Who is Keyser Soze?
20 years ago this week (August 16, 1995), audiences uncovered the answer to that question -- and they're still reeling from it two decades later.
"The Usual Suspects" is an intricately plotted crime thriller that, despite the big twist at the end, never feels convoluted but rather like a puzzle we're putting together along with its nefarious main characters -- B-level criminals who find themselves under the shadow (and gun) of the crime lord equivalent of the devil incarnate.
The film won Kevin Spacey and writer Christopher McQuarrie ("Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation") Oscars, and put director Bryan Singer on the path to make the "X-Men" films. In honor of the film's 20th anniversary, here are 20 facts you need to know about this modern classic.
1. Writer Chris McQuarrie got the title for his film from an article in Spy Magazine.
2. The film's most iconic image -- the titular characters standing before a line-up -- was the first image that popped into McQuarrie's head when conceiving the film. That image became the film's poster.
3. McQuarrie came up with the spine of the film while employed at a solicitors office.
4. The R-rated "Suspects" drops an impressive 98 eff bombs.
5. Bryan Singer really wanted Gabriel Byrne (above) to play Keaton, so the director shot the entire film in Los Angeles to accommodate the actor's prior commitments in the city, thus building the film's shooting schedule around Byrne's.
6. But Byrne almost passed on the role, because he didn't think the filmmakers could pull off the complicated material.
7. In fact, Byrne signed on only to quickly back out -- now citing personal problems. He was back on board the production once the filmmakers were able to work it out so they could shoot Byrne out in five weeks.
8. Another actor who passed on the film? Al Pacino. He turned down the role of cop Dave Kujan, played by Chazz Palminteri. Having recently played LAPD Detective Vincent Hanna in "Heat," Pacino felt like he would be hitting the same notes, just in a different character, so he passed. He has since gone on record saying he regrets letting "Suspects" get away. Womp womp.
9. As awards buzz gathered for the film, its writer and director found themselves on the outs due to issues that developed during the making of "Suspects." The two were childhood friends that grew up in Jersey, and McQuarrie accepted the Oscar for Best Screenplay that year while still at odds with Singer. This would mark the first of two falling outs the writer and director would have throughout their careers.
10. During interviews for his new film, "Rogue Nation," McQuarrie revealed that after winning the Oscar (at the young age of 27) he spent the rest of his career trying to earn it. Watch McQuarrie's win above.
11. The role of Fenster, famously played by Benicio Del Toro, was originally written as an older character. The intent was to have him played by a veteran character actor -- think a Harry Dean Stanton-type.
12. In fact, Del Toro didn't originally audition for the role. He instead read for the role of McManus.
13. When he got the role of Fenster, Del Toro made the then-baffling choice (at least for filmmakers) to have his character speak in a mumble-y, unintelligible voice. McQuarrie was, at first, not a fan of this, but eventually appreciated the creative choice.
14. Oh, and the other actors' confused reactions to Fenster's unique speech pattern? All improvised, which proved to be quite easy because obvious reasons.
15. What wasn't easy was shooting the line-up scene. It was originally planned to be a "serious" scene, but the actors got a case of the giggles while shooting and were messing around, so Singer opted to go with the funnier version of it. Word 'round the campfire is that the laughter was mostly caused by Del Toro having a bad case of the farts. Yep, that happened.
16. When the criminals are handed envelopes, each one containing their personal bios, the order in which they receive them mirrors the order in which they die in the film.
18. Keyser Soze was originally going to have a less iconic name: "Keyser Sume," named after McQuarrie's former boss. McQuarrie changed it when his boss objected to having his name associated with such a megaton-evil villain.
19. While everyone -- and especially Spacey -- now know who Keyser Soze really is, Singer was able to convince the other actors while shooting that they were Soze. Rumor has it that, when Byrne first saw the film and discovered the villain's true identity, he stormed out of the screening.
20. The Soze name was caused film executives concern, as they worried that "average" audiences would have no idea how to pronounce it. Hence why the "Who is Keyser Soze?" marketing campaign was launched, to help Rosetta Stone moviegoers on how to say the Big Bad's name.