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Dangerous Minds at 25 years: 25 facts on its 25th anniversary

Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie Dangerous Minds.

So we figured it was only appropriate to drop 25 facts about the movie.

Released on Aug. 11, 1995 and based on a true story, the movie starred Michelle Pfeiffer who played teacher LouAnne Johnson.

The movie is also based on Johnson’s book My Posse Don’t Do Homework. I highly recommend visiting Amazon to see and purchase her many works.

MMA Crossfire spoke to Johnson several times this year and she recently appeared on MMA Crossfire’s TV show TKO Countdown to talk about the impact of Dangerous Minds


Dangerous Minds

        • The movie generated approximately $180 million USD
        • The movie’s main song, Gangsta’s Paradise, won a Grammy for best Rap Solo Performance in 1995
        • Most of the students in the movie did not have any acting experience
        • One of the students that did have acting experience, Renoly Santiago who played Raoul, went on to star in movies like Hackers (which starred a young Angela Jolie), Con Air (with Nicolas Cage). He is still working on a lot of current projects today
      Dangerous Minds
      Actor Renoly Santiago (middle) in the movie Dangerous Minds.
      • LouAnne Johnson, is indeed a former marine, who was discharged honourably. Johnson wanted to be a journalist at one point too. If you watch the interview above, you can watch Johnson detail her stint in the military
      • Coolio, who created the song Gangsta’s Paradise recently said in an interview with Yahoo, surprisingly said that he doesn’t like movies like Dangerous Minds but that his song and the movie needed and helped each other succeed.
      • Coolio didn’t think Michelle Pfeiffer would show up for music video of Gangsta’s Paradise, but she did. She was “very professional”

        • LouAnne Johnson did not enjoy her time in the marines. She said she was raped and abused during her time there.
        • In order to prepare for the movie, Michelle Pfeiffer shadowed LouAnne Johnson in her classroom for several days, not wearing makeup and wearing a black leather jacket to try and blend in the back. Some of the students asked Johnson, “Is that Catwoman?” as Pfeiffer played Catwoman in the movie Batman. Johnson said yes and they said,”What happened? She doesn’t look as good!”
        • The Dangerous Minds soundtrack is certified three times platinum by December 1995. That means shipments exceeding  over three million copies
        • The Dangerous Minds soundtrack reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart
        • Deanne, played by Ebony “Sunshine” Jerido in the film, kept in contact with LouAnne Johnson after the movie and is now a writer in the New York City area.
        • LouAnne Johnson had a traumatic childhood. She was controlled constantly by her “uneducated” father, who did not want his daughter becoming a playwright. It was one of the primary reasons she enlisted in the Marines.

      LouAnne Johnson

      • LouAnne Johnson said on the show TKO Countdown that she considers herself an introvert
      • LouAnne Johnson said that some of the movie’s immediate impact was lots of letters from students, who wanted to become teachers and didn’t know how to be a good one, but the movie helped them figure out how. “There were lots of teachers who were already teaching who would write me and say that the movie gave them permission to teach from the heart the way that they do and not feel guilty to worried that I’m not teaching well,” Johnson explained
      • Michelle Pfeiffer was one of the few people in the movie who actually read LouAnne Johnson’s book. “I think they should have listened to Michelle Pfeiffer and follow the book,” Johnson explained. “She read the book and the rest of them didn’t. Including the scriptwriter who told me he didn’t have time to read the book, he had to write a movie.”
      • LouAnne Johnson had limited interaction on the movie set. She recalled she only had a day or so on the actual set and was not allowed to speak to the actors.
      • LouAnne Johnson recently reacquired the rights to her book My Posse Don’t Do Homework. She is currently mulling over signing with a traditional book agent or self-publishing the book and possibly a sequel to Dangerous Minds.
    Dangerous Minds
    A Dangerous Minds movie presser.
    • LouAnne Johnson is an award-winning teacher
    • The studio wanted to write into the movie a dramatic scene where LouAnne Johnson was fired for sexually harassing a student. LouAnne Johnson objected to it, threatening to sue the studio if they went through with it, saying it wasn’t true as well as a crime. “I said, ‘Are you serious? I’m a licensed teacher,” Johnson told Kenai Andrews earlier in March. “You would lose your license for that. You can’t do that, and plus, it’s not true.’ They said, yeah we know, but it would be exciting. I said, ‘You don’t get it. You’re going to ruin my reputation because people will think it’s true.’ There was that kind of thing. The studio ultimately backed down, leaving some scenes that featured actor Andy Garcia on the cutting room floor
    • Wade Dominguez, who played Emilio, passed away on Aug. 26, 1998 of respiratory failure, almost three years after the film was released
    • Johnson was not paid a lot of money for the movie when you consider the movie generated $180 million USD in revenue. She estimated she was paid a $125,000 advance and aside from other additional but small monies, did not get any of the profits despite agreeing to two per cent of the net. The problem was most movies do not make profits on paper; her agent failed to realize that she should have signed for two per cent of the gross revenues ($180 million USD)
    • The movie generated a TV series which starred Annie Potts in 1996. It lasted for a single season, or 17 episodes. Johnson clashed with the producers of the TV series as well over the scripts, noting they tried to put in a sexual harassment scene similar to what the movie tried to put in
    • Dangerous Minds
      Dangerous Minds, the TV series starring Annie Potts (lower middle).
    • Michelle Pfeiffer was pregnant during the production of the movie. They tried various camera angles and she wore long skirts in scenes to try and hide it
    • Michelle Pfeiffer owned the Via Rose production company at the time, which in part helped produce the movie


Director John N. Smith lays out the plan for a scene in the movie Dangerous Minds.


