Facts You Probably Never Knew About Mask

Cher tried (unsuccessfully) to get then-boyfriend Val Kilmer cast in the film

Whilst filming Mask, Cher was dating Val Kilmer and pushed for him to be cast in the role of Gar. However, Kilmer was deemed too young for the role and did not get the part.

Sam Elliot was cast as Gar instead, and 1985 saw Kilmer star in Real Genius; the following year he made Top Gun (alongside another onetime Cher boyfriend, Tom Cruise).

The film is not a completely ‘true’ story

Mask’s ending shows Rocky buried, but in truth his body was donated to the UCLA Medical Centre. There are fewer than 20 cases of people with Rocky’s condition and research into it was vital.

Rocky’s body was later cremated. Additionally, the headstone does not list the correct dates: Rocky was actually born on December 4th, 1961 and passed away October 4th, 1978.

The real Rocky’s brother also died tragically

Mask omits another tragedy from the life of the real Florence ‘Rusty’ Dennis. As well as losing Rocky, Rusty had another son, Joshua Mason, who is not mentioned in the film.

Tragically, Mason contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion and died due to complications from this. He was just 32 at the time.

The film was shot in the actual neighbourhood where the real Rocky and Rusty lived

Rocky was a big part of the community, and was a familiar face on his street, standing out due to his disfigurement. Based on true events, Mask was shot in the actual neighbourhood where the real Rocky and Rusty used to live.

This made the film even more authentic and close to the original people it was based on. Rocky was a big part of the community, and was a familiar face on his street, standing out due to his disfigurement.

The real Rusty died after a motorcycle accident

After the deaths of her children, the real-life Rusty (as portrayed by Cher on film) would live until 2006, when she passed away aged 70. A member of a biker gang until the end, she died of an infection following a motorcycle crash.

Not long before she died, she had not long since completed a prison sentence over drug possession charges.

An old neighbour thought Eric Stoltz really was Rocky

When filming in the neighborhood in which Rocky and Rusty lived, one of their old neighbours saw Stoltz in make-up. He came over saying how pleased he was to see Rocky as he had heard he’d died.

Cher and Stolz went along with it, not having the heart to tell the elderly neighbor the truth.

Cher and the director fought constantly

Cher and director Peter Bogdanovich fought on set repeatedly as Bogdanovich was used to filming deep focus, long-take shots. However, Cher struggled to complete long scenes without breaking character. The director ultimately decided to compromise to avoid any further altercations.

Bogdanovich later stated that he found Cher too inexperienced, and that he struggled to communicate and work collaboratively with the star.

This completely changed the look of the film

Due to tensions with Cher, Bogdanovich decided to change his usual directorial approach. Rather than his standard long-take style, Bogdanovich would perform close-up shots of Cher, showing the sadness in her eyes and capturing her natural charisma.

In the end, many felt this only added to the look and charm of the film.

At the film’s wrap party, some people had no idea who Eric Stoltz was without makeup

For all his scenes in Mask, Eric Stoltz had worn a heavy latex mask and dentures. When he arrived for a post-production party, Stoltz had to bring ID to prove who he was, because no one recognised him.

Even some of the other cast and crew had to be re-introduced to him without his make-up.

The filmmakers tweaked the truth when it came to Laura Dern’s character

Some of Mask’s most touching scenes see Eric Stoltz’s Rocky helps Laura Dern’s blind girl Diana.

The filmmakers took some artistic license here, as in reality Rocky’s condition actually left him legally blind himself, meaning he could no more assist a blind person than they could assist him.

Dern did such a good job that Hollywood casting agents thought she was really blind

Playing Diana in Mask gave the young Laura Dern a breakthrough role, but it initially proved an issue for her career, as Dern was so convincing in the role that some casting agents thought she really was blind.

A year later in 1986, Dern got another big career boost with Blue Velvet, and in 1993 she really broke big with Jurassic Park.

A Bruce Springsteen soundtrack was cut out of the film

Bruce Springsteen was the real Rocky Dennis’ favourite artist, and originally the plan was to use Springsteen’s music in Mask. Springsteen himself was all for this, but the owners of his music catalog could not agree on a royalty rate with the studio.

Later, after Springsteen advocated for its inclusion, the music was reinstated for the director’s cut release of Mask.

Cher became the national spokesperson for the Children’s Cardiofacial Association after the film

Rocky Dennis had a rare condition known as Craniodiaphyseal Dysplasia. In September 1990, Cher attended an event where she met ten families affected by craniofacial conditions.

During several tours, Cher invited children with the condition to visit, which eventually led to the pop star being made a national spokesperson for the Children’s Cardiofacial Association.

The film was made in tribute to the director’s girlfriend after she was killed by an ex

Bogdanovich’s former partner was the late model and actress Dorothy Stratten, who had starred in his earlier film, They All Laughed. The actress met a tragic end in 1980, murdered by her estranged husband who would commit suicide soon afterwards.

