Over a decade and a half after its release, Donnie Darko remains a bleak and beautiful anomaly; a film that defies easy genre classification and manages to enthrall despite a nearly impossible-to-decipher storyline. This complexity, though, has inspired thousands to attempt to crack the many riddles presented in Richard Kelly’s metaphysical masterpiece.
But in addition to the many on-screen enigmas, there are some interesting behind-the-scene facts that are just as mystifying.
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Our favorite film critic/comedian from Down Under, Mark Bishop, just released a video essay exploring 10 things you may not know about Donnie Darko. Rather than rehashing The History of Time Travel or the meaning of terms like “relic” and “living receiver”, Bishop brings us facts about the film’s production that will definitely enhance your appreciation for what it took to bring Donnie Darko to fruition.
If you can’t stream, the 10 things you may not know about Donnie Darko are listed and briefly summarized below the video. After that, you can peep the trailer and synopsis for Donnie Darko, which recently enjoyed an Anniversary Edition re-release on Blu-ray/DVD. Enjoy!
Official Synopsis: They made me do it!
Frank’s (James Duval) rabbit costume was inspired by the novel Watership Down, written by Richard Adams and first released in 1972. The book inspired an animated film, released in 1978, that’s surprisingly harrowing.
Drew Barrymore Saved the Day: When Richard Kelly had been rejected by every major studio in Hollywood, Drew Barrymore’s Flower Pictures stepped up to produce the film.
It was Seth Rogan’s first movie; he has a cameo as Ricky Danforth, the main bully’s henchman.
Donnie Darko was nearly released straight-to-DVD, but the buzz it received at Sundance led to a theatrical release on October 26th, 2001. Unfortunately, the film got almost zero promotion; in the aftermath of 9/11 producers worried about how to market a film that includes a plane crash. As a result, Donnie Darko came and when with little fanfare. It was only after the film’s release on DVD, ironically, that it gained its reputation and massive following.
Vince Vaughn (at age 31) was considered for the role Donnie; other considered before Jake Gyllenhaal got the part include Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzman.
There’s a sequel, but no one recommends watching 2009’s Darko (directed by Chris Fisher), as the film is slow and adds little to the original’s core mythologies. You can check out the trailer and synopsis below.
Smurf Sex: The film’s producers had to get permission for the copyright owners of The Smurfs in order to have the infamous conversation about the reproductive rituals about the cartoon homunculi.
Under hypnosis, Donnie talks about his desire to masturbate to images of Christina Applegate on Married with Children. The script originally mentioned Alyssa Milano from Who’s the Boss as the source of Donnie’s desires. Milano, however, got wind of her inclusion and refused to allow producers to use her name.
The time worms were inspired by the NFL; Richard Kelly got the idea while watching instant replays with John Madden, specifically when the commentator would freeze frames and draw arrows and lines showing the players movements.
Jake Gyllenhaal exerted a measure of creative influence; he insisted that his real-life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal play his fictional sister in the movie and that Frank should have a creepy voice when he speaks to Donnie.
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S. Darko Official Synopsis: Strange events plague a young woman (Daveigh Chase) and her best friend (Briana Evigan) when their car breaks down on a cross-country road trip.
Donnie Darko Official Synopsis: Strange events plague a young woman (Daveigh Chase) and her best friend (Briana Evigan) when their car breaks down on a cross-country road trip.
Donnie Darko Official Synopsis: In a funny, moving and distinctly mind-bending journey through suburban America, one extraordinary but disenchanted teenager is about to take Time’s Arrow for a ride. After surviving a freak accident, Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) begins to explore what it means to be alive, and in short order to be in love, he uncovers secrets of the universe that give him a tempting power to alter time and destiny.