  • LouAnne Johnson did not like a lot of the changes Dangerous Minds made from her book, but is proud of its success and that the movie did inspire people and teachers. Her advice to other authors thinking of a movie deal: “If it’s a memoir I would not sell the rights, unless I was going to be the producer or scriptwriter, but if it’s fiction, you just have to sell it and walk way,” she said. “Do something else and let it go. Let it evolve into what they are going to create out of it. But I didn’t understand that at the time.”
  • LouAnne Johnson is currently an online teacher certification instructor
  • Because of the arguments regarding the movie’s direction, LouAnne Johnson said she was branded “difficult to work with” by the studio and was restricted from interacting on the movie set and the actors throughout filming. Johnson does acknowledge she was protective of her book, the movie, and its characters. It took Michelle Pfeiffer herself to arrange a pre-screening of the movie for Johnson

Some final thoughts from LouAnne on Hollywood:

“Looking back, I think that the problem that I had was my lack of exposure to Hollywood and the way … how much leeway is taken or adaptation of a real story,” Johnson said. “So when people say they saw a true story, it can be based on a true story, but be really different. And I think to have a writer at the beginning should I sell my rights to my book, I would say if you’re going to sell your rights to Hollywood and you’re not going to be involved in the production yourself, then you have to sell it and then walk away. Because if you take your work personally, and you’re emotionally attached to your characters – in my case they weren’t characters, they were real people – which was something that the Hollywood people had a hard time understanding. That these were real people and not just a script. They kept referring to me as a character. I’m a person.”

LouAnne on the actors who played the students:

“Those kids, most of them weren’t actors. They weren’t trained, they got jobs off the street. A lot of them had careers and it was so exciting for them. Some of them still keep in touch with me. One of them (Ebony Jerido) became a writer after I talked to her. I said, ‘Do it. Don’t ask permission from someone else, and don’t let anyone tell you can’t do it or give you reasons why you won’t get published, just go out and do it.'”


Dangerous Minds
Actress Bruklin Harris, who played Callie in the movie Dangerous Minds.

LouAnne on her earnings from the movie:

“Yeah, unfortunately, I signed for two per cent of the net profits. There were no net profits, so I got a royalty statement for zero. My agent was an old lady at the time. She’s been dead for some time, but she hired an agent in LA that she heard a lot about. It was a long contract and I was teaching and had 250 adverse kids to worry about as a program director at the time. They sent a 60-70 page contract and the agent said here you go, sign this you’re going to make millions of dollars. I thought great because I had started a nonprofit corporation because wanted to start my own school out in the mountains called Second Chance Ranch where kids ride horses and take care of animals. So I signed the contract, then the movie was done, then Jerry called and said we’re # whatever at the box office, we made a bunch of money. They made about $186 million. I figured it out and thought they owed me $750,000. No, they sent me a statement for zero. I called my agent and asked, ‘Hey, what’s the deal with the zero statement?’ She said, ‘Oh, you signed for two per cent of the net profits. There’s never any net profits.’

I said,’ But you told me to sign the contact.’ he said, ‘You should have known better.’

I said, ‘Oh, I should have? Okay …’

“I used part of that money to get 40 acres out in the desert, started a non-profit (called Second Chance Ranch). It would have been enough to get a school started. I sent out letters for donations. Hollywood Pictures sent me a cheque for $250. Pfeiffer sent me a personal cheque for $10,000 USD. I think that speaks for itself. But then I got little dribbles and drabbles and it wasn’t going to be enough, then the zero royalty statement, plus I had to earn a living. So I sold the property then I gave the money to a Hispanic alternative school. I learned an important lesson.”

“Then I contacted the author’s guild and they said I should have sent them the contract and hired an entertainment or media lawyer who works for you on a one-time basis. Who makes sure you get a cut of the gross, not the net.”

Yahoo recently talked to Coolio about his thoughts on the movie and his song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which also turned 25 years old this year. He also shares his experience filming the iconic music video with Michelle Pfeiffer.

So, there you have it. For better or worse, Dangerous Minds helped define a generation and is now being rediscovered by a new generation.

That, is a choice.


Kenai is a former Postmedia Network online news and sports editor. He is the Editor-in-Chief for MMA Crossfire.

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