Bogdanovich dedicated Mask to her memory, along with that of the real Rocky Dennis.

The film inspired an episode of The X-Files

1997 X-Files episode The Post-Modern Prometheus was partly inspired by Mask. It tells the story of a mother who is impregnated by an unknown creature, resulting in the birth of a deformed son. In the episode, the severely deformed man is seen watching his favourite film, Mask.

Cher was asked to make a cameo appearance but declined, although she later expressed regret over her decision.

Kevin Costner and Rob Lowe were considered for the role of Rocky Dennis

In the casting process, producers considered the then-young Kevin Costner for the role. However, they then changed their minds and decided to explore other avenues. Rob Lowe was also considered for the part and was actually nearly cast. Lowe, however, later declined due to scheduling conflicts.

Lowe made the cancellation for an unannounced film that was cancelled and never actually filmed.

The movie originally featured songs by Bob Seger

Bruce Springsteen was originally set to provide the score for Mask, but due to a contractual dispute his songs were pulled from the movie.

They were replaced with songs by Bob Seger for the original theatrical release – a move that was very much against director Peter Bogdanovich’s wishes.

The film received rave reviews

Mask was met with positive reviews on release, and it also proved a huge box office success, taking over $48.2 million off the back of a $7.5 million budget.

It was nominated for one Academy Award, Best Hair and Makeup, which was indeed awarded to Michael Westmore and Zoltan Elek. Meanwhile, Cher and Stoltz both received Golden Globe Award nominations.

The real Rocky didn’t let his condition hold him back

The story of the real Roy Lee “Rocky” Dennis proved so inspirational as the young man refused to let his disfigurement and health problems keep him from living a full life.

He learned to read, attended school and did well academically in spite of his sight and hearing problems and the intense headaches he had to endure.

The real Rusty loved the film

Rocky’s mother Florence ‘Rusty’ Tullis was paid $15,000 for the film rights to her story. She described the movie as ‘a fairytale,’ and felt it would help give courage to other kids with disabilities.

She hadn’t expected the film would also focus so heavily on her character and was flattered by Cher’s performance, remarking, “thanks to Cher’s brilliance I came off like a heroine.”

Rusty lived a wild life

Mask’s portrayal of Rusty was pretty spot on. At the age of 14, Rusty started using drugs and hanging out with a biker gang, and she dropped out of school at 15 to become a go-go dancer.

By the time she was 19, Rusty had her first child, and she was married three times throughout her life – the same number of times she went to prison on drug charges.

Cybill Shepherd got Sam Elliott his role

During an episode of WTF with Marc Maron, Sam Elliott relayed the story of how he was cast as Gar in the film.

Elliott had worked with Cybil Shepherd on The Yellow Rose, and when Peter Bogdanovich – who used to date Shepherd – mentioned that he was looking for “Gary Cooper on a motorcycle,” the actress suggested Elliott.

Cher was bitter she wasn’t Oscar-nominated for the film

In an appearance on Charlie Rose, Cher stated that Rusty Tullis is still her favorite role. I

n the same interview, the actress added that – although she loved playing the character of Rusty and was delighted with how the film turned out – she was still somewhat bitter about not receiving an Oscar nomination.

People on the street abused Eric Stoltz when he was in the Rocky makeup

During production, Eric Stoltz spent a lot of time in full prosthetics. While some of his interactions with the public were heartwarming, others were decidedly less so. Reflecting on the abuse he was given by random passersby, Stoltz stated, “People would not be entirely kind.

It was a very curious lesson to walk a mile in that boy’s shoes. Humanity revealed itself to be a bit ugly, at times.”

The poem was written by the real Rocky

In the movie’s final moments, as Rocky’s biker family visits his grave to leave flowers and baseball cards, Rocky’s voice is heard reading the “these things are good” poem he composed earlier in the film.

This poem was genuinely written by the real-life Rocky Dennis.

Cher and Eric Stoltz briefly dated after the film

After Mask’s production came to an end, Cher and Eric Stoltz briefly dated.

While no definitive answer has been provided for why the fling was so short-lived, it could have something to do with it simply being too weird to get romantically entangled after spending months pretending to be mother and son.

The movie left out the fact that Dennis was legally blind

Mask’s depiction of craniodiaphyseal dysplasia is visually realistic, as is the fact that the deformity causes severe pain and headaches.

In reality, however, the condition also causes problems with vision and hearing – Rocky was registered as legally blind – elements which the movie left out for narrative purposes.

Gar is a composite of Rusty’s three husbands

While some of the film’s characters, like Dozer, are entirely fictional creations, Sam Elliott’s Gar was created as a composite of the three men Rusty was married to at various points of her life.

The club in the film is also a composite, inspired by several different clubs that Rusty used to hang out at.

Rocky seemed healthy until he was two

When Rocky was born, there was no hint about the cranial deformity that would later become so extreme.

At the age of two, an X-ray technician spotted a slight abnormality in Rocky’s skull, which started growing at an extraordinary pace shortly after, eventually leaving Rocky’s head over twice the normal size.

