When it was released on May 2, 1997, there was no reason to think Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery will be a worldwide sensation. Test audiences gave it incredible scores. Its premiere in China Theater such a sleepy affair, no one even bothered to take a picture of Seth Green (“It felt like it wasn’t happening,” he recalls).
The New Line Cinema film had a respectable, if not spectacular, record in US theaters – grossing $53.9 million, off a budget of $16.5 million – but the crash Princess Diana’s deadly car in August of that year didn’t help set the mood for the film’s September 5 release in the UK (although the filmmakers cut the joke about Dr. Evil blackmailing him). royal family), and overseas sales topped with $13.8 million.
But thanks to the miracle of home video – and a flashy new video 1990s gadget called DVD – Mike Myers’s broken British spy would soon find a beloved audience and become one of the most beloved spy spoofs in Hollywood history, spawning a series of the last three parts will collect almost (rosy lips) half a billion dollars.
Now, 20 years later, more than a dozen members of the cast and crew – including the famously press-shy Canadian comedian who invented the character – reveal to The Hollywood Reporter how the movie came about, from the inspiration for the creepy scene to the way they shot it shagadelic the scene where Elizabeth Hurley eats a hot dog (nearly got the photo an R rating).
Mike Myers,”Austin Powers,” “Dr. Demon, “creator” After my father passed away in 1991, I considered his influence on me and his influence on me with comedy in general. So Austin Powers is a tribute to my father, who [introduced me to] James Bond, Peter Sellers, The Beatles, The Goodies, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.
I wrote it in 1995, and the script’s bones came out in two weeks. It’s one of those things that I don’t know if anyone will get this movie who didn’t grow up in my house. But when I give [director] Jay Roach – we met at a party and became best friends in the movie – he gave me 10 pages of typed notes. Everything he said made it better.
Jay Roach, manager I just did it as a friend. I tried to tighten it up conceptually.
Myers Jay and I would sit around and think, “What if Austin’s Power based on a little-known British comic book that we’re making into a movie? “
Roach We never wanted to mock anything as a parody, but say we do love the look and feel of those old movies. He bought it around. I know it was rejected by a lot of places.
Myers I will earn it somehow, even through obscure financial methods. Then Mike De Luca read it and invited me to meet the whole team at the New Line.
Michael De Luca, was the president of production at New Line at the time Austin Powers is a great original. At the time, a lot of the comedies on set were sitcoms and the like over and over again. This really distinguishes itself.
Myers Basically, he said, “I don’t want you to change a thing.”
De Luca I love Mike and his stuff on SNL. So when I read the script, I could see him as the character. And he made it really easy for us. He walked in and did the character – he wasn’t wearing a costume or anything – and really made it up for us.
Roach There are still questions about whether it will get the green light even though they have already selected it and part of that is waiting to see who is the director.
Myers Then it became the process of convincing New Line that Jay, who only had [produced] an independent film about Hitler [The Empty Mirror] at that time, would be a good choice to direct.
Roach Mike said, “Actually, I put you in the business.” And in a big room with a lot of people, [founder and former CEO of New Line Cinema] Bob Shaye, rightly so, said, “Who are you? We don’t just hire Mike’s friends. “
De Luca His steering wheel is weird. It’s just not a good roll. That’s very low rent. But he came and talked about the movie and looked us in the eye and gave us his vision. And that’s what got him the job.
Myers I was so excited I jumped into the pool with all my clothes on.
Roach As I understood, I presented the storyboard for the girls, based on the Castle Anthrax scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when Sir Galahad was almost thwarted by a group of glamorous-looking women. I made Shaye and De Luca laugh, and they said, “Okay, we’re going to reveal it for $16.5 million and not a dime more.” Then we started casting.
Myers I’ve always loved the “We’re not so different, you and me” scene. That’s the main reason I wanted to play both Austin and Dr. Evil. Dr. Evil’s voice is a bit of Lorne Michaels, no two ways about it, but there’s a lot more Donald Pleasence in it than Lorne. Lorne has a rosy thing, but he doesn’t do it anymore.
Elizabeth Hurley,”Vanessa Kensington” My agent called and said Mike Myers wanted me to star with him in a new movie. I was with my then-boyfriend Hugh Grant, who punched the air with excitement. He says Mike is one of the funniest actors on the planet.
Robert Wagner, “Number Two” Mike wrote Number Two for me. The script hit the threshold, I read it and I just thought it was amazing. It was a very provocative and dangerous thing to do, and I just accepted it from the start.
Seth Green,”Scott the Devil” I got the script for Carrot Top’s chairman of the board and Austin’s Power in the same week. At the time, I was doing a play Mamet, so my head was about preparing the actor, and all my thoughts on the character were to act it sincerely. I think that would be the most fun besides Mike’s generous personality. If you look at me in the movie, I’m in a TV series.
Michael York, “Basil Exposition” Throughout my career, I’ve always relied on instinct and there’s something about Austin’s Power that’s really fascinating.
Mindy Sterling, “Frau Farbissina” I met Mike when he came and did some improv with us at the Groundling Theater and he tried Austin Powers. I think Jay saw that particular performance, and I must have done some kind of German woman. They asked if I would join and audition.
Mimi Rogers,”Mrs. Kensington” Initially, they told me about playing Alotta Fagina, but I was doing something where the date just couldn’t work. So it ended up being Mrs. Kensington.
Larry Thomas, “blackjack dealer” My manager kept calling and telling me Mike Myers wrote this movie called Austin’s Power and there’s a really funny character called Number Two. They didn’t have an answer from the celebrity offer and I was halfway there when she told me that the celebrity offer was taken, but they wanted me to do a cameo because they like me as Soup Nazi in Seinfeld.
Clint Howard, “radar operator” It’s a simple thing. Jay explained to me that they were doing stupid things on Apollo 13 airplane pilot.
Roach Everything was shot in LA on platforms except the Vegas stuff. Outside of Dr. Evil’s lair is Red Rock; We shot just outside of Vegas. I think the main plot at Paramount is the one we used to stage the entire opening scene on Carnaby Street.
Myers The song “Soul Bossa Nova” from a game show in Canada called Definition. It’s just swinger music. I remember Quincy Jones had to fix it because it sped up and slowed down.
Quincy Jones, musician, composer I wrote “Soul Bossa Nova” 20 minutes ago 55 years, and it continues to revive itself. I worked with Mike when I organized SNL in 1990. We became friends, so when they contacted me to ask for permission to use the song, I happily agreed.
A version of this story first appeared in the April 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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