I’m sure that, by now, most movie fans are familiar with the Wilhelm scream – that goofy screaming noise that Hollywood sound designers try to slip into movies and TV shows as often and as subversively as they can. Well, it turns out that propmasters have a similar in-joke. Odds are that pretty much any time you see a newspaper being read on screen, you’re very likely looking at the same page over and over again.
Sometimes, the newspaper’s front page may be tailor-made for the content of the film or show. You know, if the headline is an important story point. But keep an eye on the second page of that paper, and you’ll see a similar layout and photo.
Poor Ed O’Neil has been reading the same news stories for years!
Production companies use prop newspapers instead of real ones because getting clearance from an actual publication is usually more work than it’s worth in potential fees and bureaucracy. (There are exceptions. When Tony Soprano picked up his paper each morning, it was always the Newark Star Ledger.) Rather than battle the legal department at the New York Times for that perfunctory breakfast shot, prop masters buy a stack of Earl Hays fake papers, which cost just $15 each. Sometimes if they have some left over they’ll recycle them for another job.
This is the sort of thing that, once you know about it, you’ll start compulsively looking for it everywhere. Especially when watching in the clarity of Blu-ray or high definition.