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Mississippi Burning (1988) Poster

Trivia

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Many of the extras participating in Clayton Townley's speech scene, were actual members of the Ku Klux Klan, and used their clan membership cards as ID (according to Stephen Tobolowsky in Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party (2005)).
The film is inspired by the murder by the Ku Klux Klan of voting rights activists James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman.
The film was very controversial when it was released. Though fictional, it was based on an actual case. Some critics felt that too many facts from the real-life case were distorted, or left out.
Interior shots in the Sheriff's office, courtroom, and stairs from the courtroom were filmed in the old Carroll County courthouse in Vaiden, Mississippi. Built in 1905, the building was in such disrepair, that crew and extras had to dodge falling bricks during filming. Though slated for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the courthouse has been demolished.
One of Stephen Tobolowsky's heroes is his late aunt, Hermine Tobolowsky, known as the "mother of the Texas Equal Rights Amendment".
At one point, Gene Hackman decided that he would no longer make more violent films, after seeing a brief and violent clip of his performance in this film (and taken out of context, he thought) at the 1989 Oscars. That stance prevented him from accepting a future job as director of The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and almost cost him the Sheriff role in Unforgiven (1992), which he reluctantly accepted after being convinced by Clint Eastwood, a role that earned great acclaim, and his second Oscar.
During the filming of the racists versus reporters scenes on a bridge over the Big Black River near Bovina, Mississippi, two extras were nearly killed by a train when they ventured from a holding area onto a tall concrete-arch railroad bridge. They narrowly escaped injury by huddling on a tiny pedestal on the bridge's edge.
Samuel L. Jackson auditioned for a role, but was turned down by Alan Parker, who thought he didn't sound Southern enough. In fact, Jackson grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Don Johnson campaigned heavily for the role that went to Willem Dafoe.
R. Lee Ermey, Brad Dourif, and Stephen Tobolowsky also appear in Murder in the First (1995), another film loosely based on a true story.
Brad Dourif and Frances McDormand would later play a couple in Hidden Agenda (1990).
Frances McDormand's character, Mrs. Pell, is based on Connor Price, the wife of Sheriff Cecil Ray Price.
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A Klansman in a red car with tall fins and white roof throws a victim out of the door in the town square. The car is a 1961 DeSoto, the very last edition of the historic make. Rumors that the Chrysler Corporation (DeSoto's parent company) decided to drop the line, because of its association with the Klan are untrue. DeSoto's sales had been steadily declining since 1955, and Chrysler decided that the 1961 model would be its last.
Although a fictionalized account of the investigation of the murders of three civil rights workers in the 1960s, the film has been criticized by some for distorting history even as it has won widespread acclaim. However, regardless of whatever liberties the movie did, or didn't take with the facts of 1964 Mississippi, one scene has the absolute ring of truth: the radio roar of a distant crowd cheering a home run by a member of the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals. For all its apparent authenticity, however, including the actual voice of the longtime Cardinals announcer Jack Buck, the baseball broadcast is pure fiction.
First credited role of Tobin Bell.
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The cast includes two Oscar winners (Gene Hackman and Frances McDormand) and two Oscar nominees (Willem Dafoe and Brad Dourif).
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Film debut of Kevin Dunn.
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This was Roger Ebert's selection as the best film of 1988.
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The news interview clips were filmed by Alan Parker, with real locals from Mississippi, and their lines were ad-libbed with only minor prompting. Parker said it was at times an uncomfortable experience, since he wasn't always sure if they didn't believe what they were saying.
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In 1969, Jack Lemmon announced that he would be directing a similar version.
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Gene Hackman and Tobin Bell appeared in The Firm (1993).
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Milos Forman and John Schlesinger were considered to direct before Alan Parker was chosen.
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Britain's top film critic, Barry Norman, described the opening of the film as "pure cinema, something no other medium could do so effectively".
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Three actors (Tobin Bell, Kevin Dunn, and Stephen Tobolowsky) made appearances in Seinfeld (1989) at some point in their careers.
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Alan Parker and his crew whipped up batches of what they called "O.M.D.", or "Old Man's Dick". This ugly mix of purple, yellow, and brown was painted on every piece of set, every chair, every table top, every prop. They made up a dye, and dipped costumes into it, everyone's from the F.B.I. Agents, the white supremacists, and the black civil rights campaigners, who are murdered at the start. Stephen Tobolowsky (Clayton Townley) saw the process first hand, then went to the film's premiere, and wondered why the stuff wasn't showing up on-screen. Parker ambushed him afterwards and asked him, "What did you see?". Tobolowsky said he hadn't seen "O.M.D." Parker replied, "I didn't ask you what you didn't see, I asked you what you saw." Tobolowsky suddenly realized his eyes were drawn to the black actor's skin. "Alan's face turned a lovely red, and he said, 'Right'," Tobolowsky said. The only thing "O.M.D." didn't touch was human skin. You watch the film, and the "O.M.D." is invisible, but it gives everything, except human skin, a dull sameness, that makes your eyes look elsewhere, to human skin, the most important visual in a film about racism.

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