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The Sound Of Music: The Surprising True Story Behind The Movie

Picture of the original Sound Of Music movie with Julie Andrews.Jennifer and I were watching The Sound Of Music movie a while back, and like often happens after a movie is over, we wondered if it was based on a true story or not.

Jennifer got her phone out and it was only a few seconds before she said “Yup, it’s a true story!”

A little more reading into it though showed that the true story was quite a bit different than the movie…


THE *REAL* PROBLEM WITH MARIA

The true story of The Sound Of Music starts when Maria was just a child, where even at a young age she didn’t have a place where she belonged.

Her mother had died when she was 2 years old, and her father didn’t want her around so he always made sure she lived with other people. Eventually she ended up in the care of her Uncle Franz, but maybe ‘care’ isn’t the right word.

Uncle Franz would go out of his way to punish Maria for anything and everything, or even nothing. Sometimes if she even dared to pick a flower on the side of the road on the way home from school Uncle Franz would use it as a reason to punish her.

Picture of the real Maria Von Trapp as a little girl.This kind of treatment would make most kids become shy, but for Maria it just made her more free spirited. She figured that if she was going to get punished anyway then she might as well try to have fun.

Maria developed an outgoing (and sometimes loud) personality, and loved being in groups of people. But despite all this, she still felt like she didn’t belong. There was, however, a building where she could find a bit of solace.


WHAT WAS IN THE CHURCH

It’s hard to imagine it now, but in the time and place that Maria grew up music could be very hard to find.

Sure you could sing to yourself, but if you wanted to hear great music made by other people you had to have money to go see live concerts. For a poor girl like Maria that left her with only one other option: church.

Picture of the real Maria Von Trapp as a young woman.She wasn’t very religious at the time, but she was still drawn to her local church because there she could listen to the most amazing music she’d ever heard in her life. And she loved music with a passion. Each Sunday she’d sit in her seat and just soak in the music, and over the years the message of the church soaked in as well.

One Sunday Maria decided to dedicate her life to religion by becoming a nun and joining a convent. By this time she’d developed a big personality, and doing things full blast as usual she didn’t just join any old convent …she entered the strictest convent available to her. This, she figured, would show just how dedicated she was.

But things didn’t work out exactly as she had hoped.


BECOMING A VON TRAPP

Scene from the Sound Of Music where Maria is shocked to see The Captain calling his kids with a whistle.

Like in the movie, the free spirited and outgoing Maria was quite a shock to the strict convent. She ran around whistling loudly, sometimes giggling and skipping, even sliding down the old bannisters in the (once) quiet convent halls.

The other nuns admired her dedication to the church but one thing was for sure, she didn’t belong.

It wasn’t long before Maria found herself …volunteered… to take a break from being a nun and work as a live-in teacher for a local family, the Von Trapps.

In the movie Maria first meets the Von Trapp family when the stern and harsh father Mr. Von Trapp, aka ‘The Captain’, calls his kids with a little whistle from around his neck and they all line up like soldiers. Turns out that the real Mr. Von Trapp did actually call his kids with a whistle, but otherwise was a very gentle and easygoing father figure.

Picture of the real Georg Von Trapp aka The Captain in the Sound Of Music.His first wife had died some time before and he was a single father of 7 children. Unlike in the movie, the Von Trapp children already knew about music, but Maria brought them out of their shells by taking them on outings in the country where they would all play and sing.

And most importantly, she brought a joy to the household that handn’t been there since their mother died. Mr. Von Trapp saw how Maria made his kids happy so he decided to pop the question. Maria however, didn’t like him that way. Instead of saying yes or no, she panicked and ran back to get the advice of the head nun in the abbey.

Perhaps not real excited about the idea of the free spirited Maria back at the quiet abbey, the head nun told her that it was “God’s will” that she marry Mr. Von Trapp.

Picture of the real Maria Von Trapp on her wedding day.And so the strictly religious Maria agreed to get married. On her wedding day she was fuming, she felt angry at God and her new husband because really, all she wanted to do was be a nun and sing in church.


ESCAPE FROM THE NAZIS, AND POVERTY

The kids weren’t exactly thrilled about the marriage either. They loved Maria but they looked to her as a sister, not a mother. While Mr. Von Trapp was 47 years old, Maria was 21 …only a few years older than the oldest of the Von Trapp kids.

Yeah, talk about awkward situations for everyone. To make things worse not long after the marriage, the bank the wealthy Von Trapps used completely failed. All their money was now gone. Mr. Von Trapp refused to get a job, however, because he felt like it was below his status to work for a living.

