40 Fun Facts About “Cat People” (1982)

Werewolf lore has long been at the heart of horror media.  But canines aren’t the only animals that there are folk tales about people transforming into.  Cat People remains a chilling noir-esque horror film from 1942, and its 1982 remake remains just as iconic, albeit in a completely different way.

So in honor of that latter film’s 40th anniversary, we thought it would be fitting and fun to look at 40 fun facts about Cat People (1982)!

1. As far back as 1978, the remake was in development, but wouldn’t be released until 1982.

2. The original script was a more direct adaptation of the 1942 film Cat People.  However director Paul Schrader changed quite a bit to make it into its own unique story.

3. Bob Clark (Black Christmas) had done a draft of the script when he was originally attached to direct.

4. When actor John Heard was cast (who would later go to star as Mr. McCallister in Home Alone), UK press mistakenly stated that John Hurt (Alien, The Elephant Man) had been cast in the role.

5. Malcolm McDowell admitted that he wasn’t a fan of the 1942 original, and had to be convinced by Paul Schrader on the basis that it would have more erotic horror elements to it.

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He does bring an eerie presence…

6. Speaking of John Heard, he admitted that he almost turned down the movie, believing it to be porn after reading the script.

7. Prior to casting Nastassja Kinski, Bo Derek was in line to play the lead role.

8. Due to her frequently appearing nude in movies, Kinski had garnered the nickname “sex kitten” which made her casting all the more fitting.

9. The zoo featured in the movie is the Audubon Zoo, located in New Orleans.  It is still open to this day.

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Founded in 1914, the zoo proved to be a safe place of refuge during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Because it’s built on top of a hill with a levee underneath, it sustained little damage.

10. While portions of the zoo were used for shooting, the big cat section was built in a studio in California.

11. The seafood restaurant where Oliver and Irena eat at was shot on location in New Orleans.  It is now a French bakery called Croissant D’or Patisserie.

12. Prominently shot in and around the French Quarter of New Orleans.

13. During production, Paul Schrader and Nastassja Kinski had a relationship.  Schrader reportedly fell in love and wanted to propose, but Kinski told him that she just sleeps with all her directors.

14. Initially they had wanted to use leopards for the film but they were impossible to train.  So the production opted to use cougars and dye them black.

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The real cats help add a level of authenticity that they would probably just do with CGI today.

15. Paul and Irena’s house is located in the Esplanade neighborhood of New Orleans.

16. There was reportedly a much more explicit nude scene shot with Kinksi for the movie, but she requested that it not be included in the final cut.

17. The scene of Malcolm McDowell jumping up onto the bed was shot in reverse then played backwards to give it the eerie dreamlike quality.  The same technique was used in Carrie.

18. Nastassja Kinksi’s real life mother played her character’s mother in a scene that wound up being deleted from the final movie.

19. Annette O’Toole was genuinely terrified filming the infamous pool scene (the only major scene that references the original movie).  It was just her in the room since the camera was being operated remotely, and she was alone, in the dark, and nude.

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It’s a very memorable scene for various reasons…

20. The pool scene itself wasn’t changed much from the original, as Paul Schrader believed it was already a perfect scene, so there was no need to mess with it.

21. The only other scene which mirrored the original was Irena sketching the cat in the zoo, which was a reference to the 1942’s opening scene.

22. Production lasted from May to July 1981, with the movie being released in April the following year.

23. An entire day of shooting was lost because Paul Schrader was so high, he wouldn’t come out of his trailer.

24. This was the second role of Malcolm McDowell’s in which his character is incestous, the first being Caligula.

25. Producer Ned Tane wasn’t a fan of the final product.  Allegedly he told Paul Schrader that if he had to “sit through this shit” then Schrader would have to as well.

26. Looking back, Paul Schrader was regretful of titling the movie Cat People, as it led to people comparing it to the original.  He felt it should have had a different title.

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The original is so iconic that it might have played out better for the 1982 version to go by a different title.

27. He would go on to describe the movie as his “first film about nightmares” following films about daydreams.

28. In post production, Schrader realized he didn’t like Frankie Faison’s voice, so he dubbed the lines with a British actor Albert Hall.  Faison would go on to play Nurse Barney in Silence of the Lambs.

29. Opened up at 10th in the weekend box office the weekend of April 2-4, 1982.  It trailed far behind Porky’s, which remained at #1 for the 3rd weekend in a row.

30. The movie only went to gross $21 million on a $12.5 million production budget, which didn’t include marketing costs.

31. Nastassja Kinski was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Actress, but lost to Sandahl Bergman for Conan the Barbarian.

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She gives an incredibly layered performance that’s simultaneously seductive and mysterious, but also vulnerable.

32. One of two remakes of an RKO classic to be released in 1982, the other being John Carpenter’s The Thing.

33. Kinski herself would go on to say that she ultimately disliked the film, even calling it “manipulative”.

34. It was also a hard shoot for Paul Schrader, who avoided working with major studios for several years after this.

35. The film’s production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti had to be credited as “Visual Consultant” because he wasn’t a member of the union.

36. The actress who played the pool attendant, Berry Berenson, retired from acting following this movie.  She opted to spend time with her family and start a photography career.  Tragically, she died on Sept. 11, 2001 as a passenger on Flight 11 which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on that awful day.

37. David Bowie’s theme song for Cat People would later pop up in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds.

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The song has taken on a life of its own, becoming just as, if not more famous than the movie.

38. Bowie was nominated for a Golden Globe for best Original Song but lost to “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman.

39. The film’s composer, Giorgio Moroder was also nominated for his score.  Known as the “father of disco”, he also composed scores for Top Gun and Flashdance.

40. David Bowie had to re-record the song to release it on the 1983 album “Let’s Dance” because MCA owned the rights to the recording for the movie and wouldn’t license it.

Which of these did you already know?  Which ones surprised you?  Let us know in the comments!

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