10 Winning Facts About The League

Matthias Clamer, FX Networks
Matthias Clamer, FX Networks

On October 29, 2009, FX premiered a semi-improvised show about six Chicago suburb-based friends in a fantasy football league. Husband-and-wife team Jeff and Jackie Schaffer originally pitched the idea to HBO, and they ordered a pilot. But the catch was the Schaffers had to wait at least a year to develop the show. They didn’t want to wait a year, so they took the idea to FX.

Jeff Schaffer worked as a writer and executive producer on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld, so he wanted to create “Curb’s younger, rowdier cousin.” For each episode, he and Jackie created a loose outline and then the actors filled in the dialogue through improvisation. The Schaffers cast actors from the independent film world (Mark Duplass as Pete Eckhart, and Duplass’s real-life wife Katie Aselton as Jenny MacArthur); comedians Steve Rannazzisi (Kevin MacArthur, married to Jenny), Paul Scheer (Dr. Andre Nowzick), and Nick Kroll (Rodney Ruxin); and a French-Canadian musician (Jon Lajoie as Taco MacArthur, Steve’s brother).

Over the years several celebrities made cameos, including Jeff Goldblum, Brie Larson, and Seth Rogen. Sports figures like Deion Sanders and quarterback Jay Cutler played themselves. Every football season, the winner of the Shiva Bowl received a trophy called the Shiva—replete with a photo of a girl named Shivakamini Somakandarkram (Janina Gavankar), a woman Kevin lost his virginity to in high school—and a worst-player-in-the-league trophy named the Sacko. After seven seasons, the Schaffers decided to end the show; the final episode aired December 9, 2015.

“We wanted to finish the show with people going: Wait, why are you ending? And I think seven seasons felt right,” he told ESPN. “Like we’ve been on longer than World War I. We’ve been on longer than World War II. We’ve been on longer than the Civil War. Hell, we’ve been on longer than Ken Burns’ The Civil War. And that thing was endless.” Here are 10 winning facts about The League.

1. THE IDEA FOR THE SHOW WAS BORN IN THE FRENCH ALPS.

The Schaffers spent Christmas Eve skiing in the French Alps, and Jeff was in the middle of managing his fantasy football leagues. “This is 2005, pre-Skype, pre-smartphone,” Jeff told ESPN. “So I keep telling Jackie that this French food is making my stomach go a little haywire and I need to go to the bathroom. But I don’t go to the bathroom. Instead, I walk out the hall and into a snowdrift to call, at great expense to myself, back to the United States to see how I’m doing in my league. I just had to know.” Jackie walked in on him and surprisingly wasn’t too mad. “Here was this man, my darling husband, standing in the snow and screaming on the phone,” she said. “It was ridiculous ... but also entertaining to watch.” They agreed a show about obsessive men in a fantasy football league would make a good show.

2. IF IT WEREN'T FOR NICK KROLL, PAUL SCHEER MIGHT NOT HAVE AUDITIONED.

Because he didn’t know enough about fantasy football, Paul Scheer didn’t even want to audition for the show. “And so to opt out of not embarrassing myself, I said, ‘I won't do it. I’m not auditioning,’” he told ESPN. “It’s not like they offered me the show, but I thought it was not the show for me.” Eventually, Nick Kroll called him and told him to audition, saying the show wasn’t just about fantasy football. “He told me about what the show was like, and I called up the casting director, Jeanne [McCarthy], to see if it was too late ... It’s crazy to think that if I'd been left to my own devices, and I didn’t know Nick Kroll, I would never have auditioned for it.”

3. THE WOMAN ON THE SHIVA TROPHY WAS A REAL PERSON.

Kroll told The Daily Beast the origin story of the woman on the Shiva trophy. He said she was an actress “who got called in a random casting, and they took her picture and we just started using it throughout.” One night the cast was doing stand-up in L.A., and a woman walked in and said she was Shiva. “She’s a doctoral student at UCLA and she came and hung out, and we bought her drinks,” Kroll said. “And the craziest part was she brought a friend of hers who’s a big fan of the show, and he didn’t realize that his avatar for his fantasy football team was the Shiva, and did not realize that she was her.”

4. MR. MCGIBBLETS SCARED ELLIE IN REAL LIFE.

On the show, Kevin and Jenny’s daughter Ellie (Alina Foley, daughter of The Kids in the Hall's Dave Foley) is attached to an Elmo-like stuffed animal named Mr. McGibblets. During the fourth episode of the first season, Steve has Taco dress up in a Mr. McGibblets costume to try and frighten Ellie into not liking the toy anymore. However, Ellie loves the life-size toy, but Foley didn’t have the same reaction. “Honestly, it was very scary for me,” Foley told ESPN. “I was very confused as to what was happening. And Jon had to take off the mask a few times just to prove to me that he wasn’t actually a weirdo purple monster thing. Because I had a major fear of Barney at that time, so Mr. McGibblets was definitely, like, bringing out my phobia.”

