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Trivia / Dead Poets Society

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  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Approval of God: Peter Weir gave his approval to the 1994 stage adaptation, and attended the opening night.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Minor example. Most parodies of the ending scene have every character shout "O Captain, my Captain" when they stand up. In the film, Todd and Knox say the phrase while everyone else stands without saying anything.
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  • California Doubling: Delaware for Vermont.
  • Cast the Expert: The vicar seen in the film Simon Mein was the actual vicar of the school they filmed in.
  • Creator Breakdown: Robin Williams was going through a divorce during filming and was unusually stoic between takes.
  • The Danza: Sort of. Although Mr Keating's first name is John, during production he was referred to as 'Robin' to better be influenced by the spontaneity of Robin Williams.
  • Dawson Casting: Largely averted, most of the Dead Poets were between the ages of 18-20 with the exception of Gale Hansen (Charlie Dalton) who was 29.
  • Deleted Role: Future Twin Peaks star Lara Flynn Boyle was cast in a bit part as Chet's sister Ginny, but all of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, save for a few scenes in which she is glimpsed as a non-speaking extra.
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  • Deleted Scene: An oft-shared image of Keating standing on two of his students' desks is not actually featured in the film itself.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: All the cast were taken for short, 50s-style haircuts. According to the "Look Back" special on the DVD, Ethan Hawke found this upsetting.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • The young actors all roomed together to help build up a believable bond.
    • The film was also shot in chronological order to help naturally catch the development of the boys' relationship to Mr Keating. After Neil's suicide, Robert Sean Leonard was kept off set and didn't communicate with the others to create a natural feeling off loss amongst friends.
    • The boys were also told not to use modern slang, even between takes, to better immerse themselves in the time period.
  • Hostility on the Set: Downplayed. Robin Williams used to tease Ethan Hawke on set for being so serious about the film and not relaxing like the other actors, which Hawke didn't appreciate. However, they patched things up after Williams encouraged his agent to sign Hawke and Hawke remains grateful towards Williams for helping his career get started.
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  • Irony as She Is Cast: Ethan Hawke struggled terribly in school, and actually dropped out of college once he got this role.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: This was in fact Robin Williams's favourite role. He'd win the Oscar for Good Will Hunting and probably be best remembered for Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin or Good Morning, Vietnam.
  • One-Take Wonder: The scene where Todd cries in the snow after Neil's suicide was done in one take, because the snow was starting to fade.
  • Playing Against Type: Features Robin Williams in one of his earlier "serious" roles.
  • Production Nickname: Ethan Hawke called the film One Flew Over Robin's Nest.
  • Throw It In!: Todd's crying in the snow was going to be an interior scene. However it started to snow outside, and they quickly changed it. As noted above, it was done in one take.
  • Wag the Director: In the very last scene, Cameron was supposed to stand on his desk as well, but Dylan Kussman vetoed the idea because he did not think it was in character. He was surprised when Peter Weir agreed.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • An earlier draft of the script included Ginny Danbury, Chet's sister and a friend of Chris's. Along with giving Chris more screentime, Ginny also had the role of Hermia in the play and the actress who played her, Lara Flynn Boyle, still appears in those scenes even though the scenes with her as Ginny were cut. Even though those scenes weren't technically necessary for the rest of the movie, it would've been nice for Chris to have a friend outside of her love triangle with Chet and Knox. There's even a hint at the character, when Chris mentions her to Knox at the party as if wanting to set them up.
    • Liam Neeson had originally landed the leading role to be directed by Jeff Kanew, but lost it to Robin Williams when director Peter Weir came on board. Mel Gibson was briefly attached, but his asking price was too high. Dustin Hoffman was offered the role of John Keating and the film would have been his directorial debut before he dropped out. Mickey Rourke passed when Peter Weir refused to make script changes. Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray and Christopher Reeve were also considered.
    • Originally, Cameron was supposed to stand on his desk in the final scene like the rest of the Society. However, Dylan Kussman, the actor who portrayed him, felt that this would be out of character and said so to Peter Weir. Weir agreed and so they changed it to Cameron remaining seated.
    • One early idea was to have Keating be dying of leukemia during the course of the film. This was changed so the film could focus on the boys instead.
    • River Phoenix wanted to play Neil Perry.
    • Sam Rockwell auditioned for Charlie Dalton.
    • Another early idea was for the students' passion to be dancing rather than poetry. In this case the film's title would be 'Sultans of Swing'.
    • At the premiere, Kurtwood Smith saw a family with the father domineering his son very much like his own character in the film. After the film, Smith noticed the family leaving and saw that the father was crying. If the father's tears were any indication, Neil's father presumably might have experienced a deeper grief over how he could have tried to handle the situation better.
  • Write What You Know: Writer Charlie Schulman based the film on his experiences at the Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, particularly with his inspirational teacher Samuel Pickering. After the film came out, some of his old school friends phoned him up to ask if any of the characters had been based on them.

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