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20 Things You Might Not Know About Office Space

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When Office Space premiered in theaters on February 19, 1999, it was hard to imagine that Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge’s first attempt at writing and directing live action would become the oft-quoted classic it did. When it made around $12.9 million at the box office, it continued to be an unlikely candidate to become a pop cultural cornerstone that would literally change restaurant chains and stapler designs. Repeated appearances on cable television and a successful life on DVD made Office Space the phenomenon that it is.

1. IT ORIGINATED WITH ANIMATED SHORTS THAT RAN ON MTV AND SNL.

Milton was a series of shorts Mike Judge created, wrote, animated, and voiced. It starred Milton Waddams, presumably when he was still technically working for Initech, and an early version of Lumbergh. The first episode (shown above) aired on MTV’s Liquid Television in 1991, alongside some other Judge shorts like The Honky Problem and Huh?. During the 1993-94 season of SNL, Milton made three more appearances.

2. THE MOVIE WAS MADE DUE TO THE SUCCESS OF THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY.

20th Century Fox wanted a new “big, broad comedy” after the success of the Farrelly Brothers movie, and figured that the Milton shorts had the potential to become one. Judge initially didn’t think it was a good idea, but eventually got on board.

3. THERE WAS A SPECIFIC JOB MIKE JUDGE HAD THAT INFLUENCED HIS WRITING.

The former engineer alphabetized purchase orders for 2-3 weeks, for eight hours a day, which he described as “god-awful.” The fact that he couldn’t daydream nor talk to someone without losing his place in the alphabet made it distinctly bad.

4. MIKE JUDGE SPOKE AS BUTT-HEAD AND BOOMHAUER ON SET.

Judge voiced those characters on Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill, so it wasn’t particularly difficult for him to appease some crew members who insisted on the impersonations.

5. MICHAEL BOLTON LEARNED TO BE AT PEACE WITH BEING CALLED A "NO-TALENT ASS CLOWN."

The singer came off as annoyed in a 2003 article where he said, “I was doing fine. Then they made this movie, and I can’t go anywhere!” Ten years later, he admitted that the movie is funny and willingly signs Office Space DVDs for fans.

6. THE STUDIO WANTED THE CHARACTERS TO BE CHIPPIER.

Judge remembered the executives giving him notes that generally said to make the movie less low-key. Watching dailes of Lumbergh’s “mmm… yeaaaaah” allegedly drove some executives “crazy.”

7. THEY ALSO DIDN’T LIKE THE MOSTLY ALL HIP-HOP SOUNDTRACK.

Focus groups changed 20th Century Fox’s mind about the inclusion of artists like Ice Cube, Scarface, and, of course the Geto Boys, whose songs “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” and “Still” serve as the official soundtrack to printer beatdowns everywhere since 1999.

8. DIEDRICH BADER HAD A CLEAR IDEA ON WHAT LAWRENCE SHOULD LOOK LIKE.

The actor who played Oswald Lee Harvey on The Drew Carey Show as well as Peter Gibbons’ nosy neighbor Lawrence wanted to look like “somebody who loved the Allman Brothers.” Mission accomplished.

9. JOHN C. MCGINLEY ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED TO PLAY LUMBERGH.

That role went to Gary Cole, but as a nice consolation prize, Dr. Cox from Scrubs played Bob Slydell, a.k.a. the taller, mustachioed Bob.

10. TPS ACTUALLY STANDS FOR SOMETHING.

At the 10th anniversary screening, Judge revealed that Peter had to fill out Test Program Set reports. The reference dates back to his engineering days.

11. IT’S BEEN COMPARED TO A HERMAN MELVILLE SHORT STORY.

The protagonist in the 1853 short story Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street hand-copies legal documents until he starts responding to every request by his boss with the phrase, “I would prefer not to,” and refuses to do anything, including leave his desk or eat. The similarity between Melville’s plot and the movie wasn’t lost on movie critics, bloggers, or high school teachers.

12. IT’S MEANT TO BE SET IN "ANYWHERE, U.S.A."

Office Space was shot in Las Colinas and Austin, Texas, but the cars had custom-made “USA” license plates on them. Lumbergh's read, ”MY PRSHE.”

13. ACCOUNTANTS WERE THE FIRST PEOPLE TO QUOTE THE MOVIE.

Judge figured that the studio executives he was talking to throughout production couldn’t relate to the boring, soul destroying jobs Office Space was portraying, but he still had doubts that his brainchild would resonate with audiences. He first felt optimism when he heard that the accountants in the post-production department were referencing the movie before it even came out.

14. IT INSPIRED T.G.I. FRIDAY’S TO STOP IT WITH THE FLAIR.

As you surely remember, Jennifer Aniston’s character, Joanna, grew increasingly disengaged with her server job at T.G.I. Friday’s stand-in Chotchkie's because she could never seem to wear enough buttons, or “flair,” on her uniform to appease her superiors and counterparts. In real life, TGI Friday’s noticeably phased out the flair by 2005. Judge revealed last year that one of his assistant directors asked a Friday’s employee—without revealing his or her affiliations—about the absence, and was told that they “removed it because of that movie Office Space.

15. THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED BRIAN, THE FLAIR-LOVING CHOTCHKIE’S WAITER, SUED THE STUDIO.

A special edition DVD called The Office Space Box of Flair included the 32-page book, The Office Space Guide to Flair, and 15 buttons (15 being the minimum number of flair a Chotchkie’s server must wear). Todd Duffey wanted to be financially compensated for his face appearing on the cover of a book and on one of the buttons, but the false endorsement violation claim lawsuit was dismissed.

16. MIKE JUDGE PLAYED JOANNA’S CHOTCHKIE’S BOSS, STAN.

He wore a wig, a moustache, and glasses to make it a pretty good disguise. The role is credited to a “William King.”

17. THE RESTAURANT WHERE THE CHOTCHKIE’S SCENES WERE FILMED CLOSED IN 2009.

R.I.P. The Alligator Grille in Austin, Texas.

18. SWINGLINE MADE RED STAPLERS THREE YEARS AFTER THE MOVIE CAME OUT.

Milton’s precious office item needed to pop on screen, so a prop designer painted a Swingline stapler red. After potential customers called and e-mailed the company asking for a Milton stapler that didn’t exist, some enterprising folks made a profit making and selling red staplers on eBay. In April 2002, the company finally offered a “Rio Red” model.

19. OFFICE SPACE INSPIRED PEOPLE TO QUIT THEIR JOBS.

People that were unhappy at the jobs they felt no passion for have told Judge and Ron Livingston, the actor who played Peter, that they quit after watching the movie.

20. MIKE JUDGE DOESN’T LIKE THE ENDING.

He realized that the entire third act should be re-written a little too late in the process—after the final test screening.

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20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers’ Movies
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Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers’s movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’ 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS'S WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that featured a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination). 

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. "The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, "Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that."

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen Brothers are plenty fond of The Dude: after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen Brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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