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19 Things You Didn't Know About The Movie "The Birdcage"

"'You look tired' means 'you look old.' And 'you look rested' means 'you've had collagen.'"

1. Director Mike Nichols required that Nathan Lane and Robin Williams film at least one take of each scene sticking to the script before he would allow them to improvise. / Via Nichols Film Company

2. Hank Azaria realized shortly into filming that he had actually based the voice of Agador Spartacus on his grandmother's. / Via Nichols Film Company

3. The screenplay was based on the 1978 French film La Cage aux Folles. / Via Nichols Film Company

4. The two-minute-long opening sequence seems like one continuous shot when, in fact, it comprises three separate shots combined later through editing:

Nichols Film Company / Via

Shot one began in a helicopter and ended over the street in Miami's South Beach area.

Nichols Film Company

Shot two began on a crane, with the Steadicam operator being gradually lowered to the ground before walking across the street. The last shot, in the interior, was filmed on a studio soundstage.

5. Originally, Steve Martin was cast as Armand and Robin Williams was slated for the role of Albert. Scheduling conflicts forced Martin to drop out.

Jason Reed / Reuters
Nichols Film Company

6. Robin Williams turned down the part of Albert; having recently starred in the film Mrs. Doubtfire, he decided he would rather play the more subdued role.

7. In the movie, Calista Flockhart's character is "not even 18." Flockhart was actually 31 at the time of the filming. / Via Nichols Film Company

Dan Futterman, who played Val, was 28.

8. The original working title of the film was Birds of a Feather, and the preliminary versions of the script still show this title.

Nichols Film Company

9. According to IMDB, Robin Williams' fall during the kitchen scene was not planned. Williams really slipped — you can see Hank Azaria hold back a bit of laughter.

The other falls? Totally planned.

10. Hank Azaria wore a tiny thong in the original movie, but it was digitally covered for the TV version.

11. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane appeared on the cover of Out magazine in March 1996 to promote the film. / Via OUT

12. With $18.3 million, the film had the highest-grossing weekend opening with an openly gay lead character until Brüno in 2009.

Nichols Film Company

13. Mike Nichols had the cast study footage of drag queen performances prior to filming.

Nichols Film Company

The drag queens in the film, who were all professional dancers, had to learn to perform in heels.

14. Armand describes "Mother" to Sen. Keeley as the "girl from Grover's Corners." Grover's Corners is the fictional small town in Thornton Wilder's famous play Our Town.

Nichols Film Company

15. During the rehearsal scene, the pianist is wearing a T-shirt with Maria Callas on it. This picture of the famous operatic soprano was taken after a performance of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly."

16. Nathan Lane based his drag look for Mrs. Goldman off former First Lady Barbara Bush. / Via Nichols Film Company

Pearls on pearls, people.

17. The song that Albert rehearses during the gum-chewing incident is entitled "Little Dream" and was written specifically for the film.

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18. Robin Williams’ nickname for Gene Hackman in drag: "Betty White on steroids."

Nichols Film Company

19. Finally, during the "toast schmear" scene, director Mike Nichols was laughing so hard he had to be covered with a blanket.

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And really, can you blame him?