11 Little Known Facts About Terms Of Endearment, Everyone’s Favorite Film To Cry To

We hope you've got tissues on hand.

Terms of Endearment Image With The Stars Of The Cast

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There’s no denying that Terms of Endearment is a tear-jerker, but it’s so much more than that. Starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson, the film was nominated for 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and two Best Actress nominees (pitting the two female leads against each other). It wasn’t just critically acclaimed, it was also the second highest grossing film of the year, behind a little picture called Return of the Jedi

The film was a huge commercial hit, which means many people have seen it (and cried to it). Just because it’s a popular movie doesn’t mean there isn’t more to know about it, though. Here are a few little known facts about Terms of Endearment.

01 of 11

This Was The Director’s First Film

Director James L. Brooks in 2017
Director James L. Brooks in 2017.

 Charley Gallay/Getty Images for TCM

James L. Brooks had made a name for himself in Hollywood thanks to his work on television hits such as "Taxi" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," but he never made a movie until Terms of Endearment. Despite it being his first time, he managed to make one incredible film and took home three Oscars for the work: Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

02 of 11

The Film Led To Brooks’ Most Famous Work

Jack Nicholson And Shirley MacLaine

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Brooks may have had a smash film on his hands, but he always loved television. When shooting on Terms of Endearment wrapped, Brooks received a so-called wrap gift in the form of an original comic drawing by an artist named Matt Groening. According to the American Film Institute, Brooks was so impressed with the artwork that he reached out to Groening and eventually ended up animating short videos for “The Tracey Ullman Show”. Those animated shorts spun off into their own show, The Simpsons and Brooks is listed as the creator.

03 of 11

Burt Reynolds Was Meant To Play The Astronaut Next Door

Burt Reynolds

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When first casting the film, Brooks wanted Burt Reynolds for the part of Garrett Breedlove. Reynolds, though, dropped out to star in Stroker Ace, later saying of his decision, “I was a fool.”

04 of 11

The Script Made Jack Nicholson Cry

Jack Nicholson Terms of Endearment

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"I read the screenplay, and became the first enthusiast,” Nicholson told famed movie critic Roger Ebert about his decision to join Terms of Endearment. “How many scripts make you cry? I read dozens if not hundreds of screenplays every year, and I don't read that many parts where I can say, like I did with 'Easy Rider,' that, yeah, sure, I could play that guy. I know just how that guy feels."

05 of 11

It Was Author Larry McMurtry’s Favorite Book

Larry McMurtry

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Larry McMurtry has written many books, including Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show but he still considers his 1975 novel Terms of Endearment to be his personal favorite.

06 of 11

There Is A Sequel

Shirley MacLaine In 'The Evening Star'
Shirley MacLaine In "The Evening Star".

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McMurtry wasn’t quite done with the Greenway clan, so he returned to their lives in the 1992 novel, The Evening Star, which follows Aurora and her grandkids. Since Terms of Endearment was such a huge hit, naturally it was made into a film, too, with MacLaine and Nicholson both reprising their roles.

Unfortunately it didn’t resonate with audiences and was considered a commercial flop.

07 of 11

John Lithgow’s Part Was Filmed In Just A Few Days

John Lithgow Terms Of Endearment

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When Lithgow was cast in the film, he only had a few days to make shooting work. That’s because he was in the middle of rehearsals for a film called Footloose. The team managed to accommodate his schedule by reportedly managing to shoot Lithgow’s entire part in less than a week.

08 of 11

Shirley MacLaine Wanted To Give Aurora A Texas Accent

Terms of Endearment Mother-Daughter Moment

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During the casting process Brooks hired MacLaine quickly, but wasn’t convinced by all of her artistic choices. “She wanted a Texas accent and after rehearsals I thought a Texas accent was not right, that we shouldn’t do it,” Brooks told The Hollywood Reporter. "I had done my research and I had hung out in Houston, Texas and, you know, people talk with every accent you can think of and no accent at all there. And I thought it would be a mistake to make it that regional with her. So I changed the stage direction at the beginning, and I put off-off screen dialogue that said she was from Boston. And she’s such a pro and she’s so legitimate and her thinking is so good that once she had to say the word she was from Boston in off-screen dialogue she dropped the accent."

09 of 11

Aurora Greenway Was MacLaine’s Favorite Role

Terms of Endearment

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In an interview with the Miami Herald, MacLaine said that Aurora was her favorite role. That’s quite the compliment from the woman who got to play Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias. Part of the reason MacLaine liked the part so much is that she and the character share many similarities. “That’s the closest I’ve come to being like a character,” MacLaine said. “I mean, I don’t know, frankly, how difficult it was to play her. I think I just played myself.”

10 of 11

Debra Winger Became Nebraska’s First Lady Friend

Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment

Paramount Pictures / Getty

While shooting the movie in Nebraska, Winger began dating then-Governor Bob Kerrey.  Kerrey and Winger were in a relationship for several years and the media ultimately settled on the title of “Nebraska’s First Lady Friend”. Winger ultimately decided she wasn’t meant to be a politician’s wife, while Kerrey went on to become a Senator and ran for the presidency.

11 of 11

Terms Of Endearment Was Turned Into An Off-Broadway Play

Terms of Endearment, deep in conversation

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In 2016, a theatrical version of Terms hit off-Broadway with Molly Ringwald of Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink fame starring as Aurora.

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