The film was praised by bikers for its realistic depiction of a motorcycle gang

After Mask’s release, the film was praised by bikers for its realistic depiction of life in a motorcycle gang.

While most films depict bikers as violent, degenerate outlaws, Mask showed their softer side and highlighted how supportive members of a “biker family” are towards each other.

Sam Elliott didn’t know how to ride a motorcycle

Prior to playing the chopper-riding Gar, Sam Elliott had never actually ridden a motorcycle, although Bogdonovich thought he fit the character well enough to cast him anyway.

Elliott was taught to ride by Eddie Paul – the owner of Customs by Eddie Paul – who also designed all of the bikes used in the film.

Rocky declined plastic surgery

According to Rusty, Rocky had an extremely strong sense of self as a teenager, not letting his physical deformity define him.

At one point, Rocky even declined plastic surgery which would help him look “more normal,” on the grounds that his face had no bearing on who he was as a person.

The film was adapted into a musical

In 2008, a musical adaptation of Mask hit California’s official state theatre, the Pasadena Playhouse.

The musical’s numbers, which were distinctly poppy in style, were written by composer Barry Mann and lyricist Cynthia Weil, and Allen E. Read – a then-recent graduate of Yale School of Drama – starred as Rocky.

Producers thought the Rocky makeup was ‘too shocking’ to show in the marketing

According to an article published in the New York Times in 1985, Mask presented something of a problem when it to marketing.

Ed Roginski – Universal’s vice president of marketing at the time – believed that images of Rocky’s facial deformity would be “too shocking” out of context, leading to the decision to only include shots of Rocky from behind in the movie’s marketing campaigns.

The marketing campaign changed after the film’s initial popularity

While marketing campaigns before the film’s release held back from showing Rocky’s face, once the movie hit theaters new approaches were tested.

In April 1985, a month after the film’s release, new ad campaigns were tested that prominently focussed on Rocky’s deformity, and clips of the film were shown on Entertainment Tonight.

The prosthetics were created by Michael Westmore

The incredibly realistic prosthetics and makeup worn by Eric Stoltz to simulate craniodiaphyseal dysplasia were created by Michael Westmore.

A renowned makeup artist, Westmore’s work includes multiple Star Trek movies, Rambo and Raging Bull, and he has even worked with the CIA, designing makeup kits for spies.

Rocky’s response to bullies came from his mother

In Mask, Rocky is shown reacting to the insults of bullies with lighthearted humor, which eventually endears him to his tormenters. In an interview, Rusty recalled telling her son that “when they laugh at you, you laugh at you.

If you act beautiful, you’ll be beautiful and they’ll see that and love you.”

Mask was screenwriter Anna Phelan’s first film

Anna Phelan was 42 when she wrote Mask, after having encountered Rocky at UCLA’s Center for Genetic Research.

Prior to writing the screenplay for Mask, Phelan had spent two decades writing and starring in small plays, but she had never attempted to write a feature length film before.

Phelan tracked down Rusty

After finishing the screenplay for Mask, Phelan was informed by lawyers that the film couldn’t be made as she didn’t possess the rights to the story.

After her efforts to track down Rusty hit a dead end, Phelan called off the search, only for Rusty to reach out to her after an acquaintance that Phelan had spoken to passed on a message.

Peter Bogdanovich sued Universal Studios

Peter Bogdanovich’s contract for the movie included final edit rights, and the director felt that this had been violated when Universal Studios swapped out the soundtrack without consulting him.

Bogdanovich was so incensed that he even launched a $10 million lawsuit against the studio for breach of contract, although he eventually dropped the case.

Most critics think both soundtracks work equally well

Even though he dropped the lawsuit, Bogdanovich remained intensely bitter about the Mask soundtrack for years. When the director’s cut was released and the Springsteen soundtrack reinstated, film critics finally had the chance to compare both versions side by side.

Most felt that both soundtracks worked equally well, although Bogdanovich, of course, strongly disagreed.

The trailer is narrated by Charles Aidman

The trailer for Mask hit TV screens in 1985, a few months before the film itself was released.

The trailer’s narration – which introduces Rocky as an ambitious, academically gifted student before revealing his deformity – was provided by Charles Aidman, who would later provide the narration for the Garfield and Friends TV series.

Dennis Burkley wore the same outfit in an episode of Designing Women

A year after playing lovable biker Dozer in Mask, Dennis Burkley appeared in an episode of Designing Women as a bully who torments one of the show’s main characters in a laundry room.

In a nod to his previous character, Burkley wore the same TURKS motorcycle vest that Dozer sports throughout Mask.

Bride of Frankenstein is shown in one of the scenes

During the Halloween scene, the 1935 horror classic Bride of Frankenstein is shown playing on a TV.

This was likely a deliberate choice, as Bride of Frankenstein is about a “monster” who is misunderstood and feared by society because of his fearsome visage, despite the fact that he is actually kind-hearted and intelligent.