Sure, 'Carrie' is a modern horror classic, one whose bloodbath-at-the-prom sequence and final shock from beyond the grave have been referenced and parodied so many times that you may feel like you've seen the movie even if you haven't. But even die-hard fans of 'Carrie,' which was released exactly 35 years ago (on Nov. 3, 1976) may not know all about the film -- the movie's unlikely connections to 'Star Wars' and Redd Foxx, the creepy lengths Sissy Spacek was willing to go for the sake of gruesome realism, the many on-set romances, or the scrapped original ending. Read on because if you don't, they're all gonna laugh at you.
1. 'Carrie' was both Stephen King's first novel and his first to be filmed. At the time of the movie's release, King was still so little-known that the makers of the film's trailer misspelled his first name as "Steven."
2. Directors Brian De Palma and George Lucas staged open auditions together for both 'Carrie' and 'Star Wars.' Both initially wanted Amy Irving for their female lead, and William Katt almost ended up starring in Lucas' movie instead of De Palma's. Eventually, of course, Lucas cast Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia (after De Palma had rejected her as Carrie in favor of Sissy Spacek) and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, while De Palma cast Irving and Katt in supporting roles in 'Carrie.' For her part, Irving had no hard feelings toward Fisher; in fact, they became close friends.
3. Before 'Carrie,' Piper Laurie hadn't made a film in 15 years, since her Oscar-nominated turn in 'The Hustler.' She had all but quit show business to raise a family and was reluctant to return to acting to play what could have been a two-dimensional role as Margaret White, Carrie's religious-fanatic mother. De Palma persuaded her that she could develop an element of black humor in the character beyond what was on the page.
4. Spacek was already 26 when she was cast as a teen at the onset of menstruation. (Her husband, Jack Fisk, was the movie's production designer.) In fact, all of the principal stars were well past high-school age.
5. De Palma certainly had an eye for young talent. 'Carrie' marked the big-screen debuts of Irving, P.J. Soles and Betty Buckley. It was also the first major film role for both Katt and John Travolta (already a rising star on TV's 'Welcome Back, Kotter').
6. Irving and Katt had dated a year before they appeared together in the film. Their screen test included a makeout scene in the back of a car that was later cut from the movie.
7. Hitchock fan De Palma included multiple references to 'Psycho' in the film, from naming the high school after Norman Bates to commissioning composer Pino Donaggio to use shrieking, stabbing violins like those Bernard Herrmann featured to great effect in the 1960 shocker. In fact, De Palma had wanted to hire Herrmann to score 'Carrie,' but he died shortly before production began. De Palma speculated that Herrmann would have been none too pleased about the theft.
8. The incendiary prom sequence was filmed on a soundstage that had been the site of another famous movie fire, the burning of Atlanta in 'Gone With the Wind.'
9. The filming of the prom sequence took three days. To keep the blood stains on her prom dress and all over her body consistent, Spacek slept in the bloody gown. (OK, it wasn't really pig blood, just corn syrup and food coloring.)
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10. In the prom sequence, Soles got hit so hard with the water jet from the fire hose that she burst an eardrum. It was six months before she regained her full hearing.
11. At the end of the movie, the Whites' house was supposed to be destroyed by a hail of boulders, but the conveyor belt moving the rocks jammed, so De Palma decided to just burn the house down.
12. Irving's dream sequence at the end was shot in reverse (with the actress walking backwards and cars driving in reverse gear), then played forward. (Years later, David Lynch used the same disorienting technique to create the dream sequences in 'Twin Peaks.') De Palma has said the hand-thrusting-from-the-grave shot at the end was inspired by the climax of 'Deliverance.' De Palma wanted to use a stunt woman, but Spacek insisted on doing the shot herself. She was in a pit under a board covered with rocks and received a signal to reach out and grab Irving's arm.
13. Nancy Allen, who played Carrie's chief tormentor, Chris, started dating De Palma during the shoot. They eventually married and made three more films together. But it was Irving who landed the lead in De Palma's next film, 'The Fury,' another chiller about a teenage girl with deadly telekinetic powers.
14. De Palma is also responsible for fixing up Steven Spielberg with future wife Irving. Soles has said De Palma invited the 'Jaws' director to the set because of all the cute girls, and that he asked several of them out, including her, but that Irving was the only one who said yes.
15. The way Irving recalled it, however, De Palma fixed them up by sending her to audition for Spielberg's 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' for a part she was clearly too young for. Either way, they were soon living together, though they didn't get married until 1985. They had one child together and divorced in 1989.
16. Three days before 'Carrie' opened, the movie had a sneak preview in a handful of theaters on Halloween. Stephen King attended one such preview, the second half of an unlikely double feature with the Redd Foxx comedy 'Norman, Is That You?' King recalled the event in a hilarious story he told Whoopi Goldberg on her talk show in 1992 (see video below; thanks to 'Carrie'... A Fan's Site).
17. Soles and Travolta became friends; he got her cast in a small role in his TV movie 'The Boy in the Plastic Bubble' later that year.
18. The film made a strong splash. It earned $33.8 million at the box office (a lot of money in 1976), and it earned Oscar nods for Spacek and Laurie, making them two of a handful of performers who've ever been nominated for their roles in a horror film.
19. Buckley played Margaret White in Broadway's 'Carrie,' a 1988 musical with songs by 'Footloose' composer Dean Pitchford and a book by Lawrence Cohen, who'd written the screenplay to the 1976 film. The musical closed after five performances and became one of the most legendary flops in Broadway history. It's scheduled to be revived, however, in a 2012 Off-Broadway production.
20. In 1995, 19 years after they played mother and daughter in 'Carrie,' Laurie and Spacek played sisters in the indie dramedy 'The Grass Harp.'
21. In 'Halloween: H20' (1998), Janet Leigh's character is named Norma Watson. That was the name of the 'Carrie' character played by Soles, who also played an ill-fated teen in the original 1978 'Halloween.'
22. Soles and Katt reunited as the parents in another tale of rampaging teen girls, the 1999 black comedy 'Jawbreaker.' The casting was one of writer/director Darren Stein's homages to 'Carrie.'
23. A sequel set 22 years later, called 'The Rage: Carrie 2,' came out in 1999. No one involved in the original had anything to do with it except Irving, who reprised her role as the haunted Sue. There was also 2002 TV remake of 'Carrie,' starring Angela Bettis and Patricia Clarkson.
24. Irving and Spacek reunited in 2002 for the family film 'Tuck Everlasting.'
25.A 2013 big-screen remake of 'Carrie' is in the works, penned by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Broadway's 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark') and perhaps starring 'True Grit' killer teen Hailee Steinfeld. King is reportedly not thrilled. "The real question is why, when the original was so good?" King said. "I mean, [it's] not 'Casablanca' or anything, but a really good horror-suspense film, much better than the book."
[Photos: United Artists]