Motta. This was six years before De Niro played La Motta himself in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980) - one of the finest roles of the actor's career.

6. Scarlett Johansson's arachnids

Back in 2002, a small American town was invaded by giant flesh-eating spiders in the cheerfully daft B-movie, Eight-Legged Freaks. In true 50s creature feature style, toxic waste was responsible for transforming the contents of Tom Noonan’s spider farm into a horde of outsized menaces.

Among the human cast was a young Scarlett Johansson, who plays sheriff’s daughter Ashley Parker. It was a role that came after her turn in Ghost World (2001) but before the performances that would get her wider attention: Lost In Translation and Girl With A Pearl Earring (both 2003). Less than a decade after being attacked by a giant spider, a far more famous Johansson would star as Black Widow in The Avengers. Disappointingly, there aren't any black widows in Eight Legged Freaks. Still, the spider connection remains.

5. Things

In John Carpenter's seminal 1978 slasher film Halloween, there's at least one scene where a couple of little kids are gathered around a television, apparently oblivious to the babysitter-murdering maniac on the loose in their viscinity. Instead, they're more absorbed in the classic sci-fi horror flick playing on television: Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby's classic The Thing From Another World.

Four years later, John Carpenter would remake this very film (simply called The Thing) for Universal - an imaginative, gory fusion of the source short story (John W Campbell's Who Goes There) and the Hawks-Nyby original. It has since, of course, become a cult classic.

The Thing From Another World's cameo in Halloween is clearly John Carpenter providing a respectful nod to one of his favourite films. There's no way he could have known that Halloween would become such a cult phenomenon. And without the success of Halloween behind him, it's likely that Carpenter's career would have been very different, and that The Thing would have ended up in the hands of a different director.

4. Gimps

In 1991, horror maestro Wes Craven directed one of his less widely-appreciated films: the wonderfully subversive, blackly comic People Under The Stairs. It co-starred Ving Rhames as one of a group of thieves who sneak into a big old house, only to discover that it’s populated by some of the most deviant, gun-crazed maniacs in cinema history. One of the film’s more warped moments sees Rhames chased around a house by a screaming man (Everett McGill) in a gimp outfit - all shiny leather, zips and beady little eye-holes.

Three years later, Ving Rhames would star as Marsellus Wallace in Quentin Tarantino’s classic Pulp Fiction, where he once again came face-to-face with a maniac in a gimp outfit. Was Tarantino, a director of omnivorous movie appetites, subconsciously influenced by the appearance of the gimp suit in The People Under The Stairs?

Although it's probably just an odd coincidence, Rhames must have felt a strange pang of deja-vu when he read the Pulp Fiction screenplay for the first time. “I just can’t get away from these goddamn gimps”, he probably didn’t murmur to himself.

3. A tale of two Eckharts

Released in 2008, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is one of the most acclaimed comic book movies of the past decade. And one of the most memorable aspects of that film was Aaron Eckhart’s performance as hot-shot lawyer Harvey Dent, who suffers a tragic fall from grace when he becomes the vengeful Two-Face.

In a weird coincidence, Eckhart shares a surname with someone closely linked to Two-Face in the comic books. There, Harvey Dent has a plastic surgeon who repairs damaged features. That surgeon’s name was Dr Ekhart. Strangely, there was also a Lieutenant Max Eckhardt (played by William Hootkins) in the 1989 Batman film, perhaps thrown in as a homage to the (very different) character in the comics.

2. Bill Paxton's iconic deaths

To be honest, we're not really sure whether this is a coincidence, or simply bad luck or even negligence. But the fact remains that Bill Paxton - one of Den Of Geek's favourite actors, we have to say - has spent a fair bit of his career being killed by some of the most famous robots and monsters in cinema history.

The trend began with 1984‘s The Terminator, in which he played one of the punks gorily despatched by a nude T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). The director of that film was, of course, James Cameron, who next made Aliens in 1986. Because Paxton and Cameron were friends by that time, the former was duly signed up to play Hudson, the jittery colonial marine who goes bug hunting on the planet LV-426. There, Hudson suffered a horrible fate at the bony hands of a xenomorph.

In 1990, Paxton starred in Stephen Hopkins's action horror sequel Predator 2, which took the franchise from the jungles of Central America to the sweaty environs of Los Angeles. You've probably guessed where this is going by now: Paxton's baggy-trousered cop Jerry Lambert is ultimately slaughtered by the towering Predator.

As if being killed by a Terminator, an Alien and a Predator wasn't enough for one career, Paxton was recently cast in Doug Liman's sci-fi action flick, Edge Of Tomorrow. Here, Paxton plays Master Sergeant Farell, who might (possibly, you never know) be a distant cousin of Hudson from Aliens.

1. Mark Wahlberg’s early brush with The Transformers

When Mark Wahlberg was still a relatively new actor in the 90s, and keen to shake off his old Marky Mark teen popstar image, he landed a plum role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 70s-set porn industry drama, Boogie Nights. Wahlberg turned in a brilliantly eye-catching performance as the 20-something stud Dirk Diggler, and his big-screen career was duly launched. Prominent parts in such films as Three Kings, The Departed and Ted followed, all leading up to his appearance as the improbably-named inventor Cade Yeager in this year’s Transformers: Age Of Extinction.

