Interesting 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' Facts Fans Should Definitely Know

Jordan Claes
Scene from 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'; everyone in the truck.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is easily one of the most unsung films of the '90s. This heartwrenching coming-of-age tale focused on the small town existence of Gilbert Grape, as he cared for his severely overweight mother and mentally disabled brother.

The film not only cemented Johnny Depp as one of the greatest movie stars of the age but also helped to launch the career of a young Leonardo DiCaprio. Now, nearly 30 years after its theatrical release, here are some interesting facts about What's Eating Gilbert Grape that fans should definitely know.

The film wasn't actually shot in Iowa.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp at the dinner table in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

Fans of What's Eating Gilbert Grape will likely recall that the setting for the film takes place in Endora, Iowa. In reality, it was actually shot in various locations all across the state of Texas.

Leo felt as if he'd won the lottery after being given the chance to work with Johnny Depp.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

Even though Leo would be the first to admit that Johnny was far from the friendliest person on set, he still to this day considers it a privilege to have been given the chance to work alongside him.

Darlene Cates only climbed the first couple of stairs in her stair climb scene.

Leonardo DiCaprio trying to wake up Darlene Cates in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'.

The footage was then recycled over and over again to make it look as if she'd tackled the entire set of stairs. Her upstairs bedroom was also a set that was built on the main floor.

The farmhouse we see in the film was also used in another movie.

FRamily watching TV in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

If you thought that the Grape family farmhouse looked familiar, then you're spot on. The same location was used in the film Roadie, starring Meatloaf in the lead role.

Leonardo DiCaprio received his first-ever Academy Award nomination for his role as Arnie Grape.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Arnie Grape in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

Leo's performance was both heartbreaking and inspiring. What's even more impressive is that he was only 19-years-old at the time of the film's theatrical release.

Darlene Cates was Leo's favorite movie mom.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Darlene Cates cuddling in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

"Darlene was the best acting mom I ever had the privilege of working alongside," Leo wrote via Facebook. "Her endearing personality and incredible talent will live on in the memories of those who knew her, and those who loved her work."

Leo really did wind up killing the grasshopper in the film.

Leonardo DiCaprio accidentally kills the grasshopper in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'.

There were animal protection agents on set, but despite everyone's best efforts — Leo sadly wound up decapitating the grasshopper — just like it was done in the film.

Darlene Cates was discovered on a talk show.

Darlene was asked to appear on an episode of Sally Jesse Raphael that dealt with overweight people who don't leave their homes. Screenwriter Peter Hedges saw Darlene and instantly fell in love with her.

Leonardo Dicaprio turned down the lead in 'Hocus Pocus' in order to co-star in the film.

Max Dennison in 'Hocus Pocus'.

Leo told Variety that he was offered "More money than I ever dreamed of" to play Max Dennison in the classic cult Halloween tale.

Johnny Depp would often apologize to Darlene Cates before and after every take.

johnny Depp in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

Anyone who has seen the film knows that Gilbert Grape was far from kind to his Mama. This never sat well with Johnny, and he'd tell Darlene time and time again how much he hated saying those mean and awful things.

Johnny wound up paying Leo an extra $500 on a dare.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

The deal was that if Leo would agree to sniff a rancid pickled egg, Johnny would, in turn, agree to pay the budding young actor an extra $500.

Before the film's release, Darlene Cates hadn't left her house in five years.

Gilbert Grape and his siblings inside Mama's room in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

What's Eating Gilbert Grape truly was a case of life imitating art. After the movie was released in theaters, Darlene found the courage and motivation to lose over 200 lbs.

Leo went full method in order to hone in on Arnie's character.

Leo traveled to Austin Texas and spent roughly a week learning from children who lived in a group home for people with mental disabilities. By the time he was finished, Leo had a checklist of over 100 different attributes for Arnie.

Johnny Depp admits to torturing Leonardo DiCaprio on set.

"I tortured him. I really did; I actually did. 'Cause, he was always talking about these video games, you know? I told you it was kind of a dark period... I wasn't in the mood." Depp said during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Leo had his own set of rules for acting while on set.

Leonardo DiCaprio in a tree in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'.

Leo explained during an interview for the Screen Actors Guild that he was told he could do whatever he wanted during filming. For instance, it may have been a dramatic scene for Johnny Depp, but Leo had full reign to start throwing spaghetti in the air if he deemed it felt right.