Picture of the real Von Trapp family from The Sound Of Music.Maria knew that she had to do something so she seized control.

She saw an opportunity for the family to earn a living doing something good so she pushed them to keep singing. A lot. Soon 6 hour singing lessons became a regular part of life and the family was performing concerts across Europe.

Audiences loved the Von Trapps, the wholesome, devoutly religious family who sang so beautifully. The problem was, so did Hitler. He had already been pressuring Mr. Von Trapp to come over to the Nazis and be a captain of one of their submarines, but with the rising fame of the entire Von Trapp family the pressure to join the Nazis was drastically increased.

Scene from The Sound Of Music movie where the Von Trapps go over the Alps.

In the movie the Von Trapp family is shown making a daring escape from gun-toting Nazis and climbing through the mountains. Their real life escape was very different though. With suitcases in hand they crossed the train tracks near their house, then simply walked to the train station.

Still, they were absolutely crushed. They had to leave behind their home and everyone they knew, or else end up in concentration camps. Their only hope now was in music and in Maria’s ability to help them make a new life in America.


THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Picture of the real Maria Von Trapp as an adult in America.In many ways life on stage was perfect for Maria’s outgoing and loud personality. She pushed the family to keep touring and doing musical performances, both in America and in countries around the world. And month by month the Von Trapps slowly built a new life for themselves through music, with Maria at the helm.

Once homeless, they now could be at home anywhere their tour bus could go. And with their earnings they were able to build a huge house for themselves in a beautiful part of Vermont, which reminded them of their home country.

People around the world absolutely adored the singing Von Trapp family, especially the mother and spokesperson of the group, Maria. She had finally found a place where she belonged, and the best part was that she could sing to her heart’s content.

Picture of the real Maria Von Trapp cameo in the movie The Sound Of Music.

Eventually a movie was made in America about her incredible life story, The Sound Of Music. As outgoing as ever, Maria showed up while the movie was filming and talked her way into getting a small part in the movie. She and her daughter can be seen walking across the archway as Julie Andrews walks to the movie version of the Von Trapp house.

How far she had come from when she herself walked the road from the convent to the Von Trapp house for the first time, feeling unsure of what the future would bring …and no doubt humming a song :).

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The Ender’s Game Movie: What The First Trailer Reveals

Picture of Ender Wiggin in the Ender's Game movie commanding during a battle.It’s no understatement to say that the story of Ender’s Game has a special place in the hearts of many, myself included.

It’s one of my favorite books of all time and I’ve been hearing rumors of a movie being made about it for many years now, but each time it always seemed to fall through in one way or another.

So when it recently became clear that the movie was definitely being made I was ecstatic …and then scared lol.


WRECKING THE STORY?
Picture of the classic book cover for Ender's Game written by Orson Scott Card.Scared because I was afraid the people responsible for the movie would mess it up in that horribly disappointing way that I’ve seen done to other movies based on books.

I know that movies can’t (and shouldn’t) be exact copies of whatever book they’re based on, and that the book is almost always better. That’s okay. But if the movie wrecked the story of Ender’s Game that would definitely not be okay and I’d be bummed out big time.

Over the last few months they have been releasing a bit of news about the movie but not much. A picture of Ender and Colonel Graff face to face. A picture of Ender and his friend Petra Arkanian in the mess hall.

And then fairly recently a picture of Ender looking into the Battle Room at kids fighting each other. Along with this last picture came the information that in the movie the room would be a sphere and it’s walls like windows, instead of a cube and solid walls like in the book. The kid soldiers of the Battle Room in the movie will be able to look down on the Earth as they’re fighting.

These all seemed ok (such drastic changes to the Battle Room seemed a little worrying, but also like they could be cinematically awesome if done right) Picture of Ender Wiggin looking into the Battle Room in the Ender's Game movie.but I knew that a true sense of what the movie was like wouldn’t be possible until I saw the first trailer.


SEEING THE TRAILER

So when Jennifer told me that the Ender’s Game trailer had finally come out I jumped right over to YouTube, hit ‘play’, and then braced myself. Bad acting, bad set, stupid changes, not following the spirit of the book, these are the things that I worried about seeing in the trailer since they would tip off that the movie would probably suck.

The trailer starts out with rapid clips of people in fighter jets desperately trying to fight off an attack by alien ships. They are vastly outnumbered, with massive groups of alien ships swarming around at great speed and easily blowing the jets to bits. You get a sense of the panic of the fighters as the visuals from the battle burst out at you.

