The script was largely created by improvisation during 11 weeks of rehearsal before shooting. The script was only 25 pages long.
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To prepare for the role of Johnny, David Thewlis read Voltaire's Candide, the teachings of Buddha and James Gleick's Chaos, and the holy books the Bible and the Qur'an.
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The uncut shot of Johnny and Brian in silhouette, where Johnny expounds on his convoluted apocalyptic conspiracy theory, was shot in 26 takes, but Mike Leigh ended up using one of the earliest takes, as he felt it was best.
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Mike Leigh first had the idea for the story while a student in Manchester in the early 1950s: "We had a very enlightened teacher who endlessly reminded us that the next total eclipse would be in August 1999. In 1992 the millennium was impending, so I brought that idea to the film."
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According to David Thewlis, the only serious improvisation filmed was the scene of Johnny meeting and antagonizing the poster man.
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This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #307.
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The song sung by Johnny and Louise near the film's end, "Take me back to Manchester when it's raining", was one Mike Leigh used to sing with his friends in Habonim ("the Builders"), the international socialist Jewish youth movement he joined as a schoolboy. After the film was released Leigh heard from a retired schoolmaster at Stand Grammar in Prestwich who had written the song for a school review in 1950.
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At the beginning of the movie, Johnny (David Thewlis) says he used to be a werewolf. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) (and its sequels), David Thewlis plays Remus Lupin, a werewolf.
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Katrin Cartlidge and Lesley Sharps would later go on to appear in From Hell (2001), a murder-mystery film about the Jack the Ripper killings starring Johnny Depp. Cartlidge and Sharps played eventual victims of Jack.
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At 01:58:00 the towel in the lavatory is marked NHS which stands for National Health Service.
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