But a full 17 years before Wahlberg had anything to do with the Transformers franchise, he had another, tangential brush with those robots in disguise. Towards the end of Boogie Nights (where we arrive at the year 1983), we see him in a recording studio performing a heart-felt cover of The Touch by singer-songwriter Stan Bush. This song, you may recall, is one of the most prominent on the soundtrack to 1986's Transformers: The Movie.

In case you’ve somehow forgotten it, here’s the performance in question. Can you imagine how incredible it would have been if Wahlberg broke into this in Age Of Extinction?

Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.

Disqus - noscript

"Hey Eckhardt.......Think about the Future!"

Not wanting to be 'that guy', but Peter Tucker?

Number 7 is wrong - that's Brando's Vito standing with the Jake La Motta poster in Part 1, not De Niro's Vito in Part 2. Still kind of cool though.

Doesn't Lance Hendrickson share the accolade of being killed by a Terminator, and Alien and a Predator? He was a cop in T1, Bishop in Aliens, and Weyland in AvP (can't remember how he dies in that one, but think it was at the hands of a predator)

"performing a heart-felt cover of The Touch by singer-songwriter Stan Bush." This has got to be sarcasm, right?

I thought that at first, but then remembered that Bishop is not killed by the Queen. He survives her attack and is ultimately deactivated by Ripley in the prison junk yard in Alien³

Correct. As much as I didn't like AVP, it still counts. So he and Paxton, killed by terminator, alien, and predator. Nice.

Very true, although I think it's fair to say the queen was a contributory factor

Everyone keeps missing, there was a W.H.O. and Doctor Who reference made in an episode of Eureka.

Also: In Cronenberg's original Dead Zone (which is about foreseeing the future) Martin Sheen played a presidential candidate years before the West Wing, and Christopher Walken reads The Legend of Sleepy Hollow years before appearing in Tim Burton's film of the same

Correct. The right connection is that Robert DeNiro played this same part in The Godfather Part II.

Another tidbit about Ving Rhames. He not only starred in the remakes of "Dawn of the Dead" and "Day of the Dead"....but he actually auditioned for the lead in the "Night of the Living Dead" remake.

Lance henriksen was also killed by alien, terminator and predator

Perhaps the sentence about Dirk Diggler shouldn't have been followed by "Prominent parts...."

Not sure if this counts, but Capaldi played the governments Company Man who facilitated the selling of children to an alien drug trafficker in the awesome "Torchwood: Children of Earth", a miniseries notable for it's lack of The Doctor. Now Capaldi IS the man from Gallifrey. I wonder, if Captain Jack has a cameo, whether he will mention this, since he would definitely remember the man.

In Top Gun, Tom Cruise says "that's right... I am dangerous" and then went on to be very dangerous in Jack Reacher, Edge Of Tomorrow and Interview With The Vampire.

More Top Gun, Tom Cruise played Pete "Maverick" Mitchell. Latino feel good band The Mavericks had a hit with Dance The Night Away. Tom Cruise would later go on to enjoy dancing nights away on several occasions.

Yet more Top Gun. Val Kilmer played Maverick's love interest, Ice Man. Kilmer then went on to play hard-living rocker Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's biopic The Doors. Neither Stone and Kilmer were involved in the creation of the X Men franchise nor the cinematic realisation of Bobby Drake's "Iceman"... but have both been known to enjoy ice in their drinks from time to time.

You are all very, very welcome.

Reservoir Dogs:

Mr Pink: Mr Blue is dead?

Joe: Dead as Dillinger.

Joe actor Lawrence Tierney played the title role in the 1945 movie "Dillinger".

Number 9 seems to be stretching the concept considerably...

In the song Deacon Blues by Steely Dan, there's the line "They call Alabama the Crimson Tide, now call me Deacon Blues." It also contains the line "The essence of true romance". We know Tarantino wrote True Romance, and Patricia Arquette played a character called Alabama in that movie. We also know he script doctored Crimson Tide.. And he loves his 70's songs. Just sayin'.

I went to see Top Gun. I have an Aunt called Val and Uncle called Tom. Spooky.

And a pumpkinhead ...

In a strange curious quirk of fate and coincidence JJ Abrams denies ridiculous rumours of Han Solo's Millennium Falcon appearing in the next Star Wars movie in a note photographed on the chess board from said ship. The following week the door of the Falcon seriously injures Harrison Ford. Abrams can't deny the appearance now can he.

Coincidence or... ? Yes. Coincidence. I once drank Top Deck cider whilst watching Top Gun. That too was merely something that happened.

Too subtle for you? I take it you didn't take much attention during your "I was agreeing with your entire point" classes.

I got the video of "Blade Runner" after watching the movie of, you guessed it "Blade Runner". How could they have known when they made the movie that the video of the same name would later get released?!!,

Marc Webb had that name BEFORE being chosen to direct the amazing Spiderman films!

And van damme

henriksen is an android when split apart by the mother queen. does not count.

Steve Buscemi has died in three Coen Brothers films, and each time his remains get smaller.

To be honest, I thought you'd agreed and was just continue my ramblings in a good-natured manner.

I'm 'that guy'.

Sponsored Links