Dead Poets Society Trivia

  • Scenes of “Welton Academy” in Vermont were filmed at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Delaware.
  • Dustin Hoffman, Liam Neeson, Mel Gibson, Mickey Rourke and Bill Murray was all reportedly considered for the role of “John Keating” that inevitably went to Robin Williams.
  • Lara Flynn Boyle (Twin Peaks) had a small role as Chet Danbury’s younger sister, Ginny, but the scene was cut from the final film.
  • Screenwriter Tom Schulman loosely based the plot on his experiences as a student at the Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville and the character of “John Keating” on his former teacher, Samuel F. Pickering Jr., currently an English professor at the University of Connecticut. Schulman also wrote the screenplays for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (with Ed Naha) and What About Bob?
  • At one point, Touchstone Pictures reportedly wanted to turn the movie into a musical titled The Sultans of Strut (this has to be an urban legend, right?).
  • Jeff Kanew, best known for directing Revenge of the Nerds, was set to direct the film before Australian director Peter Weir (Picnic at Hanging Rock) came on board.
  • In the original script, the students discover that Keating has Hodgkin’s disease and was intended to emphasize the urgency of “carpe diem” (seize the day).
  • In addition to literary references to Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass), Henry David Thoreau (Walden) and Robert Frost (“The Road Not Taken”), the boys chant from Vachel Lindsay’s controversial poem, “The Congo,” during one of their raucous meetings in the cave.
  • Williams improvised several scenes in the film, most memorably when he impersonates both Marlon Brando and John Wayne reciting Shakespeare.
  • Although modeled after an actual cave, the Wolf Cave in Delaware, the “old Indian cave” in the film was actually a set piece made entirely of latex.
  • A 2014 iPad Air ad featured Robin Williams as John Keating reading Walt Whitman’s poem “O Me! O Life!” from the film.
  • The line, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary,” placed No. 95 on the American Film Institute’s list of the “100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time.” Interestingly, Williams had appeared in a 1986 film called Seize the Day that was based on a Saul Bellow novel of the same name.
  • River Phoenix reportedly campaigned for the part of “Neil Perry” that eventually went to Robert Sean Leonard.
  • Dead Poets Society was the first release from Touchstone Pictures to receive a Best Picture Academy Award nomination (losing out to Driving Miss Daisy). Williams was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar (losing out Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot). In addition, Weir was nominated for a Best Director Oscar (losing out to Oliver Stone for Born on the Fourth of July). Schulman captured an Oscar for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.
  • The poem that Charlie Dalton reads from the back of the Playboy centerfold (Elaine Reynolds, Miss October 1959) is from “The Prophet” by Abraham Cowley.

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