Broadcast News: Ten Things To Know About The Movie

Broadcast News starring Holly Hunter, William Hurt, and Albert Brooks,Here are 10 trivia facts about Broadcast News from 1987, which originally appeared as our Mystery Movie Quiz on our Facebook page. There are hundreds of pieces of behind-the-scenes information about this movie. Please feel free to comment and add more trivia we might have missed.

1. This movie was nominated for four major Academy Awards.

Not surprisingly for for a film where James L. Brooks is at the helm, Broadcast News was nominated for a total of seven Oscars: William Hurt as Best Actor; Holly Hunter, Best Actress; Albert Brooks, Best Supporting Actor; and for Best Picture. It also received noms for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and for Brooks’ screenplay.

2. The female lead was chosen right before filming started.

When James L. Brooks wrote the part of TV news producer Jane Craig, he tailored it specifically for Debra Winger. But after discovering she was pregnant, he moved on and considered other choices–among them Judy Davis, Christine Lahti, Elizabeth McGovern, Elizabeth Perkins and Sigourney Weaver–before ultimately deciding on Holly Hunter, casting her only two days before shooting began.

3. The director was also the writer of this film.

Not only did the multi-talented Brooks script and helm Broadcast News, he also wrote and directed (and produced) Terms of Endearment, another movie with Jack Nicholson for which Jack won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, four years earlier. The connection doesn’t end there, as 1997 would see the filmmaker create another Oscar-winning (Best Actor) role for Nicholson in the seriocomedy As Good as It Gets. Last year’s Brooks/Nicholson collaboration, How Do You Know, did not fare as well with critics as their previous hits. One reason might be the studio’s marketing of the film as a romantic comedy, which it’s not. In typical Brooks fashion, it’s so much deeper than that, but people expecting to see a “chick flick,” as it was advertised, were disappointed.

4. One of the stars was not paid for their performance in the film.

Jack Nicholson, who appeared sans fee as network anchor Bill Rorich, also did not want to receive co-star billing for the role (his name does appear in the closing credits). The reason, Jack said at the time, was that he didn’t want his name to cause any distraction among audiences from the performances of leading players William Hurt and Holly Hunter. More trivia, having nothing to do with Nicholson: Hunter and Hurt both share March 20th as their birthdays.

5. Crying plays a small part in the plot.

As the tightly-wound Jane Craig, Hunter shows moviegoers that crying can be very funny. In one scene in her hotel room, she sits down and cries incessantly for a few minutes and as quickly as she started, she stops. We soon find out it’s her ritual cathartic release throughout the film.

6. One of the actors has a sibling who has starred in many movies.

Well-respected by their professional community are sister/brother actors Joan Cusack and John Cusack, who have appeared together in 10 movies as of 2011. Joan has an important supporting role as newsroom assistant Blair in Broadcast News, and sibling  John has a very small role as well, listed in the credits as “Angry Messenger” — but he’s more heard than seen. In the scene after the newsroom staff is trimmed, viewers hear a young man’s voice yelling angrily, “sons-a-bitches!” and throwing his messenger carrying case down to the floor. Although it’s difficult to make out his face, it’s been reported to be John.

7. A bodily function plays a role in the film.

The role of Aaron (Albert Brooks) is portrayed as a veteran news journalist,who after finally getting his big break – to anchor a broadcast, starts sweating profusely even before he gets on camera. He got the idea when first reading the script, which stated “something bad happens to Aaron on the air,” and at the time “something bad” had not yet been written. A little while later, Brooks (the actor) saw a news anchor on CNN sweating and thinking that was as bad as it could get for a news anchor, called Brooks (the director) in the middle of the night, telling him that he had the answer to “something bad happens to Aaron on the air.”

8. This movie revolves around a specific work environment.

Writer/director James L. Brooks combines a savage look at TV journalism with a hectic love triangle. William Hurt is the not-too-bright but photogenic news anchor who interests driven producer Holly Hunter and angers intellectual news correspondent Albert Brooks. The behind-the-scenes world of making “deadlines” is examined, with a supporting cast that includes Joan Cusack, Robert Prosky, and (in a special appearance) Jack Nicholson as the veteran network anchorman.

9. The star’s first leading film role was in a sci-fi film.

William Hurt had many star turns in his career, the first being when he went from TV to the big screen in Paddy Chayefsky and Ken Russell’s Altered States (1980) as a Harvard scientist using drugs and deprivation tanks to study human consciousness, unleashing incredible powers that run the gamut of the evolutionary chain.

10. The film appears on the AFI “100 years, 100 Laughs” list.

Broadcast News is a crowdpleaser which fills the spot on the American Film Institute’s list at number 64, sandwiched between Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and the Marx Brothers’ Horse Feathers (1932).

And now, sit back and relax and enjoy some scenes from Broadcast News in this theatrical trailer from 1987:

  • Ellen Urie

    This looks like a very interesting movie. I have never seen it before. William Hurt is one of my favorite actors. Also like Holly Hunter. Of course, with Jack N. who is just great. I think “As Good As It gets” was one of his best films.

  • aldanoli

    The Jack Nicholson role was allegedly based loosely on Dan Rather — anyway, Rather closed one of the CBS News broadcasts while the movie was in release with something like, “And that’s it for us tonight — the REAL Broadcast News.” Like a lot of the stuff Rather used to end the news with (remember “Courage”?), what that meant is open to speculation.

  • theoncominghope

    Great review.

    I just saw it for the first time, and wrote at length about it and it’s relation to Network and The Mary Tyler Moore Show:

    http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/08/filling-gaps-broadcast-news.html

  • Nana

    James L. Brooks’ daughter, Amy L. Brooks plays a character in the movie.