5. THE PRODUCERS MADE THE FOOTBALL AS ACCURATE AS POSSIBLE.

Because the show centers around real-life football players and teams, the showrunners had to anticipate possible changes. “Every time we shot people’s computers, we see the roster and all that stuff,” Jeff Schaffer said during a Paley Center for Media talk. "We also shot a green screen so we can go into change it if we really need to, if someone’s injured or out. We’re trying hard to make it accurate.”

6. JASON MANTZOUKAS HAD AN ALLERGIC REACTION EGGS.

The second season starts in Vegas, where the group is assembling their draft picks. The episode was filmed on location. Mantzoukas ate a yogurt from Starbucks only to find out it had eggs in it. Apparently allergic, he fell sick and had to be rushed to the hospital. “It was a disaster,” Mantzoukas told ESPN. “I was supposed to shoot that whole day, but I wound up in the hospital for like seven hours. And then when I came back I was all pumped full of crazy drugs and had to shoot all of my scenes in like 90 minutes. Which was crazy. It was all the nightclub stuff in the episode, like when I say, ‘Chicks dig it when dudes kiss and bump stuff.” And I have no recollection of any of it.”

7. DIRTY RANDY WAS DESCRIBED AS “THE GROSSEST AND WORST PERSON EVER.”

In season 2, Mantzoukas joined the cast as Ruxin’s brother-in-law, Rafi, who has a friend named Dirty Randy. In season three, Seth Rogen made his first of six appearances as Randy. “I remember being told that there was a character that was always alluded to as the grossest and worst person ever, so it seemed pretty natural that I play it,” Rogen told ESPN. Instead of one of them playing the straight man and the other playing the crazier person, Rogen said their dynamic “turned it more into a game of idiotic one-upmanship. Instead of arguing, we were always building on each other's jokes, making them bigger and more elaborate and gross.”

8. THE SHOW CREATED ITS OWN VOCABULARY.

One of the glorious things about The League is how the characters created their own slang words. In addition to the Shiva Bowl, the series is full of words and phrases that are unique to the series and its characters. Frittata is one example, which is a term Kroll used to bypass FX’s Standards and Practices when making reference to a less-than-intelligent person. “That was never a word before this show, but now I hear other people saying it," Scheer told Esquire. "It encompasses a lot of different words and a lot of different insults.”

9. “THE BIRTHDAY SONG” EXISTED BEFORE THE SHOW.

In the pilot, the friends are gathered at Ellie’s birthday party. Taco sings a sexually explicit birthday song about how she came to be. Turns out, the song existed when the Schaffers cast Jon Lajoie to play Taco. “We met Jon Lajoie and told him about this character,” Jackie told ESPN. “And we told him that in the pilot Taco will sing an inappropriate song about how the child was conceived. And Jon Lajoie was like, ‘I’ve already written this song!’” He licensed the song to them. Currently, the clip has more than 4.6 million views on YouTube.

10. JEALOUSLY INSPIRED TED'S FATE.

During the fourth season, league member Ted (Adam Brody) wins the Shiva, and he finally makes an appearance in the first episode of the fifth season. He’s a friend from high school who the guys have always been jealous of. The Schaffers revealed to Slate why Jackie gave the character such a harsh disease. “I was literally making a chopped salad for dinner as our baby is asleep, and I said, ‘Let me just throw something at you: Ted has AIDS,’” Jackie said. “Because what is more insane that a bunch of guys trying to figure out if somehow the AIDS has made him more successful and more focused. Is it the drugs? Because that’s what our characters are like. They’re completely obsessive.”

“I do think that a lot of shows wouldn’t touch this, and we’re very happy to,” Jeff Schaffer said. “We’re not looking to shock, we’re just looking for what’s funny, but this is a real thing that you don’t see a lot of stories about.”

Orson Welles's Former Hollywood Hills Estate Is Taking Vacation Reservations

Fred Mott, Getty Images
Fred Mott, Getty Images

Orson Welles's former Hollywood Hills estate is a perfect place to get away from society, grow a bushy beard, and brood over a bottle of whiskey.

Interested? The late Hollywood icon's 3000-square-foot home is available to rent for about $755 a night through HomeAway. The house, which sits on its own private 15,000-square-foot knoll, was home to Welles at the very beginning of his career and is where he wrote the screenplay for 1941's Citizen Kane. Bring along your typewriter and try to channel some of his greatness.

Quite a few other celebrities have inhabited the house as well, including Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and David Bowie. Features of the grand four-bedroom mansion—built in 1928—include a lagoon pool, Jacuzzi, deck, and both canyon and city views.

There's never been a better time to rent Welles's abode: his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, is set to premiere at this month's Venice Film Festival before arriving on Netflix. The unfinished flick, which was shot intermittently between 1970 and 1976, has been completed and restored for its much-anticipated release. (Of course the mansion has plenty of TVs for your viewing pleasure.)

The property has a three- to five-night stay minimum, depending on the season. For more pictures, see below or head to HomeAway. And since you're already in vacation-planning mode, another creative celebrity abode to consider is F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's Montgomery, Alabama home, which is available to rent via Airbnb.

Orson Welles' house
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles mansion
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

Orson Welles' former home
Courtesy of HomeAway

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

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