Then a voiceover by Colonel Graff (played by the ever awesome Harrison Ford) saying:

They know our strategies. They’ve learned our weaknesses. And the alien attack nearly destroyed us.Picture of Colonel Graff in the Ender's Game movie looking out at earth in the trailer for the movie. That must never be allowed to happen again.

We see a very intense and stressed Colonel Graff looking out with worry onto a blue Earth below.

And this bit about the Earth sets the tone for the rest of the trailer. Earth is what needs to be defended, the planet Earth and all those that reside on it’s surface is the entire reason that these children are being sent out into space in the first place. They voluntarily endure a fucked up life in the hopes of becoming the right kind of weapon to keep Earth safe from a looming 2nd invasion attempt by aliens.

Earth is front and center in the trailer and I’m guessing it will be prominently displayed throughout the movie too, as a dramatic visual reminder of what’s at stake.

Picture of the kids in Battle School in the Ender's Game movie.This also explains the decision to make the Battle Room walls clear and overlooking the Earth.

As the kids battle it out with each other the Earth will always be there as a backdrop, showing the connection between these brutal games and the reality of what they’re for.

Now that the problem has been laid out, Colonel Graff’s voiceover moves on to the solution. Or what they hope will be the solution anyway.

If we’re going to survive we need a new kind of soldier. One who doesn’t think the way we think. Fear the things we fear. One the enemy would never expect.

Meaning the kids at Battle School –and in particular Ender, on whose shoulders the survival of the entire human race now rests…




MY REACTION

Well, I can say with much relief that I’m really happy with what I saw in this trailer.

Picture of Mazor Rackam with Maori tattoos on his face walking next to Ender Wiggin in the Ender's Game movie.The visuals were done beautifully, not a trace of over the top hokey sci-fi stuff to be seen anywhere, and the various settings thankfully looked very believable.

The acting was good and each of the main characters in the trailer conveyed intensity without being over dramatic or fake. Mazor Rackam looked pretty badass with those Maori face tattoos too, something that wasn’t in the book but I think is a great addition to his character.

And best of all everything seemed to be in keeping with the spirit of the book. It’s only one trailer, but I didn’t get the feeling that the movie is likely to wreck the story. That might seem like a small thing to some people, but as a long time Ender’s Game fan that’s music to my ears ;).

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“He’s ruining the movie!” How Johnny Depp Fought For Jack Sparrow In Pirates Of The Caribbean

Picture of Johnny Depp as pirate Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Carribean.Who out there hasn’t heard of Captain Jack Sparrow?

There’s no doubt that Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean is one of the most recognizable and well loved movie characters in the world.

But there was a time when this very same Jack Sparrow was almost banned from the movie…


REAL PIRATES ARE ROCK STARS

Picture of Blackbeard The Pirate who was captain of Queen Anne's Revenge in the Caribbean.When Johnny Depp was preparing for the role of Captain Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie he read up on everything that he could about pirates to help get an understanding of what his character should be like.

He found that the more he read about pirates the more he saw them as being the rock stars of their day and age.

The hard drinking, eccentric swagger. The constant life on the move and immense fame that would follow them through their travels. The extravagant appearance and behavior that was sometimes bizarre, but always entertaining.

Pirates were free to be themselves and made no apologies for being as over the top and original as they wanted.

Johnny Depp saw this as a big insight into what Jack Sparrow could be like, but he knew he needed a real rock star to get some inspiration from. So he turned to his friend Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who he viewed as ‘the greatest rock and roll star of all times’.

Picture of Keith Richards who was the inspiration for Jack Sparrow.He secretly studied Keith Richards whenever he was around him, trying to absorb as much as he could in the time he had before starting the movie. Many of the mannerisms, personality traits, and even voice of Jack Sparrow grew out of Depp’s study of Keith Richards.

Soon Johnny Depp had a good idea of what Captain Jack Sparrow was like and realized that he had an opportunity to do something big with the character.


SHOCK AT DISNEY

Problem was, the executives at Disney who were in charge of the movie had a very different idea of what Jack Sparrow was supposed to be. They wanted him to be more like what you’d see in your average pirate movie: manly in a ruggedly handsome sort of way, with an ever so slightly dark sense of humor but nothing too unexpected.

Picture of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow pirate costume and holding a gun.But Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow was not like anything folks at Disney had ever seen before, in or out of a pirate movie. He gave them a Jack Sparrow that was both manly and effeminate, off kilter, and not to mention very unexpected.

They were shocked and, well, basically they hated it. In an interview with Vanity Fair Depp described how the horrified Disney execs started firing off questions at him:

What’s wrong with him? …Is he, you know, like some kind of weird simpleton? Is he drunk? By the way, is he gay?

He poked fun at that last question by answering “But didn’t you know that all my characters are gay?” LOL!

But the worst reaction was when the head of Disney saw some footage of Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and got so upset that he yelled “He’s ruining the movie!!”

Things were not looking good at all, and it seemed like Depp would have to give up on an interesting Jack Sparrow and conform to the more bland type of character that Disney wanted.


TAKING A CHANCE

Picture of Jack Sparrow during the part of the story where he is captured at gunpoint.Johnny Depp didn’t want to give up though, he deeply cared about the character of Jack Sparrow and was willing to fight for him.

The funny thing was, Disney had hired Depp in the first place because they wanted Pirates Of The Caribbean to be different and more ‘edgy’ than a normal Disney movie. But now that they had a character that did exactly that, they were getting cold feet about it.

When Depp realized that Disney was on the brink of killing the Jack Sparrow that he knew and loved he decided to take a huge chance. He told them that it was all or nothing, to trust him that this was the right Captain Jack Sparrow for the movie or to kick him off for good because he believed in the character that much.

It was quite a gamble but it paid off. His confidence won Disney over and they finally stopped pressuring him to do a boring character. Well, for the most part anyway.

Black and white drawing of Captain Jack Sparrow costume before Johnny Depp remade it.He still had to battle for how the costume and look of Jack Sparrow was going to come out. As you can see by this early drawing of what Disney wanted Jack Sparrow to look like, it was really …lacking lol.

Johnny Depp knew that a pirate like Jack Sparrow wouldn’t just act like a rock star, he’d look like one too. A bland bandana and cliche gold earring wouldn’t do.

Depp set out to create a look for Jack Sparrow that would be true to the character and hint a bit at the pirate’s past. Dreadlocks, lots of gold teeth (Disney was really not happy about that), braided goatee, tattoos, and things like that were carefully layered to make the look.

He also looked to Keith Richards again for some rock star inspiration. Richards had a habit of collecting little trinkets as souvenirs from his travels on the road and tying them to his hair. Depp decided that Jack Sparrow would have done that too, as a way to remember his adventures.

Picture of the reindeer bone in Jack Sparrow's hair.He’d see something and decide to tie it in his hair as a keepsake, and each item would have a story.

Like the bone hanging from one of his dreads is a reindeer bone. Only Jack Sparrow knows what the story is, but it’s got to be an interesting one considering there’s no reindeer anywhere near the Caribbean!

Johnny Depp was very happy with how the movie was turning out and he felt like everything was falling into place for his character and the movie. The true test of whether he was right about Captain Jack Sparrow, however, was yet to come.


THE FATHER OF CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW

Poster for the movie Pirates of the Caribbean Curse Of The Black Pearl with Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow.As opening day came for Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl a question hung in the air.

Would people like Johnny Depp’s version of Jack Sparrow or would they end up not understanding such an unusual character and have a negative reaction like the Disney executives did?

Many people in the media were expecting the movie to be a total flop anyway because pirate movies weren’t very popular at that time, and they felt that the quirkiness of Johnny Depp’s acting would only make things a thousand times worse.

Picture of Captain Jack Sparrow in full costume and walking on the beach.But Pirates Of The Caribbean turned out to be a huge success and the way Johnny Depp did Captain Jack Sparrow was the main thing that audiences loved about the the movie. They got a kick out of watching the over the top –and somewhat strange– pirate cleverly maneuver his way out of sticky situations.

The sheer rock star personality of Jack Sparrow made the movie stand out as a favorite in people’s minds and it went on to become one of the most popular movies of all time. At that point nobody could deny that Johnny Depp had made the right choice, the Jack Sparrow that he fought so hard for had succeeded beyond all expectations.

As for Keith Richards… well he didn’t find out that he was one of the big inspirations for Jack Sparrow until after the movie came out. Not sure if that’s how I’d want to find something like that out but hey maybe he likes surprises lol.

Picture of Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones acting as Captain Teague, father of Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean.He must have been okay with it though because he ended up accepting a role in Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End.

The character he played? The guitar playing Captain Teague, Jack Sparrow’s father. Pretty fitting don’t you think…

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